The color of our walls can have a more profound impact on us than we’d like to admit, covertly affecting our mood, concentration, and performance. It turns out, those colors can have a pretty big impact on our home’s selling price, too.
Red walls, for example, can make us more alert and better at memorizing or detail-oriented tasks, according to a 2009 study at the University of British Columbia. “Red is often associated with dangers and mistakes,” say the study’s authors—think stop signs or a teacher’s corrective red ink—so it puts us in a state of heightened vigilance and awareness.
Meanwhile, people surrounded by blue walls did worse on short-term memory tests, but showed far more imagination than those immersed in red, performing twice as well on creative tasks in the study. “Blue is often associated with openness, peace, and tranquility,” like the ocean or sky, the authors say. Blue seems to conjure within us all the endless possibilities of a distant horizon.
So perhaps that’s why, according to a new analysis by Zillow, homes with light blue bathrooms sold for an average of $5,440 more than other, similar homes. It makes sense that people would rather wash up and brush their teeth while daydreaming amid the soft glow of a powder blue sky. (And everyone knows the shower is the source of our greatest creative ideas.)
Zillow analyzed more than 32,000 photos from sold home listings across the country to see how certain paint colors, room by room, impacted a home’s sales price compared to other listings. Blue came out the big winner overall: Not only did blue bathrooms boost a home’s sales price, so did light blue or soft slate kitchens (good for a $1,809 increase on average), dining rooms painted slate blue or navy with white shiplap (+$1,926), and bedrooms painted light cerulean or cadet blue (+$1,856).
“Painting walls in fresh, natural-looking colors, particularly in shades of blue and pale gray, not only make a home feel larger, but also are neutral enough to help future buyers envision themselves living in the space,” said Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s chief economist, in a press release. “Incorporating light blue in kitchens and bathrooms may pay off especially well as the color complements white countertops and cabinets, a growing trend in both rooms.”
However, blue was a bust when it came to the living room, where it was correlated with an $820 drop in sales price. Light beige or oatmeal living rooms were good for an $1,809 increase.
A terra cotta or brick-red dining room, meanwhile, lowered a home’s selling price by $2,031 on average. And the biggest price drag was having no color at all, at least in one key area: White bathroom walls were found to sink a home’s sales price by more than $4,000.
It’s important to remember this is simply correlated data, and there could be a million reasons why houses with blue bathrooms sell for more money. Light and slate blue have been popular in the past few years, so it could just mean these homes got a refresh more recently than others on the market.
But putting this all together, one could argue that a few $30 gallons of paint and a couple of Saturday afternoons have at least the potential to net you a lot more money when it comes time to sell your home—especially if your current palette isn’t popular with buyers:
- Painting a marigold or straw yellow kitchen (-$820) light blue or a soft slate (+$1,809) could theoretically lead to a swing of $2,629 in the home’s sales price.
- Painting that brick-red dining room (-$2,031) a slate blue (+$1,926) instead could make a $3,957 combined difference.
- Before you list your home, paint your kid’s pink bedroom (-$208) a light cerulean or cadet blue (+$1,856) to realize a $2,164 total upswing.
- And simply painting an eggshell white bathroom (-$4,035) a light blue (+$5,440) — say, Wythe Blue, Benjamin Moore’s 2012 color of the year — could yield an astounding $9,475 increase in the sales price.
All told, that’s a $18,125 price swing. Eighteen grand for a few buckets of paint and primer? That’s a pretty nice return on your investment — and more than enough to cover the average cost of selling a home.
And if you’re looking to a buy a home? Don’t be put off by drab or outdated colors — in fact, you might even seek them out, since they might ward off fickle buyers and they’re easy to change. There’s virtually no home improvement project better suited to the amateur DIYer than slapping on a new coat of paint. The hardest part of painting is really just the patience and preparation it requires — and picking the right color.