Refresher Course

New paint can help your home make a good first impression. 

Appearances are everything when it comes to getting your house ready for prospective buyers. But just like choosing what to wear on a first date, how do you decide what will appeal to someone—and in this case, many someones—you don’t know?

Experts say to keep it simple, clean, and looking well maintained. The easiest and potentially most important way to convey this message is a fresh coat of paint. “Being strategic with paint can certainly make one’s home more appealing to buyers,” says Beckwith Bolle, principal broker and owner of Carter Braxton Preferred Properties in Leesburg and president of the Virginia Realtors Association. “Bold color choices or peeling paint of any color can put off buyers.”

White, which has long been recommended for refreshing walls, may no longer be the only color for the job. Gray and “greige,” a blend of gray and beige, are currently popular choices for appealing to buyers. “I typically recommend a classic gray, but there are some great combinations of gray and beige, as well as some whites that have a blue tone, that can create an environment of calm,” says Bolle. 

The goal for prepping your home for sale is to create a clean visual palette, and buyers pay particularly close attention to the family room, kitchen, and master bed- and bathrooms. “Some of the darker blues, such as navy, blend well with gray in adjoining rooms and can be excellent choices to create rich focal points, especially in smaller spaces,” says Bolle.

If you haven’t tackled a painting project in the last few years, you may be surprised to learn that interior oil-based paint is no longer available. New standards put in place by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency dramatically lowered the acceptable level of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paints, virtually eliminating the oil-based versions used by many homeowners in the past. Latex paints, previously unusable on top of the old oil-based variety, have been reformulated and can now cover virtually any existing coat of paint. “It’s a far better latex than we had even five years ago because of all the research manufacturers were forced to do to clean up the compounds,” says Max Pirman, assistant manager at Sherwin Williams Paint in Richmond. Water-based paints are especially great choices for interiors. Formulated with acrylic resins, the paint works well as an oil-based substitute. These paints cost between $55 and $85 per gallon. “High-quality paints usually cost more, but they last longer and provide better coverage,” says Pirman. “Less expensive, lower-quality paint will generally require more coats.”

In addition to refreshing the interior, Bolle recommends touching up the exterior wherever possible, paying close attention to doorways. “Make sure your entryways are fresh and bright, as they are the first space the buyer will see,” says Bolle. “First impressions matter!”


This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue.

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