Proven Winning & Losing Colour Choices in Real Estate: The Easy Formula for a Fast Sale with Paint

Nova Scotia is one of those places where we have the joy of experiencing a sort of colour therapy. Like flipping pages through a magazine, we visually take in the homes as we drive through towns and neighborhoods. Light baby blue blocks on a backdrop of rolling hills along the coast, historic properties with off-white siding with black trims, old buildings in town getting a well-deserved “paint-lift”… And then, every so often we may come across a new favourite house where the curated colour palette pleases our senses to the point of painting a visible exclamation point on our face.

Like the days we inhale deeply as we stare at seemingly newly-deepened ocean blues after winter, or those days when we awaken peacefully to the light of the morning shining onto crisp white sheets; whether we take in colours by choice, colours affect us. Able to delight our senses or quell them, colour plays a grand role in our everyday lives, and the way we choose to use it can actively affect the sale of a house.

Being an active participant in trend-setting, many colours of year make their ways to walls, some winning, others not. And though homes do not dodge the trend bullet, there are general rules and law of colour when it comes to selling a home that can make a victorious lasting impression, especially on potential buyers.

This speaks to the psychology of colour. German poet, artist, and politician, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who published Theory of Colors in 1810, one of the earliest writings on colour and how it affects us was His ideas were accepted by well-known philosophers and physicists, and vastly rejected by the science community at first, but since then, the subject has continued to be discussed! And today, the association between mood and colour are widely known and recognized, as seen in fashion, design, and marketing everywhere.

Benjamin Moore explains as per the Psychology of colours, that:

  • pale colours feel breathable and are uplifting
  • neutrals keep you grounded, and
  • deep colours bring some intensity

Colours are personal. It can remind you of certain memories: warm mellow days at the beach, staying until the golden rays of sunshine dazzles upon your eyelashes. Or that day you sailed a boat on your birthday on the dark navy waters by Lunenburg, casting fishing line into it and listening to local fisherman’s stories of back in the day. Choosing a colour in our home may be a way to capture harmony and inspire our mind, but once you’re staging to sell your home it’s a different story.

The point is, colour has power to “completely alter your experience,” as designer Shannon Kaye puts it. And if you can understand some the psychology behind it, it can mean a faster and better sale for you. So, bring on the colour swatches.

You want buyers to be able to imagine themselves in your home. With different colour tastes, there’s a high chance that yours might not agree with all the potential buyers. For this reason also, opt for neutral or light colours as to invoke an airy and agreeable feeling, allowing the future home owner to picture their future life in their potential home. If some view light paint in the house as a blank canvas, then the potential buyer is the artist. Give them the space to create a picture in their mind.

Interior Colours: The Crazy Difference between Offer Decrease or Increase

Zillow, the most visited online real estate database in the United States, does some fascinating studies, giving valuable insight into the psychology of colour and their impact on selling a house Recently, they released the results of their 2018 Paint Color Analysis, a study whose results have made their way all over the internet. What happened is they looked at 135,000 photos of houses sold from January 2010 and May 2018 to see how paint colour affected sales. Specifically, they looked at the colours in homes who sold more or less than the number the company estimated. They found which colours made the biggest impact in certain rooms.

What they found is that generally, light colours were favoured by participants, and bright ones deterred them.

Here are the winning colours for the home as discovered:

  • Light blue in bathrooms.

Those in a survey who saw a house with a light blue bathroom were willing to increase their house offers by 1.6 percent, which is $5000 more for a house selling for $290,000

  • White or neutral in the kitchen.
  • Light grey in the living room
  • Dark blue in the bedroom

The runners up for room colours were:

  • Gray, dark grey, light yellow in the kitchen
  • Light green, taupe, white, dark grey, light yellow in the living room
  • Light blue, white, dark grey in the bedroom

Staging? Don’t Feature These

Colours named to avoid in any room when selling a house are typically any bright colours. Think: bright green, bright red, bright pink, bright purple, and bright yellow. These colours consistently proved to produce highly unfavourable results in studies done by Zillow [same as mentioned].

When these colours were seen in homes presented to participants in Zillow surveys, there was a consistent decline in viewership and offers on those homes. These colours could knock slash off up to $2000 on a house offer. Bright shades of green, purple, red, pink, and yellow affected home buyers to the point that they would not even want to view homes with these colours

Note: While white was among winning colours in the 8-year Paint Color Analysis study mentioned above, once you research the colour online, it is not a shade that is unanimously agreed upon. White actually sold for $82 less than Zillow estimated it would, while a “wheat yellow” raised the offer by $1,360. It doesn’t mean that white is “bad” choice, but light colours still present a more favourable result when selling a house.

While we want to give potential buyers space to dream by painting walls with a light paint choice, the emotional pull of colour is still important. This is where light tints, shades, or tones of chosen hues come in.

