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The answer to the question in the title is a resounding “it depends”! (We’re sorry if you were hoping for something more definitive.) Whether you should repaint before listing your house for sale depends in large part on the current condition of the house, the market, and your own urgency in selling. Read on to learn more so that you can make the best decision possible for your own situation.
Reasons to Paint Before Listing
Prospective buyers want to be able to picture themselves at home in their new house. If you’ve made your house uniquely yours, perhaps with a color scheme best described as “quirky” or “unique,” it might make sense to repaint in classic neutrals so that the house becomes a blank canvas for the buyers.
Similarly, if your house appears especially well lived in, a clean and fresh paint job would probably be a very good investment. You may be comfortable with faint remains of your kids’ crayon masterpieces or scratches from the cat literally climbing the walls, but if buyers think that you haven’t done a good job maintaining your paint, they may wonder what other maintenance may be lacking.
If you want or need to sell quickly, you’ll want to make sure that your house is move-in ready for a buyer who also wants to move quickly. This includes a fresh coat of paint in a light, neutral color.
Reasons Not to Paint Before Listing
If you expect to sell your house on the lower end of the market, it’s possible that you won’t even make back what it would cost to repaint. Similarly, if there are reasons why a new paint job would be extremely expensive, you may not be able to recoup that investment.
There are markets where houses sell for above asking price within days of hitting the MLS. If you’re lucky enough to be selling in such a time and place, you won’t have to put in any extra effort to sell quickly and profitably, so why put yourself through the hassle?
We recommended above to repaint if the existing paint is in poor condition, but there’s one major exception to that. If you’re planning on selling as a fixer-upper or “handyman special,” the buyers will be expecting to do a lot of work on the house. They won’t be turned off by faded or peeling paint, and they’ll probably be buying it at a price that doesn’t justify your putting time and money into repainting it.
According to USA Today and Zillow, homes with terracotta painted walls sold for over $2000 less than similar homes with other paint colors. Homes with blue bathrooms sold for over $5000 more than expected, and homes with white bathrooms sold for $4000 less. Painting your front door may be the single best investment that you can make, paint-wise; homes with front doors painted in charcoal, smoke, or black tones sold for over $6000 more than their counterparts with other door colors.
If it’s not the cost of the paint job that’s giving you pause – you just don’t want to deal with it – consider offering prospective buyers a “painting allowance” after closing. They get a fresh paint job in exactly the colors they want, and you get a quick sale without any of the extra work.
Lastly, it’s easier to write a check than to un-write it. If you’re undecided and not in a particular hurry, list now as it is. If you don’t get the kind of offers you want, paint and re-list.