When preparing your house for sale, an overall interior paint job should top your to-do list. A fresh coat of paint can bring new life and vitality to living spaces in very little time and with minimal expense. But choosing the right paint palette can be the critical difference between enticing potential homebuyers and turning them away. By selecting from a range of neutral shades, you can add sophistication and selling power all at once.

Real estate agents, home stagers and decorators strongly recommend painting a home in neutral colors to help it sell faster. Why? Most buyers don’t want any extra work. When you’re trying to sell your home, you don't want potential buyers to walk into your house and immediately think about the extra costs of painting over the wall colors that they dislike.

Neutral colors also help a property look best in photographs online, which is where potential buyers first make the decision to look at a house or condo in person.

Why Use Neutral Colors?

The versatility and universal appeal of neutrals, especially when you’re thinking about putting a house on the market, can’t be overemphasized. People are sensitive to color on a deep, emotional level. A certain hue that you think looks perfect in your living room might trigger a deep sense of discomfort in a visitor. The deeper the color you choose for your walls, the stronger effect it might have on others. Conversely, the closer your home's colors are to pure, neutral white, the less they will emotionally affect visitors -- or potential buyers

Clean, neutral shades lend an air of sophistication and serenity while providing a perfect canvas upon which future inhabitants can apply their own accents and personalization. Because they provide so much flexibility, neutral choices have long-lasting and far-reaching appeal.

When it comes to selling a house, you don’t want buyers to see you in the space, but rather, you want them to imagine themselves living there.

What Is Neutral?

In classic color theory, neutrals are achromatic “non colors” that don’t fall into any of the traditional categories associated with the “color wheel.” These include shades within the white, gray, and brown families. For the purposes of room painting, white is not a neutral color. On the contrary, it is a “bright” color.

In recent years, designers have begun to embrace a new set of neutrals that include softer, muted, lighter versions of colors found on the color wheel – shades like mocha, sea foam, and lavender. With their subtle color presence, these new neutrals – often referred to as complex colors – provide the same versatility and universal appeal of traditional neutrals while adding a dynamic quality that can broaden your choices considerably.

Neutral Nuances – Dialing Up and Dialing Down

Whether you decide on a more traditional taupe or a newer neutral like pistachio, keep in mind that different neutrals make sense for different spaces. Lighter shades lend an airy feel, making them great for small spaces like bathrooms and hallways. Darker shades, meanwhile, can help bring a cozy feel to an especially large room. A room’s function within the house also provides clues about whether to opt for a warmer or cooler neutral. A creamy antique white with hints of yellow or orange adds a comfortable feel to a social space like the kitchen, for example, while a cooler shade of gray lends a sense of uncluttered calm to a small office or den intended to serve as a quiet, peaceful retreat.

You Don’t Have to Go It Alone

Though having options is never a bad thing, the staggering array of neutrals you have to choose from today may seem overwhelming. If you don’t know or are unsure, ask for help. A Marples and Associates sales associate can provide useful insight, as can experts at your local hardware store or home decorating outlet. Magazines, like Better Homes and Gardens can provide ideas and serve as inspiration. When you see a room that looks appealing, mark the page and match the wall color at the store.

Also, consider conducting a trial run. Purchase the smallest size can of paint available in a neutral you like, and try it out on a small area of one wall. This makes it easy to change course if necessary – or to go ahead and commit to the full gallon if you like what you see.