A couple weekends ago we embarked on a seemingly simple painting project at home. We wanted finally paint over the wall that was torn up when I had plumbing problems a few years ago (see: The Leak, Day #2, The Leak, Day #3: Leak Found, Pictures, Showering with a 90 Foot Hose, and other Fun Tidbits, The Leak, Day #7: Still Showering with a Hose, etc.).

There were numerous cans of paint in the garage that the previous owners had left behind. And since the house had mostly white walls, it seemed like a pretty trivial task. We got out the paint, spread the plastic and sheets, stirred, poured, and started putting paint on the walls.

After a bit of painting it became apparent that were we not using the right color. Apparently there was more than one white used in the house. This wouldn't normally be a problem. But as part of the painting we decided to touch up a few other walls in other rooms of the house. It looked fine while the paint was wet. But as the paint dried, we realized that there were actually three or more different flavors of "white" in use around the house.


Realizing what pain in the ass this could turn into, we opted to chip a bit of paint off the affected walls, take them over to our neighborhood Orchard Supply Hardware, and get them to match the color.

They did an excellent job. The touched up spots look fine. And the colored paint we got for the previously repaired wall looks great. (Oh, we decide to use a non-white color after we realized the "white" was all wrong.)

So you're probably wondering what this has to do with realtors.

Realtors know what it takes to sell a house. They know where they can cut corners and get away with it. After thinking about it a bit, I realized what the previous owners of our house must have done. I suspect that they hired some cheap painters and asked them to bring along any leftover white paint from previous jobs.

They did. And they used one white for one room, a slightly different white for the next, and so on--thereby using up the extra paint and not having to spend a whopping $12/gallon to repaint the house before selling it.

I can't think of any other reason why someone would paint different rooms using shades of white that are just different enough to be different. It just doesn't make sense.

But to make matters worse, they didn't bother to label the spare cans so we'd know which room the colors applied to. At least the spare paint can I put away after we were done have things like "living room" or "bedroom" written on them in black marker.

Damned cheap-ass realtors.

Anyone need three or four cans of partially used off-white paint?

Posted by jzawodn at September 10, 2008 09:32 AM

Reader Comments
# Guillaume Theoret said:

Realtors aren't the only people that do that. It could've been the previous owners. I did it myself since my uncle is painter. He showed me a huge pile of leftovers and said help yourself. I grabbed a bunch of white/off-whites and beiges and painted with that.

on September 10, 2008 10:10 AM
# Richard Thomas said:

you also have to realize that each wall in a house is going to fade depending on the amount of light the wall gets.

So while the house may of been painted with the same color after fading it becomes impossible to use the same paint for touchup.

on September 10, 2008 10:23 AM
# Thomas said:

Look closely (assuming there's still enough evidence left) and you might realize that multiple shades of white were used in the same room. For instance, the surface of the walls might use a fairly flat, dull white, while the trim and moulding would use a brighter, often slightly glossy white. The ceiling will often have yet another shade of white. This is done to add depth and texture to the room while still keeping the same plain, boring white throughout.

on September 10, 2008 10:33 AM
# Kristopher Johnson said:

A co-worker recently sold a house, and left a couple of cans of touch-up paint, some molding, floor tiles, extra ceiling panels, etc. in the basement.

He thought he was doing the new owners a favor, but at the closing, the new owners demanded a few hundred dollars to "pay for disposing of the junk left in the basement."

on September 10, 2008 10:35 AM
# Diora Baird said:

I feel a lot of people are afraid to get their hands dirty, buying a house is quite a big undertaking, and you should be ready to do some serious work before you commit yourself.

on September 10, 2008 10:54 AM
# Shelby said:

The same problem occurs when a designer does the paint selection. We have 15 colors of beige in our house each room having at least 3 versions. To the naked-eye it's not noticeable. It wasn't until we had to touch up like yourself. Finally we contacted the designer about it and she explained "
"it was to play off the natural lighting that comes in the house." So walls that get more light have a darker beige than the walls that don't. We had to request a paint map from her just so we can do touch-ups in house. UGH!

on September 10, 2008 11:18 AM
# Chris said:


Sounds like that designer floated some BS to justify her fee.

on September 10, 2008 11:27 AM
# Doug G. said:

Really, aren't there more important things in life to get upset about than the shade of white on your walls?

You bought a house, not a color on a wall. If this is the only problem you have had with the house, consider yourself a very lucky homeowner!

on September 10, 2008 12:27 PM
# Selvin George said:

Huge waste of time reading this post! The content of this post is a huge letdown after you read the title "Never Buy a House from a Realtor". I mean, the title is what brought me here in the first place. So perhaps, title your posts better. ummmkaaay

It was such a huge waste of time that I decided to leave a comment to hopefully dissuade you from writing similar timewasters in the future.

Just kidding =) Keep writing Jeremy

on September 10, 2008 12:55 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


If you think that's the only problem I've had, you didn't read very closely.

on September 10, 2008 01:03 PM
# Michael Moncur said:

My wife used to be a Realtor.

