How to Decorate for the Holidays When Selling a Home

Experts suggest a tasteful, less-is-more approach

By now, every home seller knows that the presentation is everything. As home staging becomes a more lucrative industry year after year, the evidence clearly points to the interiors of the house mattering almost just as much as the structure. Home buyers like being able to visualize themselves in a home, and the decor is key.

People selling homes from October to January have a decision to make: to decorate or not decorate for the holidays. According to licensed associate broker at William Raveis Real Estate, Hope Mazzola, this time of the year is not to be overlooked, as those selling or buying a home during the holidays are very serious about their desire to buy or sell.

“Usually, the sellers with properties on the market at the holidays are those who need to sell and had hoped to be done before winter. Sellers may have taken price reductions through the fall, having come on the market listed at too high of a price. Those looking to buy during the holidays are either savvy shoppers, knowing the history of a home and thinking the seller is motivated, or they seriously need to find a place to live,” said Mazzola. “Both scenarios lead to motivated sellers and buyers and it makes for a very special moment when a deal is struck in time to celebrate the good news at the holidays.”

To make a home appealing to buyers during the holidays, Mazzola starts by removing personal photos and clutter, adding warm but not overly personalized accents, then layering on a bit of holiday cheer.

“When decorating, make sure to be tasteful and follow the same rules that apply to home staging,” she said. “Make sure that your decor can appeal to those who celebrate but not turn off those who do not share the culture.”

She suggests classic and clean holiday decor, like simple candlestick lights in the window, a green wreath on the door, a beautiful menorah on the table, pretty stockings hung by the chimney with care and lightly scented, high quality candles and soaps in the bathroom.

Chad Esslinger of Chad Esslinger Design adds, “Clutter and excess decor make the space feel disorganized and crowded. Limit yourself to a few seasonal touches in each room.”

Another tricky question is whether to put up a tree. Mazzola is in favor of it, as long as it’s put up and taken down within a specific timeframe.

“An elegantly lit Christmas tree can be really nice, as long as it is put up one week before Christmas and removed one week after Christmas,” she notes. “When it comes to gifts, unopened gifts under the tree are fine, but put away any gifts after they are opened.”

When asked what to skip, Mazzola suggests keeping personal decorations, over-the-top lighting and garland in storage until after your home is sold.

“Put away the inflatable lawn figures and say bye-bye to blinking lights. This is not the year to feature the super religious nativity scenes or paper party-like decorations hanging from the ceiling or on the walls,” Mazzola said. “Sparkling up the house with silver or gold accents can be a lovely touch, but don’t overdo it.”

Mazzola said to focus on making your house feel like a home, from the outside touches to the inside additions.

She adds, “Everyone loves to be in the holiday spirit, no matter what holiday they celebrate, but leave the Christmas music off and the sugar cookies out. Allow potential homebuyers to envision celebrating their own holiday in your home.”