Sellers, how to decorate for the holidays without turning off buyers

Ask the Expert Style
If you are selling your home and desperately want to put up a Christmas tree, aim for something with more of a pagan, natural world theme. This tree by Feróz Creatif Designs incorporates feathers instead of garland and hosts woodland creatures. —Shakti Wallace

Home sellers are told time and again the golden rules for showing off a property to attract buyers is to declutter and depersonalize. But what about during the holiday season, when the inclination is to bring out cherished and fun seasonal decorations and fill our homes with cheer?

According to these experts, some seasonal decor is OK, but if a home is on the market, then holiday decorating should not be business as usual.

“Holiday decor, especially if you’re living in the home, helps put you in the holiday mood, and it can create a warm welcome to potential buyers,’’ said Sean Persson, director of residential sales and leasing at Senné, a real estate firm based in Boston.

Just don’t go all Clark Griswold on the place: “Keep it subtle. Less is more,’’ Persson stressed.

Persson advised against displaying holiday cards, wrapped gifts, and other personal decorations.

“I always advise clients to be respectful and inclusive,’’ he said. “People have to be able to imagine their own holidays in the home.’’

Persson’s ingredients for tasteful holiday decor include warm lighting, pine cones, wreaths, and garlands. If you have a fireplace, go ahead and light it.

“A fireplace is a wonderful touch,’’ said Persson. “If you have one, you should use it.’’

At any time of the year, sellers should declutter before showing a home, so it seems counterintuitive to decorate for the holidays at all.

But “decorations don’t add clutter,’’ said Kiki Perez, founder of Feróz Creatif Designs and Creatif Linen. “You’ve already cleaned up your house and taken care of clutter. Tasteful decorations can make a home more welcoming at this time of the year.

“I always advise clients to decorate in a way that is more subtle,’’ she continued. “Rather than reds and bright holiday colors, choose something more neutral.’’

When it comes to adding religious symbols, such as a Christmas tree or menorah, then one moves into personal territory. “A Christmas tree is a big feature, and it won’t be inviting to people who don’t celebrate Christmas. It might offend,’’ Perez said. “The same applies to Hanukkah decorations. You don’t want the house to look like your house.’’

If you really must add a tree, keep the decorations neutral and honor the Christmas tree’s pagan roots. “Choose decorations that bring in nature,’’ Perez said. “Choose colors that suggest a wintry landscape.’’

“You want something that looks festive and adds holiday spirit, but not a personal style. Add a magnolia wreath to the door rather than a Christmas one. Add garlands; it’s always inviting when you add more greenery to a home.

“Light some candles,’’ Perez suggested. “I always recommend burning a candle that smells like cookies baking in the oven. That smell instantly says ‘home’ to anyone.’’

How much is too much? If in doubt about whether or not you’ve overdone it, get a second opinion.

“Reach out to your agent and get a different perspective,’’ Persson said. “It might not seem overwhelming to you, but to other people it might prevent them from imagining themselves celebrating with their own traditions.’’

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