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"Don't try to put your own personality into it. People want a clean slate to work with, and that means begin with neutral colors," says Susie Carlson, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker who has been listing, showing, and selling homes in the Columbia, South Carolina, market since 1982. "Neutrals with white trim," she adds. "That really makes it pop."
For interiors, that means shades of gray, including green-grays, blue-grays, and beige-gray, or "greige," as well as very light taupes. "You want your fabrics to speak rather than the walls," Carlson says. "Neutral colors like that let your pillows and furniture and design features really stand out. Buyers want to see soothing colors."
She's seen what happens otherwise. "If people walk in and see pink and green and purple and blue rooms, they move on to the next house," she says.
Here are some more paint tips to encourage sellers.
1. Let the shutters shine
Carlson recommends a subtle approach for exteriors, too. Neutral greens and grays are hot in her market right now, she says. "You can never lose with taupes, light camel cream colors, and whites. Then you can put your color on the shutters and they'll really stand out."
2. Look at what's hot on your block
Veteran designer and stager Debi Collinson says she sees grays more popular in some areas and white in others, and that's why local knowledge is important. "Are you in an older suburb? Trendy condo or townhouse? A relatively new build?" she asks on her blog. "You need to go to open houses in your neighborhood, so you'll know the trends."
3. One size doesn't fit all
Collinson, a real estate investor herself, also says that picking colors for staging a home is not a one-size-fits-all affair. "You need to take the rooms' elements like flooring, carpets, kitchen cabinets, furniture and accessories into consideration when picking the right color," she writes in a March 1, 2020, blog post.
She points to the example of pale oak, a color she says is growing in popularity. "It has enough warmth in the gray family to keep it from too cool and sterile, but it can look greige in one room and a cool gray in another depending on the time of day," she says in the post. Test this color, and any other, to make sure they coordinate with the fixtures, flooring, and furniture.
4. Brighten the bricks
Adding a coat of paint to a plain brick wall can completely change the room, and it's fairly easy to do with rollers or sprayers, says Asset-Based Lending (ABL) in a blog post. "You can either paint the brick the same color as the rest of the walls or you can emphasize it with a contrasting shade," the post says.
5. Give doors some dash
The same blog advises that since the doors are the first thing a potential homebuyer sees, refresh them with a dark coat of paint to eliminate wear and create some attention. "Black is a classic, but a bright color can add major pop to an otherwise boring exterior," the ABL post says.
6. Try two-tone cabinets
Painting kitchen cabinets in contrasting colors can add new interest in the kitchen of an older home. White and wood pair well with every color, Livabl points out in a blog post that illustrates a series of nice combinations of dark teal and white, sage green and white, natural wood and block, pewter and charcoal gray, and more.
Just remember not to go overboard with the strong, bright colors when you're readying a home for sale. As Carlson, the veteran South Carolina real estate agent, says, "A clean slate invites people to be their own decorator." Colors that quietly pop can make that invitation more irresistible.
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