Spending Money to Downsize

We continue with our downsizing plan by preparing to sell our large house in middle Tennessee. In 2012, we gutted and remodeled our master bathroom. Although the bathroom finishes and fixtures were not over the top, it was a significant investment. However, this money had to be spent so that this house would be marketable to anyone other than house flippers.  At least we are getting to enjoy the new and improved master bath for a time before we sell.  We are about to begin phase II of the remodel.

Next week we leave for our Alaska cruise and trip. We will be gone for 13 days. This is an ideal time to remodel the kitchen and redo the floors on our main level, including the master bedroom. In the kitchen we are replacing our solid surface counters and back splash with granite, refinishing/glazing the kitchen cabinets, and installing new appliances. We are removing the carpet in our dining room and library/office and installing new hardwood to match the kitchen and family room floors. We are tearing out an outdated built-in audio/video cabinet in the family room so that the space can accommodate a contemporary flat screen TV. Finally, we are installing new carpet in the master bedroom.

What is interesting and somewhat difficult about this project (as it was for the master bath project) is that we are selecting finishes and colors that make the most sense for resale purposes. We are asking vendors and contractors to suggest items that will (a) appeal to the broadest spectrum of potential buyers and (b) not be over the top expensive. Everyone we have worked with has been very helpful in this regard, particularly our contractor who has been in the remodeling business in our area for almost 30 years. If we were staying in this house ourselves, our selections would have been different in many cases.

The experts say that bath and kitchen remodels provide the highest return on dollars invested. We may not make back all of the costs incurred but by getting this work done now, we will avoid having potential buyers reject our home outright when they see an outdated kitchen. We will get to enjoy the new kitchen and floors ourselves for at least a year.

We will probably have one more round of remodeling work done next spring, primarily in the yard, deck, and driveway areas.

In preparing for the remodel activities, I delivered a bunch of old vinyl records, CDs and DVDs to our local used media store. This netted us $130 which pleased me. I also successfully sold a bike carrier and iPad on Craigslist. We will spend this money (and much more) in Alaska but it is a “bucket list” trip for us so I am not bothered by that.

I believe that real estate values in our area will continue to climb even as interest rates edge up. Nashville is an “it” city right now with lots of favorable national buzz attracting new money and new buyers. I hope this is sustainable until we sell.

Are any of you spending money as part of a downsizing plan?


  1. says

    Yes! My house is located in a not-so-desirable region of California but I plan to sell it in 2015/2016. We also have a wedding coming up next year so I figure I might as well upgrade the bathrooms to accommodate both the house guests and the future house sale. The houses in my neighborhood are unique and sought after but if buyers come in and see that the place hasn’t been updated, they either move on or make a low ball offer. I just want to be able to get top dollar and to be able to move quickly. Enjoy your trip to Alaska!

  2. Kathy says

    We’re about to do some work on our house outside Boston, and hoping to not spend too much, but the same areas are on our list – kitchen, master bath, deck, front porch, and yard. We’re starting with the kitchen and bath because we’ll get the most pleasure out of them over the next 5 years or so that we’re still here. We’re running into the same thing with choosing colors for resale vs what we like. We love the look of wood cabinets and woodwork, but everyone is telling us to paint it white. We’re going to leave the woodwork as it is, and try cleaning and re-staining the wood cabinets. If that doesn’t work, we’ll paint them white or a lighter color. We were told that re-surfacing the cabinets would cost as much as all new cabinets. We’re finally getting rid of the vinyl floor in the kitchen that’s been a mess since we moved in. We’ve been held up doing anything about it because it’s asbestos and we couldn’t just lay a new floor over it for various reasons. Now we’re biting the bullet and having the asbestos removed. With all these planned expenses, we’re hoping we don’t have to replace our septic system before selling, as many people have had to do in MA to meet new codes. We moved into our house when it was new, almost 30 years ago, and I still think of it that way. It’s hard for me to objectively see it through the eyes of a younger buyer as an “old” house today.

  3. Meredydd says

    Sitting on the fence on this one. Austin real-estate is hot Hot HOT, especially in the central neighborhoods. My (inherited) house is simple single story 3/3 built in 1964 on 1.5 lots, and the interior was last updated in 1991.

    So why isn’t the cost-benefit anaylsis clear? Because this is a neighborhood in which at least half of the house sales result in tear-downs and the building of McMansions, even if the demolished house is relatively new. So there’s a good chance that someone won’t even care about the house, but will want the land.

    This is where a good realtor will be invaluable — to evaluate the market “as is” and with bathroom/kitchen updates. We just haven’t had that conversation yet!

    • says

      It is always a good idea to upgrade a home. You might want to keep a tight budget, but having worked in real estate for 30 years, I will tell you, fix the place up. Single story homes are in demand everywhere as more and more of us boomers retire. If you put in mid range appliances, mid range kitchen and bath cabinets, re-paint and plant some flowers, even if it’s going to be a tear down in the end, you will still make more money than if you do nothing. remember this is the digital age, people shop on line. A clean, modern looking interior with photos taken by a professional will be the difference between you getting a good offer or something WELL below market. Like you said, you need a good realtor, one who won’t over price the property, and who also won’t guide you to over imporve for the neighborhood..

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