Cost-Benefit Analysis: Should You Repaint Your House Before Selling?

So you’ve decided to sell your house. Great! You’re ready to clean up and mow the lawn, but what about paint? Do buyers expect to see freshly painted exteriors and interiors when they tour a potential new home?

We interviewed top Rhode Island real estate agent Sam Alpern and collected return on investment data to help you determine if painting your home for sale is worth it.

The short answer is “yes”: Painting your exterior and key rooms in the interior a neutral color can help attract buyers and boost your sale price. However, some variables may sway your decision, like what type of market you’re selling in and the current condition of your paint. Let’s explore.

A man painting a house, which you may or may not want to do before you sell.
Source: (Flow Clark / Unsplash)

Exterior painting is one of the top agent-recommended projects

If your exterior paint is chipping, peeling, or fading, paint your house before selling. 30.85% of real estate agents surveyed in HomeLight’s recent Top Agent Insights Report recommend sellers paint their exteriors before listing.

Curb appeal is vital for making a fantastic first impression with buyers; it sets the tone for buyers’ expectations of your home’s condition. Since your home’s exterior takes up most of the view, fresh paint can go a long way in enhancing buyers’ initial view.

Cost

On average, a professional exterior paint job will run you about $3,000. National averages vary depending on the source, but you can expect to pay $2,000 on the low end and $12,000 on the very high end. Prices per square foot vary depending on your location, home size, and siding material. Professionals often charge more to paint brick and stucco since it takes more time to achieve an even finish.

If you want to DIY and already have the necessary tools, exterior painting costs far less. Expect to pay around $500 for 1,500 square feet of siding for the paint color. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of primer ($15 to $80 per gallon).

Note that painting your exterior isn’t as easy as painting an interior room. You’ll need to pressure wash, tape off windows, doors, and light fixtures, and sand and prime the exterior surface before painting. You also should feel comfortable using ladders, especially if you own a multi-story home. If you’re not confident in your abilities, it’s in your best interest to hire a professional.

Return on investment

Our research indicates that exterior painting can provide up to a 51% return on investment. For example, if you put in $3,000 into painting the exterior of your home, you could expect to see the value of the home increase by $1,500.

Additionally, painting your exterior boosts marketability by improving your listing photos and enhancing curb appeal. A freshly painted home also appeals to buyers looking to avoid home improvement projects.

The quality of your house’s exterior can also impact your buyer’s ability to qualify for an FHA loan.

“The exterior — if it is a whole bunch of chipped paint — won’t qualify for FHA financing. That could play against you a little bit depending on the price point,” Alpern advises.

The Federal Housing Administration has minimum property standards to ensure every buyer’s physical and financial safety. While cosmetic deficiencies are not listed in these standards, deficient paint and damaged plaster and sheetrock in houses built post-1978 are. If you miss the mark on these standards, you might miss out on some eligible buyers.

The exterior of a house that might need to be painted before selling.
Source: (Cole Ciarlello / Unsplash)

Considerations

With all that in mind, should you paint the exterior of your house? It all depends on the following factors:

The condition of your exterior paint

If your home looks brand new after a good power wash, you’re probably good to go. However, if your exterior is worse for the wear, your buyers might see a large and expensive project ahead of them. That could detract buyers who want a turn-key home, or at least a dreamy exterior.

The condition of your competitions’ exteriors

Buyers are comparing your home to other listings on the market. If your home’s peers all have freshly painted exteriors, you can bet buyers expect this feature. On the flip side, if you’re in a lower price point where few homes have new paint, you may not turn as many buyers off if you skip this step.

Current market conditions

If you’re in a seller’s market, painting your exterior might not be worth the investment.

“[Buyers] don’t really have a choice right now to decide between yours and something else,” Alpern says, noting that the competition for homes in 2021 is fierce. “So they’re having to make those types of concessions, and they understand that they’re going to have to touch up the paint.”

Still, it could be worthwhile to repaint if your exterior looks significantly different than the competition’s or has chipped or lead-based paint.

A paintbrush being used to paint before you sell your house.
Source: (Toa Heftiba / Unsplash)

Interior painting can add $2,001 to your sale price

Painting your home’s interior is one of the quickest and most cost-effective DIY projects you can take on when selling. In our Top Agent Insights Report, 57.83% of surveyed real estate agents advise sellers to paint their interior before listing.

Considerations

Alpern recommends painting over bold colored and faded walls with a neutral color. While he can never guarantee what a seller will want in a home, neutral colors are generally agreeable.

“As a listing agent, I don’t want a buyer to walk in and see my seller’s home. I want them to walk in and see their home, and if you have things neutral and clean, that’s going to be the best scenario'” he comments.

98% of agents surveyed in our report agree that neutral colors are the way to go. Agents named “Agreeable Gray” by Sherwin-Williams as the most appealing color to buyers. But any light to medium beige, gray, off-white, and greige will likely do. Wherever possible, use one paint shade for most of the rooms to keep things consistent.

However, if you’re in a seller’s market and don’t have the time or money to paint, it won’t hurt you to skip this step, Alpern adds.

“That typically is something that the buyers are going to be OK with right now. Especially the interior — absolutely, they’re going to be OK with having to come in and repaint.”

Cost

On average, painting a 2,300 square foot home costs between $1,900 and $7,800, depending on where you live, what paints you choose, and how tall your walls are. However, you can save between $2 and $6 per square foot by doing the work yourself instead of hiring a painter.

Gallons of paint usually cost between $15 and $30, and you’ll need about one gallon of paint for every 400 square feet of space. So if your house is 1,600 square feet, you’ll need at least four gallons. You’ll also need to consider the cost of materials like paint rollers, brushes, drop cloths, and tape.

Return on investment

Painting your interior can add $2,001 or more to your home’s value, according to a 2012 study by Home Gain. According to Consumer Reports, the potential return on investment of painting individual rooms is 1% to 3%, while enhancing the home’s exterior can return 2% to 5% of your investment.

Beyond adding value to your home, a fresh interior paint job helps your rooms look newer and” “move-in ready” for buyers. If you opt for a lighter paint shade, you can even make your interior space appear larger, scoring another win with buyers.

Considerations

While Alpern never advises his sellers to take on substantial home renovations before listing, he does see the value in taking a weekend to paint a couple of rooms.

“It’s not going to delay things too long, and it’s not gonna cost you thousands of dollars,” he says. “Painting a blue wall gray, that does make a big impact because the buyers aren’t seeing future projects.”

To paint or not to paint: Key takeaways

So, is it worth it to repaint your house before selling? If you have the time and money for it and your exterior or interior is worse for the wear, go for it. Painting is one of the easiest projects you can take on before you sell.

“I don’t think it’s always necessary, especially in homes that are already in fair condition or at a higher price point. But the homes that are in low price points that need a pretty good cosmetic overhaul, it can make a significant impact,” Alpern summarizes.

Header Image Source: (Clay Banks / Unsplash)