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Conventional wisdom holds that painting white walls is a smart move as you prep your house for sale, so that buyers can see it as a blank canvas. But a recent report from a major real estate site shows that, on the contrary, adding rich, moody hues to your home can help you drive up the sale price. According to Zillow’s 2023 paint color analysis, buyers pay, on average, $2,512 more for a house that sports charcoal gray paint in the kitchen while a dark gray living room can net sellers $1,755 more.
Designers say that the study rings true to their experience. "The moody work of designers like Jake Arnold, Amber Interiors, and Heidi Callier has been dominating Pinterest in recent years, so it's no wonder that homeowners are emulating the cozy styles, and searching them out when they go to purchase a new home," says Bethany Adams, principal of her eponymous design firm in Louisville, Kentucky. "Whether dark gray, green, blue or another deep color with neutral undertones, these spaces are incredibly evocative and easy to imagine oneself in."
In fact, the Zillow study shows that a white kitchen is losing ground, and can actually cause a buyer's offer to drop by more than $600. That may be because a blank canvas can sometimes read boring and basic.
"When staging a home for sale, most guides will tell you to simply paint everything white, but luxury home buyers are looking for turnkey properties that look and feel designed, not institutional," says Jason Saft, founder of Staged To Sell Home, a staging service in New York. "People strive to have the perfect backdrop at home."
That doesn't mean that you can't have a single white wall. Houston interior designer Benjamin Johnston says, "White walls will never go out of style. They lend a beautiful foundation to introduce color through decor, furniture, and art." But he agrees that rich hues can up a sale price, explaining, "That being said, social media and the ease with which others can now showcase their homes can cause a bit of design FOMO. People see others experimenting with color, pattern, and wallpaper, and want to try it themselves. There’s now just an abundance of color and creativity to explore."
The penchant for dark, rich colors certainly comes from exposure to mood boards and projects seen on social media. But at a deeper level. "Human beings have an innate desire for belonging," says Mehnaz Khan, a color psychology specialist and principal at Color Conscious Living in Albany, New York. "And if you have a house that has the same interior colors as a favorite influencer, that creates a sense of belonging and community. That's why people follow trends." Also, Khan points out, no one wants a boring home. On a subconscious level, the beiges of the aughts create an illusion that "the house is stuck and nobody wants to spend their lifesavings on a house that needs work," says Khan.
Here, six paint colors that could bring you closer to a million dollar listing.
Silver in the Kitchen
Zillow research shows that a kitchen with deep graphite gray can sell for an estimated $2,512 more, and one with a midtone pewter kitchen can go for $2,553 more than expected. Saft has worked on homes using pewter and charcoal shades including Benjamin Moore's greenish-silver Antique Pewter, their dark blue-gray Hale Navy, and Kendall Charcoal.
Dark Gray in the Living Room and Bedroom
Outside of the kitchen, pale neutrals don’t command as much cash as a dark gray hue, which can increase an offer by $1,755. "Dark colors have a soothing effect, so using them in bedrooms or any rooms designed for relaxing makes perfect sense," Adams says. "It's also easy for potential home buyers to imagine their own, potentially more colorful furnishings, in rooms that are painted gray or another dark neutral."
Black on the Front Door
While gray is a winner indoors, a midtone, cement gray on the front door won't do you any good. In fact, it can actually lower the offer price, by $3,365 less, according to the Zillow study. Previous Zillow research finds that black doors could help a home sell for an estimated $6,449 more. A midtone rosy brown on a front door is also beneficial, as it is said to get offers of $300 more.
Mint Green in the Kitchen
Location is the first rule of real estate, but it matters with paint colors, too. A pistachio hue in a kitchen can boost offer prices by almost $400, but it is not the shade home buyers desire in the living space or the bedroom, dropping a potential offer by about $1,300 and $1,100, respectively.
Blue in the Living Room
"People who are ready to dip their toes in color in their home but still fear long term commitment with colors begin with blue," says Khan, noting that people are open to a blue sofa more than any other color. Zillow showed that a jay blue living room can bump a home’s offer by $446. Just keep in mind that the hue is less popular in kitchens and can actually lower an offer price by almost $1,400.
Earth Tones in the Bathroom
Evoke a sense of being au courant with an earth-tone-but-brighter terracotta bathroom, which, according to Zillow, could inspire buyers to offer an estimated $1,624 more. These rich, orange-reddish hues look elevated, like something out of Justina Blakeney’s abode. Case in point: the comforting Redend Point is a Sherwin-Williams 2023 color of the year and works wonders in a small space. "In terms of color psychology, the right hue of orange in the right place will create feelings of warmth and physical comfort," Khan adds.
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