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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Advice Needed, Please Please Please....

you know how there is always a slight disagreement between men & women
about home decor, landscaping, etc.?

imagine you were looking for a home to purchase on a large (1.5 acre) lot,
with a house, somewhat dated in decor, but VERY well-built...a large (about 6500 sf)
soft contemporary, cooper roof, high ceilings everywhere, a gigantic master with sitting room, his & her baths, 1 story home with walls of glass overlooking a free-form pool
and the grounds.

the house will be priced about $3 million.

upside:  the home is located perfectly, close to everything, in a beautiful neighborhood,
and in the best school district in the city, and also very close to excellent private schools.
at 1st blush anyone would walk in the door and be delighted with the room sizes,
the ceiling heights, the open-ness and the divine floor-plan.
the house is beautifully decorated in a soft contemporary style, which was all
done about 25 years ago.  lots of pastel colors.

downside:  the landscaping is overgrown, there are no spots of color, leaves have
been blown back into the beds, there is no definition around the perimeter of the house,
the shrubs have grown, voluntarily, out from the fence line anywhere from 15' to 50' over a period
of 27 years.
patio furniture is worn out.
around one side of the house NOTHING has been done, the trees, plants,
vines have overgrown the pathways and when they are trimmed the groundsman
will do the minimum.

inside kitchen, no windows or exposure to other rooms with bright blue & white, boldly patterned
"chinoiserie" wallpaper in the kitchen & utility room.  white cabinets are laminate covered, so cannot be changed by painting, navy blue pulls on all drawers and cabinets.

the house has recently been painted a soft beige in semi-gloss paint, there are beautiful high beamed ceilings in the den, painted soft blue like the sky, woodwork, bookshelves are all
white as original.

garage turned into a work-out room about 25 years ago.


the homeowner, a single man who is 82, has lived in the house for 27 years,
his kids are grown & gone.
he sees nothing wrong with anything, of course.

we are just trying to help.

I told him I would ask ALL of you for your thoughts.

what do homebuyers in this price range look for?
do they want to re-do a house completely prior to move in?
will they live with some things, and do a major kitchen tear out & redo
in a year or two?

please be completely honest, I'm going to show him your comments.

oh yes, one more thing, he has the money to do anything he chooses, there is no time schedule,
he is just downsizing.



  1. Marsha... I think one of the main selling points for a home is the kitchen... and at this price point it should be livable. Without being able to see the home, I would suggest that the doors on the cabinetry be replaced for an updated contemporary or transitional style.

    The landscaping should be addressed by first doing a lot of editing and clean-up. Replace the pool furniture with some great furniture and cushions with color and add some huge pots near the pool with a lot of color in them. Plus a large umbrellas.

    A designer could help him stage the home to edit and add pieces to emphasize the strong points in the architecture.


    1. Thank you, Terri. I'm going to email you asap.

  2. OK I’ll be honest if it helps. To me the interior décor doesn’t matter much if a house has good bones, it’s easily changed and most people will probably change it out anyway for their own taste. As for the landscaping time to hire a crew to come in and clean things up and make it pretty. Buyers aren’t going to want to dump money into that right off when they’re already taking care of the inside and nesting. And people don’t seem to have as much vision for the outside as they do inside. People know if they’re going to buy the house in the first thirty seconds of approaching a house for the first time so make it shine and look its best. The cabinets in the kitchen can be painted with Anne Sloan paint it’ll cover anything without sanding. Ditch the wallpaper and give the kitchen a fresh coat of paint. People don’t want to walk into a house and see nothing but more money going out the window for updating especially when you’re buying a house in this range. I hope this helps your friend.


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  3. If the house has good bones, which it sounds like it does..it will sell itself. I say get rid of any clutter, make sure there aren't dirty walls, its as spic and span as can be and clutter free. I would advise him to clean it up as best possible, including yard because lets face it you only get one chance for a first impression and curb appeal here is very important. I would leave the kitchen alone..its so subjective that no matter what he does someone will come along and not like it, better to let them take on that project, ditto baths. I would remove the chinoiserie (such a specific taste) unless its a very good one like Gracie or something which comes in removable panels, in that case have a skilled paperhanger remove them and send them immediately to The Enchanted Home...haha.

    I think people can see beyond the dated cabinets, overgrown landscapes but what will they see and feel is the vibe, if its clean and not cluttered, if the ceilings are high and it has great space...make sure the windows are clean. Burn a nice candle, an orchid or two and a nice tray of something yummy like cookies or finger sandwiches to greet lookers.....(if there's an open house) and any pictures of the landscape when it was done and kept up in full season to show off on a convenient table would be smart too. Best of luck to him...bottom line if the bones are good, people will see right through all the aesthetics!! I have done my share of home buying and selling so feel like I know this sujbect well!

