Dare to Repair
How the heck did it get to be September already? Better question, why am I always surprised when it lumbers in? It’s like an 18 wheeler with a bad muffler—you can tell it’s coming from a mile away, but I still jump when it pulls up alongside. There’s that slightly panicky feeling that summer is fading and it’s time to get stuff done.
If you are looking for some late summer projects that don’t involve hand churned ice cream or bourbon pickled heirloom tomatoes, why not spiff your space? Sellers frequently ask me which improvements buyers notice the most, and the following are a few that are easy to do and have an excellent rate of return. If you are thinking about selling in a year or two, these are definitely worth considering. If you’re staying put, they are still a great way to update your home on a budget.
The number one tip for improving the look of your home is fresh paint. I estimate that for every $1 spent on paint, you’ll conservatively get $1.50 in return on resale. If you are staying put, Google trending paint colors and find something you love. If you may sell in the not too distant future, neutrals like light tan, off white, or light gray make a house look it’s best to prospective buyers.
For the paint-it-yourself crew, start with good paint. Sherwin Williams is the usual choice of my professional painters, and it’s also a good place to start if you’re a novice. The reps are friendly and highly knowledgeable, and they can walk you through the basics of paint type, quantity and finish. Don’t skimp on materials, buy a good quality brush or two and quality roller covers. A tip from the pros, rinse your rollers and let them dry the day before you need them to remove those pesky fibers that will come off in your paint. Clean your surfaces, use vinyl spackling to fill holes, and get fresh painters tape to help your lines straight and your molding clean.
If you have an older home, another trick is to replace the light switch and outlet covers. I was initially skeptical, but having seen the results it’s now one of my top suggestions. Over the years covers frequently get painted over, they’re mismatched, or the style or color looks dated. If you buy them by the box, they cost around 25 cents each and you can make the swap with a screwdriver in less than a minute. Covers come in small, medium and large, so bring an old cover with you to make sure the new ones are the same or larger size. If the covers have been painted over, use a box cutter to make a clean light cut around the edge of the old cover so you don’t accidentally pull off some wall paint in the process. The end result is a room that looks clean and fresh, and gives the impression that the electrical system was updated recently.
Light fixtures are one of those things we stop noticing after we’ve lived in a house for a while, but it’s one of the things guests or prospective buyers notice right away. Walk through with fresh eyes and see what needs replacing. Keep it simple for bedrooms, but splurge a bit in high impact areas like dining rooms and hallways. If your ceiling cans are looking dated, consider swapping them out with a flush led light. You simply remove the existing light bulb and baffle, screw the attachment on the new light into the light socket, and snap the new baffle in place. It takes about two minutes (less if you put your wine glass down during install), and the bulb should last for 50,000 hours and lower your electric bill.
If your floors have seen better days, before you go to the cost and trouble of refinishing them, try a mop-on restoration product. Vacuum first, clean the floor thoroughly with a floor cleaner, then squirt and polish a 5 foot by 5 foot section at a time. Add a second or third coat for badly worn floors. There are a few brands on the market, but I recommend Rejuvenate Wood Restorer, available at Home Depot, Walmart, Ace Hardware and on Amazon. The cleaner and restorer, 32 ounces each, should run around $24 for both.