Spiffing Up for a Sale

The Designed to Sell team gets a unique urban townhouse ready for sale.

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Hide CaptionShow CaptionThis alley house has an alley kitchen. The room is tight and cramped, and the dark wooden cabinets make it feel even more confined.
Homeowners Preet Kang and Bret Davis have a unique three-bedroom townhouse in the Capitol Hill area of Washington, D.C. Located in a very desirable neighborhood, the home was built right into what used to be an alley. From the outside it looks like just a garage, but inside it is a spacious two-level, 2,000-square-foot home. And it's just too big for the couple. They are looking to downsize, and they enlist the Designed to Sell team to help them do it.

Real estate expert Terry Haas takes a tour of the home and provides her honest judgment of its selling power. She loves the neighborhood. An eclectic home in such a sought-after area should be an easy sell. Having a garage and driveway in an urban area is also a huge plus. But Haas loses her optimistic view once sees the kitchen. It is very small and cramped. Potential buyers will be looking for more open spaces.

The living room and dining room are great, but they feel rather lopsided, says Haas. All the furniture seems to be pushed to one side. Also, the fireplace needs to be better accentuated, since 50 percent of buyers look for fireplaces. Her favorite part of the house is the back patio. It's just the added value a buyer is looking for, but this one needs some color and pizzazz to help it sell.

Designer Taniya Nayak agrees with Haas' critique and lays out some capital ideas to make this home pretty and profitable.

Step 1: Open the wall between the kitchen and hallway, brighten the cabinets, and change the hardware.

Step 2: Change the flow in the living and dining room, add color to the walls, and turn the fireplace into a focal point.

Step 3: Add color, clean up and coordinate the patio with the rest of the house.

Contractors John Allen and Matt Steele roll up their sleeves and get set to work on the townhouse transformation.

This alley house has an alley kitchen. The room is tight and cramped, and the dark wooden cabinets make it feel even more confined. The appliances are outdated, and the refrigerator is covered in personal items. Buyers want to be able to visualize their own stuff in the space. Kitchen upgrades are a good investment, typically bringing in about an 85-percent return, Haas says. Another problem is the layout in the dining room. It blocks the flow from the kitchen to the living room, making the space seem crowded.