Using color throughout a home can be expressive, creative and hold cultural significance. But what happens to that level of personalization when it’s time to sell?
According to Jeannie Do, homeowners preparing a property to sell need to look past their own emotional connection to color and focus on what changes – like a fresh coat of paint – can elevate their home’s overall aesthetic, appeal to buyers, and potentially increase ROI.
Do, an agent and member of the International Group with RE/MAX Professionals in Lakewood, Colorado, holds a BFA degree in Interior Design and spent 10 years designing luxury homes and commercial spaces. Through projects as intimate as renovating a mid-century modern home and as sizable as designing NFL stadiums, Do has developed a keen eye for the role color plays in creating an experiential space and the impact it has on consumers.
Do shares what sellers should – and should not – change up when it comes to their home’s interior paint colors, and what shades serve best as a visual template for prospective buyers.
Reconsidering bright colors
Colors used to express oneself, Do believes, can oftentimes be a reflection of their personality, mindset and values. Working with clients from all around the world, including countries like Morocco, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico and more, Do regularly sees the tie between home color and culture.
“As a member of the International Group with RE/MAX Professionals, we work with a lot of Asian clientele and in many Asian households, you may see the color red because it represents good fortune and is very auspicious,” she explains. “Red is a color of high energy and I think that can relate to the dynamic of Asian families who cherish their extended family and host lively gatherings all together.”
She continues, “That said, red is typically a color we would avoid in home staging because it’s seen as a statement color.”
Many home stagers agree that while color is a great way to be expressive while living in a space, it’s often best to eliminate brighter shades when preparing a home to sell in order to appeal to more buyers.
“When it’s time to sell, you should aim to remove yourself from the house and make it a blank slate – almost like an art gallery,” Do says. “Galleries usually have white walls because it allows the art to shine without making an impression on it. I tell my clients to approach their own homes in the same way – you need to set your house up as the neutral gallery for the buyer to see as their next piece of art.”
Aligning with trends
While neutral paint colors are typically timeless, Do shares that there can be a place for brighter colors to stay up or be added in when preparing a home to sell. If the seller’s goal is to match their home with current design trends, like today’s buzz around mid-century modern style, for example, then in-theme colors may be embraced by prospective buyers.
“Right now, the rich jewel tones are on trend, like hunter greens, deep blues and mustard yellows. If they’re implemented in a design-forward way that could appeal to the current buying market, I would say to leave it up on the walls and carefully curate the space around it,” she says.
Do warns that some wall colors, on the other hand, can actually date a home.
“Color doesn’t necessarily always have to go. But if we’re seeing those dark brown or rich red hues from the early 2000s, it may do a disservice to the overall aesthetic of your home. In these cases, I definitely recommend changing it to a color that’s more neutral,” Do advises.
Homes vary in size, have unique layouts and receive different quantities of natural light, thus requiring different shades and undertones of paint even within one color family. That said, Do often finds herself suggesting the colors Swiss Coffee by Benjamin Moore, a neutral-toned white, and Pure White by Sherwin Williams, a creamier tone, to her clients as safe bets for creating a gallery-like effect.
Consumer preferences also have a longstanding history of mirroring societal trends. While cooler grays were preferred for a period of time, warmer neutrals are rising in popularity.
“Because of the change in lifestyle due to COVID-19 in the last couple of years, people are actually starting to favor warmer tones for their mood-boosting and comforting effects. It’s all about psychology,” she explains. “Because people are so uncertain about what’s happening in the world, they want to come home to a place that makes them feel safe.”
Creating a synchronized space
Wall color surely sets a backdrop. But the rest of the elements within a home’s interior have to align to create a space that buyers can envision themselves and their families living in.
“Your furniture and décor pieces have to be cohesive with the wall color. If you have really modern furniture but dated wall colors, the interior can feel disconnected,” Do says. “It’s much harder for buyers to picture how they would personalize, furnish and decorate the home when it doesn’t feel natural.”
Do understands that for many, it’s not in budget to make big changes to a home before hitting the market. In addition to decluttering the space, she shares a few other tricks for staging just with existing items within the home.
“Lighting and window treatments are a relatively easy way to elevate a space. It can even be as simple as moving your curtains all the way up to the ceiling to visually elongate the walls and make the ceiling seem higher,” she explains. “Bring in as much natural light as you can. In smaller spaces, consider swapping out heavier curtains for ones that are sheer to really optimize sunlight.”
A qualified seller’s agent will have insight on the local housing market, have seen comparable properties, and can provide further suggestions to help prep a home to sell.
“When it’s time to sell, just keep in mind that you’re trying to appeal to others’ taste, not your own. Getting rid of personalization and loud wall colors can help the process move along much smoother and attract more buyers along the way,” Do says.