The Paint Color That Makes Your Home Look Instantly Dated

published Apr 26, 2024
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Bench with blue cushion and throw pillows next to carpeted stairway in entryway with yellow walls. 62935273
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Painting for yourself and painting to entice a potential buyer are two different ball games. When you’re repainting a home you live in, you can paint in any hue your color-loving heart desires. But if you’re painting to sell your house, you have to take current trends, buyer preferences, and a neutral palette into account.

But be warned, because according to the pros, not just any neutral will do. There are certain neutral paint colors that will instantly date your home back to late 1990s suburbia or an early aughts flip. The same can be said for bold color choices that don’t always read as styled or intentional as you might hope. 

Want to make sure your home doesn’t send potential buyers into a time warp? Here are the paint color types that real estate and staging experts insist will make your listed home look instantly dated.

Yellowed Off-White

Off-white can be a classic neutral, but it has to be the right shade. One wrong turn, and it can look muddy, stark, or, even worse, dated. Meridith Baer, CEO and founder of Meridith Baer Home, has one particular off-white hue that’s stuck with her through the decades.

“In the ’90s and early 2000s, it seemed every interior was painted in Navajo White — a yellowish white color that complemented the Tuscan theme so prevalent at the time.” Now, that color brings to mind warm quartz, elaborate stone backsplashes, and filigree bronze light fixtures. Whenever Baer is brought in, she immediately updates the home with a fresher, but still soft, truer white hue.


This one is going to be tough for some people to handle, but gray’s moment may have come and gone. “Grey reigned supreme in the 2010s. Grayish walls with gray toned wood floors seemed to be every developer’s favorite,” Baer says. Today, gray brings to mind the “millennial gray aesthetic” where everything from the sofa to the art is in shades of gray. Baer suggests updating a gray room with a warm white, like Decorator’s White from Benjamin Moore, that will make the space look more livable and welcoming.


Beige is sometimes called sad beige for a reason. “Beige, in all forms, feels like a tired, weary white, and a bit like room temperature coffee,” says Chesley McCarty of TTR | Sotheby’s International Realty. The color had its heyday in the early 2000s when rooms were washed in beige on beige, McCarty insists. Now the sight of the color could signal to a buyer that the home has not been updated in at least two decades.

Butter Yellow 

“I actually love the color yellow, but there is a leftover shade floating around from a previous day that if not managed well, immediately distracts from the quality of the home,” McCarty explains. That particular yellow is a warm butter yellow that, while perhaps appetizing if you’re spreading it on an English muffin, can make a room feel more reminiscent of a long-gone era. Rather than taking on the crisp, fresh feel of a light yellow or the richness of a mustard, McCarty says it ends up falling warm and flat. 

Dark Red or Dark Green

Making the choice on your own to paint a room in a dark color can be a stunning statement, but that doesn’t necessarily translate when your house hits the market. “Each time I show a property and walk into a room with the dark red or dark green, there’s an immediate buyer objection. This begins the mental dance of what needs to be changed right away,” says Patricia Gray Hendricks, a real estate agent with Long & Foster Cape May. While you may love your deep lipstick red dining room, when it comes time to list your house, it might be time to brighten it up.

Bold Primary Colors

Do you remember TLC’s early 2000s runaway hit Trading Spaces? That show loved a statement wall, and it loved a bold primary or secondary color like red, blue, green, and purple. But the early 2000s are over, and those bold colors now can feel like a relic of the past. 

Jared Blumberg, real estate agent and founder of the Werner Blumberg Group at Compass, explains, “Unless used sparingly and thoughtfully, bold colors should be removed. Bold choices were popular in interiors in the early 2000s. However, over two decades later, I would never advise any client to paint a whole room bright red, blue, green, etc.”

“When you are selling a home you want the home to speak for itself, not the paint,” Blumberg adds.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The Paint Color That Makes Your Home Look Instantly Dated