Should I Repaint My House Before Selling It?

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One of the most common questions real estate agents get asked is: “Should I repaint my house before selling it?” Although painting is on the lower-lift side of the overall spectrum of home improvement projects, it still requires an investment of time and money. During the strong seller’s market of 2020-2022, homes were being sold “as-is” and sight unseen from virtual photos.

Mortgage rates rose in 2022, helping to rebalance the market. With increased buyer leverage, top real estate agents surveyed by HomeLight advised sellers to get back to the basics of prepping a home for sale, including considering easy renovations and upgrades.

Get a Home Value Estimate Before You Repaint

It can be helpful to see what your home is worth before embarking on any renovations. HomeLight’s tool makes it easy to get a preliminary estimate of value within minutes.

If you’re thinking about whether you should repaint your house before selling, the most important thing to keep in my is that the condition of your paint matters. This could mean buyers will not jump as fast to purchase a home that may need some work. If you’ve started to notice flaking or fading paint, it’s likely a wise move to repaint your house to gain a competitive edge in the market.

“I think buyers may become a bit more picky in terms of a home’s condition, ” says survey participant Sean Healey, a top real estate agent in the Denver metro area and HomeLight Elite Agent. In short, 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.

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Exterior paint

Curb appeal is vital for making a fantastic first impression with buyers; it sets the tone for buyers’ expectations of your home’s condition. Fresh paint can go a long way in enhancing buyers’ initial impressions.

Resale value and ROI

Repainting the exterior of a house can be pricey — especially when you hire a professional to paint a sizable home. It’s only natural to want to recover a high return from your sale proceeds. The good news is that on average, painting the exterior of a home boosts home value by $7,571. and nets a 152% return on investment.

Cost to hire a pro to paint the exterior of a house

Hiring a professional to paint the exterior of a house costs between $3,700 and $9,750. With trim, prep work and painting, the average price to paint a 1,500-square foot house with wood siding is $5,360, according to Fixr. However, a smaller 1,100-square foot home can cost as little as $2,550. But a 3-story home measuring 2,500 to 3,500 square feet with lots of detail and trim can run around $12,700 or more. Expect to pay between $1.50 to $4.00 per square foot.

Cost to paint the exterior DIY

To do the job DIY, your main expense will be the paint. The price of paint per gallon ranges from $20 to $70. You can calculate how many gallons you’ll need by measuring the exterior walls by square feet (length x width = square footage). Don’t forget to measure the eaves, dormers, gables, and trim.

It’s also important to factor in the cost of painting materials such as brushes, sprayers, rollers, tape, and drop cloths as well as painting prep supplies, including a power washer, caulking supplies and tools, and sandpaper.

Signs you need to paint the exterior

If you’ve painted the exterior recently, a good power washing might be all your house needs. Here are some signs that indicate your exterior walls need repainting.

  • The exterior paint is faded: prolonged exposure to the sun and the elements can cause paint to fade. If the paint appears dull or faded, give it a refresh.
  • Your paint is flaking and peeling: These issues can ruin curb appeal in an instant––and give buyers the impression the home has been poorly maintained. If your home was built before 1978, it could have lead-based paint and will need to be repainted to satisfy a lender.
  • Your  house has cracks, gaps, and wood rot: Cracked caulk, gaps between siding, wood rot, and cracked wood warrant a new paint job and replacing damaged materials.
  • Your house has water damage, mold, and mildew: Moderate signs of mold and mildew can often be removed with a special cleaner. However, if mold or severe water damage penetrated through the surface of your exterior walls, you’ll need to repaint them.
  • The color clashes with houses in the neighborhood: According to the National Association of Realtors®, choosing a paint color that’s radically different from other homes could have a negative impact on a buyer’s perception, which can affect the sale.

Exterior painting tips from the pros

From cost savings to aesthetics to repairs and more, consider the following tips from the experts when repainting a house for sale.

