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Very few homes are ready to hit the market as is; the vast majority of them need a refresh before they’re ready to be viewed by the potential buyers. How far you want to go with your renovations is up to you, but one improvement is an absolute no-brainer: a fresh coat of paint.
New paint has one of the highest returns on investment (ROI) of any possible home improvement – 107% just for painting the interior walls, according to one study. Considering it can be done in a weekend, for a couple hundred dollars, the ROI for painting a house is one of the best things you can do to improve the chances of your home selling.
But there are right and wrong colors for every home, and picking the wrong color can drag the price of your home down by thousands of dollars. So what are the best paint colors for selling your house?
Below is our guide to the best – and worst – colors for each room of your house. But before we get into specifics, let’s touch on some general principles to keep in mind when you’re planning your new paint job.
- The Worst Colors to Paint Your House
- Best Paint Colors for the Bedroom
- Best Paint Colors for the Bathroom
- Best Paint Colors for the Living Room
- Best Paint Colors for the Dining Room
- Best Paint Colors for the Kitchen
- Best Paint Colors for the Home Office
- Best Paint Colors for the Exterior
- Best Paint Colors for the Front Door
- Top Agents to Help You Sell Your House
- Recommended Reading
It’s Not About Your Personal Preferences
Everyone has a personal style that they’ve refined, and that others may admire. But when it comes to getting your home ready for sale, it’s not about imposing your own personal style on the home.
This is one of the hardest lessons for home sellers to absorb: your eventual buyer isn’t going to buy your home because they love the way you’ve made it look – they’re going to buy it because they think it’s a great palette for their own aesthetic.
In that sense, you don’t even want to try and anticipate your buyer’s preferences. You want to present them with a blank canvas on which they can project their own style.
Keep It Neutral
So how do you turn your home into a blank canvas? By keeping its aesthetic as neutral as possible. Think inoffensive, neutral colors like off-white, eggshell, gray, or beige.
One of the most popular interior colors for homes on the market is “greige,” which is a blend of gray and beige. Greige is no one’s favorite color, and doesn’t provoke any strong feelings one way or the other – but that’s the point. The idea is to remove any obstacles that could prevent your buyer from imagining themselves in your home. If you painted the walls magenta, you might attract a small percentage of very enthusiastic buyers, but you’d decisively turn off far more.
Your eventual buyer might want to paint the walls magenta, but that’s the point of the blank canvas – your buyer gets to envision what the house could look like.
Selling a home is a numbers game, and you want to do everything you can to attract the most interest possible.
When sellers are told they should paint their home in neutral colors, many of them think white is the best choice. But that’s not the case.
White often looks unpleasantly stark, flat, or institutional— think of an art gallery, with its confrontational blankness, or a hospital. It also shows smudges or dirt more than any other color, which means you’ll need to clean constantly, and repaint often.
That being said, there are some situations where white walls are a good decision. Small spaces can feel larger if they’re painted white, and white walls can brighten a space that doesn’t get much light. And many people swear that an all white “cloud chamber” bedroom boosts their sleep quality.
Get a Second Opinion Before You Buy In Bulk
Experts say it takes two cans of paint to cover an average sized room, so if you’re painting the interior of your entire home, you’re going to need to buy a lot of paint.
Before you commit to your color scheme, ask someone whose taste you trust what they think of the colors you’ve chosen. Then paint a swatch and make sure it still looks good after it dries. Spending an entire weekend painting, only to realize that the gray you chose is actually more of a light avocado, is a huge waste of time and money.
Light and Square Footage Are Important
When it comes to colors, there are no hard and fast rules that fit every space.
For small rooms, light colors, pastels, or even a stark white can make the room seem larger. On the other hand, if you have a large room that seems too alienating, a darker color can make it seem more intimate.
And don’t forget the role of features like trim; painting trim the same color as the walls can make the space seem roomier; painting it a contrasting color can bring the walls in and make the space feel smaller.
Think Paint Types, Not Just Colors
Whether a paint has a flat or glossy sheen can have as much influence on the final look as the color itself.
As a general rule, you’ll want to use flat, eggshell sheets on large open walls. They’ll minimize any uneven surfaces, protruding nails or seams.
Finishes like satins or semi-glosses are good for high-traffic areas, since they resist staining, and can be wiped down easily. They’re especially good for high moisture areas like bathrooms and kitchens for the same reason.
The Worst Colors to Paint Your House
Zillow did an in-depth study of color/room combinations and found a lot of them that correlated with a higher sale price. But it also uncovered colors that were associated with drops in sale price. Let’s look at some of the color/room combinations you should avoid.
Deep, rich reds in the kitchen were associated with a $2,310 drop in sale price. The color red has been proven to increase heart rate – think of the bullfighter’s red cape – so it makes sense that this color might not work in what should be a relaxing room.
While yellow seems like a laid-back, genteel color, it seems like buyers dislike it; the Zillow study found it was associated with a $3,408 drop in price. While yellow is warm and attention-grabbing, it can also provoke feelings of anxiety and frustration; people are more likely to lose their tempers in yellow rooms.
Brown Dining Room
Dining rooms with brown walls were associated with a price drop of $1,684. This isn’t that surprising, considering that the color brown is associated with feelings of loneliness, sadness, and other negative emotions.
It can be tough to make these judgment calls if you’re a first-time or inexperienced seller. That’s why a professional’s expertise is so indispensable; they know what buyers do and don’t want, and they can help you maximize your home’s appeal.
Ready to give your home a color make-over? HomeAdvisor can connect you with top local painters free of charge.
The Best Paint Colors for Each Room of Your Home
Now let’s address the best colors for different areas of the home. Zillow actually did some research into this question, and found the color for each area that translated to the largest increase in sale price, so we’ll use that as our primary guide, while also touching on other expert recommendations.
