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How to Tell If You Should Repaint Your House Before Selling It

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A HomeLight survey of over 1,000 top real estate agents nationwide found that, on average, fresh paint adds an estimated $7,571 in resale value for a 152% ROI. Considering that the average price to paint the entire exterior of a home is around $3,000 it could be well worth the investment. But how can you tell if you should repaint your house before selling it? Not every house needs a full paint job before hitting the market.

“It only makes sense to do it if you’ll be able to boost the sale price by more than what the painting will cost you,” says Paige NeJame, owner of a CertaPro Painters franchise near Boston. She adds that the decision to paint often swings with the housing market. “You may not have to paint your home at all,” she says, if you live in a market where homes are actively selling.

Unsure of whether to grab a brush or leave it to the buyer? We talked to some painting pros, an experienced real estate agent, and added a few coats of our own research to create this full-coverage guide to determining whether a color refresh will make your home more marketable.

Step one: Talk to an expert!

Ready to update your home and increase its value? Consult with a top real estate agent today on the projects with the best ROI for your area.

Exterior paint

How your home looks from the outside shapes a buyer’s opinion from the start, which is why 76% of top real estate agents nationwide say that improving curb appeal is the no. 1 thing a seller can do to boost the marketability of their home.

And the chances of recouping the cost are in your favor: According to our survey, top agents found that, on average, buyers will pay 7% more for a house with great curb appeal compared to one with a neglected exterior. For a house with a market value in the $400,000 range, that could mean up to an additional $28,000.

Painting the exterior of a home is one the most effective ways to elevate your property’s curb appeal and increase potential sale proceeds.

Signs that you should paint your home’s exterior

On the fence about whether to repaint your home’s exterior or try selling as-is? We asked the experts for some signs that you should freshen up your home’s facade before putting it on the market.

Sign #1: The house looks dull and drab

Exterior paint fades over time with exposure to the sun and other elements. “Faded paint can make a house look old and tired, whereas a fresh coat of paint—and sometimes a pop of new color—really freshens up a home and helps it stand out,” says Teris Pantazes, co-founder of Settle Rite Home Services, which works on pre-sale home improvements, including painting houses before they go on the market.

Sign #2: The exterior paint is peeling and flaking.

This will give buyers the impression that the home has not been well-maintained, but it’s especially important for homes built prior to 1978, which could contain lead paint.

Sign #3: The color is dated.

Pantazes says that maroon, brown, and other similar colors could make your home look dated, which may turn off buyers who are demanding move-in-ready, updated homes.

Sign #4: It shows overall signs of wear.

If you see issues like cracked caulk, gaps between siding boards, soft or cracked wood, stains or mold, or other signs of wear, it’s likely time for a fresh paint job. “Some lenders require these types of things to be repaired, as they could lead to rotted or damaged wood,” says Pantazes.

Tips for getting the most out of your exterior paint job

  • Don’t try to be (too) different: While it’s good to stand out, your home’s color should jive with the other houses in the neighborhood. According to the National Association of Realtors, a color that’s “wildly different” from the surrounding homes could cause buyers to see it as less valuable.
  • Focus on the entry. Even if you don’t have the time or money to paint the entire exterior, painting the front door is a quick, inexpensive way to add a pop of color and distinguish your house from the ones around it.
  • Stick with the old color. If the paint color isn’t outdated or incongruous with the other houses on the street, use the same shade so you can get away with only doing one coat. “If you choose a color that’s too different from your current color, you’ll need to pay for more than one coat to cover properly and not have the old color peek through,” says NeJame. “This applies when going from dark to light colors as well as from light to dark.”
  • Complete any repairs before painting. NeJame recommends fixing any loose shingles, rotted clapboards and trim before painting. “Never paint over rotted wood, or your home inspector will catch this and ding you for it,” she warns.

Favorite exterior colors that appeal to buyers

In her experience with exterior painting projects, NeJame has seen a few favorites emerge in terms of widespread appeal:

Interior paint

Buyers will also notice and judge your interior wall paint. A fresh and neutral color will leave a more favorable impression than worn, scuffed, faded, or outdated paint. But if your paint is still in pretty good shape and is appealing to a broad base of buyers, you may not need to spend the time and money on a full color overhaul.

