Painting to Sell: What Color Homes Sell Best?

Paint samples on the living wall of an apartment.
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Wilma Horner said no to blue. And it paid off.

Horner, a broker for RE/MAX in Bridge City, Texas, had a client with a blue-colored facade. "I said we need to make a change because that's not going to attract people," Horner recalls of her exterior painting suggestion. Her clients agreed to go with a more neutral color. "It's turned out to be a positive," Horner says of the home's new look, which netted more than $100 per square foot. That is the going rate for a much newer home in the neighborhood, the Texas Realtor says with considerable pride in her voice.

Call it exterior painting to sell. Horner's basic rule, one underscored repeatedly by others with firsthand knowledge of what's selling, is to go mainstream. Try to appeal to the widest possible swath of buyers. This is no time to be idiosyncratic.

Or as Jackie Jordan, the director of color marketing for Sherwin-Williams, puts it: "Get rid of anything that's kind of obnoxious."

What are the color expert's other suggestions?

After all, Jordan is not just a color expert at one of the world's most famous paint companies. She's also a Dallas-based professional who has bought and sold many homes over the years. She always looked to make sure the color of the home she was selling had broad appeal. "Anything I thought would not appeal to the masses ... I painted over it," Jordan said.

Aaron Hart, a RE/MAX broker in Colorado, championed cream and light green and light brown for exterior paint color schemes. As someone who invests with others in properties, Brown has seen how brash colors can turn off his business partners. "They're typically more hesitant to look at the house and sometimes even skip it," he said.

Other tips on exterior painting to sell:

• "Drive around your neighborhood," suggests Sherwin-Williams' Jordan. "Get inspiration that way."

• Think about your part of the country, but don't get too stuck in that mindset. "There's definitely regional color," Jordan explains. Spicy tones might work in the Southwest; tropical areas might be more used to a little blue. But with more and more transients landing in new places, some newcomers do not necessarily adapt to their new neighborhood. Some take their style (and their furniture) with them from one part of the country to another.

• Earth tones abound. They should, according to Ainslie Dougherty, a RE/MAX Realtor in Colorado. "What I suggest to all my sellers is that they start with earth tones, nothing too bold and nothing too taste-specific." No lime greens. No oranges. "No pink unless you have an old Victorian and you are fixing it up," Dougherty says.

• Look at new home construction, Dougherty suggests. Copy what the builders of new construction are doing.

• "Make sure that your front door is beautifully painted," advised Jordan. Front doors matter, which is an argument underscored by at least one company, Therma-Tru Doors, of Toledo, Ohio. Heather Sonnenberg, the director of product management at Therma-Tru, says the biggest hurdle is getting someone into your home. When it comes to painting the door, Sonnenberg advises: "You can add a little drama, but you want to steer clear of going too far." And don't put a Craftsman-style door on a contemporary house.

Want to be all about color? Do it later. "People are more brave with color when they know they are going to stay for a while," Jordan said. "They'll go with the chocolate-brown or bright-red dining room."

Or as RE/MAX's Dougherty puts it: "After the house is yours, do what you want."

In the meantime, Horner insisted that it's all about curb appeal. Too often sellers think about what they would want, the Texas broker says. "If it's a bright person, they think about that bright color." Her suggestion: Don't.

Think about painting the exterior to please. After all, as Horner has learned about selling homes: "It's a business, not an emotion."

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