When you decide to put your home on the market shortly before the holidays, you may wonder what to do with the holiday cheer. Even though I knew about decluttering and keeping my house “show ready,” I couldn’t wait to pretty the place up with holiday decorations.
Until my real estate agent told me I couldn’t.
Or at least I couldn’t do it the way I wanted to or had always decorated in the past. Turns out that just like family photos and other heirlooms that are personal to you but distracting for buyers, holiday decorations can make it hard for buyers to “see” themselves living in your home.
As a home seller it might be worth your time to make a few decorating adjustments during December—and for good reason:
- Real estate experts continue to believe that those looking at houses during the cold-weather months are serious buyers.
- The weekends before Christmas and New Year’s tend to have some of the highest traffic of the year. Realtor.com recently crunched data from its website and found this to be true.
- During the holidays, says Andy Nelson, CEO and president of Willis Allen Real Estate in San Diego, “there are fewer houses on the market to compete with. Many sellers will wait until after the holidays to list their homes, creating a flooded market and increased competition.”
So rather than take your house off the market in December or switch its status from active to “active-no showings,” use these 15 tips on how not to decorate your house when selling during the holidays. Who knows? You might wake up on Christmas morning to an offer.
- Holiday decorations should fit the style of the home. If you have a modern home, consider tasteful modern holiday decorations. Selling your home at the beach? Your decorations should reflect this vibe.
- Go for seasonal greenery. A real wreath on the door with a few bows is fine. So is some pine garland on the porch or across a fireplace mantel.
- Don’t over decorate outside. No twinkling, musical or colorful animated characters on the lawn, front porch or the roof. Now is not the time to compete with Buddy the Elf for the most decorated home.
- Clean up around your tree. If you have a real Christmas tree, “please make certain you clean up the pine needles,” begs Lee Williams, a real estate agent with Level Group, a full-service real estate brokerage in New York City. “Neatness counts.”
- Keep it simple with ornaments. Don’t clutter your tree with every ornament you’ve ever used over the years. Think streamlined and simple.
- Don’t eat up precious floor space. If your home is small, pare down your Christmas tree size as well. You don’t want it or the presents underneath taking up valuable floor space and making your home looking smaller.
- One candle per window, please. Candles in the windows are fine, but, warns Williams, “make certain the candles do not draw attention to any potential negatives outside or inside the home.” Some negatives outside might be dented siding, for example.
- Some decorative lights are fine. Lights (white lights only, please) inside the home are OK, but if you must run extension cords all over the place—due to a lack of outlets, a negative to buyers—forget the lights all together, says Williams.
- Choose colors carefully. If you must decorate your home for the holiday you celebrate, use traditional colors only—so red and green for Christmas and blue and white or silver for Chanukah, for example. Even better, keep religion out of the color scheme and go with silver and gold!
- Put away religious symbols. Nutcrackers, manger scenes and menorahs may be important to you but could be a distraction to buyers. Keep those out for your own personal celebrations but put them away for showings.
- Staging still matters. For the holidays, you may simply want to swap out everyday linens for those in your holiday color scheme.
- Don’t display holiday greeting cards. They become like family photos—another distraction that prevents buyers from “seeing” themselves living in your house.
- Pare down presents. If presents are to be displayed, keep them to a minimum. In fact, you may want to wrap a few empty boxes, tastefully, of course, as part of your decorating theme, suggests Williams.
- Clear your cookies. Don’t leave a plate of cookies out at showings—you’re trying to find a buyer, not entice Santa to leave you more presents. Plus, food allergies are a real concern these days. Causing an allergic reaction is not a good way to inspire someone to make an offer on your home.
- Curb appeal continues to count. In the winter and with inclement weather, a big part of curb appeal is having a shoveled driveway and a walk clear of ice and snow. It’s definitely a negative if buyers can’t make it to your front door—safely.