This article was posted on Monday, Nov 01, 2021

colors of paint

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Having a system in place for quick turnaround time when a tenant moves out is an essential part of effectively managing a rental property.  Tenant turnover is a wildcard – there are a wide range of conditions that units are left in.  Some renters stay for years, are hard on the interior, and the home requires a full repaint, while others move out and they leave the home in such good condition that you only need to patch and match a few nail holes and touch up a few scuffs.

Selecting the right paint goes beyond just the initial look appeal to prospective renters and can have a significant impact on your bottom line.  With so many paint manufacturers, colors, and sheens, figuring out what is the best paint for a rental can be overwhelming.  

Here are the three main factors that I take into consideration:

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  1. Paint color
  2. Paint finish
  3. Paint quality

Selecting the Best Paint Color

When it comes to one’s personal home, most people agonize for weeks over selecting the color that reflects their personality and style.  When it comes to a rental, it’s not the time to be creative.  The goal is to have as much universal appeal as possible so that it attracts the most qualified applicants.  This is achieved by choosing a light, neutral color and keeping it cohesive throughout the home.  The major paint brands (Dunn Edwards, Behr, Glidden, Sherwin William etc.) have standard colors readily available.  For me, going with a light standard color takes the guesswork out of it and speeds up the preparation of a unit for re-rental.  It also makes it easy to match the color later on.  

The color that shows the best and is very popular right now is pure white. It’s bright, contemporary and it makes a room feel spacious.  The challenge is that pure white shows every scuff, ding and fingerprint you can imagine.

Swiss Coffee is a classic color that has been around forever and remains popular today.  It’s a warmer white and if you use a pure white for the baseboards, doors and trims, it adds a little contrast.  Because it is a softer white, it doesn’t show minor smudges the way that pure white does.

If you really want a color that is more forgiving and still bright, neutral, and contemporary, you may want to consider a light beige.  There are hundreds to choose from and some veer towards the warm yellow tones and some veer towards the cool gray tones.  It definitely requires some time and experience to find the perfect beige, but once you do, it’s a great color that renters love and doesn’t show minor scuffs and smudges.  My favorites are Thatched Roof and Instant Classic by Dunn Edwards –

Selecting the Right Paint Finish 

Most paint manufacturers offer around 7 different paint finishes.  The finishes range from having no sheen to having high sheen, starting with: flat, matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, gloss and high-gloss.

For cabinets, baseboards, trims, doors, kitchens and bathrooms semi-gloss is the most widely used finish, because it’s durable, easy to wipe clean, and it’s good for high moisture areas such as bathrooms that don’t have a lot of ventilation.  The higher the sheen the easier it is to clean and the more durable the paint surface is.  

One of the drawbacks to high-sheen paint is that the reflective surface highlights imperfections in the texture of a wall.  For this reason, it’s better to use an eggshell or satin finish for walls.  It’s still easy to wipe clean and has a sophisticated look.

Another important consideration when choosing paint finish is that paint sheen changes and degrades over time – even matte paint which has a very slight sheen.  As a landlord, this matters because if after a few years you just want to touch up a few scuffs on a wall, even if you use the same paint from the can that was used to originally paint the wall, you will likely see the touchups.  The difference in sheen makes it obvious where the paint was touched up and is especially noticeable at angles where the light reflects off of the wall.

The best way to avoid uneven sheen when touching up walls is to use flat paint.  The drawback is the surface is more porous and easily traps dirt, scuffs and stains making it difficult to keep the surface looking clean.  Some paint makers will offer a specialized or top-tier flat paint formulation that’s stain-resistant and washable. This is what I like to use for my rentals because it’s the best of both worlds.  These formulations are easy to retouch if I need to patch and match a nail hole without getting any flashing, and it easily wipes clean.  At a 30 – 40% price premium over lower grade paints, I’m counting on a low total cost of ownership from fewer re-paints.  

Selecting The Right Paint Quality

Each brand has its different lines of paint that vary in quality from construction grade paint that looks good but degrades faster, chips, fades, and scuff easily, and may take more coats to cover repairs or imperfections compared to the high-end superior line that costs more per ounce but lasts longer, can withstand more wear and tear and has more coverage so you don’t need as much.  If you’re just flipping a house to sell and the new owner is likely going to add their personal touch to the home and repaint the walls as soon as they purchase it, a construction grade paint makes sense.  If it’s a rental you plan to keep, then it’s best to invest in the premium quality paint. It will last longer, touch up better and in the long run you’ll end up spending less time and money on touch-ups vs. repainting.

Purchasing the Right Paint

After you’ve selected the right color, sheen and quality of paint, the next step is buying it.  That’s the easy part – right?  Well, not at the moment.  The country is currently experiencing a paint shortage due to supply chain issues caused by COVID-19 as well as a lack of raw materials due to the 2021 winter storm in Texas that impacted the production of petrochemicals needed to make paint.  Meanwhile, demand for paint has gone up as a result of a rise in new construction as well as many people focusing on upgrading the home they’ve been confined to for the last year-and-a-half.  In response to the decreased supply and increased demand, the price of paint has gone up and so has the cost of hiring a painter.  (One more reason why it’s important to raise the rent every year to keep up with rising costs!)


Your paint choice matters, and cheapest isn’t necessarily the best financial decision in the long run.  When you pick the right paint, it makes it easy to quickly turn around a unit when a tenant moves out.  I also recommend sticking with the same palette for all of your units.  This is important for operational efficiency and eases tenant transitions.  

What’s your favorite paint color and strategy for getting your rental unit ready in record time?


If you have questions or comments I can be reached by phone or text at 714.330.9999, by email at [email protected] or visit my website at  Mercedes Shaffer is an agent with Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty and specializes in helping clients buy and sell investment real estate and 1031 Exchanges.  DRE 02114448.

Read more articles from the November 2021 issue of the AOA Magazine.