Of all the cosmetic elements in your home, your wall color is just about the easiest one you can change on a whim — unless you have wallpaper. With the exception of modern day peel-and-stick wallpaper, which is designed for simple installation and removal, wallpaper can be a beast to take down. You’ll need to dedicate a full day’s work to strip the walls of each modestly sized bedroom in your home for a change of scenery.
Older wallpaper especially can be a lot of work to remove and you’ll need to go to war with the sticky residue it leaves behind. Peeling back the paper could also reveal wall damage underneath. If you decide to take this project on, it would help a ton to know: Does removing wallpaper increase home value? Here’s the dispatch from real estate experts who talked to us about whether the effort to strip wallpaper is worth it from a resale-value perspective.
Wallpaper and home value: What the experts say
When you think about the impact of wallpaper on your home’s worth, there are two types of value measures to weigh: What homebuyers see, and what appraisers see.
Style preferences won’t factor into the appraisal
According to Mason Spurgeon, a certified general real estate appraiser since 2004 who handles appraisals in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa, appraisers view wallpaper as purely cosmetic. So long as the underlying walls are in good condition, an appraiser is not going to reduce your appraised value based on the stripes on your bathroom walls or the border with herbs and spices in the kitchen.
Buyers will pay less for dated homes
Appraisers do not value homes based on a seller’s style preferences, so your frilly couch and green carpet are safe from their judgment, too. However, “older wallpaper can make a home look and feel outdated,” Spurgeon says. “While this may not directly impact the value of the home, it may affect the marketability. Most buyers prefer paint because it is easier to change without a huge hassle.”
Clean walls are a good way for a buyer to view your home as a clean slate. About 57% of top HomeLight agents recommend that homeowners paint the interior before selling their homes. Painting the exterior alone has a 51% return on investment — not bad for a project that costs under $3,000.
Expect wallpaper to draw lower offers
Sheila Newton, a veteran real estate agent and single-family homes expert serving Anderson, South Carolina, who has completed 17% more sales than the average agent there, confirms:
“Most of the time, wallpaper is something that the buyer looks at as something that dates the house, and they consider things that are dated to be repairs. In their mind, they’re going, ka-ching, ka-ching, and taking numbers off. Nine times out of ten, they’re gonna subtract a good bit of money.”
Like it or not, that wallpaper you’ve lived with for years will impact your offers, Newton says. “Whether we reduce the price or not, the buyer will decrease their offer. That’s the problem.”
Today’s buyers want turnkey
Unless they’re house-flippers or enthusiastic DIYers, most buyers are not looking for a project to take on once they’re settled, adds Amanda Mosness, a South Carolina home staging expert certified by the Real Estate Staging Association and co-owner of Designing Impressions, a staging firm founded in 2004. “They do not want to spend their free time fixing up a home. The more you leave unfinished, the less buyers will offer, and they will typically reduce the offer by more than it would have cost the homeowner to complete the work,” she says.
Should you remove wallpaper before selling?
Before checking whether you can remove your wallpaper, it’s worth evaluating whether you should. As much as our experts recommend it, they also understand that some homeowners don’t have the money or the know-how to remove it. Before you decide that’s necessary, check out the following:
- The location of the wallpaper: Removing wallpaper from multiple rooms can be cost-prohibitive. “I’ve seen it where the wallpaper is in every bedroom on every wall and down the hallway. That’s going to cost thousands of dollars to have it removed,” Newton says. One or two rooms would be a more reasonable project to tackle before resale. Sometimes, you can get away with a single bad wall and still sell the home. “If it’s one accent wall and it’s not hideous, it’s probably OK,” Newton says.
- The design of the wallpaper: “A retro pattern on an accent wall is doable” for buyers, says Mosness. “But then there’s what happened in the ’80s and ’90s with the matching border, the wallpaper, and curtains…” A lot of big patterns can make a room look small, Newton adds. However, some modern design publications say certain wallpaper styles are making a comeback such as sophisticated chintz, bold graphic patterns, florals, and even murals.
- The condition of the wallpaper: If your wallpaper has holes, rips, or doesn’t adhere to the wall anymore, then it needs to go, provided you can remove it without doing more damage (more on that in a moment). Otherwise, it’s an eyesore, regardless of the pattern.
- The age and style of the home: Sometimes the wallpaper fits the house — another rarity but it happens. “My first house was built in 1930 and had blue and white floral wallpaper in the tiny kitchen. It was actually super cute with the white cabinets and the oak floor, thanks to a bunch of windows,” Mosness says. “It just goes to show that sometimes you can get lucky and tastes align.”