I don't think she ever told a client to repaint their house, and she certainly wasn't in charge of the selection of paint colors and quality if they did.

One of the most difficult parts of the job was that no matter how good and honest you were, people would treat you like a criminal and assume you were out to cheat them, and blame you for just about everything.

Glad you're keeping that spirit alive.

on September 10, 2008 01:20 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


Glad to see you haven't lost your sense of humor!

on September 10, 2008 01:39 PM
# Marcin said:

"Anyone need three or four cans of partially used off-white paint?"

Sure! I'm about to sell my house and I need to repaint a few random walls... ;)

on September 10, 2008 03:42 PM
# Mike said:

Shades that don't match on touch-ups are usually still close enough if you go from corner to corner. Plus, it generally looks better if you just hit the whole wall (or room) with a coat of paint, instead of just a few random spots.

on September 11, 2008 12:10 AM
# said:

It's just fade, I've had that problem myself. I painted a skirting board, and kept the paint to touch up any damage in the cellar, then when I needed to touch up that skirting board, the white did not match.
The paint on the skirting board was darker than the one in the cellar, even though they are the same paint.

on September 11, 2008 01:42 AM
# optional said:

i thought touching up a spot on a wall was impractical and that you pretty much have to repaint the entire wall to get good results

on September 11, 2008 07:25 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

It is *not* "just fade." I have the old cans to prove it.

on September 11, 2008 08:58 AM
# Doug said:

It's not just realtors. Some people are cheap. They'd rather do it crappy and cheaply, than pay more and do it right. I'm redoing the bathroom and the exterior wall had ZERO insulation. And that's just one of the many things I found out were not properly done. Poor workmanship is rampant in the bay area. Many of these 1+ million dollar ranch houses are so junky it's incredible. I know, I know, the value is in the land (good schools), but still, it galls me to think about it.

If only I could have convinced my wife to move anywhere else but here, I'd have saved a bundle, and would have had a lot nicer house to begin with. But NO, she just had to stay here, for the people, the food and the culture.

on September 11, 2008 10:24 PM
# Andrew Hill said:

Small amounts of left over paint? Your local hardware store (if they're good!) might be able to take the left over bits, mix them up, and donate them to charities. We recently did this with the tins of similarly mis-matched paint left at our newly purchased flat...

on September 12, 2008 08:09 AM
# Joe said:

Real estate people are sales people. Their job is to help the buyer or seller get the best price. Their job is also to "dress up the pig" to make a sell. If they can't do that, then they don't deserve their commission. Usually a homeowner will paint at the agent's request. The homeowner doesn't want to sink money into a home they are trying to sell. People are cheap. This really isn't a knock against real estate agents.

on September 12, 2008 09:23 AM
# Ray said:

Your real problem here is unrealistic expectations, coupled with fading, and probably some cheap paint. You should never trust paint older than about a year or so... the chemicals and tints in paint change over time. I put my way through college selling new homes for a builder and even though the builder used a good quality paint, people who went to do touch-ups after more than a year were usually disappointed due to fading and degradation of the paint itself. Similarly, we painted every surface in our home about a year and a half ago when we moved in. After the move-in, we did some touch-ups for scratches during the move and they looked perfect. Then a few months ago, I went to retouch a scratch from the very same paint can and the color is just slightly off (but only if you're looking hard). I fully expect that within another year we'll need to do some color matching, or just repaint the whole wall (smarter choice anyway).

on September 13, 2008 05:18 PM
# Brian said:

People are just stupid. I bought a house from a family where the father had just returned from Iraq. Apparently, he was collecting two salaries while serving overseas (civilian + military pay), and she used the extra loot to employ some stupid relatives/handymen.

To make a long story short, they redid the upstairs bathroom, and did a pretty nice job. Except for the do-it-yourself plumbing, which leaked after two years. And of course, since they decided to attach copper pipe to a plaster ceiling -- then cover the nastyness with a drop ceiling, a minor leak turned into a major project to get the room downstairs.

So I'm not shedding a tear for mismatched off white :)

on September 14, 2008 09:46 AM
# neal sample said:

The leftover paint can generally be recycled at your local landfill, free of charge. They'll distribute it to the right places and make sure it doesn't end up in the ground!

on September 17, 2008 12:55 AM
# said:


Why do you ASSUME that it was the Realtor that told them to get a bunch of left over paint to paint the home? Maybe the homeowners took it upon themselves to use what ever paint they could find? An inspection of the home is very important for any buyers. If you had plumbing problems maybe it was the inspector you choose that missed these issues?


on January 25, 2009 07:18 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


The previous owners were realtors. There's no assumption at all going on here.

on January 25, 2009 07:20 AM
# Charlotte Realtor said:

Wow, the things people try to hang on Realtors... pitiful. You need to get a life!

on June 21, 2009 03:28 PM
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