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What Is The Best Interior Paint for Landlords and House Flippers? (Hint… It’s Not What You Think)

by Brandon Turner on January 30, 2013 · 87 comments

  
Best Paint

I’ve finally found paint I love, and I use it over and over and over again – saving me time, money, and hassel. Do you have a favorite paint yet?

Whether you are a buy-and-hold landlord, a house flipper, a commercial investor, or just starting out – paint is one of the expenses that come up time and time again. Perhaps you have a paint you absolutely love, or perhaps (like I did) you switch constantly, never quite content with your choice.

I thought it would be a fun post to talk about the paint I use in my day to day real estate investing. Obviously, since I do both flips and rentals, the material can differ – so I’ve included information on both, including the general cost that I pay. Before I get into the actual items, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. This is not the only way to do things, this is just my way. If you disagree with me – that’s okay, but let me know in the comments below. Maybe my mind can change.
  2. Your Costs Might Be Different: Prices change and differ depending on location. So things might be a little (or a lot) different for you.
  3. I don’t live in a real “high end” area: The price range I deal in are between $80,000 and $150,000 for a single family house. If you are dealing with million-dollar mansions, perhaps your opinion of quality will be different.

Without further suspense, let’s get started!

A Scientific Experiment: Finding The Best Brand of Paint

Paint Experiment
Last year, I performed an experiment.

I wanted to know – is there a difference between all the different paint brands out there? Obviously, some paint runs $50 a gallon, while other runs under $20. Which should I be using? Many people are die-hard supporters of one brand over another, as you can often find by searching the BiggerPockets Forums.

I was painting the interior of my own house – so I bought paint from multiple different retailers – including multiple brands and qualities from Home Depot, Sherwin-Williams, and Wal-mart. All in all, I bought over a dozen different types of paint. All the colors were the same, as well as the sheen (see below for my discussion on color and sheen.) I then painted each room of the house with a different kind of paint and compared the difference. Each wall was the same color before – thus keeping as many factors the same before conducting my experiment. The results surprised me.

My Findings: I discovered, as you might expect, that the most expensive paint (Duration, from Sherwin Williams and the Behr Paint and Primer in One from Home Depot) covered much better than the cheap stuff (ColorPlace brand from Wal-Mart) BUT nothing covered 100% through. I’d say the expensive stuff covered at about 90% effectively (when you looked close, about 10% of any given area needed more coats), while the cheap stuff covered about 60%. So, either way – every single paint I used really needed two coats. (There is only one paint that did not meet this test: SpeedWall from Home Depot. That stuff is terrible. It took three coats to cover.)

So if the paint that cost $50 per gallon needs two coats – and the paint that cost under $20 needs two-coats: which will I buy? Yep – the cheap stuff. This is especially true for rentals. ColorPlace from Wal-Mart is it. At less than $18 per gallon – I’ll save hundreds on a paint job and get the same results.

Quality? I couldn’t tell a difference from room to room, and neither could anyone else who looked at it.

However – sometimes shopping at Wal-Mart sucks. Sometimes they are out of the paint I need. Sometimes it takes twenty minutes to track down a qualified person to shake the paint. Sometimes it takes twenty minutes of standing in line to check out. If I’m not in the mood for a hassel, I will take my favorite color (see below) from Wal-Mart and take it to Home Depot to color match – and get the “Kilz ProX” brand (my second favorite interior paint, due to the price) in the same color for about $10 more per five-gallon bucket.

What About Durability?

The one thing my test could not determine was long-term durability. What will this paint look like in ten years? Honestly – I don’t care. I’ll have repainted several times by then. This isn’t a guide to painting your own home – this is for rentals and flips!

What’s the Best Sheen for Paint?

ID-10038186
“Sheen” means shiny.

There are several different sheens to choose from:

  • Flat (no shine)
  • Eggshell (a little shine)
  • Satin (some shine)
  • Semi-Gloss (quite a bit of shine)
  • Gloss (shiny!)

Kids, with their dirty hands, love to touch all the walls. After a family moves out of one of my rentals, the walls, at about three feet high, are disgusting and generally need to be repainted. However, by using higher-sheen paint, often times those marks can simply be cleaned with soap and water. The

Thus, for every rental I have I use semi-gloss everywhere. Walls, ceiling, trim.

When it’s time to paint – there is little-to-no taping required and no tough lines where the ceiling meets the walls. As a landlord, time is money – so I don’t want to pay a painter extra for making the ceiling a different color or sheen than the rest.

Flips, however, are a different story. Semi-gloss looks okay, but it looks a little too much like a “rental.” Instead, I use eggshell on the walls, semi-gloss on the trim, and flat on the ceiling.

My Favorite Interior Color for Rentals and Flips

COlor

For every rental, I use “Country White,” which is a Wal-Mart color. The beauty of Country White is that it is pre-mixed, at the factory, and shipped to wal-mart pre-mixed. This means I don’t have to hope the mixing guy gets the color right. Also – next year, I don’t need to try and remember what paint (or sheen or brand) I used last time. It’s always the same – country white.

