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A ‘Tuxedo’ kitchen by designer Kerrie Kelly.

Brian Kellogg/SacRep Photography

If you’re trying to sell your home and your front door isn’t painted black you might be leaving as much as US$6,271 on the table, according to some new number crunching from the U.S. online real estate listings service Zillow Group.

The study, released in June, has a lot of caveats attached, but does suggest there may be bottom-line benefits to certain colour choices in certain rooms. To be clear, the data do not mean you should go out and start repainting every room in your house: For one, it’s derived from U.S. home sales only, and secondly, the data come from a statistical model that may not account for all the relevant variables.

What Zillow did was compare the final sale number on a property listed on its site with its own initial “Zestimate” number, a figure the company generates using a proprietary algorithm that already crunches thousands of data points such as region, room-size and other local market comparables. To figure out why there were variations between its predictions and the reality, it used machine learning to analyze 135,000 photos from the homes that sold and tried to compare the value of certain paint colours against white walls.

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In some ways, what Zillow did was confirm an anecdotal view held by most listing agents: Bold colours are high risk.

“On the high level, the findings suggest that neutral colours tend to do better, the intuitive logic there is when you are a home-seller, you want to attract as many offers as possible. Neutral colours evoke the fewest strong reactions,” says Aaron Terrazas, Zillow’s economic research director (and previously an economist in the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Economic Policy).

For example, according to Zillow’s data, a light taupe living room fetches US$2,793 more than other colours. On the other side, houses with a yellow exterior sell for US$3,408 less on average if they appear “creamy bright yellow to a flax yellow; a warm yellow with brown undertones.”

A light taupe living room by Kerrie Kelly.

Brian Kellogg/SacRep Photography

That does not mean your yellow house is definitely a lame duck. “Yellow is one of those colours some people like a lot and some people have reactions against,” Mr. Terrazas said. In other words, you could paint your house yellow and get an offer well above asking because a blonde-loving buyer happened to be interested in your property. Or, you could end up below asking because the only people bidding were pricing in the cost of erasing your flaxen abomination.

This is the third year Zillow has published its Paint Color Analysis study, and Mr. Tezzaras said that, although the model scans almost 10 years of listing data, it gives extra weight to recent listings in order to update the trend annually.

For example, last year the study looked at 32,000 photos and found that navy blue front doors were the best option, leading to a sales premium of US$1,514 on average. Also, brown exterior houses were more likely to knock selling prices down US$1,970 less than average.

In some cases, the sales data reflect recent trends, too. Light blue and soft-grey colours in kitchens led to a US$1,809 premium in last year’s study, but this year, “tuxedo” cabinets – with a navy or black lower cabinet paired with light coloured upper cabinets – (with light wall colours) offered a US$1,547 premium.

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“I started seeing high contrast in materials in Milan three years ago; I’ve watched it trickle over to the U.S.,” said Kerrie Kelly, a California interior designer who works as a home design expert for Zillow. She also cautions against trying to optimize every room according to Zillow’s data: “I love a house with flow, I don’t think every room needs a different colour.”

Bathrooms were one of the few areas that seemed not to change too much from last year to this year; periwinkle blue washrooms netted premiums US$2,786 this year – less than the US$5,440 bump from last year’s report.

“Creating zen-like space in your home is still very high on the priority list. That blue hue helps get us to that place in our own home, versus having to go to the spa or on vacation,” Ms. Kelly said. She thinks blue might be generating less of a premium because, as she sees in her practice, there is a newer bathroom style that is trending. “With the popularity of the farmhouse aesthetic, we’re seeing rustic wood vanities that come with counter-top, sink and faucet, and we’re seeing shiplap white walls and brass light fixtures with an arm over the mirror, creating a specific aesthetic that is black and rustic wood.”

Zillow balances its model geographically, and as Ms. Kelly says, interior design trends tend to start on the coasts and work their way toward the United States’ middle, which could be why Zillow’s data might lag a little.

But don’t worry if your space looks dated, or just reflects a personal preference.

“The good news is, paint is inexpensive and an easy way to change your aesthetic immediately. It’s a weekend project, and it’s one of the few things we don’t have to hire out for,” Ms. Kelly said.

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If you’re looking for Canadian data, you might be out of luck for a few more years, Mr. Terrazas says. Even though Zillow has announced it will begin posting Canadian listings from Century 21 by the end of 2018, it could take a few more years to develop a large enough sample size to run a colour analysis north of the border.

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