  • Choose the same paint color. If you choose a color that’s too different from your current shade, you’ll need to pay for more than one coat [for proper coverage],” says Paige NeJame, owner of a CertaPro Painters franchise near Boston. If the color on your walls isn’t a neutral shade, paint it in one of the popular neutral exterior and interior paint colors that appeal to buyers.
  • Do repairs before painting. NeJame recommends replacing rotted clapboards and trim and fixing loose shingles [or siding] before painting. “Never paint over rotted wood, or your home inspector will catch this and ding you for it,” she cautions.
  • Add a pop of color to your front door. You can make your home stand out tastefully with a pop of color on the front door. This adds visual interest to your entryway that buyers are likely to admire. It’s also an inexpensive option when you don’t have the budget — or the time — to paint the entire house.
It’s not going to delay things too long, and it’s not gonna cost you thousands of dollars. Painting a blue wall gray, that does make a big impact because the buyers aren’t seeing future projects.
  • Sam Alpern
    Sam Alpern Real Estate Agent
    Sam Alpern
    Sam Alpern Real Estate Agent at Keller Williams Realty
    • Years of Experience 7
    • Transactions 115
    • Average Price Point $420k
    • Single Family Homes 98

Interior paint

Refreshing the main interior walls with a coat of paint can make your home look fresh, new, and more attractive for showings and open houses. The right neutral color on the walls can also give the home a cohesive look and the appearance of more square footage.

Resale value and ROI

Repainting interior walls increases home value by an average of 5% and nets an ROI of 107%. That means a home valued at $400,000 would increase in value by $20,000.

While top Rhode Island real estate agent Sam 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.”

Cost of interior painting

Hiring a professional to paint a room in a house can range anywhere from $120 for a small bathroom to $3,000 for a large room. A 300 square foot living room will run around $1,200. But if you decide to repaint the entire house it could cost between $7,500 to $16,000. Labor costs will run between $2.00 and $6.00 per square foot.

The cost you’ll pay for interior painting depends on several factors, including:

  • The size of each room
  • The number of rooms that need painting
  • How many coats of primer and paint are needed (one gallon covers 400 square feet)
  • The quality and sheen of the paint
  • The total square footage of a house
  • Architectural details like wainscoting and millwork
  • Additional labor such as painting high cathedral ceilings
  • Contractor rates in your area

Painting the interior DIY will cost considerably less, ranging between $1 and $3 per square foot for paint. If you choose this option, make sure you’re a neat painter to appeal to buyers.

Signs you need to paint the interior

If your walls haven’t seen a paintbrush in the last five to seven years, it’s likely time to freshen things up. Through the years, walls can absorb moisture, grease stains, and sun filtering through the windows as well as show dirt, scuffs, fingerprints and paw-prints from the people and pets who inhabit a home.

Here are some signs it’s time to repaint.

  • The paint is faded and discolored: Sun shining through windows can discolor the paint on walls. Darker paint colors fade faster than lighter shades, but all colors fade eventually.
  • The color palette doesn’t appeal to buyers: Mike Katona, a DIY and home improvement enthusiast, had trouble selling his home. Buyers couldn’t get past the pink, purple, and mint green painted walls. After receiving agent feedback, he repainted the rooms a neutral white, and the house sold on the next showing.
  • Your interior paint is peeling and chipping: You can remove some dirt marks and stains from interior walls with a deep cleaning, but chipping and peeling require sanding and repainting. Other signs it’s time to repaint include tough scuff marks, deep scratches, and grease stains.

Interior painting tips from the pros

When repainting your house before selling, take a cue from the pros with the following expert painting tips.

  • Paint the entire wall. 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.”
  • Use good quality paint. Paint isn’t the place to skimp, says Brad Taflinger, an Indiana real estate agent. Paying $18 for a gallon of paint might need two or three coats [to cover a wall] “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.
  • Paint the walls in a neutral color. Buyers gravitate to neutral color schemes, according to 98% of top agents surveyed in the Q1 2020 Top Agent Insights Report. Painting the walls in a neutral white, beige, gray, or earth tone, the home will look more spacious and inviting––and provide a blank canvas for buyers. “People need a blank slate to help them envision a house as their own,” says Katona.
  • 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.

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)