Written by Deanna Kane
For city dwellers, having outdoor space is the ultimate goal. If your urban home is equipped with a tiny yard, balcony, or rooftop, maximize every inch to create your own metropolitan oasis. A few tweaks can turn the tiniest outdoor space into a livable, beautiful retreat.
1. Add foliage
Just because you have limited space does not mean you have to sacrifice greenery. Fill your outdoor space with potted plants and vibrant hanging flowers to add color to the area. Small outdoor spaces are also perfect for growing a vertical garden, by securing small flower pots to a lattice screen, or even by planting vines to crawl up the screen. If your thumb is not that green, artificial potted boxwoods lend a polished look to any space. Artificial boxwood hedges also create a clean look, while providing privacy.
2. Accessorize the space
Amp up accessories to maximize the cozy factor. Begin with an outdoor accent rug to anchor the area. Add colorful outdoor pillows and cushions to the seating options, and display a small outdoor bar cart to create an extension of your indoor living room. When the lakefront breeze picks up, have a basket of cotton blankets by the door to stay warm, allowing you to continue to enjoy the fleeting summer evenings.
Garden stools are also a small, outdoor space staple. They are multi-functional and can be used as extra seating, a food rest or to set a beverage. For privacy, outdoor curtains or privacy screens add visual appeal while helping to block out city noise, or too-close neighbors.
3. Plant an herb garden
There is something about growing your own herbs that makes cooking feel more special. Herbs are a low maintenance edible plant that are easy to grow, take up minimal space, and can lend a delicious aroma to the area.
4. Create a dining space
If your outdoor space doesn’t allow for a full table, rely on bistro tables to do the job. Whether you space them out or group them together, having several bistro tables provides a place to serve a meal for a small group. For more informal seating, a bench with outdoor cushions and pillows, surrounded by garden stools and several outdoor ottomans is a perfect place to curl up with a book or to enjoy cocktails and apps, al fresco.
5. Add lighting
Lighting is the finishing touch to creating a cozy outdoor living space. As you sit outside taking in the skyline, watching the traffic below, or catching a glimpse of Lake Michigan in the distance, string lights or lanterns complete the scene when creating your own private urban outdoor oasis.
When preparing to sell your home, it’s important to consider every step that will increase its appeal to potential buyers. While the existing color scheme made it feel like home to you, pressing the reset button to neutral will help potential buyers envision themselves living in the house. Skip the paint research-induced headaches by using these no-fail staging paint selections, and watch the sold sign go up in no time.
All-Over Neutral: Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter
This greige hue is a go-to choice to create a neutral backdrop in open areas. The grey-beige color can appear both warm and cool, depending on lighting. Pair Revere Pewter with white trim for a polished, neutral look.
Suggested rooms: Open spaces, such as family rooms or open concept layouts.
Go-To Gray: Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice
This pale gray option blends in with virtually every design style. Whether your home is traditional, transitional or modern, Crushed Ice will seamlessly blend in the background, letting your home’s selling features shine.
Suggested rooms: This chameleon color can be used throughout the house.
Calming Blue: Benjamin Moore Blue Veil
Help your home evoke vibes of peacefulness and calm, from the minute potential buyers walk through the door. This cool pale blue has enough color to subtly stand out, but not enough to dominate the space.
Suggested rooms: The entryway, gathering spaces or bedrooms.
All-Over White: Benjamin Moore Simply White
With countless white paint options to choose from, it can be the most difficult color to select. This clean white has both warm and cool hues, making it work with a variety of decor styles and appeal to many different tastes.
Suggested rooms: This crisp shade can help entryways or sun-drenched spaces shine.
Create Space: Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace
This bright white can make any space appear larger. Crisp, yet soft, this hue creates a fresh, while cozy vibe. Use this color in rooms you want to create the illusion of additional space.
Suggested rooms: To brighten — and enlarge — a kitchen or master bathroom.
Distract from Poor Lighting: Benjamin Moore White Dove
White Dove works wonders in rooms with poor lighting. Use this shade in rooms without overhead lighting, or in rooms with limited natural light. The soft white hues stay true to color, regardless of the level of light.
Suggested rooms: In the basement, office or bedrooms without sunlight.
Dramatic Neutral: Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal
When you think of neutrals, light hues typically come to mind. However, a dark neutral adds intrigue and style, while making a space memorable to buyers. A dark paint selection also has the ability to make a small space appear larger.
Suggested rooms: This cool, sophisticated color is perfect for an office, dining room or powder room.
Classic Navy: Benjamin Moore Stunning
Another dark neutral, navy paint coordinates with most decor styles and adds an instant level of classic appeal, while not taking itself too seriously.
Suggested rooms: Similar to a charcoal, this timeless hue adds extra richness to an office or den, dining room or guest bathrooms.
Once you have selected your paint selections, getting the right finish can elevate your home’s appearance, as well as hide any flaws on the walls. As a general guide, the higher the sheen the more durable the paint will be.
Rooms prone to moisture (kitchens, bathrooms): Semi-gloss or high gloss finish.
High-traffic areas (family room, play room, living areas): Satin finish, for easy cleaning.
Low-traffic areas (dining room, bedrooms): Eggshell or matte finish.
According to NAR, 77% of buyers’ agents indicated staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home. Before you list your home, follow this list of staging preparations to highlight a home that sells.
