Unsellable Houses Stars Share The Best Improvements To Make Before Selling Your Home

Lyndsay Lamb and Leslie Davis are twin sisters who know how to sell a house. Their popular HGTV show "Unsellable Houses" teaches viewers how to take the ugliest, least functional, and outdated homes and turn them into properties buyers can't wait to snap up. The sisters' tips for transforming your own home for the real estate market are straightforward and easy to put into action. The key is to remember that these improvements will be very different from when you renovate your home for personal use. "We do have to look at it with completely different goggles than when we're designing someone's forever home," Lamb told Seattle Met. Instead, you have to consider what looks good to buyers.

The proof is in the pudding, as the women are the top-producing real estate agents in the entire Pacific Northwest. They know how to get your home seen. "I want to be creative, I want to set the home apart — people are searching on these little six-inch screens they can hold in their hand," Lamb continued. "There has to be something that catches their eye real quick — but it can't be so far that they're saying, 'No, that's not for me.'" While the women only work with clients near Seattle, they are very open about what works and what doesn't, so it's easy to recreate on your own. These are the stars' best improvements to make before selling your home.

Pay close attention to the kitchen aesthetics

The kitchen is the heartbeat of the home. It needs to look its best for buyers to be interested, so there are a few things to consider before listing. "In your kitchen, it really just needs an updated new countertop and appliances, some fresh paint on the walls and cabinets," Lamb told viewers in the Season 2, Episode "Nest Egg Reno" (via YouTube). She makes these observations while walking through a kitchen that is quite old-fashioned. That said, it had great bones, which she points out. When you are trying to sell a house, it might not be worth it financially to do a complete knock-down rebuild of your kitchen because you don't know your buyer's tastes. However, as Lamb suggests, focusing more on a facelift for the space can pay dividends.

"It doesn't make sense for us to take out those cabinets 'cause Monica kept them in such good condition," Davis told viewers, per Realtor. If you are facing the same situation at home the must-haves for show-stopper kitchen would be a neutral paint on both the walls and cabinets, eco-friendly, sleek appliances, plus a countertop material that's easy to keep clean. Small touches like these make the space seem more livable to buyers, so reach for options like stainless steel, recycled glass, or quartz.

Give your front door a welcomed update

Consider your front door the star of the show when thinking about making your home look good. It's one of the first things people will see as they approach your property, both in person and online. Both sisters think that a solid front door can make all the difference between a sold and unsold house. The updating options for doors are endless — it all depends on what you have to work with. Something the pair doesn't recommend, however, is getting an entirely new front door if you can avoid it. "What I love is that this door cost me like $40, but we're bringing it back to life," Lamb said while restoring the door in the Season 4, Episode "Tricky Rambler to Farmhouse," per Realtor. "An old door that is gorgeous. It has so much history to it."

If you have a wooden door, consider a fresh coat of paint. Timeless front door colors include black, brown, and gray. If you have a wooden door, consider staining it to bring out the grain of the wood and make it really shine. While metal front doors can also be painted, if the door is scratched or dented, you might need to buff out the damage before going any further. While updating your door's appearance, it's also worth updating its functionality, like fixing any air leaks or sealing issues.

Declutter your house before showings

Before selling your home, you need to take the time to declutter it. Potential buyers are not interested in seeing all your junk, so one of the best improvements you can make is just getting rid of it. "​​While we know every piece has a great story, it's important to take down family photos and reduce clutter as much as possible," Lamb shared on her FAQ page. What might seem like treasures to you can easily overwhelm anyone who isn't emotionally attached to them, costing you the sale. Papers, photos, extra bedding, clothing stuffed into closets, and a filled garage are all things that should be dealt with.

The best strategies for decluttering your home include staying focused on your vision and not letting yourself get too overwhelmed. Setting out to take care of your entire house at once is a recipe for burnout, but tackling a room a day is a much easier pace. If you find yourself struggling with what to throw out and what to keep, adhering to the guidelines of a pre-set plan, like the KonMari Method, might be more helpful to keep you on track. This pre-showing decluttering will also make moving more manageable, as you won't have as much to carry with you to your new property. You can donate what you declutter, throw it away, or sell it for some extra cash. 