When I flip, I also use “Country White” on the walls – but I use pure white on the ceiling – and typically just get the Glidden “Ceiling Paint” from Home Depot – which they sell in 2-Gallon buckets for $30. I also use “bright white” on the trim, and usually will spring for the more expensive “Behr Ultra Premium Pure White,” ($26 per gallon) as it is much brighter and “pops” more.

Summary

There you have it. Those are my actual paint colors I use on ever property. Below is a photo of the way this paint turns out, specifically in a rental. This is Semi-Gloss Country White, from Wal-Mart, on the walls, trim (not much trim in this photo) and ceiling. This is inside of one of my apartment units.

Country White

What do you think? What paint do you use? Let me know in the comments!

Photos: visualpanic, FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon Vornholt January 30, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Brandon –

All investors should standardize these sorts of things. Most of the investors I know use the same paint, toilets, vanities etc. over and over. They keep these things in a file and can send anyone to pick up their materials. That’s another plus.

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Brandon Turner January 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Great point Sharon. And, being able to always pick the same stuff up can also help when buying in Bulk. Thanks for the comment!

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Jim Pratt January 30, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Brandon, I have found over time that most off white colors works for walls, trim and ceilings. I use mostly semi gloss Latex throughout. On ceilings a brighter color, use oil base, lets water leaks go through no bubbles. Bathrooms and kitchen brighter colors makes them look and feel cleaner. If there are marks, paint etc. on the walls, put cheap flat white on first and then paint, will cover up most anything. Learned this over many years. Just for your notes, there are over 300 shades of white.

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Eric Thomson January 30, 2013 at 3:48 pm

If there is one thing about real estate investing I hate it is painting! Between choosing the wrong colors, the wrong sheen, or just getting impatient and doing a crappy job I cannot tell you how many times I have had to repaint rooms… That said, my day job is for a large commercial construction company which entitles me to a hefty discount on Sherwin Williams paint (I but it for about the same price as most of the cheap WalMart brands). Any tricks on patching small areas on large walls with semi-gloss paint without ending up with an ultra-gloss patch? Any advice on using other colors besides white on flips? I’m pretty fond of Latte (Sherwin Williams).

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Marty January 30, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I love this post. As a new investor, I am seeking cost-cutting measures. Howerver, though I like the Wal-Mart paint idea and standardizing what you use, I think I will look for a trendier taupe or putty color for my walls. . . just might make my rental stand out and shave a day or two off the DOM! Thanks for the tips!

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Mike January 30, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Great post, very real-world-ish. We also go with a more earth tone color, and while I don’t know the name off the top of my head it is now saved on my Lowes account so they can tell me what color I had last time. A light taupe-ish color on walls, bright white on trim if it was already painted, and a nice calming yellow in bathrooms. I find tenants overlook many other minor flaws if you have a pleasing, fresh paint job on the walls. Since I’ve switched to this scheme I’ve rented units much faster than in the past.

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Karen Rittenhouse January 30, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Lowes or Home Depot (the big box stores in our area) brand.
Navahoe white flat for the walls (slightly brown for warmth).
Bright White semigloss trim.
Ceilings are always white.

In my own home, Sherwin Williams. Like Eric, we get a huge discount on Sherwin Williams. Yes, all paints take 2 coats but I find how long they last varies tremendously when you have it on for years, especially exterior.

The nice thing about flat (no sheen) is that it covers flaws. All those drywall imperfections show if you have even eggshell sheen.

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Luis January 31, 2013 at 9:50 am

I have to agree with Karen, Sherwin Williamn/Duront have much better price on paint than what you are quoting in your article.

I also believe that for flips Flat is the way to go unless you have some stubborn stains that you need to cover up and heavy priming will not do the trick.

I so agree that egg shell or semi-gloss is better for rentals due to it’s ability to be cleaned.

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kyle hipp January 30, 2013 at 6:25 pm

I went for semi-gloss at first but now stick with eggshell. I have found that semi-gloss seems to look greasy over time. I also have transitioned from white walls to something with a little color. I have duplexes and a single family so I feel a splash of color gives a more homey feel. I think semi-gloss works well for trim, and flat for ceiling.

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Jennifer Beets January 22, 2014 at 3:54 pm

I too like to use colors for my rentals. I feel that every other rental out there is painted white or beige, and agree that with a bit of color it addes that homey feeling. I also think that my leases tend to be longer because of how comfortable the tenant feels in the property.

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Jennifer Beets January 23, 2014 at 11:20 am

I also tend to paint the appropriate feng shui colors for the rooms, based upon the compass direction method. This might sound a bit supersticious, but if there’s the possibility of increasing health, prosperity, friendships and family by simply choosing a nice paint color, then why not? Besides it might increase my odds of getting the rent every month.

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Kristopher Knight January 30, 2013 at 6:38 pm

I prefer Ben Moore, probably because of my day job (arch firm), we specify it a lot and I like the coverage. Also, almost no white….trim is marble white, that’s about it. Even if I do white on a wall, it’s the marble white. I’ve had tenants tell me they have rented our place over another because of the colors. I have also been experimenting with the more enviro-friendly paints like Ben and Aura. Coverage is about the same, durability pretty good, and washable. I don”t mind Sherwin, just never used it much. I wonder if that’s a regional thing. These are long term B+H properties too, for a flip…I’d probably still go with them. Nothing but bad experiences as far as coverage with HD and Lowes ‘house’ brands.

