Traditional isn’t our style. Ten years ago, we bought a condo in downtown Denver for $130,000. That was a great price for a fixer-upper, though nothing needed to immediately be done. We were like most couples with their first home and eager to make it ours.
It quickly became apparent that we could go broke remodeling our place all at once, like many new homeowners, if we wanted to have the home of our dreams. To do everything we wanted would’ve cost $50,000.
Click to read more about the sneaky expenses that come with renovating your home.
We opted for non-traditional — despite the advice we received — and budget-friendly. When it came time to sell our condo, this made all the difference. Here are the three things we did and didn’t do.
We Chose Simplicity and Style Over Contemporary
When we first bought our place, everyone (and we mean everyone) gave us their opinions. “Install hardwood floors.” “Paint your walls beige and accent with color.” “Tear down this wall and make this room bigger.”
Everyone was concerned about our resale value. We were concerned about loving our space.
Rather than replace the old carpet with new carpet estimated at $4,000 or hardwood floors at $12,000, we stained the concrete underneath a gun-metal gray color. The three gallons of concrete stain, two bottles of high-gloss clear coat and supplies cost us $300.
People needed to see this to like it, and most people liked it when we were done.
Our biggest renovation was our kitchen that hadn’t been updated since it was built in 1962. Yes, we had a mostly-working, baby blue General Electric stove with white push buttons.
We installed a new counter, which was huge, at about 30 square feet, because we added a bar on the opposite side of the stove where a wall used to be. We went with a red Formica counter. Think Superman’s cape.
No one — we mean no one — liked this idea. One neighbor said, “You absolutely cannot put in red counters. You’ll never sell your place.” We weren’t concerned about resale, but this unique feature proved valuable when it came time to sell.
If It Wasn’t Broken, It Was Good
When it comes to remodeling, new homeowners often have an “out with the old, in with the new” strategy. We repurposed and recycled where we could.
The universal advice was to install new cabinets, but we didn’t want to invest that kind of money yet. Therefore, we painted our cabinets dark gray, almost black, and added modern hardware for $250.
Like the concrete floors, people needed to see the black cabinets to like them.
Our best investments were our new, high-end Electrolux stainless-steel stove, refrigerator and dishwasher, all purchased from a “gently damaged” store for $2,300 total. Any damage to these items was minimal and hidden when installed. Plus, the store gave us the dishwasher for $200 because we bought three items at one time. This transaction saved us about $3,700.
This required more investment of our time and patience to find the appliances we liked and that had damage that would be okay for us. It would’ve been much easier buying new appliances at a traditional store, but it would’ve been much more expensive.
We Had an Exit Strategy
Due to a series of unfortunate and fortunate events, we put our condo on the market the week after Black Friday 2017. We wanted at least $250,000 for it, so we added a $10,000 buffer for negotiations and agreed not to get greedy with competitive bids.
There were two forces going against us, though. Selling a home during the holidays is historically harder than the rest of the year. Also, according to our agent, while condos in Denver appreciated about 15 percent in 2017, the average for our building was actually down 15 percent. For these reasons, we agreed to sell to the first buyer who offered $250,000 or more.
Within three hours of going on the market, we had our first showing. That buyer requested a second showing within 24 hours, and we had an offer within 36 hours for $260,000. The buyer absolutely loved the unique style of our condo and, in fact, asked to buy all our furniture so it could remain as it was.
So, our advice to homeowners is to not be consumed with resale when remodeling your home. Design your home your way and within your budget. There is surely someone out there with your taste.
That’s your buyer.
Click through to read more about how to affordably renovate your home.