You’re just getting established in your home staging career with only a couple of projects under your belt but with each passing day you’re feeling more confident in your skills and the expertise you have to offer homeowners.
You find yourself one Saturday morning doing a home staging consultation with a sweet young couple. They’re expecting their first child in a matter of weeks and they’re hoping for a fast sale on the tiny one bedroom home they’ve had on the market for six months with no offers.
They have a limited budget and although the home is in good shape overall, the paved driveway is all ripped apart after a particularly harsh winter.
The yard is covered in pieces of asphalt and it’s obvious that the driveway needs to have the existing pavement removed and new pavement put down. Also, inside the house the second bathroom is an absolute eyesore and needs a full reno.
They know from feedback they’ve gotten from their agent and people who have viewed their property that both are sore spots but they only have funds to repair one or the other since each project will cost approximately $5000 to undertake.
What is your expert home stager‘s opinion in this scenario? I’ll share my thoughts later but first, I’d like to hear what you would do in the same situation. Do you believe the second bath is more important to romance the buyer once they’re inside, or should the driveway which leaves the first and last impression be the element to repair?
Debra Gould, The Staging Diva®
President, Six Elements Inc. Home Staging
Debra Gould knows how to make money as a home stager and she developed the Staging Diva Training Program to teach others how to earn a living doing something they love.[tags] home staging, home stager, home stagers, home staging, home staging consultation, home staging dilemma, home staging priority, staging diva[/tags]
Ginger Wilson says
As important as the bathroom is, if you don’t draw buyers into the house you don’t even stand a chance of getting a sale. I think buyers would consider the driveway a larger and more expensive job. At least the second bath could be done in stages once they move into the house.
Debra Rosser says
I’d pick the driveway as it is a part of that important first impression. It is something that will come up in the inspection (while the bathroom is ugly it is not necessarily needing work). Fixing structural problems is always my first choice. I would really encourage them to at least paint the bathroom, get it absolutely clean and add a new shower curtain. Because it is a second bathroom I think buyers might see this project as one that they can do over time as the budget allows; new sink this month, new tile next month, etc…
Curious what others think….
Christina Rougerie says
Well, knowing that the ROI is more on the second bath than the driveway; that’s a tough one, because both have an impact selling your home! On the other hand, your home’s exterior can either draw in or scare away buyers. It also depends on the neighborhood that they live in. Are all the driveways in somewhat the same condition due to harsh winters? If so, then clearly I would remodel the second bath. Either way they would need to contact their realtor to do a market analysis and compare other properties. Do most of them have a remodeled second bath or driveway? Besides Kitchens and Master suites, I’m the kind that researches my competition for that particular area. Every area is different and this always changes the rules to the game. Like in this case driveway or second bath? I hope this helps!
Lisa - Defined Design says
I would encourage them to fix the bathroom for $4,500 and spend $500 to put 1/4″ gravel on the driveway – after they have removed what broken asphalt is possible. A bathroom requires decisions on colors, fixtures, cabinets, flooring, lights, exhaust fans and disruptions with strangers in my house for two weeks, dust, noise, etc. To pave a driveway I call and get estimates, hire someone, they do all the work outside, in a day – much easier on a new homeowner who needs to focus on getting life back together.
Pamela - Impressive Spaces Home Staging says
I agree the bathroom is usually the more important item to fix, unless the driveway is in such bad shape that it causes buyers to drive on by without looking at the home or if it is a safety hazard. If that is the case, I believe you should repair the driveway and then do what you can cosmetically with a little paint and accessories in the bathroom.
Margaret Harlos says
I would say go for the bathroom and do it right. Depending on your area and from my experience even a touch up coat on the driveway and removal of any asphalt is more costly than $500. Curb appeal is important, so clean everything up at the curb the best you can but focus on the bathroom. The number of bathrooms and nice bathrooms along with the kitchen sell homes and for mor emoney. Unless you are selling as is … then leave it and price the home accordingly.
