Pittsburgh's Best Homes Blog


The curse of vanilla homes - boring!

I've seen quite a number of vanilla homes lately, you may know what I am talking about. White walls, white molding, beige carpet, beige countertops, beige tile. Some of these homes are priced pretty high, but they leave so little impression on a buyer that they are easily forgotten.

While I agree that you should not personalize your home so much that it won't appeal to most buyers I think it's equally important to give your home some personality. Your goal is to create an inviting, warm homey space that anyone can imagine themselves living in and yet so many (especially new) homes forget to add anything to make their property stand out among the others.

When preparing you home to sell, try to add a few things that catch a buyers attention. It could be new, interesting door pulls in the kitchen or perhaps a new stylish vanity sink in the powder room, maybe upgrade the builder's original railing in the home, or a mass of colorful flowers by the front door. I've had buyers purchase homes in part because of stained glass panels in the front door, crystal door knobs, above average countertops, vessel sinks and cheerful (and tastefully) painted rooms.

Vanilla doesn't sell, make your home memorable.

I make home marketing memorable! Call Christa Ross from RE/MAX Select Realty, at 724-933-6300 x214 (office) or 724-779-1437 (direct) or visit my website at www.bestpittsburghhomes.com.

Buying or Selling a home in Pittsburgh? Call Christa Ross from RE/MAX Select Realty, at 724-933-6300 x214 (office) or 724-309-1758 (direct) or visit my website at www.bestpittsburghhomes.com.

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Comment balloon 41 commentsChrista Ross • November 23 2010 03:51PM


Great points!  Unique featuers (ones that will transfer with the home) are great selling points.  They are those little touches that turn a house into a home. 

Posted by Joseph Michalski, PA Home Inspector (Precision Home Inspection) over 9 years ago

A professional home stager will recommend how to make a "vanilla" home pop.  Maybe as simple as a contrasting paint trim on a door jamb or cabinets.  Home stagers are the experts on giving the Wow back with accessories.  This has universal appeal because this appeals to buyers who think, "I can do tha too" such as add in accent pillows, create a focal point with art.  While I agree that a vacant vanilla, can appear boring, a staged vanilla will not!  Beige never has to be boring when professionally staged.   

Posted by Beverly Carlson, Abilene's Staging Realtor (Carlson Properties 325-721-2429) over 9 years ago

It's hard to photo 4 bdrms. that look like your picture !!!*L*

Pls. view our RELO message -  http://actvra.in/4jHG

Posted by Michael J. Perry, Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist (KW Elite ) over 5 years ago

Hence with a little staging and such, these vanilla homes prove to suit the most general broad spectrum of buyers. I personally see it okay when the presentation of the home is made correctly.

Posted by Loreena and Michael Yeo, Real Estate Agents (3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Prosper TX Real Estate Co.) over 5 years ago

Agreed, Christa. It is generally difficult for buyers to see themselves in an undefined space. Minimal changes can make a huge difference. Definitely a good time to call a staging pro for some advice.


Posted by Bruce Kunz, REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale (C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100) over 5 years ago

Very good advice, putting forth just a little bit of effort and capital can make all the difference to help make your home memorable and provide that incentive for a buyer to make a quick decision to make an offer.

Posted by Morgan Evans, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 5 years ago

The key word here is, "warmth." All that neutrality to create a blank slate for the next owner can back-fire and create a, "cold" feel instead...it's a delicate balance.

Posted by Vanessa Saunders, From Manhattan to the Catskills of New York (Global Property Systems Real Estate) over 5 years ago

New construction builders are doing a better job at presenting their homes with some flair.  Not every room needs to be gray or beige!

Posted by Margaret Goss, Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate (Baird & Warner Real Estate) over 5 years ago

While this is true that these walls are boring . . . the problem with painted walls is that they most likely will not work with the new owners color palettes.  It's much easier to paint over a bland color than a color that needs 2 or 3 coats to neutralize it!  

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) over 5 years ago

I guess personally, I think it's less about being memorable and more about being warm and inviting.   - Debbie

Posted by Women of Westchester Working Together, Women helping Women get ahead (Women of Westchester Working Together) over 5 years ago

I have seen homes where staging added color accents and interest to vanilla homes.  I agree that listed homes need a way to break out of the mundane to become memorable.

