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Where to Begin

sell your home

Preparing to sell your home? With a little elbow grease and some low-cost projects, you’ll increase your home’s appeal inside and out—and potentially net a higher sale. Whether you’ve got a small budget or a little wiggle room, these projects bring good returns on investments.

Inside home improvements


  • Paint is an easy, relatively inexpensive fix. It refreshes rooms and makes homes look new again. Stick with classic, neutral colors. A recent analysis showed that light blue or pale blue/gray rooms potentially increase a home’s selling price by $5,000+. I’m not sure that palette holds true in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, although shades of gray seem to hold sway just about everywhere this year. Here I’m tending toward warmer neutrals, especially in north facing rooms.
  • Have popcorn ceilings or acoustic tiles? Remove them, but use caution. If they predate 1979, they may contain asbestos. Hire a licensed professional to remove them. If you have the height, drywall over the popcorn or tile and create a slightly lower ceiling instead. In Santa Fe you’re more likely to face stained wood decking ceilings. And other stained wood. They look terrible and are not the easiest to fix, but if any wood shows signs of water or other damage, you are advised to get it taken care of by a professional paint crew. This simple bedroom we did several years ago would be ruined by blotches on the ceiling.

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  • Renovate—partially. Don’t redo an entire kitchen or bathroom. Instead, paint the cabinets and upgrade the hardware. Replace the vanity and reface the existing tub. Spend a little more for new light fixtures and faucets. If your budget allows, consider upgrading kitchen appliances, like dishwashers, microwaves, or stoves.

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In this loft style home (above) on the market in Santa Fe, we did not replace all the cabinets, but removed some and replaced with inexpensive shelving. We really punched up the light, (below) added simple white tile, a lighter floor, and a bit more reflective paint. Everything we did was to 1. Lighten up 2. Open up. So important to create a happier feeling space.

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  • Replace stained, dirty carpet with new carpeting or, if your home’s floors are in decent shape, stick with bare hardwood. It may feel daunting to restore them yourself, but it’s much less expensive than hiring a professional, and your elbow grease will yield a significant return. Higher end Santa Fe style homes never have carpet. Never too strong a word? But tile rules, and wood is a close second. And if your area rugs are stained, they must go! Inexpensive area rugs are everywhere today. We just sold this beautiful blue/green area rug for under 500.00.

sell your house

sell your house

  • Maximize your home’s light. Remove and replace heavy drapes or curtains with sheers. Clean windows, change lampshades, increase light bulb wattage, and trim vegetation near the windows. Have a few darker areas that might benefit from recessed lighting? Consult with an electrician to see what it would cost to brighten those spaces.

In New Mexico, natural light is always the best if you have the option with your windows. Dark rooms should be easy to combat in New Mexico with abundant natural light and perpetually dry climate. Sometimes, even a sheer cotton or linen curtain can soften the light and make the view even more appealing.

sell your house

  • Update your home’s windows, if they’re older and not vinyl, which are weather resistant and better insulated. Some experts say that new windows can add up to $12,000 on your asking price. This is ultra important in New Mexico where we have strict energy conservation building codes, at least in Santa Fe. Look at good brands and consult with the sales staffs at the vendors. Call us for names.


Outside home improvements

Don’t underestimate the importance of curb appeal; that first impression potential buyers get when they see your home for the first time can make or break a deal.

  • Improve the landscape with fresh sod or seed if the grass is worn and patchy. Replace old, scraggly bushes and other vegetation with annuals and perennials to give a pop of color. Add some potted plants and hanging flower baskets on the porch.

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  • Think green with the landscaping by taking a low-maintenance route with mulch instead of grass and planting drought-resistant plants. Again, in our state it’s different, where we are strongly discouraged, if not legislated, to NOT have traditional sod grass, but to have low water tolerant plants, for example-
  • Freshen up the entrance with a new coat of paint on the door, or replace it if it’s really old and tired. Update house numbers and your mailbox if they’re dated, and update the porch light fixture, too, if it’s also looking dated.

This is the place in our high desert country to add a big ceramic pot or two with flowers to water…colorful geraniums, true red and orange red are my perennial favorites. Check out this Pinterest link for inspiring ideas for an entry. A cheerful hanging box can make even the most humble cabin look appealing.

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Super selling tips

Naturally, you want to hit your asking price when you’ve put your home on the market, so here are a few tips to help you reach that goal.

Research listing agents to find the best one. Work with your real estate agent to determine the best time to sell your home—an agent can look at trends over time to see what’s sold in your neighborhood. Analyzing comps will help you set a competitive price. Stage your home so it looks its best for the professional photos your agent will have taken for the online listing. We help with this in Santa Fe if you have existing furniture that needs editing or refreshing. And our friends have inventory of additional pieces. .

Channel your inner social media guru and promote your home online. Real estate agents use the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to list homes for sale, but you can also make use of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to spread the word that your home’s for sale. You can even take and post video walkthroughs of your home. Here are 50 creative ways to sell your home quickly.

Don’t over-upgrade

If you’re planning to move, avoid the temptation to splurge for that new kitchen you’ve always wanted. Save that for the new home! Huge improvement projects like new decks or second bathrooms right before you move likely won’t yield a good return on your investment when you sell. Investing the time to declutter, depersonalize, and move extra belongings into storage are other inexpensive projects that pay off.


Suzie Wilson is a San Francisco interior designer with more than 20 years experience. What started as a hobby (and often, a favor to friends) turned into a passion for creating soothing spaces in homes of every size and style. While her goal always includes making homes look beautiful, her true focus is on fashioning them into serene, stress-free environments that inspire tranquility in all who enter. The Ultimate Guide to Prepping Your Home for an Open House is filled with tips, tricks and other advice based on Suzie’s years of experience in interior home design that will set you up for success.

Edy Keeler is a Santa Fe interior designer who specializes in remodeling and refreshing homes in New Mexico and beyond that are well loved and ready for a second look and life. Twenty years and counting!