Repainting the interior is a must

Your interior walls likely need a fresh coat of paint before you list your property. Even if you don't have an orange bedroom or a lime green kitchen, life's general wear and tear calls for covering those wall scratches and erasing dirt. "A little paint goes a long way. Freshen up your home's interiors with clean, neutral colors," Lamb wrote on her website. "This gives the home an updated look and lets potential buyers more easily imagine that space as their own."

The idea is to make your home as neutral as possible so others can have an easier idea of what it would be like for them to live there instead of you. White is a classic choice for this, but not just any white. "Spare White is a beautiful cool white that can tend to show a slightly gray undertone in some lights but lends towards being a true white in most," Lamb shared on her blog. "I love this color so much that I have not only used it in multiple of our Unsellable Houses, but it's also the color that I have used in our Lamb Real Estate office and showroom!" Other favorites of the star include shades of gray, bold bronzes, and even green.

Refreshing tired floors can speed up a sale

Davis and Lamb think nothing discourages a sale like worn-out floors. If your carpet is old, stained, or looking a bit too used, Lamb has a great suggestion to liven things up while getting you a better deal. "Instead of simply replacing your carpet with new carpet, try luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring. Adding LVP flooring in high-traffic areas like the entryway, living room, or bonus room will undoubtedly increase the value of your home," she shared on her blog.

LVP is a relatively low-cost, long-lasting alternative to traditional wood made of interlocking planks. "Hardwood floors are beautiful and can add significant value to your home. But due to things like age, water damage, scratches, or discoloration, they will inevitably lose their original visual appeal over time," Lamb continued. "If possible, try refinishing your hardwood floors to restore that original beauty. Otherwise, it might be worth the investment to add LVP flooring here too!" You'll know if LVP is right for your space if you want buyers to see something that is easy to clean, easy to fix, and easy to customize later on. The only downside is that LVP doesn't do as well with heavy furniture as it might scuff, yet this shouldn't be an issue when your house is perfectly staged.

Be sure your septic tank is functioning well

Major plumbing issues can be near the top of the list of things that will scare most buyers away. All they are likely to see is a huge price tag for repairs, missing the value in other parts of your home. The good news is that whether you have a septic tank or use city water and sewer doesn't impact the price of your home. What does matter to buyers is that everything is in working order.

"If you have a septic tank, we highly suggest getting it pumped and inspected before listing," Lamb suggests on her blog. "That way, if any issues come up, we are dealing with it on our terms rather than negotiating with a buyer." A diligent buyer is likely to have the system checked out during the pre-closing inspection anyway, which is why Lamb suggests taking care of it yourself. While a functioning septic tank is a non-issue, a cracked or leaking one can negatively impact the value of your home if discovered during the closing process. Your buyer will likely want to shave the anticipated cost of repairs off what they fork over, so improving it ahead of time can shorten the closing process and get you more value.

Stage the space to make buyers feel at home

When selling your home, you want to make sure everyone who walks through the door doesn't see it as your house. It should immediately feel like it could be their house instead. "One of the hardest things we have to do with staging is to make someone feel at home in someone else's home. This is why we HIGHLY recommend removing your personal items and photos from the house," Lamb advised on her blog. "We want to show the buyers what living in this home could look and feel like without feeling like they are intruding on someone else's life."

The key difference between decluttering for personal enjoyment and decluttering for a move is that you don't necessarily have to get rid of everything. It's possible to store things like pet beds, bowls, and personalized art off-site and then move them to your new house later. The idea behind this design update is that it removes you from the property and allows others to connect with your space. You can then curate the space with minimal furniture and decorations in a mainstream style (not to your personal taste) to further draw them in.

