Paint it SOLD!

A room should never allow the eye to settle in one place. It should smile at you and create fantasty” – Juan Montoyo

Spring is finally here and it seems Mother Nature isn’t the only one ramping it into high gear. This season seems to motivate potential buyers to find their new homes and for sellers to seal the deal. For those on the selling there are factors to consider like proper pricing, condition of the home, other competing listings, etc. Some things you have no control over, but some you do. Making sure you are setting your homes best foot forward can make all the difference between a quick, profitable sale or remaining in for sale limbo.

Have you ever wondered why some houses sell right away while others can’t get anyone to walk through? There are many factors that contribute, but I find one of the most common -and easiest to fix! – is having bad paint. I’m not talking about flaking or peeling paint, but the actual color of the paint itself. Retailers have known the power of color to draw consumers to their products for eons. In fact, the Institute for Color Research reports that consumers come to a subconscious conclusion about a product within 90 seconds of viewing, and much of that judgment (62-90 percent) is based solely on color. So why not apply that same logic to the house you are selling?

These days much of our buying starts on-line and the same is true of house shopping. With more and more buyers starting their search on line you could be blowing a big sale over a little paint. A home that is otherwise sound or architecturally appealing could be passed over because of colors that turn off buyers. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to get you to the closing table much faster.

Start with the Outside:
People do in fact judge a book by its cover. The exterior of a house helps us to draw conclusions about what the inside must be like. And if the color on the outside is bad then potential buyers will drive on, or swipe left, without so much as a how do you do. Many times a distracting paint color can take the focus away from the good bones of a house or the fact that it has a spacious lot. If it’s a dated color combo it could also prejudice the rest of the house as dated or in need of updating. Consider whether your paint color is simpatico with the architectural style of the home. A Tudor house looks ridiculous when painted like a Victorian and a Mid-Century style home is confusing with the colors of an historic Georgian. Also, whether the house is compatible with the other homes in the neighborhood. If you’re the bright red house in a sea of neutrals you might have your first clue about why it’s not selling. If a house has visual curb appeal you are halfway to attracting the next buyer.

Remain Neutral:
When you make the decision to put your house on the market you are not looking to find another person with your same exact taste. You are selling a product that must now appeal to a broader range of buyers. Realtors often advise clients to paint rooms in a neutral palette because many people get distracted easily and fail to see the house objectively. Many of us take for granted that it is very easy to repaint a room, but there are many for whom this is a major task. I remember when I was selling my first home. A potential buyer really loved the house. The location, the layout, and even the yard were all perfect, but she couldn’t get past the fact that the living room color would not work with her sofa. It taught me a big lesson about what a potential buyer sees and what they perceive as obstacles.

Take Yourself Out of the Mix:
De-personalizing and neutralizing a space is also critical so potential buyers don’t feel as if they are intruding in someone else’s home. When I am working with clients who are getting ready to sell this is where I get the most push back. Forgetting that their home is now an object for sale, they cling to the personal mark they have made, sometimes even feeling insulted when suggestions are made for making the home appeal to a broader audience. Remember, you are not looking for people to applaud your design sense, you are looking for someone to imagine imprinting their own.

Don’t Limit a Room’s Purpose:
Sometimes the color of a room can hamper the ability of a potential buyer to how else it might be used. For instance, a smaller bedroom that is painted princess pink with butterflies all over gives the impression that this is only to be used as a girls’ room. But what if you have a boy? Or you just need a home office or a guest bedroom? So strongly defining a space with color could inhibit buyers from seeing it as the type of space they really need. A definitive color palette can also limit where a buyer feels the house can go stylistically. For instance, a home that is painted in authentic historic colors may turn off the buyer who has a more transitional style. Remember to leave room for opportunity beyond the way you have colored and purposed a room. You will have the chance to express your own personal style again once you sell and move into your new digs.

If Walls Could Talk…:
They might tell you that there’s more to look at than the 4 of them. Other elements in a space can be coated in color that read as too style specific or in need of updating. Cabinets, vanities, beams, built ins and other woodwork are the elements that interest potential buyers and add perceived value and character to a home. But paint that detracts from those features makes them a detriment. I once visited a beautiful historic home in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia that a friend was renting. The architecture and scale were impressive, but all of the cabinetry, wainscoted walls and built ins were painted in an autumnal rust color that assaulted the eyes at every turn. I’m sure the home was impressive but I fail to conjure up a memory of anything else. Talk about distracting!

Walk in their Shoes:
The hardest thing for any of us to do is see our homes objectively and walk through without seeing all that we have done to tailor it to our personal tastes. But when you’re selling, it may be necessary to enlist the help of a professional, or a very honest friend, to help you step outside of yourself and see what needs toning down, editing or changing altogether. It’s not personal, it’s business and the wrong vibe or impression sent off by color choice can be the difference between staying stuck and selling and moving on.

One’s Man’s Blunder is Another Man’s Opportunity:
For those in the buyers camp, an unappealing color may work to your advantage. Poor color choices can really hamper a buyers ability to visualize possibilities but a savvy buyer who can see beyond a little paint could have quite a windfall. A case in point was a newly built house I drove by nearly every day that was situated on a great street and was actually quite appealing architecturally. It was however, painted the color of a jack-o-lantern. I wondered why they chose a color so incongruent to the homes’ style and Mid-Atlantic location. My questions must have telepathically set in. After about 2 1/2 years on the market it finally sported a handsome neutral color, and a SOLD sign. The difference between the original asking price and what they settled for was over $100,000.00. For the seller, it was a poor color choice that stood between making a profit and selling at a loss.

So, if you are considering selling, or have been in “for sale” limbo, consider whether your paint will appeal to a broad range of buyers and hurt or help you. If you are not sure, bring in an impartial color expert. Paint is a relatively small investment that can have almost immediate impact on the amount of green in your pocket.