Selling a house can be a stressful endeavor, especially if you feel strongly about maximizing your profit.
But making your home feel more appealing and worthy of a higher price tag doesn’t necessarily require much extra effort. In fact, you can achieve this goal with something as simple as new interior paint colors.
“Repainting is definitely a must when selling,” said Tash Bradley, head color specialist at the paint and wallpaper brand Lick. “Most people are so busy these days that they don’t have the time to think about redecorating or, in some cases, the disposable income to decorate, so fresh paint has a huge appeal when looking to purchase.”
In addition to making rooms feel fresh and modern, paint can also boost the perceived value of a home.
“We don’t realize how much wear and tear we can create on the walls of our home, so even a single fresh coat of paint will create a perfect look as well as hide any odors,” said interior designer and color expert Jennifer Guerin.
But it’s not as simple as deciding to splash a new coat of any random paint on the interior walls. You also have to be strategic about the hues you select.
Below, experts explain the power of paint in home sales and share their advice for choosing the right colors.
Paint sets the mood.
“With colors having both emotive reactions and personal meaning, and a house purchase often being driven by ‘how it feels,’ paint can definitely have an impact,” said Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist who has researched the psychological aspects of color and space.
If you’re selling your house, it’s helpful to think about the type of buyers you want to attract and the sort of environment that would appeal to them. Colors can make or break a sale.
“Color has a tremendous amount of power when it comes to the look and feel of a home,” said color consultant Amy Wax. “The colors you select will create the mood, determine how comfortable a space is, make a space work for your needs and give your home its identity or personality. Color can completely transform a space by accomplishing each of these goals.”
“It appears certain colors appealed to the most buyers because those colors allowed them to project their self-image onto a home and imagine themselves living there.”
Multiple experts advised choosing a zero-VOC paint to minimize its effect on health and the environment. It’s also useful to choose tones that make rooms feel more open, sun-drenched and spacious.
“Painting rooms can make the space feel bigger, so it’s great if you are trying to sell a smaller house or flat,” Bradley said.
Certain shades can boost sales prices.
Much of the meaning of color is subjective, but there are general trends when it comes to interior paint preferences. Earlier this year, Zillow partnered with Behr Paint Co. to identify the colors that boost home sales prices. They surveyed nearly 1,300 recent or prospective U.S. home buyers and found that certain hues could increase the offer price on an average house by up to $5,000.
“The right paint color in the right room can have a big impact on a buyer’s first impression of a home and how much they’re willing to pay for it,” Zillow home trends expert Amanda Pendleton told HuffPost. “Zillow’s interior paint color analysis found recent and prospective home buyers made assumptions about the home ― and the seller ― based on the colors they saw on the walls. It appears certain colors appealed to the most buyers because those colors allowed them to project their self-image onto a home and imagine themselves living there.”
The survey found that homes with light blue bedrooms could sell for 1.6% more than expected, which translates to about $4,700 on a typical U.S. home valued at $290,000. Dark blue bedrooms could up the sales price by nearly $1,500.
“The survey determined neutral hues like Ethereal Mood MQ3-52, Sojourn Blue M500-5 and Polar Bear 75 have a positive effect on both purchase intent and prices,” Erika Woelfel, vice president of color and creative services at Behr, told HuffPost. “The versatile colors make for a warm, inviting environment compared to bright, over-the-top walls painted bright pink, green or purple.”
Indeed, the survey found that mint green kitchens could sell for $1,800 less than expected, and buyers had similarly negative feelings about bright red and yellow kitchens. White kitchens and gray living rooms resulted in the highest intentions to view and purchase a home.
“Paint is a relatively easy and inexpensive change, but Zillow’s study found buyers were particularly sensitive to paint color in how they were valuing homes,” Pendleton said. ”Our behavioral scientists believe it’s because buyers are navigating a complex environment with a lot of uncertainty. People don’t buy homes every day, so they’re trying to take in and process a lot of information about a subject they’re not familiar with, and that’s why certain cues like color are more impactful in their decision-making.”
Neutrals and soft hues are a safe bet.
When selling a home, the conventional wisdom is that you want prospective buyers to see the space as a blank canvas for their dreams.
“Often, bold and vibrant colors can trigger adverse reactions, which when it comes to selling a home can have the potential buyer struggling to see how they would convert it to their preference,” Chambers said. “Softer colors and a freshly painted wall itself look well-maintained, loved and provide a canvas for bolder colors of the buyer’s choice to be overlaid as an accent color, allowing them to envision what they can do with the space. When you get people starting to see this, a little bit of ownership can build, making it more likely they will want to take that a step further.”