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Julie Oldham January 30, 2013 at 7:28 pm

I agree with Karen, love Navahoe white. It’s a great taupe color, and using it in a flat sheen really hides the bumps and bruises on the walls in my old flip houses. And it looks great with shiny white trim. I also keep a darker, complimentary taupe (also flat) color around for my rentals. They get all white walls, same flat sheen and color as the ceilings. But I’ll often paint an accent wall in the living room and/or master bedroom. Tenants think it looks very “Pottery Barn”.

I hear you Brandon, about scrubbing finger prints off of semi-gloss walls. I’m lazier than that! I find that if I use a flat paint, I can go around with my little pink roller and just paint over the bad spots with the exact same color, often leftovers from the last time I painted. As long as I use the skinny, low nap rollers and be sure to feather the edges well, you can’t even tell where I’ve painted.

So here’s where I differ from just about everyone else in the world: I paint the walls in my flips with flat paint, the ceilings with glossy or semi-gloss, same sheen and color as the trim. I know, it’s backwards from what every painter does, but I think it looks great and really brightens up the little houses I flip. Often, even if the walls are trashed, the ceilings are in great shape. Also, in my area, many of the houses built in the 50’s and 60’s have a really fabulous, swirly texture on the ceilings. The glossy paint highlights this feature.

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Karen Rittenhouse January 30, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Julie: We do the same thing, Navahoe white with the shiny trim. It looks sharp and clean. People in every price point love it. Looks amazing and the easiest touch up we’ve found for the rentals.

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Jim Harper January 30, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Brandon and all,
Great discussion point. I am cheap and that is exactly why I use Color Place from Wal-Mart. I use the off-white, which gives a tan with pinkish hues, so it does not look too institutional. I also, usually do a combination of light green, light tan (crisp toast) and/or red wall or two in either a light green or red to accent the walls. I have considered using a flat paint, one because it is cheaper by the gallon and also because I also hate it when you have to scrub a spot off the wall and the cleaning takes off the gloss, and causes you to repaint and feather the paint out.

I am still doing my painting jobs with a brush and roller, but I know that many professional type painters use a gun. IF I was replacing the carpet, I would consider it, but rather than doing a ton of prep work, I just keep it simple. So if anyone has recommendations please let post it.

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Brandon Turner February 1, 2013 at 7:09 pm

I also like the light green accent once in a while, but typically only use that on a flip. I also like a good darker tan on an accent wall. I go back and forth between a roller, a gun, and my combination “roller attachment” for my spray gun. It totally depends on the situation – but generally my sprayer is about 5 times faster!

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Nancy Yavorsky January 30, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Excellent article. I would like to add using low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, especially if you think a baby or young child will be living there. Otherwise, ventilate the whole house to help get rid of toxic fumes. Indoor air quality is a really big deal these days. And it might be a good marketing point.

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Brandon Turner February 1, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Not a bad tip, Nancy! I haven’t used it, but it probabyl would be a great selling point for young families. Thanks!

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Page January 31, 2013 at 9:22 am

I’ll push this discussion towards a a design perspective.

The idea of automating paint colors for rental properties is a must, but it’s also an area where creative investors can have some fun. Think about the following:

Is the rental in a warm or cold climate? The sky and reflective colors of your region differ depending where you are in relation to the equator and what the light is actually reflecting off of (snow, lawn, ocean). This has a major impact on whether your standard white is cool or warm. Figure this out and it will save you some head scratches wondering why…it…just…doesn’t…look…quite…right.

Let yourself cut loose with the small stuff: A lot of rentals have small, often outdated bathrooms, kitchens, entryways and laundry areas. By shifting your trim away from white in these areas(which can look grimy in low or flourescent light) towards a richer, darker trim, your rental looks more luxe and inviting. Find something you like, rinse and repeat.

Beige and tan has such a bad rap, why not give a pale blue or light green a try with white trim? It may make your rental stand out from the others. I do agree with Kyle Hipp on eggshell vs. semi-gloss–easy to keep clean but ugly to look at over time, especially in strong light.

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Brandon Turner February 1, 2013 at 7:12 pm

I love getting design perspective on this stuff, because i am not very design oriented! One of the reasons I really like Country White is because it’s actually kind of a “yellow” color – which makes the rooms bright. Living in the same area that Twilight took place due to the ever-present darkness and rain – the bright color makes a big difference.

Thanks for the comment!

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Mark Updegraff January 31, 2013 at 9:26 am

All pigments are not created =

fading will be a big factor for buy and hold folks.

I also get better rents by not painting everything white. Thanks to the majority of landlords, I just need to spend a little extra time and I get rented sooner & for more $$.

