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Want to sell houses faster?  Here are some foolproof strategies to increase your chances of selling your house quickly and for a higher return.

*I recently was asked to speak to a group of real estate agents about which home updates deliver the most return on your investment. But, I thought my readers might find this information useful as well, so I’m sharing it here in a blog post. Enjoy!

Updates that deliver the highest return

Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses. That’s why most homeowners and realtors prioritize updating these finishes first when preparing to list.

But for some reason, the most common belief is to install the latest and trendiest finishes so the home sells faster. I’d like to challenge this belief with a better approach.

I’m always amazed when I hear from homeowners and realtors who have their heart set on installing a trendy new finish in the kitchen or bathroom in order to make the house more attractive to potential buyers. 

Does anyone really want a trendy finish chosen by a previous homeowner? I mean, isn’t that why so many houses are filled with gray, weathered-wood floors these days?

Whether you’re a homeowner making a few cost-effective updates to sell your home at the highest possible return or an agent helping your client do the same, there is a smarter approach. 

Because so many of us think that whatever is “brand new and trending RIGHT NOW” must be the no-brainer choice for updates to install in our home. We believe the common MYTH that is: choosing “trendy” will make our renovation or new build look the most current.

When actually, what we’re doing is drawing a line in the sand and putting an EXACT DATE on our updates.

There really is a better way (with more longevity) to think about colours and finishes for any project you’re planning!

It’s called timeless.

And it will increase your chances of selling faster and for more money. 

Trendy equals temporary

Trendy is far from safe. And it’s not a reliable measure for updating your finishes for potential homebuyers.

Timeless is the best guiding principle of any new updates or renovations. Why? 

Because it liberates you (or your future buyer) from living with finishes you are tired of – including inherited leftovers from a long-gone trend. 

And, let’s be honest. Trying to keep up with trends is expensive. Sourcing something timeless eliminates the need to constantly renovate or update because of too-trendy choices.

Most people assume that trends are constantly shifting, making it difficult to land on a solid and timeless option. But, that’s simply not true.

Boring now, equals timeless later

Interior Design by Maria Killam

What does it mean to be timeless? It’s about standing the test of time, meaning you cannot immediately identify the trend cycle or era the finish (tile, floor, countertop) was installed in.

When we bought this house last Fall, the ONLY room I didn’t renovate aside from painting the walls (and the espresso brown island) was the kitchen. That’s because it already had timeless white countertops on the island and a fabulous (and timeless) Calacatta marble subway tile backsplash.

The violet grey perimeter quartz countertops are not timeless (and the wrong neutral undertone) so they will be updated eventually but it’s less of an emergency because they were not installed on the large island.

Get yours here

The cabinets were an existing pale green beige complex cream, which was versatile enough for me to incorporate into my decorating. And when I change the violet grey perimeter countertops down the road, this will give me the perfect, timeless backdrop for ANY colour on the cabinets when I decide I want a change.

The solid green grey 12″ x 24″ tiles in the sunroom were replaced with a marble-look porcelain Calacatta tile that relates to the kitchen backsplash. This along with having a decorative artist paint our fireplace to look like Calacatta marble creates prefect flow between the three rooms. 

We’ve all bought something trendy that quickly lost its charm and eventually looked DATED. And if it was something trendy we installed in our homes, that’s when we felt “renovation regret”. We’ve all been there.

But a timeless design choice is one that looks good throughout multiple trend cycles. 

And if you spend your renovation dollars on making your home more timeless and versatile for resale, you are much more likely to attract decisive potential buyers ready to make top offers.

The key to getting the most out of your home updates is knowing the difference between TRENDY and TIMELESS.

Read more: How to know if it’s timeless?

Here are a few examples of timeless updates that will give you the highest return on your investment.

The best flooring colours for resale

Flooring is often a finish that most homeowners get wrong when they update it. No buyer wants to have to tear out brand new flooring before they move in. 

I can’t tell you how many times I hear from clients and readers who mention to me how frustrating it is  that all the houses on the market have dated, grey wood-look flooring.

