Most builders are still ignoring Interior Paint Complaints

Don’t paint your reputation into a corner…

Imagine a family of five purchasing their first home, actually it’s seven, if you include Emily and Hercules, their two dogs.  With anticipated excitement, the family receives the keys to their new home and begins moving in.  The kids run wildly all throughout the house testing every door, touching nearly every wall.  Moving truck arrives next day.  A scratch here, a long scrape there, complimentary marks and dents left by the professionals.  The parents don’t really worry about  their “newly decorated” walls, figuring they’ll just clean or touch them up later.


After several months, their new home has officially been ‘broken in.’  Kid fingerprints everywhere, particularly by the front door where they remove their shoes and backpacks.  Hercules has created his own ‘Paw-Picasso’ by the back door; while Emily chose the laundry room to showcase her slobbers.  Individual art at its finest.


What once was the perfect home, now has become an eyesore.  After many futile attempts at removing the marks and dirt, homeowner frustration escalates.  The culprit:  builder-grade interior paint.  No one had told the family that their interior paint was more like a primer, so they could repaint their house in the future or that the flat paint on their walls isn’t scrubbable so ‘be careful with moving in.’  Instead, the initial excitement they had at move-in has already waned.


Unfortunately, this experience too often mirrors what we receive from the many thousands of homeowners completing Eliant’s “Year-End Home Quality Evaluation” (Y-EQ):


  • “When you try to clean the walls, paint rubs off.”
  • “Why weren’t we given the option to upgrade the paint?”
  • “This builder uses the cheapest paint available, such poor quality.”
  • “For the price of the home, I can’t believe I have to repaint the entire house already.”
  • “Interior paint is by far the worst element of this house.”
  • “I am embarrassed to have guests, for fear they will see the awful quality of this interior paint.”
  • “I don’t call that paint. It’s water mixed with ?… Regret buying house just because of the interior paint.


Comments sound familiar?  Interior paint is consistently the #1 home feature that homeowners complain about in the Y-EQ evaluation.  In fact, when it comes to ‘coverage, durability and ease of cleaning,’ interior paint scores have not  improved in the last 14 years.  This is despite the many  ‘complimentary’ suggestions offered by homeowners for improving the painting of their homes.


For Y-EQ evaluations received from homeowners of more than 185 Eliant clients,  the average interior paint rating currently stands at 74% for the first half of 2021.   This is the lowest rating of the 21 major Home Quality Criteria monitored on this evaluation.


The highest interior paint rating peaked in 2010 at 78.3% but has been gradually declining ever since.  Eliant’s joint research with the USC Marshall School of Business has identified dissatisfaction with interior paint as “… a major contributor to customers’ unwillingness to recommend their builder to a friend.”


Opportunities to Improve Your Interior Paint Scores      


  1. Set customer expectations early – ensure your sales/design team members tell homeowners what they can expect with the interior paint’s performance:
    • Be transparent, offer a Pro-Active Warning to your buyers
      • “Flat paint is difficult to clean; paint may come off on your rag or sponge”
    • Leave extra can of existing paint for touch-ups, with instructions
      • “Over time, touch-up paint may not totally match your wall color, particularly if the wall is in the sun.”
  2. Offer options to upgrade paint – a request by many homeowners
    • Strongly recommend upgraded paint for buyers with small children, pets
    • Tell a story about homeowners who ‘wished’ they had upgraded…and why
  3. Increase quality control measures
    • Re-evaluate paint quality and durability
    • Ensure painters clean up paint splatters so homeowners don’t have to
    • Hold drywallers and painters to higher standards
      • Share your standards with your painters. Your standards may be different than other builders they work with
      • Distribute interior paint ratings and homeowner comments to each community’s paint contractor
  4. Identify which of your communities have the strongest interior paint scores and learn from them
    • Different paint? Different contractor?  Different crews?  Different conditions?
  5. Create Best Practices
    • Some of Eliant’s builder clients offer their buyers a planned surprise:
      • One-hour complimentary paint touch-up after 30 days in the home


Repainting a brand-new home is not only a costly – often unanticipated -additional expense to new homeowners, but it’s also a major inconvenience.   By setting customer expectations about flat paint and offering homeowners upgrade options, you’re paving the way for improved interior paint scores and most importantly…a higher likelihood they will recommend you to their friends.  Should homeowners elect not to upgrade, they will understand moving forward that their walls likely will become dirty quickly.  If they do upgrade, then this is a win-win opportunity:  additional revenue for you, as well as providing your homeowners with happy walls for years to come.


Paint splatter complaints also frequently show up in customer comments.  This is a quality control issue.  Prior to move-in date, do you have an inspection process in place with your painters?  Homeowners should NEVER be left with the task of removing paint splatters.


Overall, your interior paint scores may look pretty good, but you may have a few communities with high interior paint scores that are giving you a false sense of confidence.  Dig deeper and take a closer look at your individual communities.  Do your ratings differ by more than 10-points from the best-to-worst community?  Those communities with low interior paint scores need to be learning from your communities with top scores.  What are they doing differently?  To achieve quick gains in interior scores, first try implementing some best practices in your larger communities.


Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Let’s turn the tide of low interior paint scores, making the commitment to listen and act on homeowner suggestions.  It may even be as simple as vowing to set customer expectations early in the design selection process.  Or if using the marginal gain theory, break down everything that goes into painting the inside of a house and then focus on improving each element by just 1%.  These daily incremental improvements, when added together, can lead to monumental results over time.





As the home building industry’s Customer Experience experts, we’re committed to providing you the necessary tools to deliver extraordinary experiences. Contact Christy Salmon at for more information.

Category: Best Practices
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