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Brandon Turner February 1, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Thanks for the comment Mark. I agree- on my longer, buy and hold stuff I might be more inclined to spend more – but it seems I have to re-paint every time a tenant moves out, no matter how good they were. Maybe people in my area are just really dirty? (actually – we probably are dirtier. I live in a Logging community that rains 300 days a year. Lots of mud and dirt. Maybe that’s why?)

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Danny Johnson January 31, 2013 at 10:02 am

If I’m not mistaken, ColorPlace used to actually be made by Sherwin Williams for Wal-Mart. We used to use it when we got started and I think it actually stated it on the bucket. Not sure if it still is.

Regarding the use of some of colors most other investors use, it’s nice to have a change every once in a while. It gets old seeing the same old colors in everyone’s rehabs. Even buyers are able to walk into houses and say, ‘this must be an investor special’. We do it too so I’m just sayin’. :)

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Brandon Turner February 1, 2013 at 7:15 pm

I’ve heard WalMart switches companies every few years, so – yes, that’s probably true. I don’t think it’s on the bucket anymore, but I’m curious who they use now.

I do know that when I use ColorPlace paint in my Sprayer – it clogs the filter MUCH faster than the higher quality paint. I have to be sure to screen the paint first to avoid this.

Thanks Danny for the comment!

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Julie H. January 31, 2013 at 10:33 am

This is an interesting test Brandon, I agree with you, I would also opt for the cheaper paint if the outcome is going to be the same. I also believe any color that will draw attention but also compliment the entire home is another aspect to consider. We don’t want to make the space loud and unattractive, but choosing a bright color definitely adds depth and draws you in. Thanks Brandon!

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Brandon Turner February 1, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Thanks for reading Julie! Good insight, as well. Thanks for commenting!

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Dan Rountree January 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Consumer Reports tested interior paints in the most recent issue (Feb 13?). The Ace house brand, Clark + Kensington, scored very well in the satin/eggshell category: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/paints.htm

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Brandon Turner February 1, 2013 at 7:16 pm

I have not tried Clark + Kensington yet – I’ll run that through a test soon :) Thanks for the tip!

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Steve January 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Nice article, I usually just let my painter pick the paint. It sounds like you use a painter and buy the paint. Have you found that to be more cost effective?

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Brandon Turner February 1, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I usually pick the paint, cause I don’t trust my painter’s style :) He’s my all-around maintenance guy, and he’s terrific at what he does, but design … nope! Though – I bet most painting contractors mark-up the cost of the paint, so if you did buy it yourself, it might save a few bucks. Thanks for commenting, Steve!

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Robert Steele January 31, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Semi-gloss on walls? Yuck!

If it is a flip who cares about ease of maintenance? All you care about is how it looks. Go with flat.

On a rental you still want it to look nice so you can rent it out quick for top dollar but you want to be able to clean up kid marks. Satin is probably the best compromise.

I have found that the brand quality does make a difference in how long the paint will last. Maybe not a big deal for the interior if you plan on painting on every tenant move out but that argument does not hold water when it comes to considering the exterior.

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Brandon Turner February 1, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Agreed- I’m not opposed to flat in a flip. Never semi-gloss in a flip – yuk is right. But for a rental, I’ve never had anyone complain after it was finished, yet :)

Also – agreed, exterior I always pay for the expensive stuff. I’ve yet to do a test on that, but a good test might take twenty years. I’ll get back to everyone in 20 and we’ll see which held up the best!

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Charlie January 31, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Thanks Brandon. As a rookie, these types of details are really nice. BiggerPockets is a site I visit at least once a day. One day I’ll be able to give good advice too. Until then, thanks.

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Brandon Turner January 31, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Awesome Charlie! I use to wonder this stuff all the time. I think I’ll start making a post like this weekly – because the conversations are great that follow. Keep in touch!

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Michael January 31, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Brandon you amaze me! I just learned some valuable information when negotiating with my painters or General Contractors. I never would of thought of that. I usually discuss options depending on if it is a flip or rental and what price level. NOW I know the 2 coat theory.
When you do knew plaster when you need a primer. Do you know if you still need 2 coats.
I know one of my painters has done a tinted primer to match the paint color and then one coat was enough. I don’t recall the grade of paint.

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Brandon Turner January 31, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Lol thanks Mike. I’ve also heard the tinted primer helps, but I always just use white. I should really try it. I don’t do too much new drywall though, but next time – I’ll tint the primer. :)

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Mark January 31, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I read Your article about walmart paints. I have been telling people that for 30 years. It was made by Valspar and Sherwin Williams. There reds cover better than Moores 50 per gal. top shelf, better tell warren buffet. anyway walmarts paint was around 11.00 bucks for years there satin is the only one to use. Now that Walmart has been experimenting with Glidden and before that Kiltz brand, and charge 24.00 a gallon for that crap, they raised thier price of Clorplace to 20.00 . its still good and better than Behr at 24.00 a gallon which maakes a big difference when You buy as much paint as I do , did….so bottom line, Walmart should have hired me when I called them 20 years ago to push thier paint, its still not too late..but get that price down,,,,I know gas went up…but I dont think water did!!!