Lisa - Design Refined says
I totally agree with the great advice from Lisa at Defined Design. There is a lot more “wow factor” and bang for the buck to be gained by upgrading a bath than by repaving a driveway.
jill monczunski says
First of all, we don’t know what the homeowners’ budget is. I would suggest sealing (not replacing) the driveway. I’ve done this before (long before I became a stager) and it’s hard, hot and dirty work. The homeowners can do this themselves in a day. The bathroom definitely must be upgraded. I’m assuming the plumbing and electrical are in order, so any upgrades would be cosmetic. From the small picture above, this bathroom could look great with very little money – new pedestal sink, faucet, lighting, mirror, paint, flooring and baseboard molding. This bathroom looks very small. A box of peel and stick linoleum for the floor costs about $30 – or less. All these items can be purchased very reasonably at home improvement stores. I am ASSUMING the toilet and tub are in order, and the walls are in good shape. I’ve handled this situation before with a small budget. The work was done by my own crew, thus eliminating the high costs of using outside subs. I guess if I had to choose one project or the other (driveway vs. bathroom), I couldn’t. Curb appeal gets the buyers through the door, but that bathroom would chase most potential buyers off. As an experienced stager, I would recommend to the homeowners that if they don’t have the budget or time to do these projects now, take it off the market until these projects are completed. I feel confident, WITH THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS SCENARIO, that both projects could be completed very inexpensively, IF the homeowners are willing to do some of the work themselves. The pay off could certainly be worth the physical effort!
Staging To Sell
Home Staging for Sellers . Interior Design & reDesign
Jill R. Monczunski
Hayley Harris says
For me it would be paramount to get the driveway sorted. This will be the first thing the buyers will see as soon as they step out of the car. If they are presented with a driveway in disrepair they are likely to start wondering if the rest of the property would be like this. I would allocate a small amount to the bathroom. From the picture I can see white fixtures and would suggest making good around these. Some timber effect lino, new skirting board and painted walls could fix this bathroom up a treat and would probably only cost around $100, could stretch to new taps and new tiles/ painting tiles if needed, but all things that are very cheap. As this is not the main bathroom I think a cosmetic makeover would be more than enough. In conclusion a couple of hundred for the bathroom and the rest of the budget on the drive. Bathrooms can be tarted up quite cheaply when you know what your doing but driveways most definately can’t and would be a job for the experts.
Donna Ross says
Interesting quandry Debra. I’ve given this one a bit of thought. I’d look around the neighbourhood to see what other homes in the area have got. This might be the best way to help decide where money should be spent.
Just the same, I feel that front of house is just so important to get potential buyers through the door and I’d have to agree with Hayley. I’m going to say that the driveway is the priority here and should see most of the available funds directed there. Whilst the bathroom is in less than ideal shape, it is the second bathroom. I’d suggest a good clean and/or repair (e.g. leaking taps etc), along with some inexpensive linoleum and a coat of fresh paint. Fixes like this can do wonders, won’t break the bank or reak too much havoc. It will allow the buyer to live with it short term, until they decide to renovate fully for the long term.
Terri Gunn says
I totally agree with Hayley and Donna. The driveway is the “first impression” item and will be the job that seems more expensive to the prospective buyer. The look of the bathroom can be greatly improved with relatively inexpensive fixes like paint and a new floor.
Buyers are less intimidated by bathrooms since they can be DIY projects and professionals are needed for the driveway.
Lisa - Defined Design says
I took the $ amount literally. I know where I live, the bathroom could be tackled by the home owner for around $2,000, and the driveway could easily be paved for the remaining $3,000.
Not knowing the location of this scenario and taking the information given as fact, I would still gravel the driveway.
To quote the buyers: “They know from feedback they’ve gotten from their agent and people who have viewed their property that both are sore spots.
Both must be addressed.
Nancy Lee says
We are talking about a one bedroom, two bathroom house? Especially if that is the case, I would recommend the driveway be brought up to par with the neighborhood. Like everyone else, I would do so because the driveway is a major part of the first impression…if they buyers are not seriously considering the house by the time they get to that second bathroom, then the bathroom is unlikely to make or break the deal. Having said that, it does look like there are some no- or low- cost ways to punch the presentation of the bathroom up a notch or two (even if the seller’s disclaimer has to include needed bathroom repairs). Debra, I a looking forward to reading your solution to this catch-22.