Can you remove it? That’s a sticky question
Removing wallpaper isn’t as simple as lifting a corner and tugging it off in sheets (again, unless it’s the peel-and-stick kind).
Risks to the scoring tool method
Newton has worked with a scoring tool to remove wallpaper, which she says can damage the Sheetrock underneath if you press too hard but won’t remove the paper if you don’t press hard enough. “If that wallpaper was put up when the house was built and was not sized, then you’re going to have a major issue getting it off without damaging the wall behind it,” she adds.
Layers on layers of wallpaper
Wallpaper also can hide surprises, such as a wall full of dings and cracks or worse, says Darla DeMorrow, a professional organizer and home stager who owns HeartWork Organizing in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “I still remember the house [where] I insisted that the painter remove the wallpaper, only to reveal two more layers beneath, neither of which was coming off. In every single room. Ugh,” she writes on her blog.
The paint-over approach? Not ideal
Some people paint over wallpaper, but depending on the paint, the type of wall underneath, and the wallpaper, this can cause it to bubble underneath or curl along the edges, according to the DIY Network, which offers tips on evaluating whether painting over wallpaper is an option.
For best results, use a steamer
DeMorrow tried a chemical wallpaper remover to redo her daughter’s room. It was very messy and didn’t work well, and she found better luck with steaming it off. She used a HomeRight steam machine, which sells for about $130 and has a steam plate for wallpaper as a separate attachment.
Steaming one small section at a time separated the back layer of the paper from the wall; she then went over that area with the steamer a second time while a helper scraped off the remaining glue with a wide putty knife. For any tough spots, some sites such as Architectural Digest recommend a bucket of hot water, liquid dish soap, and a tablespoon of baking soda to apply to the walls. For an extra kick, add a cup of vinegar per gallon of water.
Smooth out dents and scratches
With the wallpaper gone, you can paint the wall, but it may need to patch up blemishes with spackle or a skim coat beforehand if it’s damaged. Skim coating involves applying a thin coating of a diluted joint compound to a surface to cover blemishes, then smoothing it with a trowel or drywall knife, says the home services directory Porch.com. The cost for a professional painter to do this can range from about $1.10 to $1.30 per square foot, depending on where you live and the size of the job.
What to do once you have a clean wall
However, if the wall beneath seems a little worse for wear, you could try textured paint (and not the popcorn ceiling kind). Textured paint helps hide wall damage, adds a rustic feel, or creates a faux finish such as concrete or plaster, according to Architectural Digest. A home store can mix an additive such as silica sand to a gallon of paint to increase the texture to your liking, or you can buy a ready-mixed textured paint, such as Homax Roll-On Texture.
Newton applied a textured paint in her home bathroom where she removed the wallpaper. Applying it involved a technique of painting Xs on the wall, which took a while, but the result looks good, she says.
Walls that sell: What to do if the wallpaper won’t budge
If your wallpaper is stuck tight or you don’t have the finances to tackle removing it, talk to your real estate agent about your options, such as:
1. Obtain an estimate from a contractor for the cost of removal and painting.
Your agent can present this as an option for buyers with a solid offer. “Usually you can get it done right before closing so it comes out of the seller’s proceeds if they don’t have the money upfront. That’s a win-win because the buyer can choose the paint color, which is nice,” Newton says.
2. Use clever staging to minimize wallpaper shock.
You also can stage a room to neutralize a wallpaper’s impact, Mosness says. Furniture and accessories in a neutral but complementary color can “calm” busy wallpaper. Hanging a mirror or a neutral piece of art on the wall also can break up the pattern. If there’s a more desirable focal point, such as a fireplace or a picture window with a view, arranging the furniture with those in mind will draw buyers’ attention there instead of the wallpaper.
“Sometimes, especially in small bathrooms, you just have to go with the theme. For example, if there is a red, white, and blue star border, then embrace it with towels in matching colors and a couple of stars on the wall,” Mosness says. “But make sure you modernize it as much as possible to again help buyers visualize the possibilities.”
Wallpaper: Worth the effort to remove?
You might have learned to live with your wallpaper, but worrying about whether buyers will appreciate it shouldn’t have you climbing the walls. A seasoned real estate agent can ask a contractor to remove a small section to gauge how difficult it will be to remove and provide an estimate. They also can advise how much of a hurdle it is depending on your circumstances. “It really does come down to the house and the unique situation of that house,” Newton says.
Header Image Source: (alexandre zveiger / Shutterstock)