Selling an Older Home Without an Open Floor Plan

Modern Home Layout For hundreds of years, the typical house was a series of rooms with four walls and a door, and each room could be closed off from the others.

In the days of fireplaces and coal stoves, this made perfect sense: Shutting rooms that weren't in use made it easier to heat the area where people were actually spending time, saving money on fuel and keeping out drafts.

After World War II, however, popular design trends changed. Thousands of new homes sprang up in subdivisions across the country, and they took advantage of stronger structural beams and better central heating systems. These improvements allowed for more open floor plans, which made small houses feel more spacious by eliminating walls between the kitchen and dining area. Once people got a taste of this new way of living, the walls really started to come down, and today houses are often built with few dividers between living areas.

Open floor plans have remained hugely popular, so it can be challenging to sell an older house with a traditional layout. If you have a house with a "closed floor plan" — individual rooms with hallways and doors — you might find that your number one bit of feedback after a showing is that buyers are looking for more open space.

What can you do to make your house stand out in this situation? Here are some staging tricks and decorative tips to make your home seem open and more appealing to modern buyers.

Bring in More Light

One of the reasons buyers shy away from traditional floor plans is that all of those walls block off a lot of natural light. Your living room might be bright and sunny in the morning if you have east-facing windows, but it will be much gloomier as the sun moves during the day.

To alleviate this, a coat of paint can do wonders. Brighten up your rooms with pale shades or even a nice coat of light colored paint. In north-facing rooms, avoid cool colors, as they will typically accentuate the fact that the room is always in the shade.

Another way to enhance the amount of natural light in your space is to remove window dressings. If your windows are architecturally interesting, you might be able to get away with leaving them bare, but most houses are best staged with a light window treatment. Remove blinds or open them all the way, and opt for sheers or thin white curtains instead of heavy drapes to make each room seem airy and full of light.

Deal With Doors

You'll definitely want to leave doors between rooms standing wide open when you show your home — forcing buyers to turn the knobs and open doors will only accentuate the fact that your house has a more traditional floor plan. Invest in a few door stops to hold the doors in place at their widest possible angle. 

You could also consider removing doors in the public spaces of your home. This is especially useful if there are double doors on the main floor, since removing them will create the look of an open floor plan. You'll need to patch or replace the door frames so the spots where hinges and locks once were are erased. If your doors aren't interesting antiques, this can make a big difference.

Consider Bringing Down Some Walls

If you've tried redecorating and staging and are still having trouble selling your house due to its floor plan, you may wish to speak to an architect. Drawing up plans for the removal of a wall will show tentative buyers that your house is full of incredible potential, and including the plans in the sale of the house makes their lives easier.

It's also a way to reassure buyers that their dreams of an open floor plan are structurally feasible, even if they ultimately choose a different design than the one you show them. Your real estate agent can help you find a good architect and suggest the most buyer-friendly features to include in the drawings. Hiring an architect is an investment, but it can sometimes pay off with a quicker sale of your home. Of course, you'll want to run the numbers with your real estate agent to see if this is a good investment.

However, there are plenty of people out there who love an old-fashioned floor plan and relish the privacy that doors can offer. There's even evidence that buyers are starting to turn their back on open concept kitchens in particular, since they prefer to hide their mess from guests. You may find a buyer who wants what you've already got, so talk to your agent about the market before making any drastic changes on your own.

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