It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.
This four-bed, three-bath, ranch-style home in Danville, CA, had plenty of desirable qualities when it was bought for $1.3 million in 2015. But, when you looked beneath the surface, it was also fairly basic.
Built in the 1970s, it lacked most of the contemporary features that today’s buyers are really looking for. So, after a modern update, it’s no surprise that it sold for nearly $1 million more than the seller purchased it for.
What sort of design changes sealed the deal? We asked experts to weigh in on what the seller did right—and how you can incorporate similar choices into your home.
Before: Living room
After: Living room
At first glance, the original living room looks to be a solid, modern space. But our designers agree that the architectural changes vastly improved this previously underwhelming room.
“Indoor-outdoor flow is one design element that so many homeowners want in their spaces, and this home has it,” says Nisha MacNeil, design manager at Kerr Construction & Design. “The newly widened sliding door to the outdoor seating area makes the backyard feel like an extension of the living space.”
To make room for the wall-to-wall sliding door, the seller had to relocate the fireplace, which was no easy feat. But Laura Davis, an architect, designer, and partner in hpd architecture + interiors in Dallas, says it paid off.
“Don’t let a seemingly permanent fixture like a fireplace keep you from making a dramatic change to your living room,” she says. “The view of the outdoor space and the additional natural light is a huge value-add for this room. Moving the fireplace and adding a huge sliding door changes the function and feel of this side of the house.”
As you can see, the footprint of the kitchen didn’t change, but check out that new countertop!
“The new design takes this kitchen from a galley style with typical amenities to an open, luxurious chef’s playground,” says Davis. It’s now filled with high-end appliances and trendy touches such as a waterfall countertop and large windows that look to the backyard.
While most components of this kitchen stayed in place, there was some shuffling of appliances, and according to one designer, that’s exactly what buyers want.
“Placing a microwave over a stove or range is very outdated, so placing appliances side-by-side and installing a hood over the range is a sleek and modern update that will impress home buyers,” says Jay Britto, founding principal of Britto Charette.
This renovation also proves that an all-black backsplash—when done right—looks chic, not overwhelming
“The slate-black backslash over the stove provides a great focal point and contrast in the space against the all-white cabinets,” says MacNeil. “The previous space felt washed-out and too monochromatic.”
Before: Dining room
After: Dining room
The open floor plan is a contentious topic; some people love it and some people hate it. But there’s no possible way we can argue with the seller’s decision to take down the small wall dividing the kitchen and the dining room.
“Here is a great example where the dining room has been opened up to the kitchen space to allow better flow for day-to-day life,” says MacNeil.
Paul Trudel-Payne, founder and creative designer of Casa Consult+Design, says opening the floor plan also helped improve the listing photos.
“Large, bright spaces read beautifully in images, which are used to help interest buyers in requesting a showing,” he says. “Always go open and bright with your listing photos, and you will get heavy traffic and interest for sure.”
Before: Master bedroom
After: Master bedroom
We promise you’re looking at the same room, and if it makes you feel any better, our designers were also floored with the improvements in the master bedroom.
The most extensive changes include raising the ceiling, adding more windows, removing the closet, and replacing the latter with an egress door.
Britto believes the master bedroom was a smart place to spend money for this renovation, and he especially agrees with the seller’s decision to put in a sitting area.
“Sitting areas in master bedroom suites are on-trend,” he says. “Who doesn’t want to curl up next to that fireplace with a good book and a cup of coffee or a glass of wine?”
Some of the decor changes, like the chandelier and contemporary fireplace, may be considered risks—but Trudel-Payne doesn’t see it that way.
“Most stagers say highly stylized design choices are too polarizing and can often shrink your buyer pool,” he says. “But if you’ve done your research, know your buyer’s tastes, and design specifically to their aesthetic, your bold design choices can leave a lasting impression.”
The shape of the pool did not change, but the new lawn, stone pavers, and seating areas certainly did.
“I love how they completely modernized the yard by removing the rounded patio and adding an angular design in its place,” says Trudel-Payne. “Trimming back a lot of the greenery next to the pool and laying down fresh bark throughout was a smart and cost-effective choice.”
If you look at the the left side of the pool, you’ll see that the seller also removed the dated rock waterfall.
“While appropriate for a rustic cabin, the design looks very dated in a contemporary setting,” says Britto.
And while backyard upgrades are likely to be pushed to the wayside, our experts agree that tackling your outdoor space—even something as simple as an overhaul of the seating area—is wise if you intend to sell at some point.