Have you ever walked into a friend’s house and just not “felt the vibe?” The aesthetics of a space–how it is decorated, cared for, the color it is painted–affect our emotional intuition. Each time we enter a space we assess the way it makes us feel.
That’s what the colors on your wall are doing to potential buyers.
Wall colors impress upon visitors in subtle ways. A deep brown or neon yellow hinders their ability to feel an emotional connection–just like you did at your friend’s place–when they walk through the door. Bright reds might make them feel angry, darker tones can calm, but what color should you paint your house if you want buyers to buy?
You want to get the most money for your house and we’re here to pull out every trick in the book. We dug through piles of research, read actual psychological studies, surveyed the top real estate agents around the country, and even interviewed a few of them to help you make a decision on what color to paint your house that is backed by professionals, science, and the bottom line.
Gray: Today’s Trending Design Color
Interior design trends change, so how do you know what’s best?
Every year Sherwin Williams puts out a press release that names the “Color of the Year.” Most paint giants, in fact, feature the trending color of the moment in a formal announcement or prominent page on their website.
Benjamin Moore selected “Simply White” as the color of the year and the neutral colors of the moment as subtle variations of beige, white, or gray. Behr features a graphic titled “Life in Gray” on its landing page. Sherwin Williams wrote a full essay on the positive complexities of “Poised Taupe,” a shade of gray that “take[s] a color to an entirely new level.”
Popular colors today are not the same as they were last year or the year before.
Real estate agents suggest you keep up with the colors of the moment by looking at the palettes on model homes, but this approach can be daunting. The last bullet on your “to do” list is to research the rise and fall of interior paint colors over time. We looked to science to figure out if what is popular and “trending” is really the best color for you to paint your home.
Sure, gray is popular right now but is that a good thing?
People are painting nurseries in varying shades of an elephant to create a Pinterest-worthy design. Entryways are bathed in shades of dirty dishwater that say, “Welcome, we’re sorry you’re here.”
Even kitchens are going gray. Who wants to eat a delicious plate of steaming lasagna in a gray room? It’s like putting the Gingham Instagram filter on your weekly avocado toast brunch post. Imagine that tinged gray film covering every meal and every cappuccino you make.
Science Speaks: Does Gray Attract Buyers?
A study from Gil and Bigot actually tested the relationship between green, pink, white, gray, and people’s emotions. Gray linked more with sadness, negativity, and unattractiveness than any other color.
Put down the interior design magazines that gush over gradients of gray. When you open your doors to prospective home buyers, you want them to feel enthusiastic, energized, and confident when they walk into your space. This study illustrates that buyers will associate a gray room with low fog and dreary afternoons, industrial warehouses, toxic smoke, and the remnants of non-waterproof mascara you cried when the Starbucks next to your office closed. Life in gray doesn’t seem so appealing now, does it?
You shouldn’t paint the walls in your house gray, but you shouldn’t go too bold, either. Yes, that means that statement walls are out (sorry, David Bromstad). Our second study from Kwallek et al. concluded that people prefer to concentrate in white or beige rooms.
The figure above isolates responses from study participants on which color room they found most difficult to focus in. Women found beige and white rooms the easiest to concentrate in. Men found white, then green, then beige the easiest rooms to concentrate in. You should take into consideration the paint color that will appeal to the most diverse selection of buyers.
Though beige was seen as more distracting to men than green, white and beige were the least distracting to both men and women.
Top real estate agent Bob McTague, who ranks #1 out of over 800 agents for selling Single-Family Homes in Syracuse, also advises against bright hues.
“But it’s really neutralizing the rooms because we find a lot of homes are so personalized, where they’ll have the pink bedroom with the stars all over the ceiling and the walls, or they’ll have the kids’ room with these bright neon colors, and those things definitely need to get neutralized, because the buyer sometimes can’t focus correctly.”
Science says you should not go gray and you should not go vibrant. Both the second study and a top real estate agent argue that people need beige to be able to picture themselves songwriting over a cold beer on a warm Sunday evening but no one feels inspired by wall to wall Coral Reef. No one.