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Brandon Turner January 31, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Glad we agree on WalMart Paint! I’m not the only crazy one out there! :)

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Amy Arata January 31, 2013 at 7:28 pm

It seems that every time I find a paint I like, the company changes the formula! I used to love Kilz colors from Wal Mart and found that it actually did cover in one coat. They stopped carrying it at Wal Mart and for a while Lowes had something with the same name but a totally different formula – they couldn’t even match my old colors from Wal Mart!

Now I use the Contractor grade Valspar from Lowes. I use premixed antique white in eggshell so it’s exactly the same every time. I have the walls and ceiling sprayed and back-rolled with it. It saves a tremendous amount of time opposed to cutting in at the ceiling. Due to the light reflecting off it at a different angle, it doesn’t look like the same color on walls and ceiling. I used to use flat, but was really annoyed that every time anybody so much as brushed against a wall it left a mark. For trim, I use the same brand in white semi-gloss. I found that gloss doesn’t cover well. With the white trim, the antique white walls look really creamy.

For covering dark colors, tobacco stains, knots in wood, old paneling and odors, nothing works as well as oil-based Kilz. I heard a rumor that it might be outlawed and that would be a very short-sighted thing for the government to do. Using Kilz instead of gutting houses prevents a tremendous amount of waste and is therefore good for the environment.

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Brandon Turner February 1, 2013 at 7:20 pm

I’ve found the same thing – because of the light reflecting, you can’t tell the ceiling is the same color. It looks totally different, but really nice. I haven’t used that Valspar paint yet (the closest Lowes is an hour away from me) but I’ll have to try that stuff soon. Thanks for the tip!

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Brandon Turner February 1, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Oh – and yes, Kilz Oil based is amazing. I use dozens of gallons every house with that stuff. Get’s rid of smells like nothign else I’ve seen.

When I was young and stupid, I once sprayed the inside of a house with it – and decided I didn’t need a mask. I’ve never been so high or sick in my life. Terrible experience, and terrible headache. Not recommended. Get a fancy mask!

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elizabeth February 2, 2013 at 5:21 am

Many good ideas. I agree that color interests renters and usually make my apartments win out over others. We buy the Wall Mart paint but lots of times they have $5.00 mixing “mistakes” that can be used to tint the 5 gallon buckets very cheaply. (you have to ask but all paint stores have these mistakes at almost give a way prices)

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Christine Kwasny February 2, 2013 at 8:45 am

For those looking for an alternative to white, there are come excellent options posted on Maria Killam’s blog posted “4 best colors to paint a rental”: http://www.mariakillam.com/2012/02/4-best-colours-to-paint-a-rental.html

I recently used Benjamin Moore Manchester tan and it looked really nice. Every person that viewed the home mentioned how much they liked the paint color. I used a satin finish in the Benjamin Moore contractor paint. Coverage was good and so was the price. This color made the bright white trim and ikea curtains really pop, while still being very warm, light, and neutral, and the house looked tidy, clean, and modern.

I personally dislike white on the walls because it looks cheap and very cold to me – like an igloo. As decorators like to say, ugly costs the same as pretty, which is certainly the case with paint color. I also always google any color and finish to see how it looks in a real world application. This has saved me from making many expensive mistakes!

I use standard ceiling paint on the ceiling and eggshell Swiss coffee for doors, trim, and bathrooms. Bright white in semi-gloss for cabinets. These colors seem to be the same between brands, and are usually pre-mixed so it’s easy to grab and go.

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Mark February 2, 2013 at 8:55 am

here’s another trick hint ,if you don’t want to paint a whole ceiling or wall ,cut out a piece of paper of the drywall about 2 inches by 2 inches in a non conspicu,ous place..take it to the paint store Walmart let’s say ,ask him to put it under the spec to graph computer ,mmmm have the mix you a gallon for touch ups ,I just saved you hundreds of dollars .I’ve been a painting contractor for 40 years ,1 more thing ,make sure to do a little test on your to buy 2 inch sample paint 25 percent of it blow dry

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Andy Teasley February 5, 2013 at 8:09 pm

I have always liked a “color” wall contrasting in shade or darkness

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Melissa February 2, 2013 at 11:55 am

Brandon,
Nice article. I’ve done pretty much the same experimenting. Never had any luck with Sherman Williams or Walmart. Behr is good, and better be for the price. I now use Lowes Valspar Semi-gloss contractors paint. I get the white tinted with a slight yellow (Romano). The color brightens a dark room without the “white'” look. After doing research quite a few years ago to sell my first property, I found that yellow is the best selling color.

Valspar covers most everything in one coat after the walls are cleaned. For heavy marks I cover them with a bit of primer first. I do the entire apt. in the same paint and color. Even the ceilings. I’ve done trim and ceilings in other paint and colors and found it’s not cost effective. The semi gloss is easier to clean. Many times I have gotten away with just cleaning walls and re-renting a unit or touching up a wall or two. The “my Lowes” card will keep all your info on file.

Thank you, Melissa

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Cory Binsfield February 3, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I used to buy from big box stores and quit after they continued to drop my preferred color or change the formula. As a result of working with a professional painter, I ended up opening a commercial account with my local Benjamin Moore store. When it comes to service, quality and ease of business, there is no comparison. Sure, I might save $5.00 on a gallon of paint with a big box, but the hassle is not worth it.

