How to improve your home’s value and sell faster without spending a lot of money


Are you planning on selling your home? Here are some ways you can improve your home’s value without your wallet taking a massive hit.

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How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

I’ve been painting kitchen cabinets since I was a university student living in dingy basement apartments. Even as an English Lit major, I spent my free time decorating my apartment.

Despite all of the various kitchen cabinets, I’ve painted both for myself and now for clients, I have never written a proper how to blog post. So today is your lucky day because I am going to share all my tips and tricks, my tools and the paint I prefer to use when painting cabinets. This post is in no way sponsored by any company so you can be sure I am being 100% honest and transparent.

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An unstaged home is like a first date wearing sweats

Listing your home without Staging is like showing up on a first date in your sweats, no make up and bedhead.

staged kitchen
Kathy Whitewood Royal LePage Atlantic

I am going to purposefully use the term home seller rather than homeowner as once you decide to sell your home; you need to change your mindset.

What it isn’t?

It isn’t decorating.

I see many home sellers confuse staging with decorating and consequently resisting the process and the recommendations of a staging professional. But the reality is that the moment you commit to marketing your home for sale, you need to commit to transforming your home into a place that potential buyers can easily picture as their home. This means that you need to be prepared to emotionally detach.

What does that mean?

Your home needs to speak to potential buyers. It means removing those personal mementos like the family picture gallery wall. Yes, they mean a lot to you so lovingly wrap them up and pack them away so you can hang them in a place of honor in your new home. It means emptying the curio cabinets of porcelain collections, removing any symbols and figures that could potentially deter a buyer. You don’t want your stuff to detract from the main event.

Robinson Harmsen Relocate for Life

 How does staging attract buyers?

The primary goal of staging is not to transform a home into the eighth wonder of the world. For most of us, this simply isn’t realistic. Rather, a great stager will work with what the seller has, rearranging and reallocating all of their belongings, in order to present the property in its best light.

Buyers tend to label the homes they see, as do agents. So, you can either be the “house with the beautiful arched doorways andfireplace” or the “house with the Royal Dolton collection and a bunch of office furniture where the dining room should be.” Both evokeemotional reactions, but unless the buyer is one who spends their time combing thrift store for Royal Dolton figures, you will be far better served by eliminating distractions.

Don’t take it personally

Too often the tendency is to take the process personally, but the home seller shouldn’t. Staging is not a do-it-yourself sport, and only a third party specialist can bring the neutrality and objectivity needed to accomplish the goal. The goal of staging is to make the home speak to everyone else, in a compelling and positive way.

Jan Wan Photography

Clear the Clutter

 You are not doing yourself any favors by listing your home and property while it is still cluttered. It is a big turn off for any potential buyer and takes away from your home’s main features. That means tackling the closets, your cabinets, and even your garage. Don’t kid yourself by stuffing anything you don’t want buyers to see into closets and cabinets. Buyers will open closets and they will look in your cabinets. Take the time to organize, clear the clutter and toss expired items. This will need to be done before packing commences so make it easier on yourself and do it now. Buyers also want to envision parking their vehicle in the garage and the garage is not an asset to anyone if it is filled from floor to ceiling. All outbuildings should be organized and cleared of clutter. All too often I hear from potential buyers how overwhelmed and anxious they felt when they walk through a cluttered home and property.

The Drive by

Treat the outside like the inside.

Too often, home sellers put all their focus on the interior and completely overlook what is going to be a buyer’s first impression. That first impression most often happens without the home seller or even the agent’s knowledge and that is the drive by. Many buyers, when possible, will take a preliminary look, before booking that initial showing. I cannot stress enough how important to clear your lawn of clutter. Nothing detracts from your home’s curb appeal than a lawn scattered with Little Tikes plastic play equipment, overturned bicycles, neglected trampolines, old broken down vehicles, last Christmas deflated décor, etc.

Jan Wan Photography

Fresh face

 Freshen up your home with a coat of paint. Nothing deters buyers more than dated, in your face paint colors. You don’t want your choice of paint colors to be the main focus when they are perusing your listing online.

 Among nearly all generations of homebuyers, the first step taken was to look online for properties, except for buyers 72 years and older who make up 6% contacted a real estate agent first.

The most important website feature was photos for nine in 10 buyers under the age of 62. Virtual tours were most important to buyers age 53 to 71 who were also moving the longest distance.

 Buyers only know what they see. Your listing photos should highlight your home’s best features.  *The largest demographic of buyers at 36% are the folks 37 years and younger (the millennial and Gen Yers). They are style savvy and esthetic conscience. They know what they want and what is trending. The second largest group of buyers coming in at 26% between the age of 38-52 are in their peak earning years and purchasing the highest median priced homes. My advice, if your home hasn’t been painted in the last two years is to invest the time and money into a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color throughout the home. You have a strong chance to make your money back on what you spend on painting supplies because of how much more appealing buyers will find neutral colored walls.

If you are not color savvy, get the advice of an expert. You don’t want a bold in your face paint color to take away from the main attraction. While you are at it, also paint the ceilings and trim work. Safe tones to consider are beiges, greys and even some pale soft blue/greens.

