The Color Real Estate Agents Call a “Nightmare” When They’re Trying to Sell Your Home

published Jul 17, 2022
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Stylish pink kitchen interior with dining table and chairs
Credit: Shutterstock/New Africa

House hunters are notoriously picky when it comes to a home’s color palette. From wall colors that are too bold to kitchen appliances that cross the line between retro and just plain tired, it can be tough to impress would-be homebuyers. 

That’s why it’s important to listen to the advice of real estate agents, who have the inside scoop of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to selling your home quickly and for a good price. Here’s what they think about those bold color choices you made in your home — including the particular one that makes them cringe — and more importantly, what potential buyers think, too. 

Color Them (Un)Impressed

“Real estate agents cringe when they walk into a property and see bright reds and oranges,” says Gretchen Rosenberg, CEO of Kentwood Real Estate. “Those aren’t universally popular colors and are hard to work with for most people’s existing furnishings.”

Bret Weinstein, CEO of Guide Real Estate agrees. “Bright red is the nightmare color for all real estate agents,” he says. “When we walk in and we hear ‘redrum,’ it’s never a good thing. (If you don’t know this reference, know that you don’t ever want your house to remind someone of Stephen King’s novel “The Shining” or the Stanley Kubrick movie of the same name.)  

“But it’s just an accent wall!” you protest. Fair enough. But while these were a hit with buyers and sellers alike in the 1990s and early 2000s, today they are “far too tacky,” says Weinstein. In other words, time to repaint — though the silver lining is that you’ll only have to redo one wall of the room instead of four.

What About Appliances?

If you remember the early days of Rachael Ray’s career and her show, “30-Minute Meals,” then you’ll recall the brightly colored kitchen that served as her TV backdrop. It changed a bit over the years, but at one point there was a lime green backsplash up against bright orange cabinets and a butter yellow stove. Quirky? Yes. Great for the cameras? You know it. But making meal after meal amid that cacophony of color is too much for most buyers. 

The simple solution? Stainless steel all the way. There’s just one thing to keep in mind, says Rosenberg. “Homeowners should be careful not to mix brands [of appliances] because there are so many tones of stainless and they may not work together across different manufacturers.” That said, mixed-tone metals for kitchen hardware is very in, says Rosenberg, noting that brass tones for accents like drawer pulls and lighting fixtures are “not unusual.”

If you’ve got stone countertops — and you should, considering they are the darlings of home buyers — Weinstein says that you can use this as your opportunity for an accent. 

“To really stick out, the best bet is quartz or a single color [stone countertop] and then playing your cabinets off those colors,” Weinstein explains. The white kitchen trend continues because it makes the space feel more open, so avoid dark cabinets which “have gone by the wayside,” he says. Rosenberg agrees, noting cherry, oak, and maple cabinets in particular are out for cabinetry.

Credit: Viv Yapp

Of course, if you’re not planning to sell your home anytime soon and you want your kitchen to be one of your happy places, you can add bright colors to your kitchen. But if you are planning to woo new owners, avoid avocado green, bright red, shiny blue, and — yikes — black walls. Also, “Retro is great, old and gold is not,” says Weinstein. These extreme colors “can really make a dent in your potential buyer pool.” Though bold colors and accents might be your style, he says buyers won’t necessarily see themselves in the space. 

“White kitchens go in and out of fashion about every ten to fifteen years and they’re back in again,” says Rosenberg. “However, many designers are combining white with colored cabinets, either on lowers or on an island.” She notes that the current color trends in this respect are navy, sage green, and tones of gray. Avoid colors like pink and avocado which “are out and have been for years,” she says, though she admits kelly and pine green have been used to “good effect.” Perhaps Rachael Ray’s set designer was on to something after all.

Shift into Neutral (Colors)

Neutral palettes might seem boring to you if you’re normally more adventurous with color. But real estate agents are often insistent on this strategy for good reason: It works for nabbing those buyers.

“The further we move away from neutral, the further we move away from the majority of buyers seeing themselves in your home,” Weinstein says. 

Not sure where to start? Weinstein suggests teaming up with a design pro to help neutralize your house to the point “where the largest amount of buyers will think, ‘Hey, I could live here,’” he says. But if your kitchen — or any space in your home, for that matter — is colorful and bold enough to be a set on a television show, be prepared to wait for the right buyer to come along. 

“We never want to list a house that most buyers are more focused on all of the work than on the love they can put in,” Weinstein says.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: This Is the Bold Color That Makes Real Estate Agents Cringe When You Want to Sell Your Home