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Moving Mom… the Next Step Should You Update Before Selling?


By Brooke Bass

This is the common question among seniors and their children when making a move.  Many seniors have owned their home for years, and often without updates.  What are your options when you have an “original” that must be sold?  I am not referring to historical treasures…a 70’s ranch is more of what I have in mind.

My advice is unless you have the energy to go through it, don’t.  Even with a project manager or contractor to oversee the updates, it is stress that you don’t need when making a major life transition.  Moving is stressful enough without the added headaches of remodeling a house.  


Do I manage updates and staging homes for sale?  Yes.  Can it add value to the home and bring in a higher price?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  It depends on what you do, how much you spend, and how much margin you have between what you perceive the house to be worth, and what you can actually sell it for after the remodel.  

For seniors, it’s more than just updating.  It’s erasing years of memories with the removal of the wall paper.  The kitchen they see as perfect is, well, outdated.  It’s the realization that the home they have lived in and loved for years may not be desirable to others.  

I once bought a house that had the most hideous wall paper in the master bathroom.  As I relaxed in the Jacuzzi, I had to close my eyes so I would not get a headache from the busy print.  Removing that paper was the best thing I ever did to preserve my sanity!  As pretty as yours may be, it is not for everyone.


Here are some updating tips:

•    Paint - If you are going to remove old wall paper, think beige.  Neutral is always good when it comes to resale.  Paint is cheap and easily changed if a buyer wants their own color scheme.  However, tan walls go with anything and a contrasting white trim finishes it off.  

•    Floors - They should also be neutral.  Wood floors may not be in the budget, but if so, wood in the common areas and beige carpet in the bedrooms is a favorite feature among buyers.  

•    Kitchen and Baths - Don’t put in a whole new kitchen or baths if you are preparing a home for sale.  You can replace cabinet doors, hardware, countertops, and/or appliances, but if the cabinet boxes are good, do the cosmetics without replacing the whole thing.  Boxes can be painted, but if you have to replace them, rarely will you get your investment back.

•    Staging - If occupied, professionally stage the house, inside and out.  If empty and you have the luxury to move out before selling, it will make updating the home easier and less stressful.

•    Clean - Make sure it is deep cleaned, inside and out.  I’m talking details:  inside cabinets, garage, closets, doors, etc.  Make sure the caulking is fresh, especially in kitchen and bath areas.

•    Repairs – Do make minor repairs such as leaky faucets.

Add up the numbers.  If the margin is not there, consider selling the house “as is”.  Have it professionally cleaned, and offer the buyer a redecorating or flooring credit.  If the home needs major repairs, reduce the price accordingly and sell it for less.  

The trick is to find the magic number that will sell the house in its current (but clean) condition to an end user.  Don’t price it so low that an investor will want to remodel it and flip it for a profit.

Remember the good ol’ days when young couples bought a house, fixed it up and eventually sold it to buy a larger home?  Those days are back.  Homes they could not buy years ago are reduced to now affordable prices.  Mortgage rates are as low as they have ever been, and the market is starting to recover.  Your home may appeal to someone that plans to live in it and update it to their own tastes over time.  

So, let’s get on with your life, and give up the lawn mower!  Price it right and they will come!  

Next week on Moving Mom...When is the Right Time to Sell?  Stay tuned!  

By Brooke Bass, an active Associate Broker with Keller Williams Realty Coastal Area Partners and owner of Gracious Moves LLC, a Savannah based Staging and Move Management Company.  

A nationally award winning Realtor, Brooke has been successfully selling, staging homes and moving families since 1985. She holds the National Association of Realtors, “Seniors Real Estate Specialist”, and memberships in the National Association of Senior Move Managers, and Greater Savannah Coalition on Aging. Brooke serves as the Real Estate Expert and Advisory Board Member to the Savannah Clubhouse, Inc.-The Reed House, a new mental health rehabilitation facility opening soon in Savannah.  

For more information, contact Brooke at 912-655-9299 or visit and click on “Brooke’s Blog” to view former Savannah Morning News articles.


Written by: Brooke Bass
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