Why would I spend $$ on improvements so someone else can enjoy them?

In my experience, all too often staging has been done after a listing has sat for a while. However, I recommend staging being done before the listing photos are even taken. You want to present that listing in the best possible light from the start.

**So your typical return on investment for home staging is 600 to 800 percent, so that means for every one dollar you spend on home staging you’re typically getting 6-8 dollars in return.” Staging your home successfully means you allow potential buyers to really picture themselves living there.

Jan Wan Photography

Life will be turned upside down

Make no mistake — professional staging is an inconvenience. The home seller’s daily routine will be turned, at least temporarily, on its head. And it can be unsettling as you watch your life being rearranged to suit the tastes of others. But if selling your home in the shortest amount of time and for the most money is your goal, it is precisely those “others” who should be your focus.

  • 2018 National Association of Realtors *
  • ABC Consumer Alerts 2018 **

Planning on selling your home, sign up for my Staging services by visiting my contact page .

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What is e-design?

You’ve probably heard the word e-design a bit if you follow any interior decorators/designers. But, many are still confused as to what it is. I hear  from many that they want someone who can physically visit their home. I get it. Nothing beats that 1 to 1 hands on approach. However, experienced decorators/designers as myself can gleam a lot from photos, measurements and asking some key questions.


Plus it also comes down to the project. Would I recommend my e-design service to someone who wanted to rip out several walls and reconfigure their entire main floor, probably not. However, for many other situations, e-design is a great way to get some professional advice.

So let’s dig in, what is e-design?

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low cost high impact decorating tips


So often I will hear from people that they hate something about their home, but they don’t know how to go about changing it. Well, I’m hear to tell you that you can make a huge impact in your space at low cost.  I realize not everyone has the ability to do high end renovations.

Our bathroom makeover is a prime example of a low cost high impact makeover. It took a couple of months to pull things together from concept to finished space. The space itself took a week from start to finish but it’s the time spent doing the research, homework, scouring second hand sites, sourcing that’s important. I can’t stress enough how important doing this leg work up front is to the success of cohesive finished space.

BEFORE 1990s decor


A breakdown of our bathroom reno:

  1. Paint and stencil the floors (Stencil from Cutting Edge stencils)
  2. Paint the walls (Sherwin Williams Alabaster)
  3. Build new vanity (Stain Minwax Provincial)
  4. DIY shiplap wall behind vanity,
  5. DIY frame for existing mirror
  6. Thrifted sink, faucet and shelf above toilet
  7. Shower curtain and mat from Maison Simon
  8. Cubbies in vanity from Walmart
  9. Hand towels and medical box from Home Sense

This approach I speak of takes time. It’s not running out to the local hardware store and buying all the things and making over a space in a weekend. My approach is more deliberate.


Before any update or renovation, I recommend making a check list of the things you would like to change. This will help keep you on track. Next, take measurements. I cannot stress this enough. Going shopping for a space without measurements can result in buyer’s remorse. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experienced clients who went couch shopping and brought home a couch that is way too big for the space. It’s all about scale and your living room is not to scale with the oversized warehouses where we tend to shop for that couch. Even if you are shopping online for furniture, measure before you buy.


Next, scour blogs, social media and pinterest for inspiration. You’ll quickly figure out what styles, designs you are drawn too. Pick the photos apart and make note of the elements you like and want to incorporate into your own space. This will help you so much when it comes time to selecting the pieces to ensure you pull together a cohesive space.

Secondhand is your friend/ Retail? Wait for sales
Now it is time to check out the local second hand stores, online sites like fb marketplace, kijiji, craigslist,  Garage sale, etc. Be patient as you would be amazed at the deals you can find. Wait for sales. Most stores have a regular program of sales throughout the year. For example, decluttering and organizing is great to do in January as most retail stores have major sales on most of these components. They will have kitchen and bathroom events, paint events, etc.   IKEA and structube offer amazing pieces that are on trend at good price points. Sign up for their emails so you know when they are having sales.
DIY is not a dirty word
DIY it. Don’t be afraid of some sweat equity. With you tube, Pinterest you can learn how to do almost anything and you don’t need fancy tools or a workshop. My husband built his first piece of furniture for our family with a table saw and a drill. It costs us $60. Don’t like a piece of furniture, refinish it by painting it. Search for IKEA hacks on Pinterest for ideas to get the look of custom built ins to unique bedside tables.
Power of Paint
Don’t forget paint is your friend. You can achieve amazing results by taking a day to repaint a room do an accent wall, etc . Spray paint is another inexpensive way to update the look of hardware, door knobs, frames and lights .
We all know bathroom makeovers can costs thousands of dollars and perhaps you don’t have that right now. I am all for saving and paying cash for renovations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a few updates in the meantime to help tie you over until you are ready to do that big reno. Many professional decorators and bloggers will do some cosmetic updates to a space to make it livable and enjoyable until they can tackle a full renovation . Life is short, I say enjoy the space you’re in and if that means spending a few dollars now on some cosmetic updates, then I say go for it.
If you are considering a bathroom renovation in the near future and would like some help,  I would love to hear from you. 
Marsha Signature