(Not So) Happy Holidays: How Seasonal Decorations Can Botch Your Sale

This article written by our founder, Justin M. Riordan, LEED AP, was originally published on the RIS Media Housecalls blog.

Merry Stager Portland Oregon

It always cracks me up when I see Regional Multiple Listing Service (RMLS) photos in July that show homes with fall leaves. The first thing I think is “must be a dud, it’s been on the market since last fall.”

Selling homes is an art. Not so much “still art” like painting or sculpture, but more like “time based art” like dance or film. It is a carefully choreographed performance that, when done well, looks easy and makes the audience feel at ease with their decision to take part. When not done well, the audience (or in the case of real estate, the buyer) is stressed, dismayed or feels sorry for the seller.  Needless to say, these three feelings do not lead to sales.

Much like time based art, a lot of work goes into the performance prior to revealing it to audience. In real estate, we have pre-inspections, repairs, cleaning, staging, photographs and marketing. One of the biggest flops we encounter in this choreographed dance is holiday decorations. Every year during this season we are asked to stage homes for people that have to sell. December is one of those months where nobody wants to sell, they have to. Most of these projects are due to life changes: deaths, divorces, births or job changes. They need to sell their house and they turn to us to get it done.  Most of these forced sellers are already in a heap of chaos, and selling their house is just one more item on the list.

Inevitably we are asked, “Once you complete the staging, where will our Christmas tree go?” We very gently explain that if they need to have a Christmas tree this year, it will need to be set up on December 24th and taken down on December 26th. Most of our clients understand and they agree to do so.

Holiday traditions are different for everybody. They bring up different emotions for each person who will walk through the door of a house being sold. That’s the rub. We want our buyers to be moved emotionally by the house itself, not by the holiday it is dressed for. It would be like going to a job interview in a Halloween costume.  Sure, you love Halloween, many of us do. Do you want your new boss to pay attention to your costume or to you and your resume?

Holiday decorations provide a time stamp to every picture in your RMLS listing, much like the fall leaves we discussed at the beginning of this article. I don’t know about you, but I always scoff at folks who still have their Christmas decorations up in May. My canned joke is “Either they are way behind or way, way ahead.” Nobody wants their house to be on the market for more than a few days. The truth of the matter is, it happens. The best course of action is to plan for the worst and simultaneously hope for the best. The pictures you post in December may still be up in May. You want those pictures to look as fresh in May as they did in December. Decorations, for any holiday, at any time of year, will date your listing quicker than you can say “price reduction.”