Picking the Palette: How Color Impacts Sales

Picking the Palette: How Color Impacts Sales

In 2005, Susan Tordella put her Cape Cod-style home in Westford, Mass., on the market. It languished there for months.

One major roadblock quickly became evident — the color of the home. The wood clapboard exterior was dark brown, something several prospective buyers noted before passing on the house. “The worse the market got, the more important color became,” Tordella says. “Buyers saw it as one more thing they’d have to do.”

Pink House

When it comes to selling, the role of color becomes elevated from a personal design choice to a tool that can impact the marketability of a home. The right shade of exterior color can hasten the sale. The wrong shade could kill it.

Tordella’s home eventually sold. But not before she repainted it. She’d driven through her neighborhood scouting out colors, stopped at a home she admired and got the name of the paint from its owner: a historic color with a traditional New England feel called Wooly Thyme. “It made a difference and updated the house significantly,” she says.

The psychology of color runs deep. Colors speak to buyers. Sometimes they shout. Strong colors can assault the senses and unsettle the core. Cool colors can make a home feel less than welcoming. And then there are neutrals, some of which are so safe they elicit yawns. For those who crave color and see it as a statement of who they are, it can be hard to let go.

Color is a subject Amy Wax knows well. Wax is owner of Your Color Source Studios, in Montclair, N.J., and president of the International Association of Color Consultants of North America. A large part of her business involves working with homeowners and real estate agents to create interior and exterior palettes that help homes sell.

“Color is extremely important,” she says. “If it’s too bright or the color is too specific, buyers can’t imagine themselves living in that environment.”

Another reason for a fresh coat of paint? It gives buyers the impression the home has been well maintained.

Higher end homes lean more toward stone colors and those of the environment, such as grays, taupes, terracottas and sages, says Wax. They’re more architectural. They convey weight, security and sophistication. Colors that are too harsh or too whimsical feel risky. Other factors that come into play with palette selection are architectural style, age and location.

This seaside home in Athens, Greece bears the colors of stone and grey, colors found in the area of Kea.. In Athens, one can tell the location of the home based on the color of the home.

This seaside home in Athens, Greece bears the colors of stone and grey, colors found in the area of Kea.. In Athens, one can tell the location of the home based on the color of the home. Click on the photo to see more info & photos of this home for sale.

In Greece, colors are so tied to geography that “you can easily identify a location from the pictures of a house without knowing it in the first place,” says Panagiotis Farmakis of Greece Sotheby’s International Realty in Athens. White is the classic color of Mykonos, for instance. Whites, blues and greens are the colors of Santorini and stone and grays are the colors of Kea. “In general, they mostly use atmospheric and natural colors like the ones you can find in the sea, on a beach and in the sky during sunset,” Farmakis says.

Color is a design device for playing up a home’s architectural details. And it doesn’t have to be done exclusively with paint. Flowers or tiles can successfully draw the eye to, say, an imposing front entrance.

On the interior, color helps moldings and finishes pop. The color expert, Amy Wax, recalls a home in which all the walls were painted white, off-white and cream. The homeowner liked that clean and sterile aesthetic. The problem was that it obscured the beautiful architectural elements. Moldings and columns disappeared into the background. The home sat on the market for months before a new coat of contrasting paint helped it nab an offer.

Color selection is a complex affair and not just for the dizzying number of chip choices available. The amount of natural light a room gets is part of the matrix. Dark rooms do better with colors that are fresher and brighter. A sunny room can be blinding with colors that are too bright. And as important as the hue is the saturation. Muted yellow can embrace. A screaming canary can alienate.

Jane Chefan of Manormor Sotheby’s International Realty in Jacksonville, Fla., recommends that sellers consider repainting the walls of their home if the colors are too bold and personalized. She recalls walking into one home and being startled by its bright red walls: “There was a little bit of shock value with that.” While potential buyers know that painting is a relatively easy fix, it is a distraction nevertheless. “A neutral palette helps buyers look past color and on to the flow and design elements of the house,” she says.

An ideal palette is one that makes its inhabitants want to linger. Farmakis says he’s visited houses that just made him want to spend hours inside “due to their sophisticated decoration, colors and the energy they emit. In the real estate business, we do not sell bricks, walls and windows but feelings, memories and experiences.”

Taken from the Sotheby’s International Realty The Business of Extraordinary Living site on the Wall Street Journal’s web site.