Home Upgrades on a Budget
In 2005, Yusef took a year off work to pursue the family's dream of starting their own children's video production company, but things did not go according to plan financially. "We poured all of our money into making our first video," Zigi says. "So we've run up credit cards and we're in huge debt now. And so now we don't have the money to keep the house."
Zigi and Yusef did some renovating, but took the home off the market after six months of no luck.
To complicate an already stressful situation, Zigi was diagnosed with a brain tumor. "If we were able to sell the house, it would be a huge load off our shoulders," Zigi says.
With a budget of only $10,000 and a three-day time limit, we send interior designer Nate Berkus and outdoor design pro Jamie Durie to the rescue!
Luckily, Nate has a simple solution: Send some of that stuff to storage! But don't send everything, he says. "You learned that you're supposed to take everything out of the house when you're trying to sell it. Okay, that's not true," Nate says. "You need to show people how to live with a personality in this home."
Nate had bought some inexpensive frames. He then gave the photos a black and white treatment by simply taking them to a local store and photocopying them! He hangs photos around the house and creates a gallery in the dining room.
The gallery—which only cost $116 to create—helps interested buyers see that the family is proud of their home, Nate says. "I think somebody shopping for a home wants to be able to imagine their own happy times. … I think you need to reinforce that."
To spruce up the dining room a little more, Nate swaps the chandelier with another one in the house and buys some drapes from Lowe's. For a grand total of $164, the dining room is transformed!
Zigi and Yusef's kitchen floor had taken a bit of a beating after Yusef tried to replace the dishwasher. He took a chunk out of the wood laminate in the process. The kitchen also needed to be regrouted.
"When you're going to buy a house and you see a problem like holes in the floor next to the dishwasher, I immediately thought the whole place is leaking, there's water damage. What else could be wrong with this place?" Nate says. "So these are repairs that you definitely have to make when you're selling your home."
The pros at Lowe's taught Zigi how to snap in the wood laminate floor herself, and she even regrouted her countertops on her own. So how much damage did these quick repairs do to the budget? Only $64!
Zigi and Yusef's three bathrooms look brand new after Nate adds new hardware, paint, white towels, a shower rod, a shower liner, shower rings and two medicine cabinets. The grand total? $250 for all three bathrooms!
Nate says it's easy for people get stuck when it comes to furniture arrangement. Another decorating crime is to automatically place two end tables on either side of the sofa—which Nate calls "circling the wagons."
To give the room a more cozy feel, Nate brings the couch and chairs toward the center of the living room. "I learned how easy it is to switch things," Zigi says.
The best part about this fix? It's free!
Nate found a cream-colored marble tile at Lowe's that only cost $215 to complete the fireplace. Nate shows Zigi how to tile the fireplace herself. "The real estate listing can say natural stone surround," Nate says.
Nate also hangs two wood panels he found in the garage to call more attention to the new look of the fireplace.
To complete the room, Nate adds new drapes from Lowe's to accentuate the high ceilings, three lamps, two chairs and some throw pillows to the room for a grand total of $984.16.
Despite what they had been told, white is definitely not everybody's color. "White is not a neutral," Nate says. "In fact, it makes every crack, every imperfection in the walls stand out."
Nate immediately warms up the color of all the walls in the house with Lowe's American Tradition Satin paint in Warm Buff for a total of $132. "This is a much warmer feeling in the house," Nate says. "And I think that's what you want a prospective buyer to think."
Nate replaces the carpet in every room of the house, including the stairs that had been covered in tile tread, for a total of $506. To make the stairs in the entryway more appealing, he paints the banister white so that it will blend into the room. "Paint and carpet are the most inexpensive things that they can do immediately," Nate says.
Nate says that unless you can professionally steam clean the carpets to eliminate stains, it's best to just replace them. "I don't want to see anybody else's stains," Nate says.
A scented candle can also help add some ambiance to the room. Nate bought one for $11. "It really just sort of helps make the space feel fresh and pretty," Nate says.
Nate fixes a laundry list of things in the kitchen for a small amount of money. A quick coat of Lowe's American Tradition paint in Swiss Coffee transforms old cabinets from bland to beautiful. New nickel knobs helps further update the look. "It completely changes the feeling of the construction in here," Nate says.
The biggest addition to the kitchen by far are four new stainless steel GE appliances. "If I were a prospective buyer I would walk in here and go, 'There is nothing I need to do. This place looks fantastic,'" Nate says.
Making this room move-in ready cost only $3,947—including the grout and floor repairs made earlier, the appliances, a new cabinet, new kitchen towels and a rug!
Jamie says he thinks of his work as being less about gardening, and more about well-being. "Connecting people with plants does provide well-being," he says. "We're all intrinsically, as humans, connected to plants."
After one look at their patio, with its abundance of harsh sun and burned out plants, Jamie realizes the problem here is neglect. But after he's done with it, Jamie promises, things will be different. "Whoever walks in here, they're going to say, 'Yes, this is where I want to spend my weekends.'"
He specifically chooses plants that are easy to care for and drought-tolerant—a valuable characteristic in Southern California's dry climate. They also look beautiful, creating the feeling of an oasis. "Every box has plants in it so it's like the whole thing's growing," Jamie says.
"What prospective buyers aren't going to walk in here and imagine themselves having coffee, reading the paper, hanging out with the kids?" Nate says. "I mean, this is really beautiful."
"I always tell everybody, all homeowners, spend between five and seven percent of the value of your property [on the outside of your house]," Jamie says. "Because people love their weekends, they want to know where they can spend the two most important days of their week—Saturday and Sunday."
Jamie's update, however, doesn't even come close to that cap. With just $1,858, he transforms a waste of space into a little piece of paradise.
Even if you don't have as much room to devote to your garden as Zigi and Yusef, Jamie says you can still introduce foliage to your environment. "If you've just got a nice well-lit window or even a potted plant on the balcony, just bring a bit of greenery into your house," he says. "Keep it near a well-lit window, rotate it a lot so it gets an even source of light, and it's a bit of nature in your house."
Did Nate and Jamie meet their budget? Yes! In fact, they spent $9,619.16—$380.84 under budget. And they raised the appraised value of Zigi and Yusef's house by $20,000!