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) over 5 years ago

The color is part of it, but the marketing to make the colors sparkles, whatever they are is important.  For reach, frequency, exposure. So many places are the cat's meow,  but left in the dark.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 5 years ago

I fight this all the time. My property manager want neutral beige on everything so as not to offend anyone and I disagree. I got feedback from an agent on one of my listings and she was asking if the cabinets would be glazed, and that is an older boring trend. I love vanilla ice cream but it is better with Hersheys chocolate on it.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) over 5 years ago

The old adage make it neutral is out the window.  No purple isn't the solution but a little life is needed to help someone imagine living there.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 5 years ago

My husband is in HR and he always calls these homes Relocation Beige!  Great post.

Posted by Paula McDonald ~ GRI, Granbury, TX 936-203-0279 (Beam & Branch Realty) over 5 years ago

Christa, I totally agree with you that vanilla is boring in a house, but it makes a good ice cream flavor!

Posted by Sybil Campbell, REALTOR® ABR, SFR, SRES Williamsburg, Virginia (Long and Foster REALTORS® 5234 Monticello Ave Williamsburg, Virginia) over 5 years ago

And what I've been seeing lately are articles telling us it's okay to infuse some of our personality, style and color into the house. The only constant is change.

Posted by Jill Sackler, LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate (Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500) over 5 years ago

Good point Christa.  We can also ask the opinion of a professional stager to see to it that everything is properly done. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Ann Zieve, Unmatched Ownership Experience (Keller Williams Success Realty) over 5 years ago

There's a delicate balance between "boring" and "too fussy/loud" .... and a cost-effective consultation with a professional stager can really help sellers figure how how to find that balance.  For around $200, it's a wise investment.

Posted by Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging, "Staging Consultations that Sell Portland Homes" (Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR) over 5 years ago

Yes! I never understood the draw to keep every last wall in the house white, but here's a great reason not to!

Posted by Rachel Khoury, Your Wingwoman for Colorado Mortgages (Tailwinds Mortgage) over 5 years ago

I had a seller last year who painted his entire interior white. It had new carpet, granite counter tops and a new stove. It was on the market for almost three weeks. I think that was due to the lack of color.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) over 5 years ago

I think staging done correctly can enhance vanilla decor!  Too sterile is less a problem than wildly personalized in my opinion.

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 5 years ago

I agree with you! Many builders think that whitewashing a house will make it appeal to the most number of people, while in reality it makes it boring. Color, done tastefully always helps to make that house standout

Posted by Jordan Gouger, Helping you to achieve your housing goals! (Keller Williams Realty Inc.) over 5 years ago

I'm with Gary, #22 on this issue.

Posted by Kimo Jarrett, Pro Lifestyle Solutions (WikiWiki Realty) over 5 years ago

I never heard the term "vanilla home" but it is fitting.  A home needs to feel warm and welcoming.

Posted by Terry McCarley, REALTOR, SRES, CDPE - Cape Coral, FL (REMAX Trend - Cape Coral FL) over 5 years ago

Nice point.  I use a professional home stager for EVERY listing.  Unless the clients refuse it, she does a fantastic job.  Any repainting that needs to be done she only recommends Kilim Beige (Sherwin Williams) and divinity white.  Most builders use this color for spec homes in our areaa nd it's definitely not vanilla.  I went ahead and set up a contract with Sherwin Williams to get my clients discounted prices on their paint.  Since almost every listing or sale will end up using paint at some point this is a nice value added thing I can offer my clients.

Posted by Raymond Edler, #1 Real Estate Office in DFW (Keller Williams Realty Dallas Fort Worth 214-552-2091) over 5 years ago

Staging does much to avoid the vanilla home (great term, by the way). When painting the interior of a home, we often suggest several rooms be a different shade or color, all quite neutral and ones that blend together well.

Posted by Lottie Kendall, Helping make your real estate dreams a reality (Compass) over 5 years ago

This is a very refreshing post. While it is true that the buyers will personalize the home with their belongings, it's not always easy for them to imagine the home after they have moved in. When I look at homes to buy, little things, liked the stained glass tulip window I saw 15 years ago, tend to stick out in your mind. 