I’d have to say since the feedback has been that both are “sore spots,” both must be addressed. Split the money and do what you can to improve both. Paint, cleaning and a few new touches may be enough in the bathroom. Some great accessories and art would help to make it look great.
Then, concentrate on the driveway and add some plants to welcome buyers inside. If you can’t get them inside, it won’t matter what the bathroom looks like!
Debbie Fiskum, The Home Decor Genie!
Mariann O'Brien says
It’s quite true that that first impressions are important but so are lasting impressions. I would check out other properties in the neighbourhood but other than a thorough cleanup outside, adding seasonal pots and a wreath as well as painting the front door if necessary, I’d do little else. Bathrooms are always listed near the top of the list for the most return in real estate dollars in renovations. This house is small and any improvement inside will add to the options for anyone looking for a home and their consideration in making a decision.
Lisa - Defined Design says
Wow! My inbox was slammed with responses to this. Great conversation – can’t wait to see your response Debra.
I based my answer on the market I live in – it appears most of us have. I concluded, the bathroom fixtures sink, commode, tub/shower, which is why the cost is so much. Resurfacing is a great idea, again I understood large portions of the driveway to be missing (snow plows?). I’m not sure if it is possible to put them back in place and resurface, might be a temporary visual fix.
My perspective is to always give the customer something useful, in this case, and based on my market, gravel driveways are very acceptable. We have many subdivisions where the homes have both. A nice gravel driveway gives the new homeowner a foundation to build something better on down the road, but it is useful and functional for the time being. Again, in my market people always need two nice bathrooms, people love to entertain their family and friends.
Debra is this second bathroom by any chance a master bathroom? If not, I would see if it is structurally possible to make it part of the bedroom, thus, creating a master bedroom.
Chris Schneider says
Since it was stated they could only do one project and the driveway has to be ripped up (a seal coat wont do…) I would have them do that job. The bad driveway is setting a bad tone for anyone coming in and a final reminder to those going out “this house needs some big repairs”. Being an Expert Home Stager I would be able to give them some low cost ideas on helping out the 2nd bath look more up to date without the expense of gutting and redoing it. Can they afford a new vanity? Even if not they can CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN it till it shines…a fresh coat of paint (is there color enough left from another room that was freshly painted? Clean fresh towels, shower curtain, waste basket ( I’ll tell them to display this stuff…don’t use it, and return it with your receipt after your home is SOLD) Spending little to no money on the 2nd bath we can get it looking so much better ` and there is no band-aid for the driveway.
Julie Wanstedt says
Since the realtor said these are both “sore spots” he/she has obviously had showings – so there is traffic through the home but the potential buyers must feel the price is not reflective of these pending repairs – and it should. Not within our control of course.
I feel the driveway would appear to the buyer as the more “daunting” and disruptive repair. If I take your repair(s) estimate literally and there is no wiggle room to allocate to the second repair, I would opt for the driveway removing 1 obstacle/objection from the buyer and enhance curb appeal to the potential buyer. The bathroom remodel may be more acceptable to the buyer since there are 2 bathrooms.
Patricia Ebrahimi says
Wow! I am among professionals here for sure. Very well considered answers to this dilemma. My vote goes to portioning the money such that the driveway gets the lion’s share of the budget and receives the most permanent fix. I absolutely love Hayleys’ “tarting up” the bath as sound staging advice, along with some elbow grease delivered inexpensive fixtures and stick down vinyl tile. After all everyone with experience knows that In bathrooms it’s the labor that costs, not the materials. For example, I just bought a Kohler Archer Memoir pedestal sink at Home Depot in suburban D.C. for just over $100 for a client. Gorgeous! Tranformed the 1967 powder room immediately. What say you, Debra?
Janet Stine says
You have to nab that buyer at the street! I would do the driveway repairs (huge relief to prospective owners not needing to tackle that one!). Then, I would put on my “thrifty” creative hat & help them make that bathroom shine.