Should I Paint My House Before Selling?

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To paint or not to paint, that is the question — or at least, it's one of the most common questions people ask real estate agents when selling a home. In most cases, painting is best since a good first impression can instantly set the tone for a potential buyer's overall opinion of your home. While homeowners who add a fresh coat of paint to their home before listing it usually get a higher sale price, it's important to consider factors such as the condition and color of your existing paint and the current real estate market before deciding whether or not to paint your home.

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Should I Paint My House Exterior Before Selling?

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The exterior of your home sets the stage for what homebuyers expect to see on the inside. This is why real estate agents always stress the importance of curb appeal, and few upgrades can improve the appearance of your home as quickly as a new exterior paint job. Think about it this way: If you see a home with flaking, fading paint, are you really going to expect an attractive, well-maintained interior?

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If you have reasonably new paint, then you might be able to get away with a quick power washing to make your home look ready to sell. Otherwise, signs that you should repaint include:

  • The paint is damaged.​ If the paint is faded, flaking, or peeling, it's time for a refresh.
  • The home exterior is damaged.​ If there are cracks in the caulk, gaps between the siding, cracks in the wood, or you notice any amount of water damage, you'll need to repair the damage before repainting.
  • The colors aren't buyer-friendly.​ Whether the color scheme looks dated or is just too different from the homes around you, it's best to repaint in a neutral color that fits in with the rest of the neighborhood.

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Hiring a professional to repaint the exterior of a home typically costs between $1.50 and $4 per square foot, or around $3,060 for an average-size 1,500-square-foot home. A number of factors can affect this price, though, including the current state of your paint and how many stories the home is. For example, if your home needs paint stripping (in addition to new coats of paint), this costs between 50 cents and $2 per square foot. Similarly, if you have a two-story home, you can expect to pay as much as 50 percent more than you would to paint a single-story home of the same size since accessing the higher areas is inherently more difficult.

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However, if you paint the exterior of your home yourself you can save a substantial amount of money. Overall, painting a home yourself will usually cost between $500 and $1,000 dollars, which covers all the supplies (including brushes, rollers, sprayers, painter's tape, sandpaper, caulk, a caulking gun, and drop cloths) and paint, which typically costs between $20 and $70 per gallon. If you're painting yourself, always purchase high-quality paint, as these give you better coverage, more consistency, and smoother results.

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Other Exterior Paint Jobs You Might Need

Don’t forget that aside from the siding of the home, you should also paint all the trim, your garage door, and your front door. You may even want to paint your fence. If you want to add a pop of color to make your home stand out in a tasteful way, consider using the front door to add some impact. In fact, even if your exterior paint is in good shape or you don’t have the budget to repaint the whole house, it is often worth it to repaint the door a bright, contrasting shade to make your home look more eye-catching.

Exterior Paint Return on Investment

Finding out how much it will cost to repaint your home can help you determine if you will get a worthwhile return on investment for your efforts. Studies by real estate agent trade agencies have found that repainting the exterior of a home can increase the selling price of a home by as much as 1 to 3 percent, increasing the value of a home by an average of $7,571, which amounts to a 152 percent return on investment.

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You can estimate your potential return on investment by multiplying your home's market value by 2 percent to get an average estimate of how much the painting could increase the selling cost. Then, divide your painting estimate by the possible increase in selling price and multiply this by 100 to make it a percentage. In other words, for a $400,000 home, you could get as much as $8,000 extra if you paint the outside of your home ($400,000 x .02). If your paint job was $4,000, you would still be getting a 200 percent return on the investment [($4,000 / $8,000) x 100].

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Should I Repaint the Interior Before Selling?

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Adding a new coat of paint to your interior walls is an excellent way to add value by making the home appear cleaner, newer, and more attractive both in person and in pictures, which can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your real estate listing. The best colors are light neutrals, which can make the home look cohesive from room to room, hide problem areas, make the home appear bigger, highlight certain architectural details, and aid the buyers in picturing themselves living there.

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While it's not always necessary to paint the interior of a home you're selling, if you haven't painted in the last five years or so, chances are you need at least one coat to spruce things up. Always repaint if:

  • The paint is damaged.​ Fading, dings, scratches, peeling, chipping, nail holes, grime, and fingerprints should all be fixed as needed and then painted over.
  • The palate is not neutral.​ You might love orange, royal blue, or bright pink walls, but the number of buyers who will appreciate your color scheme and have furnishings to match is pretty minimal, so make it easier on buyers by applying neutral paint colors that most people find attractive.
  • The paint scheme isn't cohesive.​ Using the same color throughout the house can make the transition from room to room seem more seamless and less disjointed.

Interior Paint Return on Investment

Like the exterior of a home, repainting the interior is expected to increase the sale price by 1 to 3 percent. When it comes to pricing, interior painting of a whole home costs an average of $8,050, which is more than the exterior simply because there's so much more surface to cover. If you have the time, painting your interior is a reasonably simple task, though you still should hire a pro if you aren't sure you can do it well, as a bad paint job could actually cost you sales. If you choose to go the DIY route, the paint and equipment will typically cost between $200 and $300. When painting yourself, consider using flat paint since it hides imperfections better than glossy finishes.

So, Should I Paint Before Selling?

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Painting either the exterior or interior of a home can increase the selling price of your home by 1 to 3 percent, and painting both can increase your selling price by 5 percent. However, not every seller will benefit by painting their home. You may find that it's not worth it to paint if you:

  • Don't have the budget to paint
  • Want to sell your house as soon as possible
  • Don't want to deal with the inconvenience
  • Painted fairly recently, and the paint still looks appealing to buyers
  • Believe your home is likely to be purchased as a rental since landlords typically don't mind painting themselves
  • Know the home is in poor condition and a new paint job won't increase the value of the home enough to cover the expense

It also pays to know the market. If you live in an area with a hot housing market, painting might be an unnecessary expense, especially if houses are getting purchased sight unseen. On the other hand, if you're in a buyer's market where you need to go the extra mile to land a sale, painting could make the difference in getting your house sold in a timely manner for a good price.

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