Read more: Ask Maria: What if I Don’t Like the Grey Flooring That’s Everywhere?

TIMELESS TIP: Instead, the seller should have simply installed a timeless wood floor colour in the range of light brown to medium brown. And, no one would feel stuck replacing a wood or wood-look floor like this (below).

Interior Design by Maria Killam

Replacing once-trendy-now-dated flooring is not only expensive, it’s also wasteful and disruptive. You can’t simply replace flooring throughout a home after you’ve moved all your furniture in.

So if you are updating your wood or tile floors to sell your house, choose something timeless. In other words, do NOT choose something a future home buyer will instantly recognize as a specific trend or era. For example, solid grey tile or super busy granite countertops that will instantly be dated.

And remember, ugly is always on sale. Make a choice independent of what the home improvement stores are practically begging you to take off their hands. 

Read more: When NOT to Replace Your Floors

THIS is where potential buyers see the MOST VALUE

You’ve heard kitchens and bathrooms sell houses. That’s because the most expensive finishes to renovate in any home, besides flooring, are the tile and countertops in kitchens and bathrooms. 

Kitchens and bathrooms are valuable and highly functional spaces that either motivate or repel potential buyers. 

No one wants to inherit a trend-specific tile that the previous homeowner loved. Throughout my design career, I have learned that accent tile trends shift every two years.

Classic White Kitchen | Decorating with Colour | Kitchen Island Design | Kitchen Sink

Interior Design by Maria Killam

So, when it comes to backsplashes and bathrooms, step away from the trendy pattern and accent tile. Instead, keep it simple (aka boring). Choose a simple white subway tile for walls and backsplashes. And for the floors, a hex, mosaic, marble, or limestone floor will always have longevity.

TIMELESS TIP: Simple tile without a busy pattern or bold colour is more appealing to potential buyers, because decorating this type of neutral palette feels easy and possible. 

Read more: Top Kitchen Colour Trends from the Last 50 Years

Avoid mixing new and old trends when updating

An especially common mistake is to simply install the new trending countertop, tile or matte black faucet and hardware into an otherwise dated kitchen or bathroom. 

This only creates a mishmash of dated and trendy looks that in no way works together. The new and trendy finish only makes the dated and older ones look BAD by comparison.

TIMELESS TIP: So, rather than choosing your favourite or new and interesting countertops or trendy tile pattern to update your house for sale, consider a quieter, more versatile and TIMELESS choice.

Opt for a timeless finish that:

  1. works with the existing finishes and looks like it was always there
  2. is simple and understated so that it will appeal to the greatest number of buyers over the longest span of time

Trying to combine old finishes with new flooring? Here are two magic questions that will make every decorating or design decision better. 

Make the most of your investment with timeless choices

Not sure what makes a finish timeless vs. trendy? Follow me! 

Read more: When Grey is Timeless

Subscribe to this blog for a wealth of FREE advice, real-life examples, and expert insights based on my decades of experience in the colour and design industry. Or, simply type a topic into the search bar 🔎 above to find what you’re looking for.

One of my favourite places to connect is on Instagram where you’ll find me answering questions and sharing daily colour and design tips.

But if you want to know the BEST WAY to spread your money around and make smarter home updates that bring a greater return, you need to enroll in my two-day colour workshop for HomeOwners: Create Your Dream Home 


2023 True Colour Expert Training Sidebar

This live, virtual training is for homeowners looking to invest in home updates before selling and real estate agents advising clients on which updates will help sell their home more quickly. 

Sometimes you need the magic of my eDesign services, which instantly narrows down all your choices and provides a clear path.

And that’s perfectly fine. 

But if you want MORE THAN the answers, like EXACTLY how my system makes decisions like this EASIER – with beautiful results – then you need to enroll in this two-day workshop.

And, that’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed this summary of my real estate agent presentation on timeless updates. 