Posted by Kelly Bogan, Your Gateway to the Emerald Valley in Lane County (Equinox Real Estate) over 5 years ago

So true, I had an REO client a few years ago that decided they'd get a better return by rehabing every unit before listing. While that was a good thing all had to conform to their color palette which was white walls, light beige carpet, white applainces. The most common feedback comment, the house was boring, no wow factor. This is especially bad in large developments where there is often several of the exact floor plan listed

Posted by Patrick Willard over 5 years ago

True, I wouldn't want to live with a vanilla home. But when faced with those vacant homes that need a paint job, I counsel my clients to choose a neutral tone with white trim. When painting the complete inside of a home, it starts to get pricey and labor intensive to hire crews to change to several paint colors. The stager I use does a phenomenal job and the houses look great when they're finished. 

Posted by Karen Crowson, Your Agent for Change (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 5 years ago

I especially like the comment of Raymond Edler, Keller Williams, # 26 - the best colors and the idea of pre-arranging a discount for clients with Sherwin Williams - great idea.

Posted by Mary Sheridan, Creative Marketing, Buyer Agency 423-943-7655 (Keller Willliams - 1033 Hamilton Place,Johnson City TN 37604) over 5 years ago

We are suggesting "Pottery Barn" colors to our sellers who want to do some sprucing. 

Posted by Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner, Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395 (Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395) over 5 years ago

YIPEE!!  You GO # 22-Gary, #24-Kimo, #26-Raymond, #27-Lottie, and #31-Mary for promoting professional home staging!!  THANK YOU!

Staging is an industry that truly HELPS the Realtor/Broker/Homeowner get the most return for the INVESTMENT.  Staging works.

Statistics prove that staged homes sell faster.  PLEASE use (like Raymond #26) an ASP Home Stager in your area!  Like my business name is written in the imperative:

DO-STAGE!, LLC  ~ It is IMPERATIVE to get a listing ASP staged before any MLS pics or showings.  Those neutral walls will be the perfect background for all of the "pops" of color that a stager "brings to the table."

Thanks, Christa Ross, for writing about a topic that I'm passionate about ~ getting those 'vanilla homes' to stand out and "pop" with vibrancy!

Posted by Virginia Youngblood, DO-STAGE! LLC - Home Stager - ASPM® (DO-STAGE! LLC - an ASPM® Home Staging Company) over 5 years ago

Great post for anyone wanting to sell their home and not knowing what colors to use.  Red, Blue and Purple are definitely out. But don't paint everything white either.  

Posted by Jan Green, HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN (Value Added Service, 602-620-2699) over 5 years ago

A soft color used on an accent wall can work.  In Phoenix we live in the land of beige.

Posted by Jim Miner, Loan Modfication & Short Sale Specialist (Miner Noh & Associates) over 5 years ago

I struggle with the staging strategy or all white or off white walls.  I understand it works, but it is so boring.  

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) over 5 years ago

There is a varying level of horrible of which white is not in the mix. Better too vanilla than way too much color which I've seen of late.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) over 5 years ago

In my area prices are rising and so is inventory.  When priced competitively warm & inviting will get the offer over vanilla and drap any day.

Posted by Jimmy Williams (352) 874-2354, Lake and Western Orange County Real Estate Expert! (Classic VI Realty) over 5 years ago

It's true. When buyers see 6 vanilla homes, they can't remember what they saw. What they remember are truly horrid houses, and homes with one or two details that stand out in a nice way.


Posted by Sylvia Jonathan, Broker Associate, SFR (Coldwell Banker Platinum Properties) over 5 years ago

I like the new word Vanilla Homes, great post...Thanks you..
I also like Raymond Edler's paint discount offer to client, people will always remember you...

Posted by Jaishree Zilpelwar over 5 years ago

Christa - You make some excellent points. I see my share of vanilla homes in my area, and for buyers, it's difficult to differentiate between them all.

Posted by Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807, Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor (Good Company Real Estate www.ChandlerRealEstate.weebly.com) about 5 years ago