You may already know that the color of your walls can have a profound effect on your mood and emotional wellbeing. But did you know the shade in your kitchen or bedroom can have an impact on your wallet, too?
A new study commissioned by Zillow reveals that the right paint color–in the right room–can significantly boost the potential value of your property. Homes with light blue bathrooms could sell for up to $4,698 more than expected, while homes with mint green kitchens could sell for $1,830 less than expected, based on a typical U.S. home with a value of $290,000.
The study comes amidst the Great Reshuffling, which Zillow coined during the pandemic, and which has seen over 1 in 10 Americans move as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. With millions of additional households projected to enter the real estate market in the coming years, the study provides a curious glimpse, albeit mercenary in its aspirations, into the emotionally charged, surprisingly predictable, behavioral patterns of U.S. homebuyers.
Over the course of six days in May 2021, Zillow conducted a survey of 1,295 U.S. adults with a median age of 35, who indicated that they had either bought a home within the past two years or that they planned to buy one within the next two years. For each portion of the study, participants looked at images of four rooms in a home–the kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom–that were randomly assigned one of 15 colors, including pale blue, forest green, and burgundy red. Each color was scored based on how tempted participants were to tour or buy the home, and the price they would be willing to pay based solely on viewing that color in a particular room.
“We really wanted to help home sellers make the right decision and get the most bang for their buck,” says Amanda Pendleton, a Home Trends expert with Zillow. And while it’s true that tastes differ, pale sky blue in the bathroom was a clear winner, with a score of 93 out of 100. In fact, participants loved it so much that they were willing to pay 1.6% more than expected.
It may sound trivial, but there’s a reason people choose certain colors over others, and there are cognitive processes in play when making life-changing decisions like buying a house. Case in point: the study was conducted by behavioral scientists.
Led by Zillow’s senior behavioral scientist Kate Rogers, along with BEworks – a consulting firm and behavioral science research institute—the study found that prospective buyers felt a kinship with the homeowners if their tastes were the same. As a result, they were more likely to make a higher offer. When navigating complex environments with a lot of uncertainty, our brains tend to get overwhelmed with information, “so color is much more impactful in our decision-making process,” says Pendleton. “There’s something that’s happening on a subconscious level, you’re having a split-second emotional reaction and color is a part of that,” she says.
So, will your home sell faster if you paint your bathroom pale sky blue? That question wasn’t studied, but as Pendleton says, “we do know that the more potential buyers are interested, the more the house is likely to sell.” If sellers play it safe (white kitchens scored 80, and light grey in the living room got a 92), they’re likely to attract more buyers and boost their chances of selling.
“Paint is one of two most common projects homeowners take on before selling it,” says Pendleton. According to other research done by Zillow and Thumbtack, the average price of a paint job costs $1,240 for the entire house, and $385 per room. If you wanted to repaint your bathroom in pale blue, you could end up pocketing as much as $4,300, but in the grand scheme of things, is it really worth the hassle to please changing tastes and fickle trends? This is underscored by another of the study’s findings: While mint green was once considered one of the hottest colors to paint your kitchen, it has since been brushed off, as have kitchens in fire-hydrant red or sunshine yellow (never mind that the latter was crowned one of the Pantone Color of the Year 2021).
This isn’t to say that sellers can’t get a little “more experimental,” as Pendleton puts it. If homeowners are thinking about selling, the study found the primary bedroom to be the strongest contender for moody colors like dark blue (which scored 89 and was associated with a $1,491 sale premium), or a rich forest green. “Pale blue performs really well in the bathroom but not in other rooms,” says Pendleton. “It’s getting strategic about where to put these particular colors in a way that’s going to get the most ROI.”