Holiday Home Staging - A Good Time to Sell Your House

For a faster, more profitable home sale

Glass Christmas ornaments in a glass bowl.

Holiday home staging is a fine balancing act for those trying sell their home, yet wanting to celebrate the holiday season in their usual fashion.

Though you want your home to be cozy during the holidays, you need to keep it somewhat neutral so that buyers can visualize themselves in your home. 

Finding that balance can be difficult, so keep reading for helpful tips that will give you the holiday spirit, but also let buyers envision themselves in your home.

This isn’t the most convenient time of year to sell a home, but for those with no other option, it’s helpful to know that most house hunters are serious buyers.

After all, why else would anyone spend this special time of year looking for a house unless they're ready to buy?

Winter brings out the serious buyers, though there are people who just like to look at houses.

"However, these looky-loos tend to be scarce during winter months, says Jennifer Baldinger, licensed associate real estate broker at Julia B. Fee Sotheby's International Realty in Scarsdale, NY.

"When I have buyers looking for homes in January and February, they're real buyers looking to make a purchase--especially if it's a great house. They don't want to take the chance of waiting until spring and losing out on the home," Baldinger says.

In addition, you will face less competition in the marketplace, as most people prefer to sell their home in spring and summer. With a limited inventory of houses on the market, you may be able to sell your house faster and for more money! 

If you stage your home properly and price it right, you could be on your way to your new home sooner than expected.

Take advantage of those warm feelings of holiday spirit

Create a cozy holiday atmosphere with hot chocolate and cookies.Photo by Katie Azi,

This is a cozy time of year, when friends gather together, bake goodies and drink hot cider or hot chocolate.

Arouse feelings of seasonal spirit by setting the stage with tasteful holiday decorations and yummy goodies.

Cozy up your home with candles (use battery operated) and warm blankets with winter themes. 

Nothing says warm and cozy like a fireplace, so decorate your fireplace mantle and place a basket of firewood (birch wood is always pretty) near the hearth. 

Recreate that wonderful feeling of warmth and coziness with your holiday home staging and buyers are sure to fall in love with your home.

Before you start home staging, you should have decluttereddepersonalized, cleaned and completed any unfinished projects around the house.

Curb appeal should be a top priority during the holidays

Stage your home exterior window boxes with cedar boughs during the holiday season.Dress up window boxes with greenery for a festive effect.

Curb appeal may be the most important aspect of home staging. After all, if buyers don't like the outside, they'll just drive on by

Stage your front door with a pretty holiday wreath.

First impressions are vital when you have a house for sale. 

It's always a critical moment when buyers drive up to the curb in front of your house and decide whether to go in or drive on past!

Now isn’t the time to inflate that 10 foot tall Frosty the Snowman or drag Santa and all his reindeer up to the roof.

It’s best to depersonalize your Christmas decorations of religious items as well, as so many people are easily offended these days.

Maintaining the exterior of your house is also important in fall and winter, as bare trees and dormant flowerbeds leave your home unadorned and barren.

Keep the landscape spruced up and sidewalk and stairs free of snow and ice.

Christmas decorating ideas for the home exterior

  • Hang a tasteful holiday wreath on the front door. A cedar wreath with a bow is always classy.
  • Flank potted shrubs or small Christmas trees on each side of the front door and dress with elegant white lights.
Highlight outdoor features, like a gazebo, with Christmas lights.Highlight outdoor features with Christmas lights. Photo by Alamo City Lights.
  • Fill window boxes with greenery; cedar boughs, holly with red berries, or flocked twigs wrapped in white lights.
  • Place a festive door mat with at the front door. 
  • Flank the front door with large urns, (or one off to the side) and fill with cedar boughs or canes, something with height.
  • Line a sidewalk with ground path lights to gently guide buyers to your front door.
  • Use Christmas lights on your home exterior, as well. A simple strand of white lights on the eaves of the front porch or around pillars will add an elegant touch and make your home look special.
  • Use lights to highlight an outdoor living space, such as a gazebo, trees in the front yard, or a patio. 

Minimize decorations during the holidays

Home staging is all about neutralizing and paring down to make your home look larger and more appealing to as many buyers as possible.

Think less-is-more while your house is on the real estate market.

Now isn’t the time to bring out little Pam’s paper mache manger scene from the second grade, or Christopher’s army of cotton ball snowmen.

Stash away your Santa collection so buyers can focus on your home, not your collection. Think minimal when it comes to decorating to avoid a cluttered look.

Now is a good time to pack up your treasured holiday ornaments, Christmas crafts and personalized decorations for your new home. 

Good color schemes for holiday home staging

Use neutral colors like white, silver and gold. Combine with natural elements like pinecones and cedar boughs.Pair objects from nature with white, silver or gold.
  • Use a holiday color scheme that complements your home decor.
  • If you’ve already neutralized the color palette of your home in preparation to sell, you have created a good backdrop for any added holiday decorations.
  • White, gold, or silver color schemes will complement any home decor.
  • Blue is elegant with silver or white and lends a classic air.
  • Red is also pretty when paired with silver or white.
  • Decorate with neutral-colored objects from nature like; pinecones, cedar boughs, holly, cinnamon sticks, baskets, glass, driftwood, chestnuts and seashells.

