Use Color Psychology on Your Listings - The science behind color can guide your color decisions.

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.

Responsive Hues

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.

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