“It’s much easier to have an emotional reaction to colors compared to neutrals, and when it comes to selling a home, no reaction is better than a negative one.”
According to Pendleton, the Zillow study found that bold, bright colors were most effective at grabbing a buyer’s attention, but that was the extent of their effect.
“Buyers wanted to learn more about homes that featured unexpected color choices. Yet at the end of the day, they didn’t necessarily want to purchase those homes or pay more for them,” she explained. “Ultimately, selecting bright paint colors may be a good selling tactic in a buyer’s market where buyers have many options, but it could be a riskier move in a seller’s market.”
This finding is consistent with interior designer Kylie Mawdsley’s advice. The founder of Kylie M Interiors emphasized the importance of mass appeal and choosing colors that people might not love but at least they won’t hate.
“For example, a lot of people would be put off by a bright red bedroom,” Mawdsley explained. “But while they might not love a gray bedroom, they might not be as ‘psychologically’ put off by it. It’s much easier to have an emotional reaction to colors compared to neutrals, and when it comes to selling a home, no reaction is better than a negative one.”
It doesn’t need to be all white everywhere.
“The most important thing to remember when selling a home is to give your home a personality and not have it appear like it has no soul,” Wax said.
She’s often seen homeowners paint their interiors completely white or light gray before putting them on the market but believes this stark, monotonous look can feel the opposite of homey.
“When I say give your home a personality, I mean choose colors that a potential buyer can find appealing, feel good about and move right into!” Wax explained. “A selection of pale colors, like soft neutrals, greens or light blues, mixed with off-whites are soothing and immediately appealing. Choosing the right colors can make your home inviting and pleasant from the moment a potential buyer walks in the door, and those emotions can translate into that buyer choosing your home over another!”
Bradley echoed this sentiment, highlighting the power of strategic color choices to make potential buyers feel at home.
“When someone is faced with a white box, it’s hard to envision yourself in the space or picture yourself living there,” she explained. “Colors bring a space and room to life; they make what can feel quite flat feel alive! By having color around the house, it inspires people, so while you may not keep the kitchen blue, it allowed you to envisage painting it green or whatever. And, in turn, you image what it would be like to have this as your home.”
Color expert Joan Ffolliott noted that homes in higher-end areas often feature more creativity with color choices, so bolder hues in particular spaces might even create a sense of luxury.
“Property that’s in a more upscale location can tend to get away with more idiosyncratic colors, more personal or daring colors,” she said. “That’s where you’re going to find darker or more intense colors, colors that have chromatic intensity, like dark blues, different kinds of greens and other things you don’t normally find in a ‘safe palette.’”
Trends are powerful.
Interior design should be about what fits your personal style and space rather than what’s trendy. But when it comes to selling your home, trends can affect how buyers perceive its value.
“Paint colors evolve with interior trends,” Pendleton said. “Think about all those taupe and brown interiors in the ’90s and the monochrome gray homes of the 2000s. As a result, paint colors can be a powerful signal about the home itself. Contemporary, trendy paint colors signal a home is modern and up to date, while less trendy paint colors could suggest the rest of the home might need updates, too, regardless of its actual condition.”
As with all trends, popular paint colors speak to a desire to attain a certain image and can say a lot about the human psyche.
“It’s the same reason we all wear the same kind of jeans for years,” Ffolliott said. “It’s the same mentality. We want to fit in. We have friends in the neighborhood who come over to our house, and we don’t want to be the oddball. There’s a kind of insecurity.”
As a result, homes with trendy paint colors can make buyers feel safe and comfortable and, therefore, more likely to see themselves living there.
Fitting the decor and space is crucial.
Don’t simply choose a color because it’s trendy or linked to higher offer prices. What looks good on Pinterest may not work well in your home, so you want to make sure the color suits your space and the interior finishes around the walls.
“When it comes to paints colors, it’s also worth remembering that it is impacted by other variables, such as the lighting in the room, the furniture and the color of adjoining rooms,” Chambers said.
He emphasized the importance of colors that create a cohesive environment overall but also allow for each room to shine on its own.
“You want the welcoming feel to flow throughout your home while creating some psychological separation between the rooms to give them a distinction,” Chambers explained.
Make sure your color choices work with your decor as well ― from the curtains and wall art to the rugs and furnishings.
“Interior paint and decor go hand in hand,” Woelfel said. “To create a welcoming space for yourself and guests, you must create a balance between the hues on your walls and the textures and colors you use for decoration.”