Related posts:

Timeless Black & White Bathroom

Timeless Design Tips for a Home You’ll Love Forever

Third Rule of Design: Expensive Does Not Equal Timeless

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  • Barbara says:

    I read, study, and love everything you post! I’ve refreshed two bedrooms using your neutral color guide system…I now appreciate neutral walls and have added appropriate colors with bedding etc…thank you for sharing your knowledge

  • MC says:

    Maria, my partner and I followed this exact advice when selling our home two years ago, because duh, you make so much sense! Our house sold quickly and for the highest selling price ever in that neighborhood. I can’t thank you enough for everything I’ve learned from you and your e-courses!

  • Beth Cugal says:

    I think you should offer a seller’s package. We would send you pictures or video of the house and you could give advice for making the space more attractive to buyers. For example, “Your floors look fine, but I recommend painting the walls a warm complex cream such as _______.” Or “If you can afford it, you could update your kitchen by painting the cabinets this color and installing this type of countertop.”

    I know you already have other services that would cover these issues, and I’m looking forward to using them for our next home, but I don’t also want to spend the same amount of money to sell my current home.

  • jill kos says:

    As a professional home stager and realtor, this is the same advice I’m constantly giving to clients. I tell them, Trust me, if you think refinishing floors is a big job, of course the buyers are thinking the same thing and their offers reflect it. Beautiful classic homes , even if smaller or maybe not in an ideal location will sell quicker, because people want to love where they live, and the classic finishes usually feel the best and are comfortable.

  • Kare Nann says:

    Did you read Kate Wagner/McMansion Hell’s article about “Liberating Our Homes From the Real Estate–Industrial Complex” on The Nation?

  • Kay says:

    Loved “Remember, ugly is always on sale.” So true!

    We have a neighbor who flips houses. He tends toward trendy finishes but also has an Airbnb lake house that my husband says is beautiful. Anyway, he was in our house not long ago and told my husband it would sell in a flash. Thanks mostly to your advice, all the hard finishes—kitchen, bathrooms, and floors—are timeless. People we know have asked us to let them know if we decide to sell, and a young woman who took care of our cat told her mother she wanted to live here. Visitors tell us it’s beautiful. And we love it, of course.

  • Lorri says:

    I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen someone replace their kitchen or bath knobs, handles, and faucets with stark black.

    Updated nickel or brass would be so much better than the disrupting black pieces that relate to nothing at all.

  • Tara Dillard says:

    Request. Same topic, but for rental properties. Not their ‘renovation’ but that sliver of time between tenants. Cleaning it, getting minor touch ups, and repairs made.

    Rents are quite expensive, equal to mortgage payments, require credit report to rent, and owner wanting best tenant possible.

    Landlord using their own paint colors, for their rentals is an ‘easy’ go to, for saving money. Assuming landlord cares and reads YOU.

    Thanks !!

  • I was so close to getting a wood floor with grey in it. Thanks to you, when we relocated and purchased this house 2 yrs. ago, we got a warm medium brown and couldn’t be happier!

  • DD says:

    When we looked for a house, we did not even bother touring houses with trendy flooring.

    It is nothing but bad options: tear it out immediately, or wait until the floors hit the end of their useful life. That could be decades. And by then, it will look as dated as green carpet from the ‘70s.

    So many older houses in our area are getting “upgrades” that destroy their appeal. Agents might not even realize how many buyers they’re losing out on.

    One thing I never regretted in our first home was immediately tearing out dated bathroom tile and putting in white subway tile! It looked just as fresh and current 8 years later when we put it on the market. Always go classic. And I love you for reinforcing that!!

  • Lisa says:

    Excellent advice, though I’m about to do a kitchen reno and wonder if tile walls aren’t, themselves, a trend we don’t realize is a trend? When I look at decor books from the 70s to the aughts, tiled walls aren’t in any North American houses (other than historic ones from, like, the 1920s.) It’s really something that’s taken off in the past decade-ish. I can instantly date a kitchen with subway tile walls to the past decade.

    Do you worry we’ll be ripping out all these tile walls in a few years?

  • Joy says:

    Maria, please tell me what is the light & pale timeless wood flooring in the photo. What is the colour name? Thank you.

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