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Tips for Preparing a Home for Sale

Often, bright and unique coloured walls are seen as "too personal." There is a reason why "builder beige" painted walls with some special touches would sell homes faster - buyers can imagine adding their personal touches much easier.

September 21, 2011

Market Ready

This is the first in a regular series of articles on strategic home repairs and redecorating that can be done to prepare a home for sale.

Q. My living room has red walls. Do I really need to repaint them before putting my apartment on the market?


A. Although red walls can look chic, and a bright color may express your personal style, it might pay to repaint your walls in a tamer color. Not only will a new coat of paint cover scuffs and scratches, but a more relaxed color could help potential buyers visualize their own ideas for the space.

Laurie Silverman, an executive vice president at Halstead Property, said she recently dealt with a similar issue. “I had an apartment on the market for a while, where the walls were pink,” she said. “It was really well done, but it was a very specific taste, so nobody could understand the proportions of the room, or the details of this gorgeous prewar apartment.”

Her remedy was to have the walls painted white. The apartment had received little interest for months, but “it sold within a week” of getting its new paint job, she said.

Ms. Silverman advised using “very, very neutral colors” when repainting — hues that are “soothing and calm.”

Laura Kirar, a New York interior and product designer who sometimes uses bold colors in her work, agreed. “When people are shopping, sometimes color can distract them from the architecture or the lines of the space,” she said. “Everybody likes to see a blank slate or white canvas.”

She was quick to point out, however, that there are many shades of white and neutral colors. “A bright white can be shocking,” she said, if you choose the wrong shade. “It can be very much in your face.”

To find a pleasing neutral color, Ms. Kirar said, begin with “an assessment of what kind of light you have in your space.” For a room with lots of sunlight, she recommended a color with warmth, like Pratt & Lambert’s Swiss Coffee. “It has a little bit of yellow and olive in it,” she said, “but comes off as a white.”

In a room with lower light levels, a color like Pratt & Lambert’s Off White would be better, she said, because it “has just a hint of blush” mixed in. “It really looks great on all flesh tones. It reflects and makes everyone look healthy.”

For those who prefer a subtle khaki color, she recommended Pratt & Lambert’s Brierwood. “It’s so neutral that it just complements anything you put next to it,” she said.

Before breaking out the paint rollers, though, you should be aware that red paint can be difficult to cover with a lighter color. One shortcut is to begin with a primer tinted a neutral gray, said Carl Minchew, director of product development for Benjamin Moore. “Tinting the primer to a neutral gray does two things,” he said. “It kills that redness so you don’t get a pink undertone to everything. It also makes the primer have much better hiding” capability.

After that, Mr. Minchew said: “You’re at the mercy of the paint. If you buy a better paint, you’ll have a better shot at doing this with fewer coats.”

Q. I have old almond-colored kitchen appliances. Will buyers actually care if I replace them?

A. First things first: your appliances should at least be in working order. “A dishwasher can cost $400, and that’s money well spent if something is completely falling apart,” said Jacky Teplitzky, a managing director at Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

If the appliances are in relatively good shape, and it’s only a question of color and style, the answer isn’t quite so clear cut. It may seem counterintuitive, but Ms. Teplitzky said that replacing appliances makes the most sense in apartments that will sell at lower price points.

“If it is a $300,000 apartment, people are actually a little bit more picky, because they have less money to spend on a renovation,” she said. “So if you can spend $500 on a refrigerator, then go for it.”

On the other hand, she noted, many people shopping for multimillion-dollar homes plan to renovate, and that usually means putting in an entirely new kitchen. “If it’s a $5 million apartment that needs a renovation, whoever buys it is going to do a gut renovation,” she said, and choose exactly the appliances they want.

If you decide to replace an appliance, and your budget allows for only one, it’s a toss-up between the range and refrigerator, said Susan Serra, a kitchen designer who founded Bornholm Kitchen in Sag Harbor, N.Y., and writes a blog called the Kitchen Designer. “Some stoves can really look worn, even get a little rusty, and look horrible,” she said. If that’s the case, the stove is what you should replace.

“But the refrigerator is the largest appliance,” she said. “So if the range is in decent condition, then replace the refrigerator, because it will make the largest visual impact.”

In terms of finishes, “the darling of appliances is stainless steel,” Ms. Serra said. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. The finish has become so popular that “affordable stainless steel appliances are very common and attainable.”

Replacement isn’t the only option, though. If your refrigerator and dishwasher were originally higher end purchases and are still going strong, but look outdated, you can add panels to freshen up their appearance.

One company that makes these products — which Ms. Serra referred to as her “secret weapon” — is Frigo Design (800-836-8746 or “It’s a great resource for affordable face-lifts,” she said.

The company sells trim kits and panels (in finishes like stainless steel, wood and blackboard) that can be mounted onto existing refrigerators and dishwashers to make them look like new.

Whichever route you choose, Ms. Serra pointed out that “the kitchen is an emotional place” where people like to gather. Replacing or re-facing appliances isn’t the same as a full renovation, she said, but “it might be worth spending that $1,500 to get those emotions going” when potential buyers visit.

Questions about home repairs or redecorating in preparation for selling a home may be sent by e-mail to Unpublished questions cannot be answered individually.