While on the market, sellers might not be able to deck the halls the way they have before, but they can still add plenty of holiday cheer. The key? Keeping it tidy enough for buyers to see the home’s best features.

If you have seller clients who are looking to take advantage of the still-active, late 2020 market, they may be struggling with how to — or even if they should — decorate for the holidays this year. After all, MLS listing photos with holiday décor will begin looking dated on Dec. 26 and may not show the home in its best light.

As with so many elements of staging and preparation for a timely home sale, the key is to allow the sellers to enjoy their home while ensuring that its décor is edited and decluttered enough for the buyers to see the property properly. That said, here are 5 rules for tasteful decorating if you’re listing a home this month.

1. Don’t go wild on the exterior of the home

If your clients are used to over-the-top decorations on the outside of the home, this may be a good year to scale back. Large inflatables can kill the grass wherever they are placed, and an extensive exterior light setup may make buyers wonder about potential damage to the home’s trim. This may be the time for some tasteful wreaths, garland and bows for a festive look that feels a bit more classic and restrained.

2. Don’t over-decorate the interior

While many homes look amazing during the holidays, a wall-to-wall Christmas display inside the home can look cluttered and messy to potential buyers. It’s hard to judge a home’s best qualities when all you’re looking at is the decoration.

In addition, if you’re taking photos with the decorations in place, even the most beautiful display will read as jumbled and shambolic in the pictures if it’s overdone. (Here are a few simple staging tips, if you need more pointers.)

3. Remember what you are selling

In the same vein, it’s important to ensure that your decorations are not covering up the home’s best features. A fireplace mantle that’s oversaturated with garland, candles, baubles and bows is no longer a selling point.

A wraparound porch that is lined with the homeowner’s extensive collection of nutcrackers will not read as welcoming and relaxing. An oversized Christmas tree can make even a generous living room look cramped and uninviting.

4. Consider an extra set of listing photos

If your clients have not yet decorated in anticipation of listing photos, you can give a nod to the season by including a few extra shots with wreaths on the front door, lights on the lamppost or some simple decorative elements in the interior. Run the holiday-themed photos during December, but switch them out for the undecorated versions beginning the day after Christmas. 

If your clients have already decorated, ask them to return the home to its normal look as soon as possible after Christmas so you can have a second set of photos taken.

5. Encourage clients to enjoy the holidays

Above all, encourage your clients to enjoy the holidays. While they may not be able to deck the halls the way they have in prior years, they can still add plenty of holiday cheer to their home. As long as it looks clean and tidy — just as it should when showing a home for sale any time of year — there’s no reason not to enjoy the holiday and feel at home.

Antoinette Fargo is the co-founder and creative director of DOORA Collective + DOORA Design in Ventura, California. 

IDX Real Estate