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Let’s be clear: Denver is still not a buyer’s market. But with interest rates rising, “gone are the days that a seller can simply put a sign in the yard and expect their home to sell,” the Denver Metro Association of Realtors declared late this past summer. Houses sat for an average of 19 days in August, a 46 percent increase over the previous month. “With this slight market shift, you need to be the coolest option in [your home’s price range],” says Kelly Reed, a broker with Milehimodern. The former interior designer has spent the past few years perfecting what she calls her mini-flip process, in which she persuades sellers to pay for “minor changes with massive impact” (think: paint, light fixtures, and staging, not kitchen counters or bathroom renos). Reed says the strategy can boost sale prices by the tens of thousands and help move properties in challenging locations—as evidenced by these case studies that demonstrate the power, and payback, of investing in a little refresh.
1. Lights, Action
The Backstory: With an ideal location between Sloan’s Lake and 32nd Avenue but suburban-feeling finishes and fixtures, this Highland home was appraised for $1,100,000 in October 2021.
The Makeover ($10,000): Because Reed didn’t have enough money to change the floors or backsplash, her mission was to distract potential buyers from them, partly with light fixtures. In addition to an “absolute ban on boob lights,” Reed insists on chandeliers: “Everyone wants a spot where they think they can entertain, even if they never do.” Reed had an electrician install a junction box (about $300) and ordered a $64, six-light, black Shgyobo candelabra from Amazon to go over the table.
The Result: The house sold early this year for $1,210,000.
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2. Frost Yourself
Wash Park Bungalow
The Backstory: In 2019, the homeowners listed their unstaged, taupe-heavy bungalow at $895,000 with another agent. After a month, a drop to $849,000, and no compelling offers, they took the property off the market.
The Makeover ($10,500): Reed spent a week and a half having the walls painted white—her go-to is Benjamin Moore’s Frostine AF-5, a money-saver because it only requires two coats—and the earthy stone fireplace a striking deep gray (Benjamin Moore’s Graphite 1603). The contrast helped Reed achieve the modern farmhouse aesthetic that’s popular with buyers in this price range.
The Result: The home went up for sale again at $950,000 in the fall of 2021. The owners received four offers and closed at $1,015,000.
3. Stage Craft
Mayfair Brick Colonial
The Backstory: Reed knew this 2,474-square-foot home’s location on busy Colorado Boulevard would present a challenge, especially during this past summer’s slowdown: Nearby houses along the thoroughfare had averaged 28 days on the market over the previous year.
The Makeover ($14,500): A full $3,000 of Reed’s budget went to local staging company Perch to help fill the sparsely appointed property. “People want to imagine the romance of living in a space,” Reed says—in addition to seeing the potential uses of every square foot, which is why she furnished a catch-all area next to the living room as a modish home office.
The Result: In August, the owner accepted an asking-price offer of $734,000 after just six days on the market. When that buyer backed out, more offers came in: The home went under contract in five days and eventually closed at $759,000.