Painting Tips for Home Staging

painting tips for home stagingPutting your house on the market this spring? You'll need to polish it up. Some homeowners consider expensive improvements like new bathrooms, siding and more, but something as easy as painting can give you the best return on investment. "A fresh coat of paint is one of the first things buyers notice," says home staging expert Jamie DeBartolomeis.

According to QualitySmith, interior paint to cover one room costs roughly $25-$100. Factor in rollers, brushes, and drop cloths, and the project may cost $300--double that if you hire someone to do the job. But the impact on potential buyers is worth much more.

Here's how professional home stagers pick interior paint colors, and other expert painting tips for home staging that sells.

Painting Tips for Home Staging:

When to Repaint

"Light and bright sells. If your home feels more like a den for Dracula, then you know it's time to open the curtains and paint the walls," says Karen Otto of Home Star Staging.

Figuring out when to paint depends on a few factors. If walls are cracked, paint is peeling or drywall is damaged, then painting is an essential home staging step. Otto also points out a few less obvious reasons: smell and fading. Cooking, cigarette smoke, candles and fireplaces can not only tarnish walls, but they can also trap smells in the paint. And the paint in some rooms may be faded unevenly because of sun exposure.

"If it looks tired, stained or in need of refreshing, then do it" before staging the home, she advises.

Borders and faux finishes can look dated, so they should be painted over, too. "If anything translates in the mind of a buyer as 'work to do' or could be an objection to a sale, then [fix] it," says Otto.

Why Stay Neutral

Home stagers across the country favor neutral or earth-toned paint colors for one simple reason: they have the widest appeal. Otto says neutral colors "reflect 'move-in ready' wall spaces and let a buyer imagine what they'd like to do." What homeowners want to avoid is a buyer looking at a wall and thinking how hard it's going to be to paint over that chocolate-brown or brick-red color. On the contrary, most people's furnishings will blend with a neutral color palette.

An all-white palette can be refreshing in a house (though beware in a condo, where it can look unfinished). Pure white can be stark, DeBartolomeis warns. Instead, choose an off-white a few shades warmer. Stager and stylist Kelly Fallis of Remote Stylist suggests Benjamin Moore's "cloud white."

Where to Go Bold

An accent color on one wall can be used to add interest and liven up a room. Even if potential buyers aren't crazy about the color, most people won't mind repainting one wall. "I think you have more freedom to experiment with color in bathrooms, laundry rooms and children's bedrooms," says DeBartolomeis. "You can be whimsical in these areas."

Fallis suggests painting all the main rooms one color, then maybe bedrooms or powder rooms different colors. Smaller spaces can stand up to brighter colors, while larger spaces are better with neutral colors.

What Color Palettes to Use

Most painting tips for home stagers will point to taupes, beiges, off-whites, creamy tones of café au lait, butter, mossy greens and subdued grays as all safe hues to paint a home for sale.

Fallis suggests considering grays over beige shades. "Gray is now the hot neutral; it goes with more things and looks a lot better with yellow and greens."

But beige is a crowd-pleaser and may work in your market and with your home. DeBartolomeis recommends Benjamin Moore's "Shaker Beige" as one of the most popular and safe interior colors.

In general it's always appropriate to go lighter with your paint colors. A great trick for picking colors that coordinate: Go online to Benjamin Moore's site and find their suggested paint color palettes.

What Finish to Use

Don't get experimental when staging your home for sale. Stick to the most common combination of gloss-finish paint for wood and trim surfaces and eggshell or satin finish for walls. The slight bit of sheen in a satin finish makes it easy to clean and resist fingerprints. Ceilings should get a flat finish.

For walls, "flat finishes are just that, flat," says DeBartolomeis. "They don't reflect much light and are more difficult to clean. And gloss is usually too shiny for most people's tastes."

What to do if you want to avoid painting

For those trying to avoid painting, you have one secret weapon, according to Fallis. "Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is brilliant," she says. "It's great for heavier traffic areas, stairwells and hallways where walls tend to get scuff marks."

Carrie Culpepper blogs about design at

Want more home staging tips and techniques? These AOL Real Estate guides can help:

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