Style advice to sell house

sis3July 11, 2014

We are remodeling a typical 80s ranch to sell. Is it true that contemporary style is difficult to sell? This house is very bland and dated. I was hoping to give it a clean, fresh, updated look while still keeping all the colors neutral. Am I making a mistake in not keeping it style neutral, middle of the road? I understand the idea of making it appeal to the largest number of prospective buyers but on the other hand I would also like to differentiate it from the pack.

I am already committed to IKEA birch (Orsa) with contemporary shower and faucets in the master bath. Could I, and should I, go more transitional in the rest of the house?

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I think it depends on where you are located and who your prospective buyers are.
But even more, I think it also depends on what is considered contemporary. People may have different opinions and it may depend on the area they're located in.

I don't consider IKEA Orsa particularly contemporary but rather appealing to a lot of people. It's wood, it's Shaker style.

Compared to:

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 3:51PM
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I would stick to a more modern, streamlined look that is not so much trendy as it is clean and classic and easier for a potential buyer to envision their touches. That seems to appeal to a huge range of buyers. But, as Nosoccormom points out, it will depend on your location. If you're looking at a traditional, much older home out East, any updates should reflect and be in keeping with the style of the original home to have the most appeal.

I love Nosoccermom's examples too! If I had to lay odds, I would say the top photo would have most appeal, even here in the Midwest. It's more modern, but still neutral, as opposed to contemporary. The second is very ornate and, here in MI, would be considered passé by people who follow decor trends or younger couples who would peg this as a more 90's look. The last is probably too contemporary for many potential buyers in our area, I would be willing to bet. Around here, while people do seem to like nice, new touches, they tend to prefer their homes have more of a connection or nod to the past that a lot contemporary decor lacks.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 9:01PM
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We are remodeling a typical 80s ranch to sell. Is it true that contemporary style is difficult to sell?

Instead of worrying about what you have, sell the features of the ranch you have ... usually 1-level, universal access, casual living, etc.

This house is very bland and dated.
Bland is OK.

Explain "dated"?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 9:14PM
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Sophie Wheeler

''Transitional decor'' ideas is what you should be looking at. It's neither overly ornamented traditional, nor sterile modern. Nor any hybrid mix of oddball personal like Steampunk Starship.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 9:28PM
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A lot depends on your local market. If the house in question is in the SF Bay Area, it's probably more than $500,000. In another part of the country, it's worth $100,000. Where are you located? Location and price range means very different expectations in buyers.

This post was edited by sushipup on Sat, Jul 12, 14 at 0:34

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 10:08PM
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Thank you everyone for your thoughtful responses. They are very helpful. Nosoccermom's definitions are exactly as I see them and I was heading towards perhaps even a slightly more middle of the road look than her first photo (while still using the Orsa cabinets pictured there).

The house is in Florida in a lakeside community of non traditional homes built mostly in the 80s and 90s. These are not tract homes, each one was built individually, and while all contemporary to that period, no two look the same. The area is peaceful and lovely with mature trees, leafy lanes and birdsong, yet is only a 1/2 mile from major roads and shopping, restaurants etc. The community has lake access (a community dock is likely in the near future). This house is steps from the lake and has limited lake views from the living room windows and front yard. The current local non-waterfront value range is high 100s to 200s and rising quite strongly. This house sits on 2 1/2 lots, one being buildable. It has over 1500 square feet with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a 2 car garage.

I consider the interior dated because it has not been updated since it was built in the early 80s. For example it has dark faux wood kitchen and bath cabinets, dark brown 12" tile, dark brown slab doors with 'antique brass' hardware, popcorn ceilings, and faux grass cloth wallpaper on some walls.

My plan, since there are no significant interior architectural details to contradict, is to refresh the interiors by using current materials, fixtures and fittings to lighten and brighten it while still keeping the colors neutral. I became hesitant about pushing ahead when I read here on GW that contemporary homes are difficult to sell. Perhaps. as some of you have suggested, the term 'contemporary' covers a broad spectrum and my plans are for a soft contemporary look that would still accept a potential buyer's more traditional touches. They would have to be willing to mix contrasting wood colors and species (their darker wood furniture with the light colored hardwood floors and birch look cabinets in the kitchen and baths).