Signs that your walls are screaming for a paint job

Not sure whether it’s worth the time and money to repaint your home’s interior? We talked to the painting experts about when it makes sense to give your walls some color TLC before listing.

Sign #1: The walls look scratched and scuffed.

You may be able to take care of minor marks with a Mr. Clean Eraser, but if they are extensive or can’t be removed, it may warrant a coat of fresh paint.

Sign #2: The color palette doesn’t appeal to a wide range of buyers.

Mike Katona, a DIY and home improvement enthusiast, was trying to sell a home and thought that potential buyers could look past the pink, purple, and mint green rooms. But after the first few showings, he got feedback that the buyers didn’t like the paint colors. He painted over the pastel with a neutral white (Sherwin-Williams’ Pure White) and the house sold on the next showing.

“People need a blank slate to help them envision a house as their own,” says Katona. “A neutral white creates a blank canvas that can easily be painted over should they wish to change the color down the road.”

Sign #3: The walls are flaking, peeling, or chipping.

Some lenders will require repainting in this case. And even if they don’t, buyers could be concerned about the potential for leaks or water issues — not to mention that damaged or worn paint will likely leave the impression that the entire home is not well-maintained.

Sign #4: The rooms aren’t uniform in design.

If most of your home has light, neutral paint but the office is a much darker color, for example, it can create a bit of a design disconnect. The experts recommend using the same color to flow throughout the house for a more cohesive effect.

Tips for getting the most out of your interior paint job

  • Stick with the same color, if you can. If you’re painting over the bubble-gum pink in your daughter’s bedroom, you’ll almost certainly need at least two coats. But if you already have a neutral shade that just needs to be cleaned up and refreshed, you can likely get away with just one coat (and thus, save time and money).
  • Go neutral. “On the interior, you are not making a statement,” says Pantazes. “Let an upgraded appliance, grand fireplace, or general cleanliness make that statement, not your wall paint.” Top agents agree: In another HomeLight Top Agent Insights Report, 98% of agents said that buyers gravitate to neutral color schemes.
  • Don’t spot paint. If you need to paint over scuffs or a few scratches, NeJame recommends painting the whole wall. “Spot painting rarely works, because the paint on the wall is slightly faded compared to the paint you had stored in the basement,” she explains.
  • Use high-quality paint. Brad Taflinger, an Indiana real estate agent with 35 years of experience, says that paint isn’t a place to skimp. “$18/gallon paint may take two or more coats, but if you spend a little more on a better-quality paint that includes a primer, you can get it done in one shot, saving time and money,” he says.
  • No time to DIY? Hire it out. A sloppy paint job could end up negating any potential value it could have added. If painting isn’t your strong suit, invest a little more in a professional.
  • Have your painter use a zero-VOC paint. “VOCs are ‘volatile organic compounds’ that cause paint to smell like, well, paint,” NeJame explains. If you use zero-VOC, the house won’t smell of paint fumes when potential buyers are touring your home.
  • For flawed walls, use flat paint. When walls have imperfections like dents, dings, or cracks, the lack of sheen in flat paint is more forgiving, explains NeJame. If you use an eggshell, satin or semigloss, flaws in walls and woodwork will be “highlighted” by the shine.
  • Try expensive-looking colors on a budget. NeJame has seen lots of homeowners in high-end areas look to the expensive brand Farrow & Ball at $120/gallon (compared to about $60/gallon for Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore paint) because of its curated color palette. If you’d like to use a Farrow & Ball color, she suggests having it matched at a paint store for a lower-priced formula. “It might not look exactly the same as F&B, but it will be very close,” she says.

Favorite interior colors that appeal to buyers

When painting your home’s interior with the intention to sell, experts agree that it’s key to go with neutral colors like these popular choices:

When selling your home, you want your buyers to notice highlights like your spacious rooms, updated kitchen, and stone fireplace — not the scuffed baseboards, faded siding, or patchwork of bright wall colors. If it’s been a while since you’ve painted, a fresh coat can help make your home feel clean, fresh, and well-maintained.

Header Image Source: (Anshu A / Unsplash)