Prior to placing your home on the market to sell, your realtor may suggest that you touch up your home with a few minor repairs, replacements, and refinishes in order to increase its value. Often, this includes adding a fresh coat of interior paint. If your walls wear the work of grubby handprints, spaghetti sauce, and children’s artwork, then a new paint job is certainly worth the investment. A relatively low cost upgrade, fresh paint makes the house appear cleaner (because it is) and helps potential buyers envision their own families living in the home. In fact, a 2017 Zillow analysis found that color can affect the sale price of a home by as much as $5,000! So, what color should you select? Should you use monocolor or a palette? We spoke with several seasoned real estate professionals and researched national paint trends to determine the best paint options to increase the value of your home.
When given the choice between neutrals or vibrant colors, 96% of NV Realty Group agents voted neutral colors, citing that these safe tones make the space seem warm and inviting, and they generally appeal to a broad range of buyers. Top-selling neutral paints include Benjamin Moore’s Manchester Tan, Bleeker Beige, and Shaker Beige; and Sherwin Williams’ Whole Wheat, Kilim Beige, and Basket Beige. Cherie Gallagher, who sells real estate on Kiawah/Seabrook Island in South Carolina, notes that in her experience “a fresh coat of light cream beige tones give the initial impression of a clean, clutter-free home.” Astrid and Michael McManus, who also serve the Kiawah/Seabrook real estate region, recently sold a home that had been stagnant on the market for nearly two years. “As soon as the owner changed the red and yellow wall paint to Accessible Beige (Sherwin Williams), the home sold,” stated Astrid. “It’s amazing how instaneously a fresh coat of neutral paint alters the interior appearance of a home,” adds Michael.
In recent years, shades of gray have stormed the neutral paint color wheel as well. “Light gray is the new neutral,” quips MJ McElwaney, a polished real estate professional who specializes in Northern Palm Beach County, Florida. The “gray is the new tan” trend doesn’t seem to be losing speed, either. In fact, one of Benjamin Moore’s top-selling paint for the past few years is Revered Pewter, a greige-ish color that works well with virtually any interior style. Other popular Benjamin Moore paints in this hue include Edgecomb Gray and Classic Gray. For Sherwin Williams paint, Pottery Barn designers showcase the Light French Gray and Urban Putty as top choices for a neutral-based interior.
Crisp and clean, shades of white can make a residence appear bigger and brighter than other properties. Specifically, soft whites work well in living rooms, family rooms, and hallways. NV Realty Group South Carolina agent Charlie Palmer says “white paint with a faint touch of light gray is my go to for spec homes and sales.” Plus, white will always be in style. Many homeowners are adding white shiplap to home offices or dining rooms, which also increases the property value. Popular paints include Benjamin Moore’s Simply White, a timeless classic that was the top seller in 2016; and Sherwin Williams’ Ivorie, a subtle white with cream undertones.
The only exception for white paint is bathrooms. According to the Zillow study, white or off-white bathrooms can reduce the final sale price by as much as $4,000! By contrast, bathrooms painted powder blue or periwinkle sold for more than $5,000 on average. “White walls in a bathroom appear institutional,” says MJ. “This is a small space where you can play with trendier colors,” she adds.
Though neutrals and whites will never go out of style, current paint trends pivot toward drastic colors such dark purple, bright red, and peachy oranges. In fact, Benjamin Moore’s 2017 paint of the year is Shadow, a rich amethyst shade that demands attention and respect. Though these bold colors may appeal to some, save personal style for your primary home, not necessarily the one you wish to sell. Toula DiGiovanni, who also specializes in Kiawah and Seabrook Islands, recalls a home for sale that donned rainbow colors on the walls and ceilings to coordinate with a multi-color rug. “Because this was the client’s second home, she wanted the house to be different and fun,” recalls Toula. “But after two years of no offers and only a handful of showings, the client agreed to repaint.” At Toula’s suggestion, they opted for a cool grey, green, and light blue color scheme. The home sold in three months!
Dramatic colors do work in some areas though. Per the Zillow analysis, painting the front door navy or bright blue will increase the value by $1,500. Kitchens, dining rooms, and master bedrooms that showcase a cerulean color can increase the home’s value by as much as $1,900. Myra Alexander, a NV Realty Group agent who focuses on condo conversions, suggests saving bold colors for accent walls. “If tastefully done, bold colors on accent walls will make the home memorable. This is a tactic designers often use because it boosts the aesthetic appeal,” she says.
Other experts agree. We spoke with Chicago Interior Designer Candy Scott of Mood Design + Build who spoke to the importance of color balance. "We have a strong sense of trying to coolness of navy with the warmth of a color like sienna. Color is an essential component to unification and composition," she says.
Interior designers also advise using a palette that blends neutrals or whites throughout the house with pops of bolder color in smaller spaces such as powder rooms or laundry rooms. However, some real estate agents say it is unnecessary to purchase different gallons of paint; instead, they suggest to use a soft monocolor throughout the home so buyers can focus on the bones of the house, not the color of the walls. “Truthfully, many homebuyers will repaint the walls to suit their color preference once they move in,” says John Cullen, who specializes in North Palm Beach and Jupiter, Florida. “Time and time again, buyers see the same house and comment, “I love the color!” or “Oh, it needs paint!” Jeanne Weekley, a Charleston, South Carolina based real estate agent, agrees with that assertion. “In my opinion, the less variety of colors throughout the house, the better,” she adds.
Although monocolor works well for smaller residences and condos, those selling a large, custom estate will want to find an appropriate palette. Broker-in-Charge Todd Vance notes that “unless fully staging a home, sellers do not need a specific decor theme; however, one color in an expansive estate may appear boring and out-of-date.”
Interestingly, just as some colors can increase the value of your home, other colors may cause buyers to lowball your sale price. These include marigold or yellow in the kitchen and brick red or terracotta in the dining room, which can decrease the home value by as much as $820 and $2,000, respectively. Periwinkle living rooms, white bathrooms, and pastel pink master bedrooms also reduce the final sale price by as much as $800 to $4,000.
Because trends in paint color are always revolving, talk with your real estate agent about whether or not you should invest in interior paint colors. Without question, this low-cost upgrade may mean more money in your pocket at the end of the day.