Many buyers are looking to move to gain more space, so help the house appear as spacious as possible. Eliminate excess or oversized furniture so potential buyers have the most accurate idea of the room size, as well as space to walk through. If you question if the piece is too large, remove it. Throughout the home, pull the furniture several inches from the walls to allow the corners to be visible.
Closet contents should also be drastically reduced. The amount of belongings in the closet should be sparse, and the floors should be clear. A jam-packed closet appears significantly smaller than it really is.
Lastly, remove clutter from all surfaces. Create four categories — throw out, donate, move to storage and keep. This will show the home is free of visual clutter, and you will also have an easier move out. If your home is filled with an abundance of furniture and decor pieces you don’t want to part with, rent a storage unit for the duration the home is on the market.
Evaluate the amount of personal items throughout the house, including photographs, art, religious symbols, knick-knacks and books. If you think all of the personal items have been edited down, go through and edit one more time. The goal is to allow potential buyers to envision themselves living in the home. A styling trick is to create neutral vignettes — a grouping of accessories often in threes — throughout the home. These accessories could include wall art, candle sticks, vases, all varying in shape, color and texture.
Maintain an immaculate environment
While living in a listed house can be difficult, especially with children or pets, take careful steps to make sure the house stays sparkling clean and odor-free. A house that smells odd to a potential buyer can prevent them from wanting to look through the rest of the house. Rather than masking smells with candles or potpourri, open windows. Run a humidifier and use an air purifier to neutralize the air.
Invest in a professional cleaning service to deep-clean the house, including the baseboards, windows, floors, walls and carpets, to remove both surface stains, as well as odors.
Set one focal point per area
Creating one central focus point can make a room look more cohesive, and can help potential buyers better visualize themselves and their belongings in the space. Once you identify the focal point, style the furniture and decor around it. As a reference, the living room’s focal point can be the fireplace, window or TV; the bedroom is often the headboard and the bathroom is the vanity area.
Select a continual color theme
A fresh coat of paint throughout the home can go a long way. Select a neutral paint palette that seamlessly transitions throughout the house. This color flow makes the house feel more open and larger, and offers a blank canvas that many buyers crave.
Let in the light
Allow as much light to come in as possible. Open draperies and shades, remove unnecessary blinds and move any items that may obstruct windows or other light sources. A bright, airy home is one of the first features a potential buyer will notice.
Don’t forget the exterior
The front door is the first impression — make it count. Make sure the landscaping is manicured, the front door is in good condition, the exterior lighting is functional and there are seasonal arrangements on the front porch. Pressure washing the siding and deck can also make a big impact.
Unofficially, the spring selling season begins after Super Bowl Sunday. This means there are approximately five weeks to transform your home into a house in which a potential buyer could envision themselves living. Preparing your home to sell can quickly become an overwhelming hurdle if you don’t approach it as a series of small steps. Follow this week-by-week checklist to have your home ready to list by the peak selling season.
Find the right real estate agent. Buying or selling a home can be a major undertaking, and that’s why most buyers and sellers enlist the services of a real estate agent to guide them through the process. A good agent will provide all the knowledge and resources needed to make your home sale more seamless, from local market insights and negotiating skills to marketing exposure and more.
Inspect your home’s infrastructure. Check your home to make the updates and repairs that will improve your home’s value. Evaluate the condition of the pipes, windows, roof, etc., so you have the time to fix these issues, and so you aren’t surprised when it’s time for a potential buyer to bring in an inspector. In addition to the larger items, make sure the handles on the cabinets are tight, the lightbulbs are working, and scuffs are removed from the wall, to present the image of a well-cared for house.
Declutter. Create four categories — throw out, donate, move to storage and keep. Do this to make the move out easier, as well as to show a home that is free of visual clutter. If your home is filled with an abundance of furniture and decor pieces you can’t part with, rent a storage unit for the duration your home is on the market.
Deep clean. After the home is decluttered, conduct a deep clean, including windows, baseboards, walls and floors. Additionally, deep clean the areas that are closed off, such as closets, cabinets and drawers. Potential buyers will likely be opening these storage areas so be sure to keep them tidy.
Assess the curb appeal. While lawn maintenance in January is minimal, make the necessary updates to entice buyers before they enter the front door. Paint the front door, replace the mailbox if it’s damaged, update outdoor lighting if it shows signs of wear and tear, and set out a seasonal arrangement in the outdoor planters.
Paint the walls. If your taste is on the bolder side, paint the walls in a neutral color palette prior to listing. Neutral colors will appeal to a wider variety of buyers, and help them better picture themselves living in the home. Don’t forget to touch up the baseboards and door trim.
Stage the house. Consider enlisting a professional stager who can assess the current condition of your home and determine the tweaks that will set it apart from the crowd. They often have inventory they can bring in, or will rearrange your belongings to create a different layout.
Take professional photos. The majority of buyers begin their home search online, so great photography is essential in order to capture their interest. Once your home is in tip-top shape, work with your real estate agent to have a professional photographer take photos of the house.
Final cleaning. Pay special attention to the bathrooms, floors and countertops. These are areas that will catch the first glances of buyers walking through your house. Also make sure the home is odor free. Consider opening the windows, running a humidifier and using an air purifier to neutralize the air.
Add life. Set out fresh flowers, plants or a bowl of fresh fruit to breathe some additional life into the home, and to create a welcoming vibe.
Hide valuables. With strangers walking through your home, make sure you remove or lock up any valuables, such as jewelry, treasured collections and artwork.