Should I Paint My House to Increase Its Resale Value?

For potential sellers, the current real estate market is sizzling. According to Realtor.com, inventory is low (down 52 percent since last year), prices are at all-time highs and listings are flying off the proverbial shelves. People are scrambling and even competing to buy homes that better accommodate a more-time-at-home lifestyle.

Does this mean you can just put a for sale sign in the yard and call it good, without dealing with aging exterior paint or bedroom walls with dings, scuffs and outdated color schemes? After all, someone is probably going to buy the place anyway — right?

Wrong! Though sellers have the upper hand at the moment, repainting your interior and/or exterior is a wise move to get the most money for your home, says New York real estate agent Betsy Ronel.

A survey by the National Association of Realtors indicates Ronel is not alone. Its 2021 Profile of Home Staging says 63 percent of real estate agents recommend painting interior walls prior to selling.

“You can get a huge bang for your buck,” Ronel says. In her experience, buyers may overlook a lot of other flaws in a home if they know they won’t have to repaint immediately upon receiving the keys.

How Much Does Paint Increase the Value of My Home?

OK, but what are we talking here? Is the increase negligible once you consider all the time and energy required to get the job done? Or are you going to pocket several thousand additional dollars if you paint your home?

“It is hard to generalize,” says Houston-based real estate agent Bincy Jacob. It depends in part on the cost of labor and supplies in your area compared to the cost of housing, Jacob says. Other factors include the quality of competing listings, the size of your home, how much of the home needs paint, and whether you are going to do the work yourself or hire a professional crew.

Plus, it’s important to consider more than dollars. Brian Carlson of Hillsboro, Oregon-based Windermere Real Estate says a freshly-painted home is likely to draw more attention and sell faster than one still sporting paint circa 1999. So even if you don’t add a ton to the bottom line, the paint job will pay off in other ways.

Curb appeal is real,” he says.

The Cost of Interior or Exterior Paint

Naturally, your personal return on investment depends on how much money you spend on painting. The cost will vary. Home Advisor reports the average for interior paint is $3.50 per square foot and between 50 cents and $3.50 per square foot for exterior. In all, the average whole-house cost is $1,891 for interior paint and $2,940 for exterior paint.

Since painters charge between $20 and $50 per hour, painting it yourself will save a ton. Aside from your time, the main expense for a DIY paint job is the paint itself. Expect to spend between $15 and $40 per gallon, depending on the type of paint.

Interior, Exterior or Both?

Here are some things to consider when deciding what to paint:

  • Prioritize the most visible spaces. If you can’t afford to paint everything, that’s OK, says Ronel. Just paint the spaces potential buyers will focus on when they walk through the front door, like the great room, the entryway, the hallway and the primary bedroom.
  • Repair any paint damage, even if the interior paint is in good condition. Chips and other signs of paint deterioration will not only stand out to potential buyers, Carlson says, but to appraisers, who often determine the value of your home.
  • Select neutral interior colors. Red, bright blue or neon stripes might appeal to you, but buyers want a clean slate, Ronel says. And don’t go crazy with variety. One color throughout is recommended.
  • Same goes for the exterior. Data indicates that painting your home yellow significantly reduces what buyers are willing to pay. Greige (a melding of gray and beige), on the other hand, is an appealing paint color to would-be buyers.
  • Touching up damaged areas and/or painting the trim will improve curb appeal if a tight budget prevents a full exterior paint job.

Food for thought: Increasing the value of your home isn’t the only reason to consider repainting. Maybe you have no plans to sell, but an upgrade like fresh paint can give a bright new look to your living space. These days, that’s priceless.

Dawn Weinberger
Dawn Weinberger is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon who has contributed to numerous publications and websites over the past 20 years, including RD.com, Glamour, Women's Health, Entrepreneur, and many others. Dawn has a BA in journalism from Western Washington University and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She writes about everything from health and medicine to fashion, shopping, and business.