Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Can Color Cost You a Sale?
Use color psychology on your listings. Learn the science behind color and how it can guide your color decisions.
February 1, 2009
Take care when giving color advice to home sellers. Their color choices might be sending the wrong message to potential buyers.
Many salespeople and stagers say neutral beige or off-white walls are what sells listings—but a touch of color may be just what you need to revive buyers' interest in a languishing listing. And although beige may offend no one, the right color on a home's walls or spotlighted in the accessories can trigger positive physiological and psychological responses among potential buyers.
"Color can change how you feel; it has an instantaneous effect," says design psychologist Constance Forrest, principal of Forrest Painter Design in Venice, Calif., who incorporates psychological techniques in the design of interior spaces. "If people walk into a space and sense a warm color, they immediately get a sense of a cozy home and will probably reactive positively."
White, on the other hand, "makes the room invisible," Forrest says. "White is a missed opportunity to create a feeling in the space. It doesn't help buyers imagine themselves in the home." (Not to mention, in Asian cultures, white is associated with death and can add a certain doom to listings.) Forrest says that pastel colors—which have a mostly white base—can have a similar, invisible effect.
Research on color responses has shown that warm colors, such as orange and red, can increase excitement and energy, whereas cooler hues, such as blue, can be calming and relaxing. Indeed, research shows color can influence a person's senses—even body temperature—and make scenes more memorable. Knowing the responses colors evoke offers insight into where and when you should use color in a home to appeal to buyers.
Go Green, Cautiously
"Many studies have been done on the impact of color in packaging on purchasing decisions," says Debbie Zimmer, spokeswoman for The Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute, a research and education group on decorating and color techniques. "You can take that concept of color and paint and apply it to a space to create a mood in a home."
So what color can lift a buyer's spirits? The most potent color is green, Forrest says. In light-spectrum research that focused on treatments for season affective disorder, she notes, subjects exposed to green colors were in better moods than any of the other subjects tested.
But before you start splashing green on all your listings, take caution. Not all shades of green are a safe bet. For example, lime greens—or any yellows with green undertones—"look sickly to most buyers," says interior designer Jeanette Fisher, an author of 22 books on design psychology. Fisher has used color techniques to redo and sell homes for more than 20 years. Medium shades of green such as sage—and bedrooms painted in creamy tones of green—can be a good choice, she says. Fisher also favors buttery yellows inside and out, complemented with white trim accents.
4 Steps to Selecting a Color
To select the right color for each room of your listing, design experts recommend applying the following strategies.
1. Coordinate with the room's use. Certain colors lend themselves to certain activities. For example, studies show that kitchen and dining areas painted in "food colors"—such as celery green or red—increase appetite, whereas blue acts as an appetite suppressant. On the other hand, the tranquility evoked by blue makes it ideal for bedrooms, Fisher says.
2. Paint for the season. Color directly impacts your senses, making a room's temperature feel cooler or warmer. For example, bring in warm colors—such as reds, oranges, and yellows—in the fall and winter months, and cooler colors—greens, blues, and purples—during the spring and summer. To save yourself some hassle, paint just one accent wall in a room, or bring out the season-appropriate colors using accessories such as throw pillows or a vase of flowers.
3. Use a directional approach. The effect of color on perceived temperature also means that the direction a room faces should influence color choices. North-facing rooms may not feel as warm and inviting to buyers because they don't get as much sunlight, an impression that can be lessened by painting them a warm color. "If you have a very warm room that is facing south, and you want to cool it or calm it down, use cooler hues of blue or green," Zimmer suggests.
4. Harmonize. You can also use color to provide a sense of order and balance in a home. Using variations of the same color throughout a house, rather than painting every room a different, contrasting color, provides a sense of flow from one room to another and doesn't distract buyers' eyes.
"Color is always a very personal choice," Zimmer adds. "So color choices can be subtle. A color doesn't have to be McDonald's yellow or Red Roof Inn red to be noticed. It can be a derivative or a subtle tint or tone of those particular colors to create the warming effect buyers want in a home."
Use the Color Wheel to Mix & Match
The color wheel is broken down into three main categories: primary (foundation colors used to create all other colors), secondary (created by combining two of the primary colors), and tertiary (formed by combining a primary and an adjacent secondary color).
To mix and match colors easily, you can use the color wheel in one of two ways:
1. Complementary Two colors that fall directly opposite one another on the color wheel (e.g. red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple). They create a maximum contrast and can be visually intense.
2. Analogous Color schemes that consist of any three colors located side by side on the color wheel (e.g. yellow, yellow-orange, and orange). One of the three colors usually dominates. This color scheme can add depth and energy to a room.
Source: Color Matters, www.colormatters.com