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The smartest, most cost-effective upgrades when listing your home

What to do (and what not to do) before you sell, with Realtor® Kaleb Streeter

When you’re going to list your home, it can be tempting to focus on what you think could be improved and try to fix it. Realtor® Kaleb Streeter cautions you to fight that impulse.

This article isn’t about the big 3: kitchens, bathrooms and finished basements. Those are the massive reno projects that, while huge investments, also see huge ROIs. 

This is more about the average person who might not have $50,000 to finish a basement, $35,000 to do a kitchen properly or $20,000 to do a bathroom. People call Streeter all the time telling him they’re thinking of doing a particular project or upgrade. “If it’s not cohesive, if it’s not continuous, then it’s really a wasted effort,” he cautions.

Turns out there are much worse things than an unfinished basement. Here are the top, least expensive upgrades he recommends for clients.


Number one is and always will be paint. “Painting is the best because it can do multiple things,” he says. “It freshens up a space, it can hide smells like smoke or odours, it can hide wall imperfections like dings and scratches, and it can lighten the space if you don’t have a lot of natural light.” All of these things affect how people feel in your home—and that’s how houses sell, on emotion.

He recommends using a light, neutral colour and even shares his favourites, because they go with everything: Grey Owl (#1) and Cloud White (#2), both from Benjamin Moore. He also suggests painting every room the same colour. “You’re not doing this for you, you’re doing it for resale. It seems boring but people love it. It makes homes feel bigger,” he says.


Trim might seem like a small, unimportant detail, but it’s actually a big deal, says Streeter. There’s no point installing trim in just one room, unless you’re using the same trim as the rest of the house. If you’re installing trim, put it everywhere—upstairs and down—and have it all match. 


Instead of a round, brass doorknob, spend a couple of dollars and get a brushed nickel handle. It’s not just door hardware either, but shower and kitchen faucets as well. These are small things you can do that will make a house feel a little bit more expensive and well taken care of.

Light fixtures

Change your light fixtures so that they’re all the same. They don’t have to be fancy, but they should definitely match. If you’ve got one LED flush mount, put LED flush mounts all throughout the house. It’s yet another example of that continuity and cohesion we should all be aiming for. 

Accent wall

Streeter wants people to remember the art of house-selling. “Everybody first sees your house online, which means they’re looking at pictures before they’re seeing it in real life,” he says. “You are digitally marketing your home first, so you can take the picture showcasing whatever you want.”

He’s a big believer in the accent wall as a way to set your home apart. It can be anywhere in the house—the dining room or the primary bedroom—and it can be done cheaply. You could use shiplap, MDF or a different paint colour; just create one so that you can stage a photo that will make it stand out. “That way you’re not 1 of 60 on the market, you’re 1 of 1,” he says.

The little things

It can be easy to overlook the small stuff, but don’t. Replace all of your outlet covers, light switch covers and vents/floor registers. You can do an entire house for about $300. Having these items be fresh, clean, brand new and white is a small upgrade that goes a long way.


Make the least amount of flooring changes possible. Many do high-end laminate or a vinyl plank—which is really in right now. You can put vinyl planking in the kitchen because it’s waterproof and carry it through the living and dining area, the hallway and bedrooms. Having the same flooring throughout makes the space feel more open concept, even if it isn’t, because there aren’t any floor transitions. 

“It all comes back to that continuity and cohesiveness: same trim, same flooring, same paint colour. As boring as it sounds, that’s what sells houses,” says Streeter.


Do some landscaping, properly but inexpensively. Landscaping is definitely a job for a pro, says Streeter, but even the smallest of jobs can make a huge impact. If you did some gardens or a walkway or cleaned up old builder stairs and made them out of Unilock, you could really improve the curb appeal for under $5,000. “That first impression, that outside shot, is money well spent,” he advises. Make sure to maintain your lawn and keep it free of weeds too.

Streeter’s last bit of advice is to not start a project if you can’t take it to completion. People don’t want to have to do any work. They want to buy a house and just move in, so any unfinished projects will mean you’re weeding out a pool of buyers that wants turn-key. For example, don’t replace your kitchen countertops unless you can remodel the whole thing. “If you can’t do it all, don’t do it at all,” he says.

Homeowners might be surprised to learn that their unfinished basement isn’t the liability they think it is. Unfinished basements are actually a huge selling feature. Many haven’t been done right and they can be very expensive to re-do. No one wants to have to tear out a basement that was done poorly, with low ceiling height, improper bulkheads or chopped up into small rooms. 

“Because of the lack of windows and their size, the best basements are one big giant open concept rec room. Carpet in the basement is totally acceptable over vinyl plank, but for cosiness a high-end carpet with a good waterproof underlay is great,” he says. 

Fortunately, 75% of the homes Streeter sells don’t require any work to be done, beyond some light staging. That’s great news for homeowners. 

Says Streeter, “Done is better than perfect. In a lot of cases, it’s better to price the house the way it sits than to delay going to market. You could run the risk of missing out on a house or missing out on the current market itself.”

For more information, visit the Streeter Team or call 705-323-9212.