This is the 'dated' look in the family room.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 8:02PM
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If I were you and if I were so concerned about this, I would call in an interior decorator (or whatever they call themselves today) and go for a look that shows off the positives of the house.

Redoing the kitchen in what you think strangers will like can be fatal. Sometimes a simple thing like the right paint color will do more to sell the house than ripping out the kitchen and replacing it with something that others may not like, when merely enhancing what you have is fine as the new owner may want their own kitchen design.

A while back I had a neighbor who was going through the same dilemma. Spend 10 grand to totally remodel the kitchen or do what? The realtor told her to save the money, paint the cabinets and price the house accordingly because she would never get even half the money she would spend back.

So she put new vinyl on the floor, painted the cabinets, removed all clutter from the counter tops and sold the house in a short time.

The new owners spent the 10 grand on a new kitchen.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 6:31AM
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Rather than 'remodel to sell" ... clean it until it squeaks, remove the definite deal-breaker stuff and leave the rest. The area has a lot going for it, enough that people will overlook the deficiencies to get into the area.

Price it accordingly - the money you don't spend on remodelling is money you don't have to recover.

The popcorn - it's worth having removed for resale, because it's such a turn-off and a horrible mess during removal.

Wall paint - a clean pale neutral that is on-trend. cream or pale grey-blue, depending on the floors.

That fireplace - clean the stone and the wood and firebox and paint the walls a pale tone that blends with the rock.

"Rustic modern" is the style you are going for - not log-cabin rustic, but not urban loft modern either.

We describe our place as "modestly upgraded" (which it is) and sell the 1/2 acre back yard ... it's a 1980s tract house but the yard is humongous.

Despite it still being only as a "make me move" on Zillow, pre-FSBO and not on MLS yet we're getting calls about it. Because of the location and lot size.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 9:21AM
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beachlily z9a

I'm in FL too. In large part it depends on your typical buyer. Over on the east coast contemporary isn't popular because people from "up north" tend to have more traditional taste. Me, I'm originally from Colorado where contemporary is mainstream. I love clean, spare and beachy. Good luck with your project!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 10:54AM
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"remodel to sell" - if that's all this is then maybe rethink what you do. So much depends on a buyer's tastes and what price range the house is in.

Since Ikea was specifically mentioned - It's a style with a limited appeal, and has strong association with "cheap" - which could be a real turn off for buyers to the point some might even want to tear it out and put in something else.

BUT - if this is an entry level/"starter" home buyer - it could be perceived as the most beautiful thing in the world. YMMV

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 10:26PM
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It depends re IKEA. In my area, it's not associated with cheap at all and is found in houses that sell for 1 mio+

Also, the fireplace could look great with white slip covered couches and a more updated wall paint color. Different floor would help, but I guess that would be out of budget.

In terms of recouping costs, cleaning, decluttering, paint, small fixes like bathroom fixtures, light fixtures, and some staging give you probably the most bang for your buck.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 8:08AM
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The popcorn is gone, the fireplace fascia is gone as are all the floor coverings and the wallpapers. I have been busy! The remodel should increase the value of the house by 4 or 5 times the remodel budget so is well worth the effort. My dilemma was style based rather than whether to remodel or not.

IKEA is able to price low due to their massive buying power and in my opinion many of their products are well designed and quite well made. I
notice that Sarah Richardson frequently uses IKEA in her remodels. I too have seen IKEA kitchens in high priced homes.

I think I am going to go with the Orsa Birch in the kitchen.

Thank you for all your helpful advice, you have given me courage, and your good wishes, beachlily!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 7:22PM
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I think the Orsa birch is a very solid choice if you need to replace cabinets. I hope you get the return you are expecting. Sounds like you are putting in a lot of work.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 8:08PM
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