When your home is on the market, every detail is important – but some may be more important than others. And it appears that paint color may either hurt a home’s sale price or help it sell for more money.
A new paint color analysis by Zillow reveals that in the living room, kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms, a dark gray color fetched more money than a white color and also outperformed other neutrals.
Amanda Pendleton, Zillow’s home trends expert, tells us:
- Homes with a charcoal gray/deep graphite gray kitchen can sell for an estimated $2,512 more
- A mid-tone pewter gray kitchen can command $2,553 more
- A dark gray living room can command offers of $1,755 more
- A white kitchen can hurt a home’s sale price by more than $600
- Dark gray in the living room and bedroom outperformed pale neutrals, with the potential to command offers of at least $1,755 more
But gray isn’t the top color everywhere in the home. “Zillow research reveals that recent and prospective buyers would offer an estimated $3,365 less for a home with a cement gray front door,” Pendleton says. She explains that buyers prefer black front doors to those painted gray, and says they would offer $300 more for a home with a mid-tone rosy brown front door.
Also, in the bathroom, Pendleton notes that earth tones, like a trendy terra cotta brown, could bring in $1,624 more.
Why today’s buyers may not like white
So, does this mean that white is out? No, Pendleton tells us the Zillow study found that buyers still like white. “However, they weren’t willing to offer more for homes with plain white walls – in other words, white walls didn’t help a home stand out above the competition,” she explains.
It does appear that the old adage to play it safe and paint everything white won’t stop a home’s sale, but won’t put more money in your pockets, either. “We’re increasingly seeing post-pandemic homebuyers gravitate toward more personalized spaces, as they now have a better sense of what they want and need in a home,” Pendleton says. And this extends to preferring a little color on the walls.
Along with ditching white, buyers may also be ditching pale colors, including pale grays. “It’s no surprise that Zillow’s analysis shows that homebuyers prefer dark gray or charcoal paint as a retreat away from everything, especially the dull grays that have been overdone in many homes in recent years,” says Jason Gelios, a realtor at Community Choice Realty in Detroit. MI.
He’s observed first-hand how buyers aren’t afraid to shell out more money for a home that has style and boldness already in place. “Considering the kitchen and bathrooms are the most popular rooms, it makes sense for these spaces to showcase the charcoal color,” Gelios explains.
Grey may not always win the day
However, the popularity of these color trends may vary, depending on location and other factors. For example, Bill Golden, realtor/associate broker at Keller Williams Realty Intown Atlanta, tells us that white kitchens were out of favor for a while, but he’s actually seen something of a return to them.
“And looking at situation-specific instances, I’ve seen dated and ornate kitchens modernized for sale via well-applied white paint.” Golden admits that a white kitchen may not have been the first choice, but says it helped to achieve a neutral palatte and allowed the homeowners to update their space without doing a renovation.
“Case in point: I’m helping prepare an older relative’s longtime condo for sale, and she does not want to invest a lot of time and money.” Since it’s an older home, Golden says he knows most buyers would want to do a gut renovation, anyway. “So, our compromise is to strip the bold wallpaper and cover those walls and every other wall in a nice white – and without great expense, we can hedge at a slightly higher asking price while also enabling potential buyers to envision how they might make this their home.”
Also, it’s important to understand that by the time some trends catch on, they may be outdated in certain parts of the country. For example, Jonathan Self, licensed Compass real estate broker in Chicago, IL, tells us, “The gray color in Chicago is becoming associated with ‘builder grade’ and buyers are over it.” He admits that on the luxury end of the market, moody colors are still in – but says they have to be properly executed. “If your dream is to maximize returns, I’d say talk to an area professional who has seen a lot of inventory and knows what’s trending in that area, and what’s stale.”
Golden agrees that gray may work well in the luxury market, but notes there are other considerations as well. “I would venture to say a bright and open higher-end home with plenty of light, that is professionally decorated well and includes dark gray colors, is very different from a dark gray interior many of us might undertake on our own to approximate a look we’ve seen elsewhere.”
What about bold colors?
While Zillow’s study reveals that buyers are embracing dark neutrals, they’re not necessarily looking for bold paint colors. “In general, we found that high intensity colors are associated with lower offer prices,” Pendleton reveals. For example, she says recent and prospective buyers would offer about $2,100 less for a home with a bright yellow kitchen and more than $3,000 less for a bright yellow living room. “They would offer around $1,700 less for a home with a forest-green bathroom.”
However, there is one exception. “Buyers would offer $1,085 more for a home with a tomato red kitchen, and $836 more for a home with a bright red living room.”
A neutral palette still reigns
Our experts tend to be in agreement that a neutral color palette is still a seller’s best bet. “I think that a darker design can work for a room located in a larger property like a suburban home, but in New York City, room size is on the smaller side, comparatively speaking, and it is a better strategy for sellers to keep paint colors light so that the space feels more open and airy,” says broker Becki Danchik of Coldwell Banker Warburg in New York, NY. She advises emphasizing space instead of closing it off with a dark paint color. “The bathroom is the only room I’ve seen that works well – if done correctly, a dark gray bathroom is very chic and relaxing.”
And when weighing paint color choices, it may be helpful to remember that the goal is to appeal to as many buyers as possible. Agent Sandra Levykh of The Julia Hoagland Team at Compass in New York, NY, recalls how many times she’s walked into a home that had a specific accent wall and wondered, ‘What were they thinking?’ That’s because aesthetic appeal tends to be subjective, so some buyers may want a cream-white wall, while other buyers may want a pop of color.
But the aim is not to find that niche buyer, it’s to appeal to as large of an audience as possible, possibly resulting in a bidding war. “As such, selecting a trending wall color may not make sense because it may only appeal to a small sector of the buying population and potentially even deter buyers from being interested,” Levykh warns.
At the end of the day, Golden says that there are no absolutes regarding color choices. “If you want one tried-and-true color rule based on 35 years selling real estate, I’d say that neutral sells.” And this is particularly true if buyers are viewing several homes and struggling to imagine the potential of each space. “You’ll help clear the way for their vision if you give them a relatively neutral ‘canvas’ on which to imagine their new life in your home,” he concludes.