If beige is the right compromise between bold and drab, then how do people feel when they enter a bright colored room or a gray one? Why is beige so benign?
Studies in psychology, like the one below, link emotion to color. Artists like Mark Rothko and James Turrell created entire collections on the connection between viewer and color and the ability for different color combinations to elicit an emotional response.
People react to color, feed off of color, and focus on color.
In a study conducted in 2004 by Kaya and Epps, college students were asked to provide the emotional associations they had for “principle” colors such as yellow, green, blue, “intermediate” colors like yellow-red and blue-green, and achromatic colors of white, black and gray. The study concluded that green had the highest number of positive associations because participants associated green with nature.
Does that mean you should rush out, grab a paintbrush, and cover floor to ceiling in Shamrock, Coastal Paradise, or Alfalfa Extract? Not exactly. Grab a plant if you want buyers to associate your space with the great outdoors.
Though study participants in this and the first experiment associated green with happiness, a very small percentage of buyers want to walk into their future living room and see the walls saturated in Electric Lime.
If you are super into color associations and want to go green, pick an almost imperceptible mint.
Still not convinced against going gray? This study also proved gray to have the most negative associations of any other color: 89.8% of people felt negative about gray. Clearly, people still subconsciously mourn the loss of the favorite white v-neck they once threw in with a load of darks.
Science agrees that you should not paint your house gray, but it also says that bright colors are out and beige and white are in. Even though bright colors are out, the last study argues that green is a solid choice.
What Do the Experts Say?
We chatted with a top real estate agent to reconcile what science says with what experts in the field know is successful.
Bob McTague says, “There have been trends lately with some different paint colors but on the average, we still like to keep it to very neutral, and that would be the tans.” Though trends in paint color come and go, Bob assures sellers that, “It’s always been the tans. It’s just a very neutral color…The tan is always safe…no one is really offended by tan.”
Real estate agents across the nation share Bob’s insight.
In HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights Survey, an ongoing survey of America’s top real estate agents as identified by our algorithm, we asked the top performing real estate agents what color they recommend sellers paint their walls. As the survey stands today, 72% of agents said that beige was their number one suggestion with 30% rooting for white. Zero agents voted for blue despite the societal assumption that a blue room evokes “calm.” A similar result was found for “happy” yellow–only 2% of agents recommended the hue.
The results are in: paint your house beige.
Beige might not be the yin to your yang, the peanut butter to your jelly, the garden to your succulent, but bear with us for a moment. Beige isn’t just the color of the front-pleated khakis you wore to a middle school dance. Beige is also the foam on top of a warm vanilla latte, the crisp golden edge of a toasted marshmallow, the soft sand in between your toes on a hot Summer day, the sweet pop of raw sugar in your morning jolt.
Beige is an opportunity for you to showcase the unique crown molding in your living room, the beadboard in your bathroom, to let the campaign desk in your home office make a statement. Don’t be afraid to let peach out of the crayon box. Let’s paint your house!
What Color Should I Paint My House?
Here are our absolute favorite beiges of the moment. We give you the creamiest of creams, the eggiest of whites, the shortest of shortbreads, the wheatiest of wheats. “These are a few our our favorite…beiges!” (Are you singing and dancing around with your paintbrush yet?)
The trendiest beiges for your living room, clockwise from top left:
The most relaxing beiges to paint your bedroom, clockwise from top left:
- Cotton White, Sherwin-Williams, SW 7104
- Choice Cream, Sherwin-Williams, SW 6357
- Chenille Spread, Behr, HDC-NT-03
The intellectual beiges to paint your home office, clockwise from top left:
- Eggwhite, Sherwin-Williams, SW 6364
- Warm Marshmallow, Behr, HDC-NT-11A
- Bungalow Beige, Sherwin Williams, SW 7511
The peaceful beiges to paint your bathroom, clockwise from top left:
- Exclusive Ivory, Behr, HDC-MD-11
- Polar Bear, Sherwin-Williams, SW 7564
- Cayman Islands, Benjamin Moore, 952