“Paint before listing” sounds like a simple instruction – but it’s not. Color is important, and not all walls need painted if sellers are on a tight budget.
NEWARK, N.J. – Carole Goeas hoped her Alexandria, Virginia, condo would command a high price when she put it on the market in March. But when her real estate agent suggested she could boost the property’s appeal by sprucing it up with “Burnished Clay” paint, she balked.
“I hated the name of the paint and never would have picked it,” Goeas says. But her agent, Chris Fischer of McEnearney Associates, was right. The repainted condo sold in just 10 days at the listing price of $600,000.
The color, from Behr, “made the condo look twice as big, especially with the contrast of crisp white trim,” says Goeas, a political fundraising consultant.
Painting your home before putting it up for sale can be critical to selling it faster and for a better price, says Dan DiClerico, a smart home expert for HomeAdvisor, a home improvement platform, in New York City.
“While it varies a lot, we estimate that fresh paint adds 1% to 3% to a home’s final sale price,” he says. “On a $300,000 home, that means you could be getting $3,000 to as much as $9,000 more.”
Given the relatively inexpensive cost of painting, DiClerico suggests it’s a good investment even if it just helps you sell faster. However, sellers make two common mistakes: either they don’t paint at all or they paint every single inch, which may be unnecessary, he says.
Low-cost, high-impact improvement
A recent “Hidden Cost of Selling” report by Zillow, an online real estate database, found that sellers spend an average of $2,400 for exterior painting and $1,245 for interior painting. The amount varies according to the size of the property, how much preparation is required and whether you do it yourself or hire professional painters.
In Virginia, Goeas spent $4,900 on professionals who painted the ceiling, walls, trim and built-in bookcases in her two-bedroom, two-bath condo.
“The combination of professional painters and professional photos made all the difference in getting my condo sold fast,” she says.
While painting a 2,300-square-foot house can cost between $4,000 and $11,000, says DiClerico, there’s no need to go all-in.
“Sellers should focus on high-traffic and first-impression areas such as the kitchen, the bathrooms and the foyer,” he says.
HomeAdvisor estimates that exterior painting ranges from $3,000 to $6,000 or more.
“If you’re on a budget, pick your battles,” said Kerrie Kelly, owner of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab in Sacramento, California, and interior design spokesperson for Zillow. “At a minimum, I’d paint the front door, the main living space, and the kitchen. You could paint the bathrooms, too, but you might be better off just giving the grout a good cleaning.”
Glossy front, neutral interior
To appeal to the broadest range of buyers, choosing the right color is essential.
“The most popular photos of the exterior of houses this year include lots of white paint,” says Mitchell Parker, an editor for Houzz, a website for sharing information about architecture, design and decorating, in Palo Alto, California. “That’s a shift in recent years and includes crisp white contemporary houses, solid white farmhouses and creamy Mediterranean and Spanish-style houses. We’re even seeing brick houses painted white.”
Kelly recommends adding a darker or brighter front door for curb appeal. She suggests a semi-gloss or even high-gloss black or navy-blue front door to add excitement to a white house.
Inside, though, “Neutral plays well,” Kelly says. “You don’t want bright yellow or red walls because you want people to visualize themselves and their furniture in the house.”
According to Houzz, the most popular color for walls in the kitchen and bathrooms is gray, followed by white and beige.
“In an open floor plan, white unifies the space so your eyes aren’t distracted by a lot of color,” Parker says. “Then buyers can add a little color if they want with their furniture or window treatments.”
For bedrooms, soothing colors such as a very light blue or very light gray are best, he says. Sometimes a darker yet neutral gray or blue can work in a private space such as a home office or media room where the doors are typically closed, Parker suggests.
Painting your walls with eggshell or satin finish paint, which are easy to clean and more forgiving of flaws in the walls, is especially important in rooms that get a lot of use, such as the kitchen or bathroom, says Kelly.
Your taste may lean brighter, but when selling your home, Kelly advises that you stick to a neutral, unified palette of white, light gray and maybe a touch of light blue, throughout the space.