Prepping your home for sale? Having trouble deciding whether your walls need a fresh coat of paint? 

If you are like most sellers, you've already heard that painting is one of those home improvement projects that give a great return on your investment.

But what exactly that investment amounts to depends on things like how many rooms need painting. What about ceilings, cabinets, and trim? And, are you going to be doing it yourself, or paying a team of professional painters?   

To help you decide how painting can be part of a profitable home staging plan, here are some questions you should answer.

What is your market like?

A good Realtor will tell you if your prospective buyers are part of a buyer's market or a seller's market. That info should give you an indication of how demanding buyers will be. Ask her if the homes you are competing with typically have freshly painted walls throughout.  

Your Realtor should also tell you how discriminating buyers will be in your locale and price, and how insistent they will be about things like color choices. A $200,000 home in Omaha, a $1,000,000 home in Austin, and a $40,000 home in rural Maine are all going to be marketed differently.  

Will you need to change colors?

According to a study by Review42, up to 90% of first impressions are based on color alone. So, the paint color you choose will influence how potential buyers feel as soon as they enter your home.  

I've blogged about the way to choose paint colors that don't clash with the colors of your current surfaces like flooring and countertops, and with the colors of your fixtures like sinks and toilets. 

This bedroom wall color is a soft grey-green that could 
easily be used in other rooms. Photo: The Nester

My vote has always gone towards painting the interior walls of a home on the market one neutral color. Boring? Maybe. But at least buyers can more quickly and easily envision their own style and d├ęcor in the space. And if they want to add an accent wall or paint each bedroom a different color, that's in their court. 

A singular color throughout a home makes the house seem newer, cleaner, and more spacious -- all desirable qualities to buyers. Choosing one color also saves money at the paint store. Depending on your choice, a repaint could mean some walls will need two coats of paint for good coverage. Ask your paint salesman about the coverage of your color choice and the quality of the paint.  

Paint with grey undertones
will cover better than colors
like yellow or white. 

Are your walls in bad shape? 

Do your walls have dings that need to be fixed? Do some of your doorways show nicks where furniture being moved bumped the trim? Did your dog scratch the paint off one of your doors? These are the kind of eyesores that distract buyers when they tour your home. 

Expect some buyers to ask for a discount or "painting allowance" if your walls or trim need repairs. It's usually less money to have the work done than it is to give the allowance because the buyers aren't going to shop around for a good price quote the way you would. And if you DIY the repairs and painting, that's more money in your pocket.       

Have you ever painted before?

Painting can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, especially if you have a large property or limited experience in painting. A cheap, amateurish, or rushed paint job is going to depreciate your home's value.  

A good paint job requires patience and skill. If you are a caregiver to parents, children, or a partner, you may not have to energy to paint your rooms. If you have a full-time job or two jobs, maybe you don't have the time. If you are not a detail-oriented person, you may not have the mindset for painting. 

Two of my blog posts that will help you be a better painter are my tips to avoid common mistakes inexperienced painters make, and the value of using dropcloths.   

What's the best way to hire painters?

Before listing your home, decide if it makes economic sense to hire out a paint job. According to RemodelingExpense, repainting your living room offers a remarkable 125% return on investment. This means that for every dollar spent on repainting, you can expect to recoup $1.25 when it comes time to sell. That fact might take the sting out of having to pay painters instead of making it a DIY project. 

Another way to look at paying professional painters is that the cost could be lower than a reduction in your listing or selling price. Professional painters have the expertise and tools to get your house to market sooner, saving you effort, chaos, and potential mistakes.

Painting requires a combination of patience and
efficient motions that save a painter's steps and energy.   

Getting recommendations from local homeowners, Realtors, and building contractors is the best way to find a painter to hire. You can ask on NextDoor or any neighborhood listserve or Facebook group you belong to. When you get quotes, it's best if you can meet with the business owner. Ask who exactly will be doing the work, whether they are insured, how long the job will take, and how long they have been in business.

One red flag to be aware: a paint contractor asks for an advance so he "can buy the paint." If the business owner does not have sufficient credit to purchase materials, it does not speak well of him. Do not give advances for work that is not done.  

I am guilty of judging a contractor by his vehicle. You don't want a contractor who drives an old beat-up, paint-smeared pickup, but you don't want the boss to own a brand-new, luxury car either. Find that sweet spot between a business owner who is successful but not greedy. 

I also like to deal with business owners who know how to communicate easily, using today's technology for keeping in touch and billing.  

Get the look, get the book

Whether you decide to do your own painting or pay others, don't neglect the power of paint as a marketing resource. 

Cater to the preferences of your local market. Make informed choices about color and your own abilities and budget. That's the best way to make the most of your homestaging efforts and attract potential buyers. 

I've already blogged about how to paint your front door and how to paint an overhead garage door, two of my most popular posts. For more advice and encouragement on staging your own home for sale, download my ebook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. I offer my years of experience in real estate, construction, home decor, and homestaging, to take the guesswork and mistakes out of making your home sale quick and profitable.

Top Photo: Lindye Galloway