If you’ve lived in the same house for a while, you’re not alone.
The owners stay on site longer than before. The typical homeowner now spends about 13 years in their home, up from about 10 a decade ago, according to a Redfin study. Occupancy tenure is particularly long in California — Los Angeles homeowners hold on to their homes for a median of 18.1 years, up from 13.6 years in 2012.
Redfin economists attribute the increase in tenure to more elderly homeowners aging in place, a national housing shortage and more affordable housing payments for those who have recently refinanced at a mortgage rate inferior.
However, if you’ve owned your home for a while but haven’t updated it, now might be the time to make some improvements to your home.
After all, chances are you’ve recently gained significant equity – the average mortgage borrower saw their home’s equity increase by almost $57,000 between the third quarter of 2020 and the third quarter of 2021 only, according to real estate data firm CoreLogic. It’s home equity you can tap into through a cash refinance or a home equity line of credit (HELOC).
Making a few upgrades to your home can modernize your space and make it more attractive to buyers if you’re looking to sell soon.
Here are five ways to make an older home look cooler.
1. Paint old or damaged walls
“Paint can make the most significant difference in any room,” says Caroline Harmon, Lowe’s trend specialist. A new paint job is especially helpful if your walls are chipping or have stains or other defects.
Choosing the right color palette is important. “Earthy colors and tinted neutrals are soothing and easy to blend throughout your home,” says Harmon.
Another safe bet: “Off-white can give the illusion of more space,” says Emma Glubiak, lifestyle expert at home improvement site The Spruce.
To attract more homebuyers, it’s wise to avoid colors that trigger a love or hate reaction, even if the color is trending on Instagram. For example, mint green is popular in kitchens right now, but many realtors in a recent Zillow Poll said buyers would pay less for a home with a mint green kitchen.
2. Give your kitchen a makeover
“A lot of times a kitchen doesn’t need to be gutted, it just takes a few changes to feel fresh,” says Sarah Fishburne, director of trends and design at The Home Depot.
She suggests replacing old kitchen cabinet knobs and drawer pulls with modern hardware, installing a touchless faucet, and installing (or updating) a backsplash. Just make sure the backsplash matches the countertops, says Fishburne.
3. Replace outdated light fixtures
Lighting has a big impact. “Not only does it brighten up your space, it can also define the look of any room,” says Harmon. “Lighting is often referred to as a ‘jewel in a piece’ because it really adds the finishing touch.”
Fixture designs come in and go out of fashion, so consider replacing outdated sconces, pendants and chandeliers if they look dated, Fishburne says. Also, if a room is dark, it may be a good idea to replace soft white bulbs with daylight bulbs.
She also encourages homeowners to look at their outdoor lighting. In some cases, a fixture’s finish simply needs to be updated with a fresh coat of paint, rather than replacing the entire fixture. For example, “shiny brass is no longer popular,” says Fishburne.
4. Boost that curb appeal
Curb appeal – how your home looks from the outside – can dramatically improve how buyers perceive your home. In fact, on average, properties with high curb appeal sell for 7% more than homes with less welcoming exteriors, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics that rated curb appeal based on aspects such as trimmed shrubs and manicured lawns.
As a result, take stock of your landscaping. “Sometimes in older homes, people who aren’t gardeners have let shrubs, plants, and trees overgrow, and they just need a good pruning,” says Fishburne.
If you have a green thumb, creating a flower bed or planting trees and shrubs that add volume can make your front yard more inviting. And if you’re looking for landscaping ideas that are right for your home, consult a landscape architect — most charge $70 to $150 per hour, according to HomeAdvisor.
5. Say goodbye to carpet
Surveys show that carpeting, a common feature of older homes, is outdated.
Tearing up an old rug should be easy enough, but replacing or repairing what’s underneath can be trickier. According to a March 2021 survey by the National Association of Home Builders, the majority of homebuyers said they preferred hardwood floors, with 32% saying that hardwood flooring in the main living area is a “must-have “. Therefore, if your home has carpeting, especially visibly worn carpeting, consider installing hardwood.
Plus, restoring original hardwood floors can go a long way. “Help a professional familiar with working in old homes to restore your floors to their former glory,” advises Mallory Micetich, home care expert at Angi, the home services site formerly known as ‘Angie’s List.
On a budget? Consider laminate, which is generally less expensive than real wood and easier to maintain.
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