Buying or Selling a Home/Fixing Up House to Sell


QUESTION: Hi Jessica,

My parents have a 100 year old house that my family is trying to fix up to sell in Chicago.  Many rooms painted in recent years.  Wall paper removed, etc.  I am a pro painter, so my parents get free work. One problem I see is that my father is is insistent on keeping the knotting pine in the kitchen.  Its not over the entire walls, but cover much of it.  The cabinets too.  It has a horrible old orange color to it and it is in bad condition, couple doors veneers falling apart. I am just dying to paint it, but he is crazy stubborn thinking it adds value to the home.  Can I have your opinion?  And do you think it is worth it to pour a lot of work into fixing up to sell?  Can it add value?  Your help is very much appreciated.  Thank you!

ANSWER: Dear Jim;
You are wise to ask for some advice on this since often, homeowners think they understand the market but do not.  Perhaps your father will hear my message and believe me since I have been in real estate for over 30 years and also a home designer who works not only with room configurations but with the interiors.

Old fashioned kitchens (particularly with knotty or knotting pine wood cabinets and walls) date the home and reduce the value.  If your father wants the highest amount he can get he should look at interiors on various websites such as or

Some new looks that seem to be popular incorporate wood in a distressed look that is used as wall decoration. So, for example, an old barn door is found in a fresh new environment.  Wood siding is whitewashed or 'grayed' and one wall boasts the old look in a new way.  It is intentional and new looking.  Take out the old cabinets or fix them and paint them. HIDE the knots by all means; or...change the tone and hardware. Do a different finish that is in a new tone. Take the wood off of the walls and if you want to keep one of the walls, take it down to rough wood and do a grey wash with no varnish.  With this look I have seen slate, tile or distressed wide plank wood floors.  Keep the kitchen light and bright.  White cabinets in an old home are quite effective.  If there is an island or an accent area, perhaps choose one of the updated and new looks like grey, red, blue or green on just those cabinets.  If you choose grey, this will tie into the wall as well. There are some new kitchens that are using knotty pine but they are quite updated or eclectic looks.  Not knowing what the rest of the house looks like I would say that the best choice is to make the use of the pine look "intentional" rather than making a statement that it was there and it is staying there. Here is a kitchen with knotty pine used in a new way:  It is not what I was describing with the wall treatment but it shows the pine finished in the grayish look that I described.

Buyers like new looks and get excited by something different.  Tell your father that by thinking outside the box and giving a fresh look to an old space he will sell his home more quickly and at a higher price.

Best of luck.

Jessica Bryan
Managing Broker
House to Home Realty Services

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Knotty pine
Knotty pine  
QUESTION: Thank you Jessica,

You are so very kind to respond and give your suggestions.  I read your response to my mom and I will to my dad when I see him.  I would love to grey wash or maybe white wash, from looking at pics the white wash looks amazing.  I think it would look good on all the paneling.  The only problem is that it is not flat, there are grooves and lines in the paneling.  The sanding would be a bit much, unless I find quite a successful and safe stripper. It doesn't have to exactly be down to bare wood?  The cabinets are veneer, maybe a white coat of paint would look good to white washed knotty pine paneling?  Here is some pics of the kitchen. I will look at those websites for ideas, and show them to my parents.  Thank you  :)

ANSWER: Dear Jim;
The pictures really helped.  I can make a few suggestions.  First of all, if the wood sanding and refinished look won't work, then go ahead and remove the wood or keep it and make the kitchen a more rustic looking one with decorative wood beams on the ceiling.  It didn't appear that the ceiling is high enough to support this "country kitchen" look though.  The main things I see in the photos that can easily be changed are the cornices with their dated scalloping over the windows and the wallpaper in the next room.  Both should be removed.  Also, change the hardware on the cabinets if nothing else.  I understand why your father doesn't want to take the wood down, but unless it is an intentional 'accent' wall the home looks dark and dated with it there.  

One more thing; when they go to sell the home they should remove as much as they can from the counter tops, shelves and refrigerator (magnets). The home is cluttered and busy right now.  It should like like a magazine cover in order to be attractive to a buyer.  Whenever someone is coming over, they should sweep as much as possible into the cabinets and out of sight. small area rugs or other things that might catch the eye and cause distraction.  The objective is to make the home welcoming but unlived in. (Like a model home).  

I wish you well and hope that you are successful with this!

Jessica Bryan

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you once again Jessica for being kind and taking the time to offer suggestions.  :)  I found a soy based stripper that I heard is very good and even better, safe to use indoors.  So I think I will go the route of white washing the knotty pine paneling and painting the cabinets white.  With new hardware.  There is also a knotty pine bathroom that they have as well.  Would you recommend that being white washed as well?  And if I am unsuccessful on removing the varnish and stain to be able white wash, would you recommend that we just paint all the knotty pine in the kitchen? I think I will remove the wallpaper like you said.  And follow your suggestions on staging he home. Thanks!  :)

Definitely stain, or remove the knotty pine in the bathroom as well.  Bathrooms and kitchens are the biggest draw or detractors in the sale of a home.  If these rooms do not appeal, the home will be difficult to sell.  Updated bathrooms and kitchens give the best returns for the investments. They should have a fresh new look, new hardware and fixtures. Don't overlook cracked and old grouting either.  Make sure that everything looks well-maintained.

Buying or Selling a Home

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Jessica Bryan


buying and selling process such as:
General questions from first time buyers
How to market a home
Why choose a REALTOR
How do I find a REALTOR
Should I consider buying or selling without a REALTOR--how much can I save
Should I remodel or move
How much can I expect to gain by fixing up my home before selling
Helpful tips when selling
Helpful tips when buying
finding a good mortgage loan
what is the difference between banks, mortgage bankers, and mortgage brokers
Questions from the general public, people thinking about getting their real estate license, newly licensed.
Fellow professionals who have interests in networking and how to get started
What is a market evaluation and how does it differ from an appraisal what are the different loan programs
services a REALTOR can perform
when to use a lawyer
when to use escrow
what are the regional differences in the buying and selling process
what is the MLS and how does it work
how can the layman access information on the web--listings and other information
These are just a few of the questions. I can suggest that if I am unable to answer a question I will refer the inquiry to a source that can.


Anyone who is in this business and who dedicates oneself to professionalism has continued to take classes and along with it,additional credentials, awards and honors. I can list a host of them, but my greatest accomplishments happen to be those of getting first time buyers (who didn't think they could afford to buy a home)into a home of their dreams. The look on their faces when I hand over the keys is worth all of the hard work.

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