Showcase rooms for what they are, not what they could be

Sometimes, buyers need a little bit of hand-holding when touring properties. "You got to stage a home to show a buyer how to use it," Davis told PIX 11 News (via YouTube). This is because buyers are touring so many different homes a day that their brains can burn out a little. All the listings start to blur together. Because of this, they shouldn't have to see past the home gym to imagine an office, or vice versa! You need to stage rooms so they know exactly what they are getting.

On her blog, Lamb shared a fantastic story about the tunnel vision that buyers can sometimes have when shopping for a home. She explains that her listing agent showcased two apartments with the exact same floorplan to the same sets of buyers. Both houses had two bedrooms, but the only difference is that one was staged with two bedrooms and the other as a bedroom and an office. "When both the units sold, it was fascinating to see that the unit that was staged as two bedrooms sold much higher than the list price, while the other apartment with an office stage sold under the list price," Lamb wrote. The idea is that those touring didn't realize the second room was available for sleeping, too. So don't sell yourself short!

Style consistency is key

When updating different spaces in your house before selling, it might be tempting to create a bit of a patch job. However, this can harm your resale price and process as buyers are looking for consistency in style and design. So you need to make sure your home has it. Instead of creating a hodgepodge of different styles, "pick a style, and I want it to be consistent from the front door all the way through," Lamb told Entertainment Tonight. "So in this home, it's dark academia is the style we're going for. Smart, educated, you know, feel."

Dark academia is known for deep colors, natural woods, plenty of books on the shelves, and eclectic art on the walls. Some of the other most popular interior decorating styles are minimalist, which boasts a clutter-free, plain aesthetic, and industrial, which relies on exposed brick, metal lighting fixtures, and plenty of concrete to make a statement. Whatever you choose, make sure it matches the rest of your house — you don't have to have a farmhouse kitchen and art deco entryway; it'll be too confusing for buyers.

Don't forget to update your curb appeal

Curb appeal is a major part of getting buyers interested in your property, so before you sell, it's an improvement you must make. "People start making a decision immediately, so curb appeal is a central part to your home-on-the-market game," the sisters told HGTV. Luckily, it's easy to get started on making your home look better. "Give your landscaping a little TLC: pull weeds, refresh your mulch, cut back overgrown plants, and add new flowers and potted plants where necessary."

All of these tasks won't take more than an afternoon but can make the difference between someone clicking on your listing and making an appearance at the open house, or not. "It's a lot of money that's going into the exterior, but nobody would have walked through those front doors if that exterior stayed the same," Lamb revealed in the episode "Impossible Expectations," per Realtor. The funds expended typically will be well worth it.

Sometimes, you need to take more drastic measures than just a little gardening. Other clever curb appeal tricks include refreshing the exterior paint on your home, adding house numbers (so it's easier to find!), and planting new shrubs as opposed to just potted plants for a more rounded look. If you feel a little blind to what looks good and what doesn't (because you love your house!), ask your real estate agent for their two cents as an outsider.

Changing the lights can bring your home forward decades

If you don't have a lot of cash but want to make a huge change before the sale, the sisters think that updating your home's lighting is a great place to start. "If someone's working on a pretty tight budget — let's say they've got a couple thousand and they're saying, "What can I do to just make my home feel completely fresh again?" or want an update, like "I'm living in a '90s home, an '80s home, and I just want to feel more trendy," Lamb told 425 Magazine, that they need new lights. "It's amazing what lighting can do." You don't have to get rid of all the lights, but Lamb thinks that revamping the fixtures in the hallways and bedrooms can work wonders.

This is common advice from the stars, as Lamb repeated the sentiment in an interview with Hilary Winfield. "I think lighting fixtures can change everything in a room. It makes or breaks the vibe you're trying to create, so I would say a light fixture is a huge piece not to look past." When updating the fixtures to something a little more in style, you should also take a moment to swap out the kind of lightbulbs you use. Switching from incandescent bulbs is a good idea, as they can be harsh on the eyes, which buyers won't like. Instead, opt for LED bulbs, which have softer light.