I use a linen white eggshell on walls and a standard semi gloss white on all trim and doors. Tenants love the two tone look and it helps create a warm and inviting atmosphere versus boring landlord white.

For ceilings I simply use primer. After trying to match ceiling paint over the years, I decided to skip the hassle. Plus, my contractor told me to do this and it sure makes life easier.

Here’s the best part about working with a local paint dealer. When I’m touching up walls or starting a new project, I can call my Ben dealer and he has a record of all my paint purchase with each property address. I call ahead, order the paint, and it’s ready to go. This is a huge time saver.

Bottom line, use high quality paint and factor in the service factor before you consider the big box stores. After painting over 50 units over the years, there’s a world of difference in durability between cheap paint and high end paint.

Great discussion!

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Andy Teasley February 3, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Here comes the comment from the cheap guy in So Cal.

As a proud, frugal Scot a buy the mistinted paint from my local Home depot. I usually have 60 to 100 gals of paint in stock, I merely mix colors in batches of about 25 gals at a time to make a warm tan or coco color then I trim with Semi gloss bright white on doors, baseboards and casings for that “Flip this House” snap. My low end rentals look like they’ve seen a designer and my prospective tenants have seen lots of “Landlord off white” already so our colors stand out. Plus my cost per gallon is only $7 plus a little sweat!

As far as semi gloss on walls, that is a great idea until repaint time comes and the second coat out starts to flake away the first recoating. The labor cost of painting in a similar color is often only slightly higher than scrubbing greasy fingerprints off walls and it gives that “just remodled” smell to the unit.

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David February 5, 2013 at 6:39 pm

I get my paint from the local city paint recycling center. You can drop off old paint in the back and they recycle all donations into 5 gallon buckets for $15 a bucket! They make white and beige interior paint. You can’t beat the price and you’re saving the environment to boot!

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Brandon Turner February 5, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Very interesting, David. Not a bad idea – and what a deal!

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Page February 5, 2013 at 7:53 pm

I’d be very concerned with mixing different types of low, non and regular VOC paints and, more importantly, the fact that a lot of donated paint has been frozen in unheated garages which makes them a mess to deal with. In areas that don’t freeze, keeping paint in places that get extremely hot can also cause the ingredients to degrade.

I think your idea is a great option for experimenting in spaces such as garages, utilities and other spots that don’t receive direct light and don’t need to look clean and updated. This is a good one-off approach, but not as desirable if you are looking for a system to work with that you can apply to multiple units.

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Andy Teasley February 5, 2013 at 8:08 pm

What City?

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Shannon May 1, 2013 at 10:05 am

We have that in my city, Austin, Texas. I’m sure it’s in other areas as well.

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Dee February 17, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I have to second what some say here, I don’t think white is the way to go with the walls. I think white walls give kind of a cold “hospital-feel” to a space. First impressions count and when you are selling/renting a home you want tenants/buyers to come in and immediately experience a “homey” feeling. Using a light taupe can add the warmth that can make a renter feel like they are at home and make your unit stand out just a little bit more than others. Plus, colored walls can highlight nice white trim/crown molding etc. I think the picture in this article looks clean with the white walls but it does not look so welcoming.

I used regular (flat & eggshell) Ben Moore and Valspar to paint my rental unit and was pleased with both. The coverage was really even with just one careful coat. I think a little extra can make a whole different impression on a prospective tenant/buyer

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Dan February 19, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Great article. I just bought a 5-gallon bucket of flat country white today at walmart for $50. Will try it out painting a unit this weekend. Do you usually use primer, or just paint right over the previous paint?

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Brandon Turner February 19, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I usually paint right over – but with flat you might have a problem with that. Try it out and see- and let us know!

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Steve February 19, 2013 at 10:39 pm

We have been using color time for years on our buy and hold properties it is a very good value.I like the satin finish bright white.

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Brandon Turner February 20, 2013 at 12:19 am

Yay! Another ColorPlace fan! :)

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Ace February 19, 2013 at 11:25 pm

I’ve been using Home Depot Glidden Duo Paint for my walls, Hickory MSL202 is the color code. All Semi-Gloss. I also use Glidden Semi-Gloss White for the white trims (Baseboards, Doors)

After taxes, I get a 5 Gallon Glidden “Duo” for $116.96, is this a good deal?

Brandon,
So, if you use semi-gloss for your rentals, do you repaint the whole property with eggshell when you’re ready to sale?

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Brandon Turner February 20, 2013 at 12:18 am

Hey Ace,

That’s not a terrible deal. I think I’m in at around $90 on the walmart, after tax, and $100 on the Home Depot Kilz ProX after tax. As for getting ready to sell – I haven’t actually ever sold a rental. I figure, if I can get a 30 year fixed mortgage, I won’t sell till the market is hot. However, if I did, yeah – I’d probably re-paint eggshell or maybe even Flat.

Thanks for the comment!

