One of the simplest ways to update a space is with a can of paint. But deciding on a paint color can drive anyone mad. There are so many choices out there today – cobalt blue, coral, Navajo white – the options are endless. Using certain interior and exterior paint colors can spark interest from potential buyers, but also send them out the door if not done correctly.

The first thing you should do as a home seller is remove your own opinion about color. Paint is very personal, but when selling a house you need to focus first on potential buyers.

Research your market to see what homes recently sold and the color schemes used in those properties. Mimic the color scheme to create one cohesive look in your home. Note that every market will have different dominant colors buyers prefer based on the area's style and the lifestyle buyers are looking to lead. For example, a den in a trendy city loft could have black walls, while the same room in a farmhouse wouldn’t be best suited with black walls, unless it was a chalkboard painted accent wall.

[See: 10 Unorthodox Ways Your Real Estate Agent May Market Your Home.]

Here are seven things to consider as you consider which paint colors are best to help you successfully sell your home.

Lighting. Pay attention to the light source in the room you're painting. Lighting can drastically affect the way a color appears. Spaces filled with sunshine rather than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs will look completely different. The same color can even appear different based on the time of day.

That's why when specifying colors for a space, it's important to take light – both its presence and its absence – into consideration. Just because you love a color in the store or at a friend’s house does not mean it will work in yours. Test the color on your wall first to see if it’s right for your home.

Undertones. All colors have undertones that are implied, even if they aren’t always visible to the eye. For instance, all grays have a tint to them, whether blue, green or even purple. Be careful when choosing colors to ensure that other items or colors throughout the room don’t bring out something you weren’t intending to.

Fixed furnishings. Paint colors should enhance the fixed materials in a room. Pay attention to flooring, wood finishes, countertops, wallpaper and any tile within the room. It may seem like a no-brainer, but often people don’t take fixed furnishings into consideration.

Paint should complement these materials rather than make them look like an eyesore. If you have built-in cabinets that are a dark red cherry wood, avoid painting the surrounding walls orange. The colors will end up competing with each other.

Varying finishes. Depending on the finish of the paint, matte verse semi-gloss paint can transform the look of a room. Be mindful of the varying sheens and when to use them. While high gloss is the most durable and the easiest to clean, it can show every imperfection on the wall. Matte finishes, on the other hand can be cheaper, but are less durable.

[Read: 10 House Painting Rules You Should Never Break.]

Emotional state. When choosing colors, keep in mind that colors can evoke strong emotions. That’s why many home sellers stick to neutrals when putting their home on the market. In general, neutrals are an easy, classic way to go when picking colors. But it’s important to also make a lasting impression. Ask yourself these questions before adding a wall color to a room:

  • What’s the mood of the room? Remember the mood you want to give in each room before choosing a color palette. For instance: A bedroom should be calm and relaxing, while a kitchen can be vibrant or energetic. All white rooms can be dull and hard to keep clean, so avoid this whenever possible.
  • What’s the size of the room? Color can make rooms look larger or smaller. Warmer tones make the room feel cozy, while a cooler color can actually push out the walls of a small room, making it appear larger than it is. Don’t be afraid to go dark or bold in a small space, it can enhance the dimensions of the room.
  • What color are furniture and accessories? Bring an accessory when shopping for paint to try and match up colors, or see what hue will work well with the accent color. This can help you visualize how the room will come together.

Exterior paint colors. A fresh coat of paint can give the entire house an exterior facelift and spruce up curb appeal. While picking a color, keep in mind the character of the neighborhood. Your color choice should blend well with what’s surrounding the property. Using different tones of tan, light gray or beige can make the property look larger and more modern. Use shades of white on the trim and an accent color on the front door to captivate those who pass by.

[See: 11 Popular Home Updates That Are Worth the Cost.]