  4. Tina, you are wonderful! I so appreciate your advice on all of this, as I know you have great experience and style. I hear you, ladybug.

  5. Ok, having bought and sold 7 houses in markets as varied as Bay Area of CA to midwest, southern FL, this is what I'm looking for: clean, well maintained, potential. If the projects are too big, we aren't your buyer anyway, but there is somebody looking to put their stamp on a project who will lap it up. Solid structure, updating kitchen etc fine, rewiring grand old house, no.

    Things like workout room to garage, well if it's easy to do bring it back to garage at that price point no garage is weird not matter where you live. The kitchen with no windows and not open to anything will be a problem, but perhaps one best left to the new owner.

    Clean up, pare down and be prepared to take a modest hit over others in the area in more updated condition...Personally, I think the staging thing is taken to an extreme these days- I'm not interested in the furniture in the house and begin to be a little suspicious if it has been aggressively staged -smells like desperation on the buyer's part to me. I'd much rather see a clean, decluttered, well loved home and feel the comfort the previous owner has experienced there....

  6. If I were moving, I'd want great appliances, and everything one shade or another of white. As for landscaping, get the foundational plantings up to par, i.e. the right shrubs and trees. For the annuals, the flowering perennials, etc., don't worry. I would rip it all out and do what I wanted anyway.

    Now, if the house is so ornamental that a minimalist like me wouldn't like it no matter what, all bets are off:).

  7. I think that it's important to look at the potential target market for the neighborhood. If this is an area where young families are moving in with families, I think that the kitchen and maybe the bathrooms need to be updated. If this is an area that is drawing more mature buyers, I think that he has more flexibility. The landscaping should be done regardless. The truth of the matter is that he'll enjoy the result of a beautiful landscape, too. If the price point is on the high end for the neighborhood, the house should be really pulled together. If it's mid or low price for the neighborhood, I think that he has more options. Sounds like it will be a lovely opportunity for someone. Cherry Kay

  8. This house sounds lovely!! We live in a part of the country where real estate is big business. The average listing price is $2.8m and sadly, there is absolutely no acreage attached...hardly a front or backyard! If your house in a great area and has great bones, what the buyer will care most about is cleanliness and curb appeal. Landscape-wise, I would tidy up anything that is overgrown. Give it a haircut so to speak. It doesn't need to be redone, just not look like a jungle that is hiding opposum or wild animals! You wouldn't want the wife to love the house and have the husband reject it because he believes cleaning up the yard will be too much work. Clean up the pool so it looks like the kids could jump in right then and there. I would also plant some pretty flowers around the front to add color and make it welcoming. Summer is a perfect time.

    Interior-wise, a new buyer will want to make the house their own. So the goal is to, mentally, give them a clean palate. I compare it to seeing a hotel room for a first time. Some buyers can see past imperfections but many can not get past dirt, clutter or a less than sparkling bathroom. The new coat of paint will do wonders. Many of my friends opt to install new carpet but a deep carpet cleaning should be required at minimum. If the kitchen needs to be completely redone, the conditions should be nice enough so that the new owners can live with it for a time. The previous owners of my current house had the grout lines in the kitchen and bathrooms cleaned or resurfaced, and I appreciated that touch which kept things looking new until I was ready for a kitchen remodel. You mentioned that the garage is now a workout room. Is it easily converted into a garage again? The husband may not want to park his baby Porsche exposed to the elements. Hopefully that helps. Gosh now I want to move in and redocorate it! I wish your friend luck!

  9. Hi friend:) I agree with the above poster regarding the kitchen. To me, and most that I know....the kitchen is the life of the home, the gathering place where everyone ends ups regardless. I would definitely make the updates to the kitchen...windows and good light are crucial to a selling point from where I sit:) It sounds like a lovely home....everything else, including the outside, could be updated in time:)

    Sunday hugs!

  10. I agree with all that has been said. The Annie Sloan chalk paint is amazing. Like she said, it covers anything with NO SANDING!!!! As we just had our house on the market, we had a stager who made us paint all LIGHT, neautral colors and remove all personal things. However at this price point I think peole are going to be loking at the bones of the house and if the floor plan works for them. Outside has GOT to be cleaned up and manicured. Let us know what he does!!! XO, Pinky

  11. When buying a house, i really do not look at the furnishing but the curb appeal is critical.
    I would trim bushes, clean up the bed, spend some money on landscaping with perhaps a nice be by the entrance with flowring bushes and perennials. Make sure the outside walls are painted if the house is in wood, power washed if brick or stone. The front door must be in tip top shape. Thai is for the first impression, who ever walks towards the house must have that immediate sensation: I could live there!

