put lipstick on a pig property

How to Put Lipstick on a Pig — Property

It’s a new year and a new opportunity for even more success in real estate. I’m sure you have a list of real estate goals you’re ready to tackle, but first, let’s talk about unsightly properties.

Not all renovations are equal, and neither are all properties. Some, while fully functional, are downright ugly! What can you do to fix up a pig of a property and make it shine?

Cover Your Basics

While it’s exciting to make upgrades and get an investment to sparkle, none of that will matter if the roof is leaking on a rainy day or the buyer tests out the sinks and there is no drainage!

Buyers expect to have these basic amenities taken care of when purchasing a home (unless you’re advertising it specifically as a fixer upper). If they notice any of these underlying issues, like a rusty HVAC system or cracked windows, they might just run for the door.

Kitchens and Bathrooms

With that said, the biggest ROI areas to improve are first the kitchen, then the bathroom. These are where buyers tend to look first in a home to see if they fit their specific needs.

In a dream world with a huge investment budget, there are a lot of options for you. You could go in and do a major remodel of the kitchen and bathrooms. You could even add a few extra rooms to the property.

However, those may not be worth all that money or time. According to Remodeling Magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value report, a minor kitchen remodel recouped over 20% more of its value than a major project.

Just as with kitchens, the smaller the bathroom remodel, the higher your ROI on average.

What should you prioritize in a kitchen if you have the budget to get started?

  • Countertops
  • Backsplash
  • Fresh paint
  • Clean or replace flooring (depending on existing flooring and condition)
  • Flow

Some may go all in for brand new top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances. They’re popular on home improvement shows, but they don’t have the best ROI. Depending on your local market, you may be expected to leave the appliances. While it’s not necessary to provide appliances in a home sale, get to know the expectations in your area; it could easily move the needle on the resale value if you are on the wrong side of the local custom.

If you have the hookups for everything from a dishwasher to dryer, you’re set up for success. Focus more on the bones and function of the room. That’s what buyers will look for too.

You want to make sure that the sink, fridge, and range are all in convenient locations. If someone notices that the sink is in the corner and the dishwasher won’t open all the way because of the fridge placement, that might be worth a larger remodeling project.

Budget Improvements

If you paid a little too much for your property and are on a budget, there is still a lot you can do. Here is a list of some things you can tackle yourself to increase your ROI without hiring a contractor or designer.

  • Paint the walls
  • Paint the cabinets
  • Install new hardware (pulls) on cabinets and drawers
  • Replace countertop (this one can be pricey but there are many budget options out there for DIY investors)
  • Install backsplash
  • Clean

The cheapest thing you can do regardless of the room or budget is clean. Nobody wants to imagine their life in a tomato-stained kitchen.

Bathroom Upgrades

Without breaking the bank, you can shine up the bathrooms in your property. Add a new faucet or light fixture to inject some shine into a dimly lit room.

Make sure to clean the bathroom until it sparkles — no one will be able to imagine a future in a dingy bathroom.

Also, check your sealants. If there is cracked caulk, that’s a quick afternoon project. You can pick up a tube of caulk for somewhere around $10 at your local home improvement store and do it yourself.

Interior Upgrades


Putting a fresh coat of paint on your property really does make a world of difference. You can cover up all manner of mystery spots with a solid coat of paint. If you have big holes (larger than for hanging items), you will want to spackle those first to ensure an even coat.

Paint gives a property a fresh new look, and it isn’t limited to just the walls. Painting cabinets is a great way to refresh a dated kitchen or bathroom. Also, you may be able to paint your flooring if it’s worse for wear.

If you’re on a budget, simply paint it yourself. Grab a huge roll of painter’s tape, a few gallons of paint, and go to town. If you have a bit more money to work with, you can hire a professional to do it for you.


You never know what time of day prospective buyers will want to see your property. A lot of us spend most of our hours in the evenings at home in the dark. Investing in some recessed lighting in key areas like the kitchen and bathroom can make a big difference.


If you have a property filled with frayed carpeting (or carpeting at all, especially in Florida), that might be a tough sell. Trying to replace it on a dime could be difficult, but you can start by ripping it all out yourself and hiring a professional to finish installation.

If you are up to the task of replacing flooring on your own, be it carpet or a more durable alternative (like laminate or vinyl), then go for it. If not, you can always replace rooms with the most wear and leave the rest.

A couple other inexpensive DIY alternatives are putting in peel and stick linoleum or buying a large area rug from Walmart to cover up problem spots.

Exterior Upgrades

When a prospective buyer arrives at your property, they will see it first from the curb. Curb appeal is very real, and humans are notorious for making snap judgments based on emotion rather than logic.

Do yourself a favor and make sure that, even if you don’t have the most elaborate landscape, you take care of the property’s exterior.

That means mowing the lawn and trimming hedges. A lawn can become overgrown in a ridiculously short amount of time, and you don’t want a bit of grass getting in the way of your profit.

Also, if you have an extra $100 or so, keep it well lit. Exterior lighting has proven to add value to outdoor living spaces.

Keep it Clean

If you can, add a few potted plants to brighten up the walkway (if you have one) and make sure to throw out any old welcome mats. Replace those with new ones, which cost about $12 apiece at any big box store.

Again, cleaning is your best friend. Pressure wash any old siding — if there is flaking paint, remove it and repaint if possible. Make sure to clean the gutters.

What to Upgrade

Garage doors were ranked the highest ROI of all upgrades on Remodeling Magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report.

At 94% ROI, having a garage door replaced topped the chart. Not far behind it were siding replacement and window replacement. Replacing entry doors also made the charts at 65% ROI.

Depending on the buyer, these things may factor into their ability to buy. Some loan programs are more difficult to get approved for when the property has damaged siding or windows. Ensuring these are maintained or replaced can make a world of difference.

No Upgrade Is Final

There are always more things to fix, replace, and upgrade. Something that has recently grown in popularity with the aging boomer generation is universal access. By making properties handicap accessible, you open the property to a whole new array of buyers who want to continue to live in their own home for as long as possible.

If you bought a pig of a property, you have endless options for dressing it up. Hopefully you have an idea of where to get started now. Make sure to list your flip at the best time of year for the highest ROI!

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Gina Soldano

Gina Soldano

Gina Soldano is a professional writer with seven years of experience writing online. She has written articles, blog posts, social media copy, email marketing, and ghostwritten for others on a wide range of topics including writing, health, real estate, and more.

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