Sep 20, 2023
On “Unsellable Houses,” Leslie Davis and Lyndsay Lamb have rescued plenty of homes that were languishing on the market. Though high interest rates have made their job tougher, there’s one type of property they’re always confident they can sell: a starter home, of course!
In the latest Season 4 episode, “Problems to Tranquil Hideaway,” they meet Robert and Lisa, who have been trying to sell a family member’s 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath house in Snohomish, WA. Unfortunately, it’s been on the market for seven months at $405,000 with no reasonable offers.
Davis and Lamb believe they can spiffy it up for $100,000, then put it back on the market for $550,000. Find out how they turn this stagnant listing into a successful sale, with plenty of smart lessons you might want to apply to your own abode.
Don’t over-renovate for the area
New paint and flooring in the living room, plus a few other minor changes, are just enough for this starter home.
This is a small house in an up-and-coming neighborhood, so in order to keep it at a starter home price, they don’t want to overdo the fancy luxuries.
“The biggest thing is seeing in this pocket, in this exact neighborhood, what other homes have done to really maximize their price, and make sure that we compare to that,” says Davis. “You have to be careful not to exceed what other people have done, because you won’t get it back. And when you’re in a neighborhood that is this uniform, you really want to be consistent with your neighbors.”
Always replace dated kitchen countertops
Dated kitchen countertops should be the first things to go.
Davis reveals that 9 out of 10 kitchen remodels involve countertop replacement. This kitchen was remodeled in the 1990s, so by now, the countertops look dated and cheap.
“It’s really more like what you’d see in a manufactured home or travel trailer,” says Lamb.
They substitute the speckled countertops with quartz, and it makes all the difference.
Reuse old kitchen cabinets in the garage
Gleaming new cabinets replace dated old ones, which have been cleverly relegated to the garage.
With the new quartz countertops, the kitchen cabinets (also from the ’90s) now seem dated and no longer fit in the reconfigured kitchen.
But these cabinets still have a use.
“The kitchen cabinets are coming down, but we’re going to save them to hang in the garage,” says Lamb.
Who doesn’t want more storage in the garage? Does it really matter if they’re not the latest, greatest models? A little paint does wonders, and just like that, you have more built-ins to add value to this home.
No closet doors are better than mirrored closet doors
Wide open closets are a thing in smaller rooms.
When they enter the primary suite for the first time, the twins are met with an unsightly feature: double closets with mirrored doors.
“Very 1985,” says Lamb. “Updating the closet doors would be a huge update for this room, because you see the mirrored closets and you just think ‘dated.’”
And their fix for this is a bit of a surprise.
“We chose to leave off the closet doors,” says Lamb. “These are decorative themselves and easy access, because sliding doors are not always the easiest to work with.”
They do indeed look nice—without a real wardrobe in them. We worry that it might be difficult to keep your closet looking neat and organized at all times, and at least a curtain might be in order.
But then again, the no-door look could be great inspiration for hanging up and folding your clothes at all times.
A beige exterior is blah
Soft greens and blues are the new go-to colors for exteriors.
The house has a beige exterior, which is really boring in a neighborhood full of similar beige homes (or in any neighborhood, really).
As for a new exterior color, Davis and Lamb must decide between calming blues and greens. Both colors are very much in style right now, and they are the perfect alternative to white or gray, especially in the Pacific Northwest.
Their decision is a pale yet warm green.
“It’s really setting the mood for that tranquil hideaway,” says Lamb.
How does this unsellable house turn out?
After sitting on the market for seven months at its original $405,000 list price, Davis and Lamb invest $100,000 in their renovation. The results are so exquisite, they’re comfortable listing the home at $550,000.
Their first open house is full of young couples and first-time homebuyers eager to get their foot in the real estate market, and they really like what they see.
After only three days on the market, the home receives an offer for $580,000, the highest price any home in the neighborhood has ever received.
After Davis and Lamb recoup their $100,000 renovation investment, that leaves a $75,000 profit on the original “unsellable” price. That sum is split between Davis and Lamb and Lisa and Robert, so each team gets $37,500 and everyone is happy—especially the buyers, who get an exceptional starter home at a reasonable price.
Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning writer who covers lifestyle, entertainment, real estate, design, and travel. Find her on ReallyRather.com