You just signed your closing papers. Your belongings are boxed up and ready to find their place in your new home. The property is empty, broom-clean, and ready for you to make this house into your home. The excitement becomes slightly overwhelming. Did you realize that the house was as “well-loved” when you were at the showing? Did you notice the chipped moldings in the high traffic areas? Was that floor stain there before? How many pictures did they nail into the wall?
Don’t despair. This is common to everyone who just purchased an older home. Even if there was only one prior owner, life happens and it’s rare to move into a pristine property if it’s not brand new. Here’s a quick guide on sprucing up that house so that it truly feels new to you and so your vision will come to life sooner.
This is best to do before you move in provided you have the time and the resources. It is highly recommended to put a fresh coat of paint on the ceilings. Use a matte finish and bright white paint. It’s easiest to do this before the furniture is moved in.
While you’re at it- paint the doors and molding white too. You can go for a satin or an eggshell finish here, and again, a nice bright white (avoid yellow tints) will freshen up your space. This includes trim around windows, built-in cabinets, door frames, and crown molding. Another little-known trick is to paint the insides of closets a bright white. Especially small ones. It makes them seem larger, reflects light, and gives your belongings a clean place to live.
Of course, that lime green guest room may not be your style, so paint whatever rooms you can before you move the furniture in. Painting walls after you’ve moved in, however, is much easier than attacking ceilings, so if you have to pick, do the ceilings first. Plus, sometimes you need to get to know your home before you can choose which color is best suited for your rooms.
Your local hardware store or paint supplier can make recommendations on colors and finishes if you’re feeling overwhelmed by choices. Remember, it’s always easier to add a darker color or an accent wall after the fact, so if you need to make a quick decision, stick to light, airy, neutral colors. Look at the lightest sample on the paint swatch strip and eggshell is the most common finish for walls; it’s not too flat or too shiny and it’s easy to wipe clean.
This is also something that should be taken care of before you move in if time allows. Take a good, discerning look at those hardwood floors or those wall-to-wall carpets before you start placing furniture and boxes on them. If you feel at all that the hardwoods need refinishing, now is absolutely the time to do it. It takes a few days and requires that all the furniture in the rooms be removed but the result is outstanding. Shiny, clean, new-looking floors make a room seem newer, fresher, and brighter.
If the carpeting is old, rip it out now if you can. Having rugs replaced isn’t a major expense but will definitely yield worthwhile benefits. Get a few quotes, but also keep in mind that there are deals out there where if you replace one or two rooms, you get another for free. Make sure you ask whether the pricing includes the matting underneath as well as installation.
If the carpeting is relatively new and you are happy with the material and color, get it steam cleaned. You can hire professionals or you can rent the supplies and do it yourself. It’ll feel nice to know the old traffic stains are removed and that any trace of previous owner’s mishaps are cleaned away.
Lighting and Ceiling Fans
Look up. If all you see are boring builder’s grade flush-mounted lighting fixtures or old sconces and chandeliers not stylish enough to be considered “vintage”, replace them. This can be done over time- so by all means move in and live there a while before you decide which style or finish best suits your existing or desired décor. Lighting truly is the crown jewel of a room’s décor. It, after all, creates the light and ambiance of your living spaces.
The same rule applies to ceiling fans. Dingy old fans need to go. You can replace them for as little as $60! They’re a quick fix to a looming eyesore. It also makes sense to replace all your bulbs so that they’re efficient and bright enough- or dim enough- based on their use.
Faucets & Showerheads
It’s amazing what a new faucet can do to improve the function and appeal of your bathroom vanity or kitchen sink. Not to mention how a new showerhead can make your morning shower feel like a spa treatment. But replacing these fixtures can also substantially reduce your carbon footprint by improving your efficiency with water use. Your plumber can make recommendations on efficient fixtures and as well.
Door knobs and cabinet pulls can date your home. These are a relatively inexpensive fix that will easily increase the visual value of your home as well as the functionality. Old, wiggly brass doorknobs look unsightly. Starting at about $20 a set, you can replace doorknobs and make your doors seem newer. Depending on your style and décor, simple brushed silver or the dark, oil-rubbed bronze finishes are popular choices.
The same goes for cabinet pulls and knobs. Old and worn hardware can seriously date a room’s cabinetry. Replacing these items easily with a screwdriver on your own will dramatically improve the look of your kitchen, bathroom, or furniture.
Just because the house came with them doesn’t mean they should stay. Heavy, out-of-style printed drapery, dark and dingy blinds, or dusty and dirty shades need to go. If you’re lucky, and the house comes with stylish white blinds or window treatments, all you might have to do is clean them. Moving in and out is dusty business, and even the cleanest people don’t frequently clean their windows or blinds on a regular basis. Gently vacuum or wipe down the windows and the treatments with a diluted white vinegar solution for an instantly brighter, cleaner space. Your whole room will thank you.
You would think this was taken care of prior to the previous owner listing the property, but that’s not necessarily the case. The exterior of your home needs attention too. Now that it’s Winter, be sure to keep the sidewalks and walkways clear of snow and increase lighting around your home – path lights are eye-catching and brighten up walkways.
In the spring and summer, cut down any overgrown shrubbery, especially if it’s touching your house. Overgrown landscaping makes a home look old. Prune your plants, add mulch to the beds, and plant flowers to add color. If you have a large garden area, picking perennials is always a good investment because they come back every year. You want to proudly welcome guests to your home while you live there and it can add up to 15% to your home’s value!
It’s recommended to power wash the house if it seems dirty. New England weather can be messy business and to make sure your home is well cared for is a job that requires dedication from the start. This will help to eradicate stains and dark areas due to dirt, and it will clean the shutters if you have them.
It takes time for your new house to feel like home. It’s a life-long investment and a life-long project. You’ll never be done making improvements, tackling projects, and evolving in this space. It becomes easier as time goes by because you’ll know the house better by how you use it. You obviously like the way the home looks, you just bought it. But sometimes a home’s appeal is in its potential and your job as the homeowner is to bring that vision to life.