Colour me happyColour me happy (to pay the rent)

Autumn can be the ideal time to give an investment property a lick of new paint. While ‘Magnolia’ seems to be the go-to choice for rentals, there are other paint colours that could prove profitable.

Heat and cold can play havoc with paint so autumn, with its more constant temperatures, can be the ideal season to refresh an investment property.

Conventional design wisdom suggests you should use a neutral colour palette so that the rental appeals to the broadest tenant pool. This means focusing on white, off-white, cream or grey paint on the walls and mid-tone floor colours like grey or taupe, with a nod to current trends to give the property a contemporary edge. But before contacting a painter and ordering litres of ‘Magnolia’, why not consider some other colours that might be a big hit with tenants?

A world-first Australian study combining colour psychology, neuroscience and virtual reality (VR) has revealed how the colours in homes can affect mood.

A team of neuroscientists and psychologists from The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health partnered with Melbourne-based Liminal VR and Taubmans Paints to assess a range of colours in real-life environments and determine their effect on emotions.

The research “scientifically proves that painting your walls in different colours can bring out a whole range of emotions”.

A spokesman for Taubmans said: “The right colours will make you feel relaxed and calm, or cheerful and excited, yet pick the wrong colour scheme, and your walls risk making you [or your tenants] feel bored, sad, tense, and, worst of all, irritated.”

Key findings of the research:

  • Pastel colours (soft grey-green, faded lilac, pale blue) were nominated as the most relaxing hues
  • Neutrals (eggshell, cream, pale green) were the most calming shades
  • Sunny yellows rated as the most cheerful
  • Pinks and oranges proved divisive – making some people feel cheerful and excited, and others irritated and tense
  • Charcoals and other dark colours made some people feel sad, while others expressed surprise and delight
  • Light blues and greens are generally regarded as serene

Landlords can use this intel to help select the best colours to paint their rentals – choosing colours that are likely to make prospective or existing tenants feel relaxed and calm when they enter the property, which is just what many people look for in their homes. Landlords with trendy inner-city investment properties may favour exciting or cheerful colour schemes instead that appeal to a different target market.

Whether you decide to stick with a tried and tested neutral scheme or venture into shades that evoke positive emotions, these tips could be useful:

  • Engage a professional painter – according to ServiceSeeking.com.au, the average standard painting job is charged out at $40 per hour (excluding cost of paint and materials) – make sure they are licensed (required in NSW, SA, Queensland, Victoria and WA), police cleared and fully insured
  • Use quality paints that don’t show dirt and are ‘washable’ or ‘scrubable’
  • Choose the right type of paint for the job – water-based or oil-based, gloss, semi-gloss, low-sheen or matt finish
  • Make sure the surfaces are properly prepped if you are doing the work yourself (a pro will do this)
  • If the wall surfaces are less than ideal, consider a textured finish paint (which can hide a multitude of sins) or wallpaper instead
  • Don’t forget about the exterior of the home (windows, doors, railings, fences, roofs) – these are best tackled by a professional with their own Public Liability cover (you don’t want to be up ladders or dangling from gutters!)
  • Damaged paintwork like bubbling or flaking could indicate underlying issues like damp, termites or wood rot, so don’t ignore any evidence of problems, get a professional in to investigate (repairs and maintenance are generally tax deductible and will also safeguard the insurance cover which requires the property to be adequately maintained)
  • Consider letting your tenants chose their own colour schemes (once new legislation passes in some states, they’ll be able to do this without seeking your approval) if they don’t care for yours – just make sure that a professional comes in to do the work (letting ‘handy’ tenants DIY can risk voiding landlord insurance cover) and that if they ‘go bold’ they agree (in writing) to re-instate a neutral colour scheme

A property spruce-up goes over well with tenants and choosing the right colour to paint the walls could help ensure that you have happy renters – and happy renters are more likely to pay their rent on time, stay longer and look after the property as if it were their own.