Stage this house!
November 10, 2010 4:04 PM   Subscribe

We've decided to move. We currently live in Omaha, NE and are considering moving to Cedar Rapids, IA, where I grew up, because indicates that the schools there kick ass compared to Omaha and vicinity. (Our kids are 3 and 1, so we've got time, but you know... no time like the present.) We're still a little conflicted about whether to go to CR or not, but I'll save that question for next week. This week's question IS: what should we do to our house to get it ready to sell?

Here's the state of things: the house was built in '67. We bought it in 2004. The previous owners had redone the kitchen, which shows really well with granite counter tops, a big open space, etc. Since we moved in we have:

1. had the house freshly painted on the exterior
2. had all of the windows replaced in 2007
3. We tore out boring yew bushes in the front and had a brick path put in with more interesting landscaping, and planted a small maple tree (there are other mature trees)
4. We did a facelift to the upstairs bathroom, which looks good and is adequate
5. We painted some ugly paneling in the mostly unfinished basement white and put down a carpet remnant in that space. There is still one cinder block wall, and there is no ceiling.
6. Down there we also swapped a large window and small door around, so now the large window is a double French door to the outside and the old door is now a window.
7. We refinished and restained the deck.
8. We have repainted almost every room in the house, with the exception of the guest bedroom, the living room and the foyer.
9. As we've painted each room, we have removed the popcorn ceilings in that room and painted it white.

So, we plan to paint the living room, the foyer and the guest bedroom. I vote to NOT remove the popcorn ceilings in these rooms. It's not that big of a deal, but it would still take about 20-25 hours worth of work all told, and I don't think it's worth it. What do you think?

Plus, the main bathroom on the main floor is all original and therefore quite ugly. And the only "half bath" in the house is on the main floor by the laundry. However, the previous owners' remodel made it such that this toilet no longer has a door for privacy (although you are tucked in a corner where no one can really see you). so the main bathroom is where the guests go.

There is no master suite in this house. The two largest bedrooms are on the main floor, so the main bathroom is used by us almost exclusively.

So, how much do we do? Do we gut the bathroom? Do we HAVE to figure out how to put a door on that toilet? Do we put a drop ceiling in the basement? (We can count it as finished square footage as long as there is a ceiling.) Our house already has over 2000 FSF on the main and upper floors. The furnace and A/C are kind of old. Do we have to replace them before we put it on the market? The driveway is horribly cracked and there is evidence of "street creep" in the garage. The only other drawback to our house is that it does not have 3 garage stalls (only 2).

So, newer high-end(ish) kitchen, located on a cul-de-sac, in a really nice and convenient neighborhood. The roof is still in good shape.

But, no master suite, weird half bath, original main bath and a couple of popcorn ceilings.

What should be done, mefites?
posted by wwartorff to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
If you do decide to remove the popcorn ceilings -- a project I think you're underestimating -- first check to see if they have asbestos in them. 1967 is old enough that they might.

I recently asked a real estate agent a similar question. Her advice was to take care of the matters that come up during inspection: interior caulking around sinks, exterior caulking around windows, have the furnace serviced, unclog anything clogged, clean the gutters, all those little projects.

As a househunter, I would prefer that people not do a lot of updating in preparation for sale unless by some miracle they have the same taste I do. I don't like granite countertops, for example, but every house I'm seeing these days has them. I'd prefer that the house just cost $2,000 (or however much it is they cost) less and I could pick my own damn counters.

I would put a door on the half bath, as a toilet without a door is weird.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:29 PM on November 10, 2010

Make sure the front of the house is sparkling clean and appealing. Fresh new doormat, shiny brass numbers, mailbox and light fixture (whatever you have).
posted by cyndigo at 4:39 PM on November 10, 2010

I think the answers to these questions depend on your local market, and which things people care about. I live in a totally different market, but here's my opinion anyway, since you asked!

Do put a door on the half bath. That's weird and is going to stay in my mind as a negative.

Do put a ceiling in the basement if that makes the square footage count, this theoretically helps increase your price (at least as far as comps go) because it suddenly becomes a bigger house.

Paint the rooms, but keep it neutral. Many people can't see past the surface things like paint colors, so you want to keep them as broad-appeal as possible. I can't decide on the popcorn ceiling. They're a big negative to me, but it depends who your buyer demographic is in that area. Older people are less likely to care I think. If its young families maybe they care more.

The driveway, garage, bathroom remodel, furnace and AC etc are too big to worry about fixing, just deal with them at inspection stage, and you may have to reduce price a bit to compensate then, but that's probably still better than paying someone to do those jobs, plus it saves you the hassle of dealing with them.
posted by Joh at 4:42 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do put a ceiling in the basement if that makes the square footage count, this theoretically helps increase your price (at least as far as comps go) because it suddenly becomes a bigger house.

Potentially, though that creates a comparison with houses that have that much properly-finished and habitable space. I remember visiting a place that was listed at 2000 sq. ft. where 1000 was dingy, mildewed gym-changing-room-esque basement. It felt like a bait-and-switch: and the listing was dodgy, anyway, as the stairs down weren't finished, as required by state law in order to count it on listings.

