Why Real Estate Experts Will Always Recommend Painting Your Home Off-White

published Jun 15, 2019
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It’s a classic House Hunters trope: An optimistic realtor leads a couple (with completely incompatible tastes) into a house, chirping about the benefits of the property. Then, inevitably, someone screws up their face in disgust and exclaims, “Pink walls?!”

HGTV-watchers across the country groan. By now, we all know: Paint colors can be changed easily and inexpensively!

We collectively scream at the television, “Are you really going to turn down a house because of some yellow walls?” It might seem like those House Hunters are being willfully obtuse for refusing to see beyond paint color. But in the real world, paint color does have an effect on homebuyers, albeit a more subtle one. Little things like general upkeep and paint can inadvertently color (see what I did there?!) first impressions of homes.

Every year, Zillow releases a paint color analysis. Using data from hundreds of thousands of listings, the company is able to link certain shades to selling better or worse than similar homes with white walls. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all color to avoid, but certain colors in certain rooms do show a trend. For example, 2018’s analysis saw that yellow and black exteriors, as well as red and orange kitchens, sold for less than expected. On average, these colors don’t affect sale price by more than a few percentage points. However, since homes are so expensive, that can add up to a few thousand dollars.

The biggest dip in value was for yellow home exteriors. On average they sold for 1.6 percent—or $3,408—less than estimated. Since repainting a house can cost as much as $3,000, you might decide it’s not worth trying to recoup projected loses.

But it can be worth repainting interiors, even if you expect the new owners will repaint as soon as they get the keys. Amanda Pendleton, Zillow’s lifestyle expert, recommends reaching for the paint brush if you’re going to list your house. 

Neutral colors appeal to the widest range of buyers because they serve as a blank canvas, allowing buyers to envision themselves in a home,” she says.

According to Luke Schrader, a realtor with Schrader Group in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a coat of white paint helps rooms appear fresh and well-maintained.

If you choose another neutral color, Schrader another piece of advice: Go a shade lighter.

“A lot of time, people are overconfident a color will look the same on their walls as it does on a swatch,” he says, “In reality, it is darker in person due to lighting affected by windows, furniture, and knickknacks in the room.”

There is one room where you don’t have to stick to neutrals, though. According to the Zillow analysis, homes with blue bathrooms sell for an average of $2,786 above the expected sale price. So while you’re breaking out the taupe and gray cans, consider adding a periwinkle blue in there. (Or steal one of these real estate agent-approved blues!)

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