    Inside: remove clutter, personal photographs, clean walls , scrub kitchen and bathrooms, a nice white coat of paint hides the age. Bring flowers in vases, scented candles, neat kitchen, no personal products in bathrooms, beds made, good lighting, soft light bulbs are great. The goal is not to distract the potential buyer from the real positive point of the house, spaciousness, good construction, livability or potential.

  12. SOLD! Now all I need is the 3 million. Sound like a fabulous house. Great post!

  13. I am a realtor in CA. Strip the wallpaper, replace with a neutral color, clean-up the yard, remove anything old worn, nothing is better than something, folks need to see themselves in the space and less is more, and removing wallpaper never appeals to anyone. Put some colored plants by the door. Give the feeling of what can be done. Folks with bucks don't have time, folks with time don't have bucks, it's a balancing act. You have a big bucks home and your audience has no time. Kitchen redo sounds good but your price range commands possibly a $100,000-buyers would rather have what they want for that. What you build may not suit a buyer and in any event, they don't want to pay you for it. Get a decorator opinion on what can be done with little financial outlay and a home stager and see what can be done with what's there. That's the best, cheapest money you can spend. I'm in El Dorado Hills, CA, you can call me: 530-919-5102 if you want to talk to me directly. Kandee Acuna, Realtor, C21 Select Group, Towne Center, El Dorado Hills.

  14. Hi Marsha,
    I think that those far more qualified than me have said everything but, for what it's worth, I was told by an estate agent , never put in a new kitchen. It will probably be torn out by the new owner !! There is a road in Hampstead nicknamed Millionaires Row ( I was actually born there but, that's another story !! ..... we certainly weren't millionaires !! ) and, there are often skips outside some of the mansions filled with brand new kitchens so, it would be a waste of money to put one in. People can usually see through the out-dated decor ..... as long as it's all cleaned up and staged a little then, I'm sure that possible purchasers will see the house for what it is. XXXX

  15. First of all; isn't he lucky to ask the perfect person!

    And he should listen and do every single thing you say!

    the kitchen cabinets need new door fronts right away that can be painted!

    And the rest of it Marsha knows.....and I have not even read one other comment!

    Give her "her head" and she will solve it all!

    Smart of you for picking her! Now let this race horse go!


    (maybe that will make a difference; maybe not!)

  16. We flip houses and we would love to find something like this. However most buyers do not have a lot of vision. Clean it up, paint and stage. That would be my advice. Don't spend too much money on things someone is likely to change!

  17. I agree with the others. Most people can see though out-dated decor. I say most because we just sold our condo because the Mrs. loved it and did not have the confidence or desire to do any decorating or remodeling herself. There will always be some like that.

    We have bought and sold many homes and have remodeled each of them. We've been house hunting lately and have passed on several because they had re-done the kitchen and it wasn't to my taste or poorly done and we didn't want to pay for something we would have to tear out. In this price range people will want to hire a decorator anyway.

    Clean up any clutter and give the landscaping some attention for curb appeal. They'll never see the good bones and the potential inside the house if they don't get out of the car.

  18. I think buyers, even at this price point, can see past little things like cabinet pulls and even wallpaper (although they are pretty painless to change). HOWEVER, he really should hire landscapers to cut back the overgrowth and edge and mulch, and add flowers for color when he is ready to sell. A pristine yard will do wonders for curb appeal. Also, I agree that he should probably re-do the kitchen. Either that or knock a LOT off the price. In the kitchen, if the appliances and layout are good, maybe just replace the cabinet and rip out the wallpaper and paint. If the counters are bad, do those, too. He'll definitely get his $ back! As for the garage, that could be a problem. Is there NO garage? Can one be built, or can it be reconverted? I wouldn't buy a house with no garage, but I live in the Northeast where it snows, so we need one. Maybe things are different there? Good luck to him - it sounds like an AWESOME house. One further thought - he could list it and see what happens, then take it of the market and renovate if he needs to. Post picture of the inside if you can - it would be fun for us to comment on particulars :)

  19. For the price he is asking, go neutral especially in the kitchen, if its extremely clean and neutral and light, especially if it has no windows for natural sunlight! It's really all about location these days and something that is livable while one does renovation. Not worth redoing bathrooms or kitchen because more than likely the next owner may not like the choices and would want things done their way! I agree with garden neaten up the yard though, that is curb appeal and that draws people in!
    Good luck!!