Definitely deal with the half-bath situation. A random toilet showing up in plain view during a tour is just going to be joked about afterwards. Either put in a door or get rid of it entirely and have the plumbing properly sealed off. (I remain stubbornly foreign in my questioning of the need for a 3-toilet house.)
posted by holgate at 5:03 PM on November 10, 2010

@corpse: we have removed popcorn ceilings in other rooms and have the method down pat. Bring hose in through window. Set to mist and saturate part of ceiling. Let sit for a minute or two. Scrape off popcorn. When done, patch any scrapes/dings, prime and paint. Seriously, a decent sized bedroom takes maybe 2 hours, and that's with prep and clean up (assuming you cover everything with a tarp) (and not including the priming and painting).

Thanks for the feedback, and please keep it coming!
posted by wwartorff at 5:10 PM on November 10, 2010

Take a look at every house currently for sale in your neighborhood. Do a straight comparison and try to narrow it down to houses around your square footage, bedroom/bath number/lot size etc. (there's a reason why they do that on those "sell your house" shows).

Then go and visit those houses. See how your place compares and do everything you can do make your house better than your competition. Make yourself a checklist so you can keep track. You might be able to get away with a few minor things or you'll realize that you'll have to do some investing to bring your house up to the neighborhood standards & get the house sold.

I wouldn't hurt to pay for your own "pre" inspection & fix those non-cosmetic items you don't even see or aren't aware of although the door for the 1/2 bath is a given.
posted by jaimystery at 5:34 PM on November 10, 2010

I wouldn't hurt . . . It wouldn't hurt
posted by jaimystery at 5:35 PM on November 10, 2010

Hi wwartorff -

I hope you don't mind my addressing a different part of your question; just ignore me if you're not interested.

Instead of selling your house and moving your life, have you considered looking for better schools within Omaha? Perhaps you are wary of sending your daughters to the Omaha Public Schools district, but you can take advantage of Nebraska's open enrollment law, and send them to the better-funded Millard or District 66 (aka Westside) districts, which have top-tier schools. Also, Millard and even OPS offer good magnet programs. For example, Millard hosts the International Baccalaureate program at Aldrich Elementary, Millard North Middle, and Millard North High. OPS offers magnet schools for a variety of interests, beginning at the elementary level.

Omaha also has excellent Catholic high schools (namely Duchesne, Creighton Prep, Marian, Mount Michael) and good Catholic grade schools. Brownell-Talbot is also very good, but expensive.

Basically, my point is that you can find an excellent education here in Omaha if you shop around. Don't assume that your zoned school is your only option. Let me know if you'd like to discuss this stuff more.
posted by Sfving at 5:37 PM on November 10, 2010

I wouldn't do the expensive stuff with the possible exception of the driveway, since that's part of the curb appeal. Not an expert, but I don't think you'd get your money back on remodeling a functioning bathroom or updating the mechanicals. Of course in this market it could be a matter of not being able to sell it at any price - but I doubt other sellers are doing as much as you have to improve their houses. You've done a lot!

You probably know this, but on reading your question headline my first thought was: PODS. One of those mobile storage units the company will drop off in front of your house and ship to your new address once it's full of your boxes of memorabilia, out-of-season clothes, Christmas decorations - any nonessentials that will look like clutter to potential buyers are good to get offsite before showings start.
posted by lakeroon at 5:49 PM on November 10, 2010

It really depends on your price point - honestly, some house with a little character and uniqueness may stand apart from the ubiquitous Hearthstone and Celebrity homes that abound in this area.

I would not put a ceiling up in the basement ... more finished square footage equals higher taxes. Taxes are so high in Omaha. Have your realtor discuss the potential for additional space in the listing and leave that decision up to the buyer.

Popcorn ceilings do seem a little dated to me.

If you do end up staying in Omaha, Millard has an excellent Montessori program and all three of Millard's high schools are ranked very highly.

Good luck!
posted by Ostara at 7:12 PM on November 10, 2010

Weird toilet issues are a big deal, in my mind. Any house we looked at with a toilet in a weird place, exposed, etc, ended up getting crossed off our list. I would try to find a way to enclose that toilet. 1.5 baths is great, a big draw for a medium sized house. Whereas 1 bath plus a toilet in the middle of the laundry room is... a house with one functional bathroom and a slightly gross problem of a misplaced toilet.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:27 PM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Get rid of half your furniture.
posted by LarryC at 10:34 PM on November 10, 2010

1.5 baths is great, a big draw for a medium sized house.

This house already has two full bathrooms (upstairs and main floor) if I'm reading the post correctly. That's why I think the extra toilet could potentially just be removed, or perhaps replaced with a utility sink if it makes sense to have one adjacent to the laundry.
posted by holgate at 10:53 PM on November 10, 2010

I'm with @corpse: If you haven't done so already, PLEASE make sure that ceiling doesn't have asbestos before you muck with it.
posted by jeri at 8:02 PM on November 11, 2010

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