Holiday Decor: Your Home May Sell Better With Less


As soon as October hits, we see Halloween and even Christmas decorations emerge on store shelves. And the boxes begin to come down from our own storage shelves to take their place on our dining room tables, foyers and front porches. The holiday luge track has entered warp speed.

Except, wait! If your house is on the market, rules change for that ghoulish Halloween display you planned for your front yard or the staircase banister vanishing under Christmas garland. The message from realtors is “less is more.”

What you want is subtlety that will enhance your home but still feature its best bones.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1: Choose wisely. Opt for decorations that aren’t going to distract potential buyers from your house. You’re not selling your tabletop decor, you are marketing your home.

If you’re inclined to decorate by leaving christmas plates out on your table for the season you might want to skip that this year. You don’t want prospective buyers to see them and miss other parts of your house.

2. Tone it down. Resist the urge to sprinkle your home with colored lights or holiday tchotchkes. Decorate so that you can still see the mantle. Enhance with some greenery or a touch of holly, but don’t cover your home’s beautiful features with it. And if you have kids, you don’t want to deprive them of carving a pumpkin or decorating a Christmas tree, but keep it simple and moderate.


3. Pull decorations entirely when staging. Realtor Vicki Noufal of Platinum Group Real Estate ( says if she has a listing over the holidays she prefers to have a home staged for marketing purposes without any holiday decor. Otherwise if it doesn’t sell over the holidays, photos would need to be retaken at a cost. “Nobody wants to see Christmas trees in January.”

Showings are a different story, she says. Go ahead and bring the holiday decorations out again but keep your countertops, fireplace and floors exposed. “You want to make sure things aren’t blocked,” she advises. “Keep decor to a minimum and keep architectural features visible,” she advises. “It’s OK to decorate but I think it’s just being mindful of how it will present.”

It’s sometimes hard to know how much is too much. “Maybe have a professional come to help, and keep it to the appropriate amount,” she advises. “It can be magical as long as it’s done tastefully.”

It bears mentioning that each realtor and each house is different. Some homes can carry more. Some less. Take one of the historic homes in Waterford, Va., for example. Smaller, quaint rooms only need a touch of a birch limb or a hot cider mug on a fireplace mantle. Larger, new builds with more spacious rooms don’t already come with a cozy, old-world feel but you can go ahead and erect a full-blown Christmas tree with all the trimmings. Still, keep it simple.

“The use of some fresh greens and white lights can do a lot to cheer up a spot,” says Long and Foster agent Janet Emma Garbe of Middleburg, Va., ( But she agrees not to overdo it. “I try to stay away from large, gaudy ribbons and bows.”

So what else can you do? “Live pine trees in planters on the front porch with some white lights bring some festive holiday cheer without being overbearing,” she suggests, as do  magnolia wreaths, lots of pine accents and cranberries.



4. Consider others’ beliefs. Sellers might also want to resist the temptation to bring out a nativity, a menorah, Pentacles, or any other religious symbols. “Try to avoid leaning too far in any direction related to a religion or particular belief system,” Garbe advises. It may be harder for buyers to envision themselves in your home if they have a different belief. “Create a festive atmosphere that anyone could relate to,” she says. “Who doesn’t love an elf? Just make it festive.”

5. Don’t forget safety. Be careful of things that are sentimental to you or fragile. And if holiday lights are used, keep wires off the floors.

6. Revisit. Take a picture of what you’ve arranged and look at it after a couple of hours and go back and adjust.

It’s important to remember, it’s only for this year. Limit yourself to a tasteful holiday and don’t overdecorate. Keep in mind you’re still merchandising your house and prospective buyers need to see the character and bones of your house. Next year you can decorate as much as you want!

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