Little Home Updates that Pack a Big Punch

There is no denying that Southern California has been experiencing a “seller’s market” this past year.  And if you follow our blog, there is no avoiding hearing about it (most recently, see here and here)! In summary, there are more prospective buyers than there are homes for sale, homes are being sold well over ask and it is commonplace for buyers to waive most, if not all, contingencies when making an offer on a property. All these factors are great news for those looking to sell their home but may be a source of disappointment and frustration for prospective buyers who find themselves stuck in a space that no longer works for them. If you happen to be one of these prospective buyers, we offer this post to you…a collection of relatively easy and low-cost “while you wait” projects that will help your current space feel bigger and tidier (and give you some of the features on your house wish list) while adding value to your home.

  1. Dreaming of a butler’s pantry?

If you are scratching your head wondering what a butler’s pantry is, let me see if I can summarize it for you – simply put, it is a second, behind the scenes kitchen space in which all dirty dishes, countertop appliances, and pantry items live harmoniously together in an organized and easy-to-access state of utopia (check out my Instagram page @theparistorkamani for some of my favorites). If it seems amazing, that is because it is in fact amazing. On the face of it (and on account of its name), the butler’s pantry may seem like a home feature reserved only for the grandest of estates, where fancy dinner parties are par for the course and champagne flows freely, but the reality is that butler’s pantries have grown in popularity and prevalence. This is because they are great spaces for storing shelf stable foods and extra dishware/drinkware and housing countertop appliances that would otherwise clutter primary kitchen counters. Not every home has the space necessary to allocate to a butler’s pantry and not every buyer’s budget can afford a home with one, but that does not mean that you cannot create spaces within your own home that accomplish the same goals and provide the same storage solutions. My favorite “butler’s pantry hack” is to designate a cabinet in your kitchen that is easy to access while standing and have power outlets and a pull-out drawer installed inside the cabinet. Line up all your most used kitchen appliances inside (I am looking at you, coffee machine, blender, toaster, etc.…), plug them in, slide the drawer in, and shut the cabinet door to tuck them all away in an easy-to-access, but hard to notice, spot. While you may think you do not have enough kitchen storage space to designate an entire drawer for this purpose, consider making the space for it by removing pretty dishware/drinkware, and other (prettier than a toaster) kitchenware items from cabinets and displaying them, instead, on open shelving elsewhere in your kitchen. With these easy steps and a small budget, you will be able to modernize and declutter your kitchen, which will leave you feeling like the lord/lady of your own manor!

2. Need a bigger bathroom to store all your toiletries?

Yes, a new, bigger bathroom with large, well-appointed cabinets is on a lot of homebuyer’s wish lists, but if you cannot have that just yet, consider creating better storage solutions in the bathroom you currently have. When you have your electrician and carpenter over to help install your butler’s pantry drawer (😉), consider asking them to create a similar drawer in your bathroom that has outlets for hair/bathroom appliances to plug into and to safely be used and stored in (some examples here). Also, if your single medicine cabinet is not cutting it, consider swapping out your over-the-sink mirror(s) for ones like this that offer ample hidden storage, allowing you to keep your countertops clear and your drawers uncluttered. Your newly pared down space will feel bigger, brighter, and cleaner and your investment of time and money will pay off when it comes time to sell, as most homebuyers love smart storage solutions.

3. Hunting for a home with a playroom, mudroom, store-all-the-junk-in room?

I am the biggest fan of designated storage spaces and especially love a good mudroom and playroom, but if buying a new home with these spaces is not possible, or is not in your budget, right now, consider creating spaces in your home that can serve these purposes. Two years ago, after years of trying to unsuccessfully organize my children’s toys in a corner of our living room, I finally had a contractor come out and investigate the space under our stairs to see if it could be opened to be used as storage space. I had seen the space used as such by a neighbor with a similar floor plan and wondered if our space could be repurposed as a playroom/toy storage space. Lucky for us, the space under our stairs was hallow and spacious, allowing it to be easily transformed from dead space to a cozy space where our kids can play with, store, and easily access their toys. For under $2500, we took a formerly unused space and transformed it into a space that simultaneously adds useable square footage to our home and frees up our limited and valuable living room space. To say that this small change has had a huge impact on our day to day lives is an understatement. It has given an old-to-us space a new life that we love.

Speaking of things that I love, if you follow me on Instagram, then you likely know that I also love a good mudroom. They offer great storage space for jackets, shoes, backpacks, and all the other things that you grab on your way out of the house each day. While mudrooms were historically more prevalent in homes located in cooler/wetter climates, the good news for fans of this home feature is that they have become exceedingly popular in homes across the US. Consequently, if you are looking to buy a home in Southern California with a mudroom, you are much more likely to come across them these days. However, in today’s high-demand, low-supply, highly competitive market even if you find the perfect home with the perfect mudroom, you may be out-bid. In the meantime, consider finding a space in your home where you can build a storage system like the one pictured here, offering you the perks of a full mudroom, without having to do major remodeling. After years of living without a ground floor coat closet, we opted to build a mudroom setup out of a variety of Ikea storage systems (Google “Ikea mudroom hacks” for examples and tutorials) in our home right when you walk into the house from the garage. Our “mudroom” has been a great storage solution for us, and my only regret is not installing doors to even better conceal the inevitable clutter that forms when we all drop off our backpacks, purses, sunglasses, hats, shoes, and jackets there at the end of the day. If you do not have the interior space for a storage system, consider installing one in your garage. It is a low cost, easy-to-install solution that will declutter your existing space and make it more attractive to future buyers who are also in the market for a home with a mudroom/storage space.

This post offers a few examples of ways in which you can give your existing space a fresh and valuable makeover, but I hope that it inspires you to discover additional ways to enjoy your current home while you continue to look for your future home!  And if a new home is not in your budget right now, I hope that this post demonstrates that regardless of the size or age of your home, there are ways to make it work better for you that not only add value to your day-to-day life but also add value to one of your biggest investments.

To learn more about the real estate market, or to specifically discuss the San Diego real estate market, please contact Paris M. Torkamani at ptorkamani@esquirereb.com or 949-413-6699. To learn more about the Los Angeles real estate market, please contact Amir Torkamani at atorkamani@esquirereb.com or 213-973-9439.