  20. I agree with the ladies above: get the landscape under control, remove all clutter and let the bones of the house speak for itself. And a home stager is a MUST. Anyone who can afford this house will want to make it their own. And by the way, your music is gorgeous.

  21. The curb appeal will matter. I'd clean up the appearance without investing too much. The practical in me says to update what is possible in the kitchen without a redo (especially since the man is 82, and a kitchen remodel is a hassle). The staging will be important, and then see how that goes knowing there's a possibility it's not enough.

    Personally, if the $$ and time is there for a full kitchen redo - and if the homeowner can deal with it - I would spring for it - classic and simple. Living through a kitchen remodel (or waiting for one on a house you'd like to move into) is no fun, for homeowner or buyer. Been there, done that. SO much easier when you can move in and "tweak" rather than tear out and redo.

    My two cents.

  22. I would expect: 1) NO wallpaper anywhere; 2)totally updated kitchen; 3) beautiful landscaping; 4)totally updated baths; 5)fresh, neutral paint throughout; 6)beautiful flooring throughout (no laminates or engineered wood). I moved from California to Midwest a few years ago and in both of these places, these expectations are the standard norm for a house at that suggested selling price. At the proposed price of $3M, the expectation is that the house is move-in ready with NO projects to be done. Good luck to you!

    1. So happy for your comment. Houston is the 4th largest city in the US, and I'll bet you won't find a property of this size + a home of this size anywhere else for this price range. But, in any event, I agree the wallpaper must go. The baths are lovely and were redone a few years ago, there's a his & hers in the huge master. The home is in move-in condition, and it's beautifully decorated too. No expense has been spared to keep it up, it's just that it's been kept up to an older bachelor's desires, not a younger woman with a family. Thanks.

  23. HI Marsha, as the gent is elderly it would be better to leave it alone as he would have to do a fair amount of renovation which can be stressful, price the home accordingly as the new owners will do their own thing and rip out the dated kitchen etc. Tell him to employ professional house cleaners and tidy up the yard, but thats it. I live in an area where high priced homes are completely redone, and whatever the gent does should only be aesthetic. Hope that helps :)

  24. Above all, CONGRATULATIONS to this gentleman who has been so successful all his life! EVERYTHING must be seen from the buyers' eyes, despite all that is lovely and cherished in his home. OUTSIDE:1st-find the best LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT in the area (check photos of his work) and get a PLAN from him on paper(can be in stages). If it's a reasonable cost, do it; if not, then just do massive pruning, clean up, fix foundation plants, colorful floral additions in planters at front door and around pool and leave PLAN for buyer. Curb appeal is the first thing to entice a buyer so it's critical & must be the best possible. Remove old patio furniture-either paint it or replace it and get new cushions or have nothing. Ck w landscape architect for best ideas. His plan might also show options for outdoor fire pit or grill etc... Front door MUST be appealing w floral planters and spotlessly clean. So power wash entire home outside, make all repairs, wash windows etc. clean lights & change light bulbs, and repaint any trim that needs it. Edge all the beds, add fresh mulch, fertilize grass, etc.... INSIDE: Remove ALL wallpaper and paint everything fresh light colors. Meticulously clean EVERYTHING to perfection, white glove military cleaning. Hire the BEST interior DESIGNER/ARCHITECT specializing in KITCHENS (not a decorator)and get a PLAN on paper with several options at 2-3 price points. Pay the design fee (do not execute them), leave the generic PLANS for the buyer to envision and execute. Do the same (get plans from ARCHITECT)for the garage/workout room showing conversion options, or addition of new garage (w or w/o studio above or pool house) and leave PLANS for buyer. DE-CLUTTER everywhere, remove everything with dated look (furniture that might need re-doing), wall paper borders etc... MINIMIZE everything by removing ALL personal photos, papers, stuff...MEANWHILE, rent a storage place & pack a lot of stuff up in boxes to sort out later...so the ENTIRE house looks very minimal and sparse...this allows buyer to envision THEIR ideas in the empty space and shows off the good 'bones'! If you struggle with this, then HIRE a professional Organizer and/or STAGER to do it for you or help you do it. LAST: when everything is DONE, get 3 separate BANKS (not realtors) to give independent appraisals of home with NO input from you about anything, take the average of the 3 prices as your NEW selling price. Then hire the best selling realtor in town, have an open house, put home WITH pictures on multiple listing on internet...show & leave appraisals and plans for buyer, and it should sell in a heartbeat or initiate a bidding war! Move out, make a pre-nup, watch out for gold-diggers, go enjoy life, & say a prayer of thanksgiving!


Thank you so much for your wonderful comments, each of them mean so much to me. After all, the interaction is the reason we blog. xx's