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Dawn A. February 25, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I have been using flat white for the ceilings and some color for the walls. On the four bedroom unit I just got I went with a chocolate brown in semi-gloss. It’s an older home so the walls have texture, and the place is huge so the darker color doesn’t make it seem smaller. I’ve gotten compliments from potential tenants on how nice the place looks. I agree that “rental white” is too boring. Brown goes with browns, blacks, reds, oranges, greens, and yellows. The only thing brown doesn’t go with is blue. I believe to get a quality tenant you need a quality rental. The leftover paint I just use at a different rental.

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Shannon May 1, 2013 at 10:03 am

One thing I’m seeing more and more of in my market is letting renters choose a pop color for an accent wall. It’s interesting, but the houses/units that do that tend to stay rented more (because, in the words of a tenant, they don’t LOOK like rentals), get a higher quality of tenant, and rent at a premium- it seems like about $50-75 a month more. From a few casual conversations with landlords, it also seems to keep turnover down.

If you have a decent painting contractor, it might be worth it to get a couple of swatches of color chips and let people choose what color to paint one wall. If it comes to less than $100 to do, it’s a premium service that it’s a big deal to provide but really seems to give a competitive edge, at least in my market.

If you have a deep rust or green wall, I use Killz primer to cover it. Two coats and you can put on another coat of Country White and be good to go.

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Edie May 3, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Hi!

Very interesting discussion — thanks for all of your comments!

I’m surprised so many people like Navajo white. To me it looks dingy even when freshly applied, and it just gets worse over time. It looks especially dingy in a dark room.

What do you all think about some of the whites that are slightly tinted with such colors as peach or blue? How do you feel about gray?

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Brandon Turner May 3, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Hey Edie, thanks for reading and commenting. So, I like the color gray on walls in nice houses – though I’d wonder how it would look without fancy furniture? I wonder if it would just look dead? Anyone have experience in that? As for the tinted color, I’ve done greenish before and it was okay.

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Edie July 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Since I wrote that last comment, I’ve been doing a lot of paint shopping and found out that Navajo White varies quite a bit from brand to brand. I was very surprised when I saw a paint chip I liked at one store, and — you guessed it — it turned out to be Navajo White. I took it home and compared it to other chips, and it was lighter, brighter, and not at all dingy. So now I understand why so many of you like Navajo White.

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Lisa May 24, 2013 at 9:07 am

I have an excellent paint suggestion that is as close to “one coat coverage” as you can get (for me anyway-used it in every room of our house). Valspar paint has been outstanding in both coverage and durability. You really can get away with only one coat as long as the color underneath is light.

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Brandon Turner May 24, 2013 at 10:18 am

Hey Lisa, thanks! I have yet to try it, but I’m sure I will soon. Thanks for the recommendation!

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Paul July 11, 2013 at 11:38 am

Looking for some help with choosing paint colors for a rental property, using Sherwin-Williams. I am painting the entire house, as well as painting the kitchen cabinets white. Any recommendations for colors? Should I use the same for all rooms, or should the kitchen, the bathroom, and the bedrooms be different than the main living areas? Thanks!

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Denise September 6, 2013 at 8:05 am

I don’t see “Country White” in the ColorPlace line, just “White”. Walmart also has Glidden High Endurance “Grab and Go” in white or warm caramel. Any advice?
Thank you! I am trying to improve the appearance of two rooms in the home my parents are selling.

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Brandon Turner September 6, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Hey Denise- at least a my Wal Mart, it’s not a color they mix – it’s an “in stock” color that comes pre-mixed. Look in the section with all the white colors, and you’ll notice they have more than just white, they usually have country white and antique white, plus a few others. They all look the same though, you just gotta read the little label. Hope that helps!

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Jenny September 16, 2013 at 12:31 am

It looks like a box rental that the landlord doesn’t give a rats about. It screams bottom dollar. I’m in your market price wise but I would not respond to a rental ad with that picture.

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Nathan December 8, 2013 at 12:22 pm

A great money and time saving tip for you my painter passed on to me. He simply takes my paint samples and has the primer tinted to the same shade. Then we prime one coat and paint one coat. Looks amazing, seals in stains and smells, seals any drywall repair and saves time and money, all things I love!!!! Happy flipping all.

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Katherine Windham January 8, 2014 at 10:16 am

Since Navajo White varies quite a bit from brand to brand, which brand is the one Edie found to be lighter brighter and not dingy compared to the other brands with the same color name?

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Tommy January 22, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Hi Brandon,

What is your opinion if I painted everything; ceilings, walls and trim pure white for a rental. I like pure white, but do you think it will be too bright for tenants.

Thanks

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Brandon Turner January 22, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Hey Tommy, I don’t think it’s the worst idea – but I personally like to have a bit of color, just so it has a little bit of warmth. However, I’ve seen a lot of pure white places – so it must work!

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John February 14, 2014 at 4:47 am

Thanks for your tips Brandon!
Did you include paint from Lowes in your experiment?
John

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Brandon Turner February 14, 2014 at 10:23 am

Hey John,

Thanks! I did not include Lowes, as I don’t have one near me. I’d expect it to be about the same but I still haven’t tried yet!