Interior paint colors. The key to interior colors is to combine warm colors with neutral colors. Warm colors are inviting and give a home a little more character than plain white walls. Bold colors can turn away certain buyers. Keeping the ceiling and trim white will brighten up a room, giving the house a crisp, fresh look.

Tags: real estate, housing, home prices, housing market, existing home sales, pending home sales, home improvements


Tori Toth is a best-selling author, DIY and lifestyle expert, award-winning home stager and lifestyle authority. She can show anybody how to add more value to their home by giving the tools needed to prepare and showcase any home for sale. She works with consumers, real estate agents, or anybody else who wants to make their home look its best quickly and easily. Home staging is a strategic marketing tool for the biggest return on investment of a home, focusing on renovation and creative design. By creating a lifestyle that buyers will find aspirational, Tori Toth will demonstrate methods of rearranging, organizing and in many cases, adding or editing furniture and home décor. The best, clearest, most helpful information of how to stage a home with and be an immediate success can be found in Tori’ best-selling book "Feel at Home: Home Staging Secrets for a Quick and Easy Sell."

Recommended Articles

What to Know About Moving to Nashville

Devon Thorsby | Dec. 4, 2019

Examine the details that can help you decide if you should move to Nashville, and what to expect when you get there.

Issues to Spot in a Final Walk-Through

Deanna Haas | Nov. 25, 2019

Both buyers and sellers should be aware of the issues that can arise during a final home walk-through.

Should You Buy a House With Cash?

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 22, 2019

Before you go all-in with your money, consider these caveats to paying for a home with cash.

How to Stay Safe While Selling Your Home

Dima Williams | Nov. 22, 2019

From defensive landscaping to forming an LLC, here's how to guard your property and identity while selling your house.

25 Great Small Towns to Live in the U.S.

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 21, 2019

These small towns are seeing their populations grow, but they still offer space and quiet.

Buying a House in 2020: What to Know

Lisa Larson | Nov. 21, 2019

If you want to buy a house in the next year, start preparing now.

22 Sustainable Building Materials

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 15, 2019

Explore the green building materials that can make your house more environmentally friendly.

How to Fix What You Hate About Your Home

Wendy Arriz | Nov. 14, 2019

You can make your home feel new again with a quick remodel or by adding the right lighting.

Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 13, 2019

The right professional help, asking price and coat of paint can make selling your house easier.

15 Mudroom Ideas for Your Home

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 11, 2019

These design and organization ideas will keep shoes, jackets and bags from piling up at your door.

The Best Apps for House Hunting

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 6, 2019

With photos, maps and property history, these apps make searching for your next home easy.

Types of Roads That Impact Home Value

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 1, 2019

A double yellow line could kill a deal, but a cul-de-sac could bump a home's value.

How to Winterize a House

Devon Thorsby | Oct. 30, 2019

Keep your house warm and disaster-free all winter with these tips.

How to Sell Your Tiny House

Deanna Haas | Oct. 29, 2019

Here are some helpful tips to make selling your tiny home easier.

9 Things To Know About New York City

Steven Gottlieb | Oct. 28, 2019

Here's what aspiring New Yorkers can expect about life in the Big Apple.

How to Choose Energy-Efficient Windows

Devon Thorsby | Oct. 25, 2019

Improve your house's energy efficiency by choosing the right windows.

How to Navigate a Lease Takeover

Devon Thorsby | Oct. 23, 2019

A lease takeover may be your best option if you need to break a lease – if your landlord allows it.

Do's and Don'ts of Buying Vacant Land

Devon Thorsby | Oct. 18, 2019

Buying a home can be complicated, but purchasing land to build on is a whole new ball game.

Decorating and Design Tips From Experts

Devon Thorsby | Oct. 17, 2019

Interior design and renovation professionals weigh in on the best practices for home design.

How to Buy a House Before a Recession

Dima Williams | Oct. 17, 2019

While an economic downturn can tank a home purchase, financial prudence and local market knowledge should guide homebuyers.