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‘Tis the season to be jolly, but should your home reflect the joy of the season if you’re also trying to sell it? If you love to decorate for the holidays, missing out on this once-a-year opportunity might sound like torture. On the other hand, you don’t want to miss the chance to sell your home because of your decorations. So, should you decorate for the holidays if your home is on the market? We’ve got some “nays,” “yeas,” and “other considerations.”

No, Don’t Decorate

An elaborately-decorated home in Houston. Image: Regina Gust Designs

Our first two realtors are against decorating for the holidays if you’re trying to sell your home. According to Anita Springate-Renaud, licensed partner and broker at Engel & Völkers Toronto Central, your festive decor can distract buyers from looking at the home’s raw design.

“Elaborate decorations can distract and shift a prospective buyer’s focus away from what they should be looking at when shopping for a property.” So what should they be looking at? Springate-Renaud says potential buyers should be focused on such factors as square footage, wall space, the quality of home finishes and other amenities – all of which can get lost under your holiday decor.

And she offers another reason why you should not decorate when your home is on the market. “Holidays are not universal, and different cultures have different traditions and ways of celebrating the holiday season,” she says. “Decorating for one holiday may alienate potential buyers who may celebrate the season differently.”

A stunning silver holiday design. Image: Houseology Design Group

For example, while some potential buyers celebrate Christmas, others celebrate Hanukkah. “In an effort to keep the home looking relatable and consistent to each buyer, it is encouraged to have homebuyers keep their home neutral – without the use of any holiday decor.” She says that buyers need to see themselves in a home, and it’s hard to do that when the property is decorated for someone else’s traditions and beliefs.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree. Image: Robeson Design

John Manning, managing broker at RE/MAX On Market in Seattle, WA, puts it another way. “To deck the halls – or not? At the risk of sounding like a Grinch, we vote not.” Manning says buyers can hail from a variety of cultures and religious views, and if you want your home to appeal to the widest audience, you need to create a neutral environment. “Buyers are walking through prospective homes envisioning their own life in the home, literally thinking, ‘Will this home suit me and my family throughout the year?’”

Manning says the home should be the focal point, not the holiday. “Nuanced decorations (e.g. fall leaves/gourds, a tasteful wreath on the front door) are fine in moderation but we would caution against full-throttle holiday decor.”

Yes, Decorate

A beautifully-decorated mantel in Gulfport, MS. Image: RJ Elder Design

Our next two experts are in favor of decking the halls – and the rest of the walls. “Humans are emotional people and the holiday season seems to bring out the best in us,” says Angela Williams, a Birmingham, AL-based realtor at Extreme Agent Realty. “You should absolutely decorate your home for the holiday season – in fact, you would be surprised how a beautifully-decorated mantle can sell a home.” However, Williams says it’s important that your decorations be tasteful. “It might be a good idea to hire a professional or ask that friend or family member who always seems to know what to do for some help.”

Shawn Breyer, owner of Breyer Home Buyers in Atlanta, GA, also believes that potential sellers should decorate for the holidays. “While realtors often advise homeowners to be neutral to appeal to the masses, home buyers expect the houses they are touring to be decorated.” However, he warns against going overboard with your decorations.

This Glasgow City home doesn’t overdo the decorations. Image: Houseology Design Group

As a general rule, Breyer says that less is better. “You don’t want to fill every crevice of your home with your Nutcracker collection, your Lemax Christmas Village collection, and 30 inflatables in the yard.” And the less-is-better rule isn’t limited to decorations. “If you are adding a large Christmas tree in your family room, consider moving out a side table or recliner to add floor space.” That’s because floor space helps to sell your home and Breyer says you don’t want your decorations to make the house feel cramped.

These decorations highlight the home’s massive entrance. Image: Dawn Hearn Interior Design

“Use decorations as a way to accentuate the features of your home that you think are selling points,” he recommends.  “If you have a big backyard and a nice deck, place lighting and garland around your deck railing to outline the perimeter and light up the deck.” If you have a nice entryway, Breyer recommends placing a small tree with presents in this space so potential buyers will focus on the entryway.

Other Considerations

Holiday decorating perfection. Image: Vale Garden Homes

Bill Golden, an independent real estate agent with RE/MAX Metro Atlanta Cityside, believes that decorating for the holidays should be kept to a tasteful minimum. However, he says that homeowners should also consider a few other factors when selling during the holiday season.

“Since it’s more likely to be dark during this time of the year, it’s essential that lights are turned on and window blinds and curtains are open in a home that is being shown,” Golden says.  “Buyers don’t like coming into dark spaces and tend to have a much more positive reaction when homes are light and bright.”

He also recommends making sure that the temperature is at a comfortable level – if the home is too cold or too hot, Golden says buyers will rush through so they can get out as soon as possible. “And this is not what you want from a showing. Give them ‘cozy’ – just don’t overdo it.”

The decorations help light the way to this Chicago home. Image: James Martin Associates

Also, since there may be snow or rain, he advises having a place for potential buyers and realtors to leave their umbrellas or kick the snow off their shoes. “Make it easy for them, which also keeps things neater for you and helps demonstrate that the home will function well in winter weather.”

In addition, Golden says you don’t get a pass on curb appeal because it’s winter. “In fact, you should probably up your game and keep the landscaping fresh, despite the weather.” This includes fresh mulch in the beds, keeping leaves raked and adding some cold-tolerant potted plants.

The decorations are tasteful in this Edmonton space. Image: AMR Interior Design and Drafting

The interior of your home should also make a great first impression and, according to Breyer, the same rules apply during the holidays as during the rest of the year. “Before you start decorating, make sure you perform a deep clean and declutter of your house.”

Breyer recommends renting a storage unit to move out everything you can live without for a month or so. Also, take the time to throw away the accumulated stuff you aren’t keeping, organize your closets, have your carpets cleaned, and hire a professional cleaner to do a deep clean.