Thanks,

Brandon

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Carol Charvet February 23, 2014 at 6:32 pm

My MO is buying, renting for a year or two before selling when the market it right. I find that flat paint is much easier to touch up than paint with any gloss. My favorite colors to use are white on ceilings and painted trim and a light taupe on the walls. Local Richard’s paint manufacturer calls my favorite “Always Neutral” which is very descriptive. Color on the walls is much homier than pure white, but you need to choose a color that will go with whatever furniture your renter or buyer might have. Also, the natural light and permanent surface colors need to be considered, for example a house without much natural light and dark floors might need a light yellow or pale gold wall paint instead of taupe to keep from looking gloomy. It would be nice to standardize, but I have not purchased two homes that would look best in the same color scheme. I keep leftover flat wall paint in Mason jars to touch up spots with a sponge painter–leave it at the property and tenants can use it, too.

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Michael Ding March 9, 2014 at 1:39 am

Brandon,

I have a question about the article above.

What kind of Kilz Pro-X paint do you use? There are two grades: 100 series and 300 series.

Thanks!

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Brandon Turner March 10, 2014 at 9:41 am

Hey Michael,

I’ve actually used both but I think it’s the 300 series I try to use. It’s not much more, but it appears to be better paint.

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Jason Karoumy April 15, 2014 at 12:46 pm

What do you think about country white flat on the ceiling to hide imperfections and sun drenched sand walls? No?

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Brandon Turner April 15, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Probably not a bad idea, seeing that flat is good for ceilings. However, then you have to tape off the edges – so personally, I’d just do all country white. Thoughts?

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Terese Van Liew May 19, 2014 at 10:54 am

My husband and I are putting in an offer today on a house built in 1911 or something like that. The walls are a mess (like splatters of who knows what all over, probably beer, etc.) and the carpet in the living room area even worse. We are thinking of painting the living room floor and small bedroom off the living room if we decide to rent it instead of flip it. Also, The kitchen cabinets are painted white and black right now. What would you recommend for them? And for the floors? I love color but want to easily sell it we don’t rent it. (And if we rent it, it will be to young men who are Moody college students, so they probably won’t care about color too much.) Thanks!

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Andy Teasley May 21, 2014 at 9:15 am

If you want to keep it as a rental I have some suggestions for you, as a mostly low end landlord I have some techniques I use in all my units.
Walls tan flat paint with ultra pure white semi gloss trim look sharp. As you can read above there are 2 schools of thought on paint.
1. buy the same paint and color for every unit. or
2. buy the mistinted paints and save some money. I use this option and have gotten very good at mixing various colors into a nice tan. My trick is to buy a gallon of paint tinted to make a very dark red burgundy but using ultra pure white base color, it makes a horrible bright pink paint which I ad sparingly when my mix is greenish instead of tan. I also buy a gallon of mustard yellow, once again tinted into ultra pure white base, which I use if my mix is pinkish.

when you paint tan on a low end rental wall texture variations don’t show as much.

What type of subfloors does the house have?
for wood foundation floors I use inexpensive laminate wood flooring in my area I get it for under a dollar a foot including padding easy to install yourself or have a laborer do it

For concrete slab floors I use ceramic tile EVERYWHERE I use a tile pattern sometimes called “french renaisance” that uses two different tile sizes. I go to a tile store and buy all their odd lot, samples, leftovers and broken tiles for around .25 a foot by the pallet. Then my guys sort the tiles by size (not color) taking all the broken tiles to the tile saw where they cut 6X6 tiles and 3″ strips out of the pieces. We use the 6X6 for the small size and the 3″ strips for the baseboards. Then my tile guy chooses a large size which we have an adequate quantitty and we put down assorted colors using the large size and the 6X6.
I also use fawn color grout everywhere
This technique has 2 advantages 1 it’s cheap 2. when you have a damaged tile or a cabinet change you don’t have to try and match the old color/style

(email me and I will send you a layout diagram)

As far as kitchen cabinets you didn’t say how thick the paint is on the cabinets but gloss white cabinets with stainless knobs and pulls look good and are easy to keep up

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scott stevens June 30, 2014 at 8:25 am

Brandon, I know this is an older story, but I am in the process of painting now and like the Kilz Pro X brand. You are spot on about if all paints need two coats, why buy a more expensive one. I think the Kilz Pro X brand looks very nice and goes on good.

I think that most paints (excluding the Speedwall junk kind you mentioned) will peform just fine if the surface is prepped right and you use decent to good equipment and technique.

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Brandon Turner June 30, 2014 at 9:37 am

Thanks Scott! Let us know how it turns out :)

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Helena August 25, 2014 at 7:59 pm

I am a landlord in Canada. I have done flips and rentals for 30 years. I use a pearl finish from cloverdale Paints in White for walls ceiling and trim as it is one step down from semi-gloss and still very scrubbable. I strayed to using colour at one time but found it a hassle to cut in and colour match , being as I am a low end landlord and end up spending a lot of time cleaning up junk and fixing broken windows etc. I found I wasn’t able to make forward progress fussing with paint and now my rentals are in much better condition and fresh and clean looking.

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