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Is White Boxing Really the Best Way to Prepare a Home for Sale?

For years, the general rule of thumb when prepping a home for sale that requires improvements has always been to just "white box" – essentially, paint everything white – from the walls and ceilings to the kitchen cabinets and built-ins.

The purpose is to clean the slate so the original condition no longer risks offending prospective buyers. White walls, cabinetry, doors, simple hardware and clean floors leave room for the imagination to run wild and attention to focus on the home's potential rather than the objectionable condition. However, many fail to realize this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. So often, white boxing a kitchen will draw unwanted attention to its flaws when an alternative color palate could easily mask the defects we aim to disguise.

Furthermore, buyers have grown somewhat tired of the stark and cool impact all-white spaces can have on the senses. Expectations and preferences are changing, and it's critical to be conscious of these changes. What was once a seamlessly reliable and failsafe system now risks coming across as profoundly ordinary and potentially undesirable altogether.

The Case for White Boxing 

While the white box approach may not be suitable for all homes, it still has its merits, particularly for those in poor condition that lack meaningful charm or character. Conceptually, whites are often synonymous with freshness and newness.

For homes that lack unique or special attributes, such as crown molding and wainscoting, arches, oversized windows or soaring ceilings, it is important to represent a blank canvas worthy of a buyer's artistry and personality. The intention is to avert deleterious first impressions so prospective buyers won't have to waste time struggling to see past neglect and dereliction.

Brutalized kitchens and bathrooms, paint peeling from the walls and ceilings, and lacerated floors are impossible to ignore and distract from the positive. Often, negative first impressions will linger and interfere with one's ability to consider a home's latent potential, ultimately leading to apathetic interest and lack of appreciation for the home's more resounding attributes.

Think About Buyer Preferences and Market Trends 

Most buyers today are focused on turnkey properties, unwilling to consider homes requiring even the most straightforward modifications. The goal for preparing a home for sale should focus on producing the best possible presentation for the smallest feasible investment.

In some cases, embracing the purity of white boxing offers a tantalizing blank canvas for eager buyers. However, for homes of distinguished pedigree that have not been maintained, a fervent dedication to restoration and revelation is imperative. It's not solely about the home's condition, but also about understanding current buyer preferences and market trends specific to certain style homes. Understanding when to restore timeless original parquet flooring in lieu of installing 7-inch wide oak planks or when to choose antique brass finishes versus polished chrome or nickel is paramount. By doing so, we can ensure that our strategies align with the needs and wants of potential buyers, increasing the chances of a successful sale.

Traditional Homes: Know What to Preserve 

Traditional homes, imbued with history, often require the most careful attention to detail. Making the appropriate selections to modify and improve the home's presentation properly will deeply influence how buyers respond. Knowing what to preserve and how to preserve it is critical. From crown moldings to wainscoting to parquet flooring to ornate doorknobs and gilded chandeliers, there are so many elements to a traditional home that must be gently safeguarded. Given that today's buyers seek the extraordinary, skillfully blending tradition with modernity can be transformative. Implementing rich jewel tones and contemporary wallpapers in kitchens, bathrooms and accent walls can achieve this dramatic effect. Jewel tones, such as emerald green, sapphire blue and ruby red, bring depth and richness, creating vibrant and alluring atmospheres. When paired with contemporary wallpapers featuring bold or textured designs, these colors can enhance any room's visual interest and character.

Using rich jewel tones for your kitchen cabinetry, or even just for the lower cabinets, can bring elegance. In bathrooms, these tones can add spa-like or hotel qualities, transforming a mundane area into an exciting retreat. Accent walls in living areas and bedrooms can serve as focal points, drawing attention and adding a touch of drama. Rich jewel tones and modern wallpapers can achieve a striking effect, blending traditional charm with contemporary flair.

Bring Out the Kitchen's Full Potential 

Let's consider a traditional rundown kitchen: Typically, you'll find dark and heavy but solid wood upper and lower cabinets in desperate need of sanding and restaining, with dark-speckled granite countertops sandwiched in between. Maybe you'll come across cracked tile flooring, worn kitchen taps and broken cabinet pulls and knobs. If we used the white box method, we would simply paint all the cabinetry white and replace the existing taps, basins and any other hardware with builder-grade polished chrome substitutions. While this would provide a necessary refresh, it may fail to highlight the kitchen's full potential and its most unique features.

Instead, by embracing the spirit of the home and leaning into its origins, we can offer something refreshingly different for buyers to consider. White uppers coupled with rich lowers will not only brighten the existing countertops but also facilitate the necessary fashion buyers are searching for. Choosing the simple yet sophisticated antique brass hardware for your taps and pulls will instantly tie everything together. Rather than installing your average run-of-the-mill flush mount ceiling fixture, opt for something with a touch of panache that complements your hardware selections.
Rich Hues in the Bathroom

In bathrooms, similar principles apply. Instead of opting for a stark, all-white look, consider rich hues in the navy blue or hunter green families for accent walls or vanities paired with modern, patterned wallpapers to create a spa-like retreat. Updated brushed gold or antique bronze fixtures can complete the look, making the space feel current yet everlastingly luxurious. In bathrooms, more so than any other room in a home, light fixtures act as jewelry; it's the finishing touch. Carefully selecting the right jewelry is imperative; it can easily make just the right bold statement to intrigue buyers.

Consider Each Property’s Unique Characteristics

White boxing has long been a standard practice in preparing homes for sale. However, it's essential to recognize its limitations in today's evolving market. While it may work well for some properties, particularly those lacking in distinct charm or character, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Buyers' preferences are changing, and they often seek homes with personality and uniqueness.

For traditional homes with historical significance, preserving and enhancing their distinctive features is crucial. By incorporating rich hues, bold finishes and thoughtful design details, you can showcase the full potential of any space and leave a lasting impression on potential buyers.

Ultimately, the key to preparing a home for sale lies in understanding its unique qualities and aligning your approach with current market trends and buyer preferences. By carefully considering each property's individual characteristics and making strategic design choices, you can maximize its appeal and increase the likelihood of a successful sale.

Connect with Jason Buttorf for advice on what you need to do to get your house ready to sell.


Source: realestate.usnews.com

Work With Jason

Drawing on his decade of experience in finance, investment management, and holistic financial planning, and as a Chartered Financial Analyst ( CFA ® ) charterholder, he leverages his financial acumen and analytical focus to help his clients navigate the sophisticated San Francisco market.
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