A recap for those needing a refresher on art terms:

-Hue: origin of the colour

-Tint: a hue with white added

-Tone: a hue with grey added

-Shade: a hue with black added []

Remember the light blue bathrooms? They create an emotional pull because of the blue hue the colour is based on. It makes sense that light yellow marked its place as runner up for most effective kitchen colour choices due to its attractive allure from the sunny yellow hue.

By remembering that colour attracts, and lighter colours lead in popularity with buyers, you will have a good formula for choosing a staging colour. Or, you can go with the experts’ lists.

Paint Company Behr and Zillow came together to provide a reliable list of paints based on four that could increase views and buyer offers:


  • Ethereal Mood
  • Sojourn Blue
  • Adirondack Blue
  • Very Navy


  • Platinum
  • Silver Mine
  • Dark Pewter


  • Polar Bear
  • Dove
  • Aged Beige
  • Creamy Mushroom


  • Brook Green

Exterior: It’s the Outside that Counts Here, Too

Consider the neighbourhood

If repainting, you will need to consider your neighbours homes. You want to stand out, but not clash, suggests author and professor, Jeanette Joy Fisher, who teaches real estate investing and design psychology. A colour that doesn’t agree with the surrounding ones will inevitably put off some buyers, she warns. So, if your surrounding neighbouring houses create a pastel-like theme around you, don’t go for Cranberry Red, or Rain-Coat Yellow.

Think Combinations

Recall paint store brochures starring multi-colour combinations for exteriors, suggests Fisher. There’s a reason for it that. Homes with multiple colours sell fast. She brings up Disneyland Main Street as an example to helps us understand how the multi-coloured scene appeals to our senses in an immediate way. Though being in Nova Scotia, we don’t necessarily need tickets to see a dreamy colourful main street. We have those to enjoy in Mahone Bay, Lunenburg, and in Halifax, just to name a few. Absolutely free of charge.

Kerrie Kelley, a Zillow home design expert says, “Contrasting colors, especially in kitchens and home exteriors add interest and dimension to a room that plays very well in listing photos and videos.”

Be Colour Specific

When it comes to exterior colours, Jeannette Joy Fisher says, “certain colours, especially muted, complex shades, attract wealthy or highly-educated buyers, whereas buyers with less income or less education generally prefer simple colours” . To understand “complex shades” think of sage green versus green. What’s interesting, is that often houses in the lower price range sell faster for higher prices with simpler colours (yellow, tan, or accents of white, blue, or green)

Look at the Details

It’s the colour that adds definition to architectural details of a house, says Fisher. Just like the ones we see here in Nova Scotia. Think of all the historical homes in the province and what a delight it is to see old details and trimmings taken care of in carefully chosen colours.

Repaint Your Door

In the 2018 Paint Color Analysis done by Zillow, they also discovered the power of a well-painted door. They found that houses with darker doors – like charcoal, smokey, or even jet-black sold for $6,271 more than expected. This single detail created the highest offer increase noted in the survey .

That’s pretty affective for a door.

Let’s consider this key simplicity a little further. Anunnciata Walton of Country Life United Kingdom asked agents all over England for their opinion on best door colour when selling a house. Here is what they shared:

‘First impressions count, and you want to look smarter, cleaner and more inviting than your neighbours. If your house is of Cotswold yellow stone, duck-egg blue can be appealing… A darker royal blue can look smart against red brick… If it’s by the sea, however, it’s a mellow, chalky, duck-egg blue.’ – Rupert Lawson Johnston, head of Strutt & Parker Chichester

“Assuming it’s a period property, dark blue or dark green, as I think they add class and value.’ – Nicholas Leeming, Chairman, Jackson-Stops & Staff

Heritage blues are popular. These need to be shiny, midnight blues with golden door pulls and letterboxes. Brighter blues are good for smaller properties, but grander homes tend to go for a strong navy or midnight. Too bright a blue can look cheap, so we recommend sticking to a dark tone or a duck egg and keep the finish glossy, which gives an impression of luxury. Blues can look particularly striking on red-brick Victorian properties, which often have elegant skylights or stained-glass windows.’ Michael Donnelly, director, Cheffins

‘In town, black or dark-blue doors lend gravitas and stay clean. In the country, a natural wood is the best choice as it reflects the quality of the property.’ – Rupert Sweeting, head of country-house sales, Knight Frank

‘Extreme colours only work for the few; orange, lime green and pink are all out there, but are not likely to have broad appeal. The door to my own house in the country is a dark aubergine.’ – Lindsay Cuthill, head of Savills country department

Red works with brick houses.’ – Lindsay Cuthill, head of Savills country department

With painting the front door one of the most least expensive projects, according to designer, Kelley it’s definitely a project worth taking up.


  • Colour plays on emotions and have a positive effect on the mind in your home
  • Because not all agree on colour choice, light and neutral are a favoured way to go for staging
  • Coloured walls generally win over white walls
  • Take care of outdoor details such as trimmings and doors
  • Great doors make a great impression can give an equally return for a minimal investment

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