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The Big Move: ‘I don’t have the funds or the gusto’: My wife painted our house in Rustic Western — now Realtors want us to whitewash our lives away

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The Big Move’ is a MarketWatch column looking at the ins and outs of real estate, from navigating the search for a new home to applying for a mortgage.

Do you have a question about buying or selling a home? Do you want to know where your next move should be? Email Jacob Passy at [email protected].

Dear MarketWatch,

What in the heck am I supposed to believe, realize and trust in selling my house and buying another especially in todays seller’s market?

We need and want to downsize from our current house. My wife painted our house in line with our true essence:  Rustic Western.  The house is painted and decorated in Southwest colors, not gray like everybody likes and wants.

After all, the influencer/designer experts say to make your home “your own.” A lot of people are farm-housing it today — for us, we stuck with our Rustic Western preference.   

Now we want to sell. We got mixed messages from about 8 different Realtors in our area and out of our area. Some have said to re-paint all the walls to neutral colors and change the carpet in a couple of rooms to tile. Upgrade the appliances to stainless steel. Repaint outside as well. Upgrade the landscaping, empty out the house and only have enough furniture in it to show size and scale. And for heaven’s sake — get rid of our personal stuff like family pictures!!!

Then, there are others that tell us to not do anything else to it, the house will sell in this market. Then a couple of others say to just do a few minor maintenance things — cosmetic things — and it will sell.   Another said to just move out and sell — as is — period.

Our house is the largest square footage wise in our neighborhood of 62 houses.  Plus, we have added features to the house that we know no other houses in our neighborhood has, such as: a circular driveway and an extra bedroom with its own ADA bathroom, fireplace and side entrance to an enclosed porch.  It was my mother-in-law’s bedroom, and she lived here 11 years.


‘Our house is the largest square footage wise in our neighborhood of 62 houses.  Plus we have added features to the house that we know no other houses in our neighborhood has.’

We think that doing changes — such as replacing carpet and retiling and painting all the walls to neutral (or the ever-popular gray/white scheme) and replacing our current white appliances to stainless — is a waste of our money. Whoever buys this house will most likely not like what we’ve picked and will rip out or replace what we’ve put in.

We did exactly that ourselves when we bought it:  Re-painted, changed the carpeting — even though it was newly painted and the carpet was less than 6 months old. 

We have a neighbor in the cul-de-sac down from us, whose house is identical to ours except it’s smaller because they have 3 bedrooms where we have 4 — because of the in-law suite. They have lived in that house almost 3 years and they completely re-did the whole house inside to look like that farmhouse look: New plumbing, new electric, and re-landscaped the backyard with paver stones.


Would you believe after all the remodeling our neighbors did, the buyers of their house are re-painting, re-tiling, adding a sprinkler system and adjusting the landscaping?

We think they put about $50,000 to $60,000 into the remodel. They sold the house for cash to a well-off local celebrity for his daughter. We think they broke even or very little profit. Would you believe after all the remodeling our neighbors did, the buyers of their house are re-painting, re-tiling, adding a sprinkler system and adjusting the landscaping?

Now back to my house.  We’re in our late-late 60’s, and retired. I don’t have the funds or the gusto to do a large-scale makeover on this house to please other people that may or most likely may not like the makeover we would do to sell it. I do need as much money as I can get out of this to move to the next house.  

This is only the second house we’ve owned — so we’re either old-fashioned or out of touch? What’s your opinion? One of the Realtors said to sell a house “as is” kind of implies that there’s something wrong with the house. Is that true? There’s nothing wrong with this house — we’ve maintained it all along.

Besides we’re thinking of hiring our own home inspector just to see if there’s anything we’ve missed. I hope you can respond. I’m beginning to not believe these Realtors. Who’s telling me the truth?

Regards,

Confused and frustrated in Florida

Dear Confused,

I was wondering how you would sign this letter. I was curious whether you lived in Waco or Westchester.

Neither, as it turns out.

Selling a home is an emotional process. This is the place where you made some of your fondest memories. You and your wife poured money, sweat and tears into making it your sanctuary — it reflects the rich life you’ve led together and is a physical manifestation of your partnership.


It’s important that buyers are able to envision living in what was once your home. It’s your job to help make that happen.

So it’s natural to take umbrage with the idea that your preferred aesthetic isn’t many people’s cup of tea. I’d much rather live in an abode like yours than a white-walled, cookie-cutter home that has little personality.

But I’m not everybody.

Little things — a coat of paint, new fixtures in the bathroom, making minor repairs and doing a deep-clean — will help your home to stand out. Larger renovations won’t help a whole lot, unless your home is in bad shape. Very few renovations actually come with a 100% return on investment.

As a seller, you still want to put your best foot forward — even in a market as hot as this one. It’s great that you’ve invested in your home to add features that will certainly be attractive to many buyers.

But it’s important that buyers are able to envision their lives in what was once your home. It’s your job to help make that happen. They want to be able to picture their furniture in the rooms, their pictures on the walls, and their memories being made.


The more people who can picture living their lives out in your home, the more offers you will receive.

Your home likely may sell no matter what — the market is really that hot right now in many parts of the country. But I also assume you want the largest possible return on your investment, and to get that you’ll want your home to fetch as many offers as possible.

That way, you will have more money to put towards the Rustic Western renovation — or, what the hell, Wild Western renovation — of your new home.

That’s why many buyers opt to do smaller renovations before listing their home. Painting your home is a great example of this: Neutral colors like white, beige and gray offer buyers a blank canvas. A fresh coat of paint enables them to more easily picture the life they would build in the home. And research from Zillow
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-1.75%

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-1.43%

suggests that the wrong paint color will do the exact opposite — it can actually decrease the price you end up getting for your home.

The more people who can picture living their lives out in your home, the more offers you will receive. And the more offers you receive, the better the chances of seeing a bidding war that will fetch you the best possible deal.

Don’t miss: Can I afford a house and major repairs? It is worth it to invest that time and money?

Take it from Zillow’s experience: You don’t need to gut your home completely. “Zillow rarely completes any major upgrade to a home that would dramatically alter its footprint or its value,” the real-estate company said in a recent report detailing the lessons its learned through its iBuyer division that buys and sells homes directly. “Instead, Zillow focuses on the projects that make a home clean, safe and functional for a buyer, repairing items instead of replacing them when possible.”

Go back to the real-estate agents you spoke with and examine their track record — who’s got the most successful sales history? If that person advises you to make some minor cosmetic changes, I’d take them at their word. They’re not making a judgment about your taste. Rather, they’re trying to get you the best price for your home.

It’s just business. It’s not personal. Even if being asked to change your color palette makes you feel that way.

The Moneyist: My single brother-in-law wants my husband to sign over the family home — in case my husband dies first. Should I agree?

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