Agents frequently suggest that homeowners paint before placing their homes on the market. Don't be offended.

Agents understand "color psychology" -- color's effect on human behavior and emotion. Since people's reaction to color is immediate, it has tremendous influence on the choices they make every day.

"Color choices are very personal, and when selling your home, it's critical to appeal to the greatest number of potential buyers," said Allegra Dioguardi, president of Styled and Sold Home Staging in New York. "With so many people beginning their search for a home on the Internet today, your home and listing photos must stand out from your competition. Color is one very simple way to do this."

Eric Brown, one of the authors of House Selling for Dummies, amplifies that. "Painting your house's exterior before you put it on the market will give the biggest bang for your fix-up buck. As long as you are using colors that conform to the neighborhood's decorating norm," he said.

Colors affect us in many ways, and by using the principles of color psychology, you can make your home stand out from the competition, sell more quickly and at a higher price. In short, the stimulus and effect of colors normally cross cultures. Blues will feel cool, reds and oranges feel warm. Deeper shades of color imply intimacy and serenity.

Your home's exterior color is the first thing most potential buyers see when they drive up or inspect the property on the web. The correct color may be the most powerful and cost-effective design tool at your disposal.

What is "correct" these days? Brown's research shows that homes painted in pale yellows with cream or beige accents have sold fastest during the past few years.

In general, lighter colors are favored for exterior, as they make the property seem larger. Conversely, painting your sideboards with a darker color will make the house seem smaller, though dark colors can draw more attention to home's details.

For those painting an older home, you may want to consider historical accuracy, as this could be a big selling point as well.

When choosing interior colors for the home, consider the purpose of each room. Kitchen and dining areas painted in "food colors" such as coffee browns, celery greens and scrambled-egg yellows will make the rooms feel more natural.

Hallways are a great place to bring in the exterior colors for overall harmony.

In her book Joy to the Home: Secrets of Interior Design Psychology, Jeanette Fisher says deeper shades of color imply intimacy and serenity. She recommends painting master bedrooms a medium shade of green or blue for warm selling seasons, and rouge red for cooler weather. Other bedrooms can be painted in creamy tones of green, blue, or a pale shell pink.

For your bedroom and bathroom, cool colors can form a relaxing atmosphere with paint. Consider shades of blue, green or even lavender.

Of course, common sense should help you with any color choices. Your colors should meld with your possessions while giving your home a fresh and comfortable sensation.

Linda Skolnick's "Skolnick's Scoop" appears every other Friday. She is a Realtor with Prudential Connecticut Real Estate in Westport, can be reached by calling 203-246-0088 or through her website,