Best Paint Colors for the Bedroom
This is the most personal room in the home, so there are a lot of different ways you can go with the colors here. As mentioned above, a lot of people swear that the best bedroom paint color is an all-white “cloud chamber” type of room; the problems you run into with white walls in other rooms, like eye strain over long periods of time, aren’t a problem if you’re sleeping.
Another solid choice in the bedroom is pink. Pink is known to have a calming effect, which is perfect for when you’re winding down after a long day. Opt for a cooler pink, like a dusty coral or pale pink, rather than something like a louder, more intense magenta.
Finally, blue walls have been shown to help improve sleep quality and duration. As with your choice of pinks, you should opt for a cooler, subtler blue; a pale grayish blue or cornflower blue is ideal for relaxation.
Best Paint Colors for the Bathroom
Choosing a color for the bathroom is more difficult than other rooms, for a few reasons. First, there are practical concerns; the bathroom is not only a high-traffic area, but walls here tend to be exposed to a lot of moisture. Second, it’s often one of the smallest spaces in the home, so you have to weigh a color’s effect on perception of the space’s size against its aesthetic appeal. And finally, the bathroom is one of the most important rooms in the house for buyers.
So what’s the best paint color for the bathroom? While white is best for small spaces, since it makes them seem larger, it’s not a great choice for bathrooms; it’s too harsh and shows wear and tear far too easily for such a heavily used space. The ideal here is something dark enough to camouflage smudges, but light enough to keep the space open.
Zillow found that a pale, grayish periwinkle blue was the best choice for bathrooms, bringing in an average price increase of $2,786. This color is dark enough to age well, without showing moisture damage, but also bright enough to be comforting. If the space still looks cramped, remember that you can paint trim the same color to make the space seem bigger. If it looks too dark, use accents like brass towel rods or taps to brighten the space.
Best Paint Colors for the Living Room
Living rooms can be a balancing act, since you want to convey a feeling of space and openness, and also intimacy and warmth. So the best paint color for the living room is going to depend on what you’re trying to downplay or accent; if the living room is slightly undersized or doesn’t get great light, you want to brighten it up with a light color that will give a sense of openness. If the living room is too cavernous, a darker color will bring the walls closer and make the room feel more intimate.
In general, you want to keep it neutral in the living room. Experts suggest beiges or grays (or “greige”), while Zillow found that a light taupe, which is a warm tan or beige with pinkish undertones, brought the biggest price increase, with a bump of $2,793.
Best Paint Colors for the Dining Room
As we discussed above, a brown dining room is very bad for your sale price, resulting in a significant price reduction. So what’s the best paint color for the dining room?
The safe choice is a neutral color like beige or off-white. But you’ll also be spending shorter periods of time here than in other rooms, so more intense colors could work. A pale blue or even a straightforward white could be a good choice here— just make sure you go for a cooler, flat sheen, rather than a satin or semi-gloss finish.
Best Paint Colors for the Kitchen
Kitchens are often the busiest room in a house so figuring out the best paint color for the kitchen takes on an outsized importance.
The Zillow study discovered one particular look that was associated with a large price increase of $1,547; tuxedo cabinets, which are light-colored upper cabinets with dark (black or navy blue) lower cabinets, with a light-colored wall for contrast.
Best Paint Colors for the Home Office
If you’ve ever worked in an office, you know that most offices have white walls. But studies have shown that white is one of the worst colors for an office. Working for sustained periods in a white room can cause eye strain and anxiety, and one study found that employees consistently made more mistakes in white rooms, compared with rooms of any other color.
So what’s the best color for your home office? It depends on what kind of work you do. Red is best for detail-oriented tasks, while blue encourages creativity. Just don’t go for gray, which can cause lower levels of confidence and even depression.
Best Paint Colors for the Exterior
We know that yellow is a poor choice, so what are buyers looking for? The best paint colors for the exterior of your home are neutral, traditional colors like white, off-white, and gray; since most buyers decide within eight seconds whether they like a home or not, it’s extremely important that you don’t alienate any buyers right off the bat with a confrontational color.
If you’re worried that painting your home white or beige will make it look too “blah” from the curb, the next section addresses that problem.
Best Paint Colors for the Front Door
The front door provides a great accent to the facade of your home, especially if your home is painted a light, neutral color.
The Zillow study suggests that you want the strongest contrast possible here, with a black front door bringing in a $6,271 increase in price – the largest increase of any single feature studied.
Top Agents Can Help
What buyers want – and don’t want – to see in a home changes as the market evolves. After all, the avocado-colored cabinets and shag carpeting that we cringe at today were once on the cutting-edge of style.
Your best resource to figure out how to maximize your home’s appeal right now is always going to be an experienced agent. A good local agent is intimately familiar with the local market, and knows exactly what prospective buyers are looking for.
Real Estate Witch has partnered with Clever Real Estate to help our readers access this kind of expertise; Clever connects sellers with pre-vetted, elite local agents who’ve agreed to sell their home for a flat fee of $3,000, or 1% if it sells for more than $350,000. They can also advise you on everything from the best paint for your kitchen, to the best day of the month to list your home. Contact Clever today for a free, no-obligation consultation!
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- Selling Your House As Is Without Losing Money – Let’s say you don’t have the time or inclination to repaint or renovate your home before it hits the market. That’s okay, and you can still profitably sell your home “as is,” if you follow the principles laid out in our comprehensive guide to selling a home “as is” without losing money.
- How Much Does It Really Cost to Sell a Home? – Ask ten people how much it costs to sell a home, and you’ll get ten different answers. We demystify the process in our primer on how much it really costs to sell a home.