It’s a familiar scenario: you’re planning on selling your home but not sure what home improvement work to do:

Do you tackle the kitchen or bathroom you’ve been thinking about renovating for years?

Maybe replace the worn-out carpet or refinish the hardwood? Painting sounds reasonable but is it worth the trouble?

And what about the landscaping?

Surely these could all help sell the house and are legitimate concerns, but none of them tops my list. Of course, every home is different, and there is hardly a one size fits all answer, but after working on more pre-listing home preparations than I care to count, I’ve concluded that the best place to spend some money is also one of the most overlooked. Regardless of the length of the list, replacing light fixtures almost always sits atop mine. 

lighting blog

As far as home improvements go, I rarely advise spending significant amounts of money on a home you’ll be moving on from ASAP. It’s always wise to consult your REALTOR before making any improvements, so you can discuss how they would impact your timeline and the value of your home. If you plan to hit the market with haste like so many of my clients, taking on a significant renovation doesn’t usually make sense. The task becomes working with what you have to make it as appealing as possible. That’s precisely my job! When you clear out everything in your home and give it a good scrub, you’ll likely be in a better position than you think. Without tooting my own horn, staging can really work wonders and save you all sorts of money you thought you’d need to spend otherwise, but one sound investment always seems to be the lighting. And fortunately, you can do a whole lot for less than $1000. 

lighting blog

Picture it, a typical Toronto home, two-story, brick, fairly narrow with a wooden staircase greeting you as you walk in the door. It hasn’t been updated in many years but is still worth a small fortune to the average person. The furniture, rugs, art, and accessories are styled to look like a magazine but what really stands out are the cool, obviously updated, light fixtures. Like shoes to an outfit, light fixtures have the ability to elevate a space and make it look more expensive. Like shoes, they can be easily changed and make the most impact when the rest of the space, or outfit, isn’t anything particularly special. Of course, if the sealing paint is a mess, then that would be the better investment, but other obvious fixes aside, lighting makes a significant impact at a very reasonable price point.

Your average flush or semi-flush mount fixture shouldn’t cost more than $100 and track lighting and drop fixtures (chandeliers or pendants) can easily be sourced for less than $300. There is something to be said for consistency, so while you don’t need to replace them all just because you’re changing one, having the bedrooms or hallways match is always nice, as well as the exterior finish of the lights throughout the home (chrome, brass, black, etc.). The best lights to consider changing are the ones that make the most impact. Review your entrance hall light, living, dining, and kitchen lights first. Bedrooms, bathrooms, and hallways are important, but if you need to prioritize your spending, invest in that order.

Whatever you do, don’t limit yourself to what you can find in your average home improvement box store. They have plenty of lights, and some are attractive, but your selection will be slim and you’re looking for ‘shoes’ to elevate an outfit, remember?  Home Depot is the equivalent of Walmart in this scenario. Sure, they sell shoes, but they also sell printers.  Online market places may sell other things too, but at least they’ll have options reminiscent of the high-end lighting stores without the marked-up prices. Wayfair is my go-to online retailer for lighting, and I’m never disappointed. If you can’t shop at a lighting store, online is the next best thing. 

Some general lighting guidelines to remember:

  • Scale is important- read the measurements of any lights you plan to buy carefully and apply them to your space
  • Consider the style of your home, but remember the shoe analogy and err on the side of bold
  • Soft white light is more inviting than bright white- change your bulbs so they all match
  • Add a dimmer to your living room or dining room fixture whenever possible and make sure to buy dimmable lights
  • It’s 2020- avoid incandescent bulbs whenever possible, LED are more efficient 

If you sell with a full-service realtor like the BREL team you’ll have the help of an in-house designer and stager to help you sort through the endless options and find the most impactful fixtures at the best price.  There was a time when I shied away from changing light fixtures as I didn’t consider them to be part of staging; technically they’re not, but I’ve since learned that’s the equivalent of shying away from shoe choice if you’re a dressmaker. If it significantly affects the ability for your work to shine brightly (pardon the pun), then it is your business. Upgrade your light fixtures. It’ll be the best money you spend and make a world of difference to help buyers see your home in a whole new light. 

Author: Kiel Storms. To read his bio, click here. 

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