Christmas decorating ideas for the home interior

Highlight the focal points in your home

Draw attention to a lovely fireplace by adorning the mantle with greenery.A garland of winter greenery will highlight your fireplace. Photo by Stand Out Holiday Designs.

Decorating any home interior should always begin by locating the focal point(s) of a room. This applies to holiday home staging, as well.

Highlight focal points with tasteful holiday decorations, so that buyers can’t help but notice them.

Hang mistletoe from open doorways to accentuate focal points.Hang mistletoe from a window or arched doorway. Photo by Southern Living.

Focal point Christmas decorating ideas:

  • Accessorize fireplace mantles with white candles, a fir garland, lanterns, glass canisters filled with Christmas ornaments, or objects from nature. 
  • Avoid hanging personalized stockings from the mantle--it just makes it harder for buyers to see themselves in your home.
  • Hang mistletoe or a single beautiful ornament in an arched doorway.
  • Place a candelabra where it will highlight a lovely focal point window.
  • Wrap a graceful staircase rail with live cedar garlands to enliven the space and add beauty.
  • Stage your holiday home with a few LARGE floral displays for greater impact. Small arrangements tend to fade into the background and go unnoticed.
Fill glass containers with pretty Christmas ornaments or objects from nature.Fill glass containers with objects from nature.

Cluster pots of poinsettias in groups of three. Why three? Odd-numbered arrangements are simply more pleasing and appear less studied to the eye.

Sabrina Soto, interior decorator from HGTV, advises not to use any object “smaller than a grapefruit” when accessorizing. Small accessories tend to "disappear" in the overall landscape of a room.

Fill baskets with glass ornaments or fir boughs and place on a coffee table, the floor or flanking a fireplace.

Fill large glass canisters with Christmas ornaments or objects from nature, like pine cones, cinnamon sticks or mandarin oranges; place one on each side of a fireplace mantle.

Hang an evergreen wreath over the fireplace mantle, or suspended from a ribbon in a window.

Everything looks great on a tray! Arrange a tray with Christmas ornaments, greenery, candles, pinecones, Christmas cookies…

Accessorize kitchen countertops or the dining table with a bowl of pomegranates or mandarin oranges. Keep counter tops clear of anything not decorative to make your kitchen look more spacious.

Make a simple holiday centerpiece for your dining table. For help in creating elegant vignettes for the holiday, see how to make a vignette.

Stage bathrooms by hanging towels in holiday colors.

The best place for a Christmas tree

A tabletop Christmas tree will take up less space in a small room.A tabletop Christmas tree will take up no floorspace, making your home appear more spacious
  • Place a Christmas tree in the center of a beautiful bay window.
  • A large Christmas tree can make a small room look even smaller. If you must have a tree, choose a small skinny one or a tabletop tree.
  • A tall tree will visually lower an already low ceiling.
  • If you have a two-story space for your Christmas tree, by all means, show off the ceiling height with a tall tree!
  • Be sure that you place your Christmas tree where it won't interrupt the flow of traffic through a room.
  • Use neutral-colored holiday decorations on your Christmas tree.
  • Select impersonal Christmas ornaments like white lights, clear glass balls, icicles, ribbon, birds, snowflakes, snowmen and pine cones.
  • You may want to place Christmas presents under the tree AFTER the open house or buyers have all gone home.

Stage your home with Christmas lights

Flank your front door with potted trees decorated with elegant white lights.
  • White lights are always elegant inside and outside the home. 
  • Avoid garish colors or tacky blinking Christmas lights when doing your holiday home staging. 
  • Place lights where they will emphasize and draw attention to lovely architectural details inside and on the exterior of your home.
  • Fill pretty jars or glass canisters with battery operated white or blue lights. (Just bundle them in.) Place on your fireplace mantle or a table top just inside the front door. Surround with cedar boughs.
  • Place white or blue lights on a pretty tree in the yard, or on small trees flanking the front door.

The holiday season is a great time to have an open house!

Front door Christmas decorationsStart your holiday home staging at the front door.

If you’re planning an Open House, here are a few tips to help buyers remember your home above all the others:

Appeal to the sense of smell  

A home that smells wonderful will leave a positive impression on buyers. Leave a pot of apple cider with cinnamon sticks or other Christmas spices simmering on the stove.

Infuse your home with the smell of baking.

(This is a classic real estate marketing strategy! When I was a Realtor, I found that a few people were suspicious of a tray of cookies baking in the oven. What are they trying to hide?! But most buyers appreciated the cookies.)

House hunters will certainly appreciate a plate of tasty cookies, hot chocolate or apple cider. Avoid chocolate treats, as "little fingers" may smudge your freshly painted walls.

Arrange your holiday goodies attractively on a tray with napkins.

Fill a decorative bowl with nutmeg-laden oranges and lemons. 

Cedar boughs are especially fragrant; fill baskets with cedar, hang a cedar wreath on a wall or door, or dress a fire place mantle with boughs.

Avoid artificial odor remover products…they smell fake and the plug-in oil ones leave a nasty, viscous feeling in your mouth. Buyers can always detect a bad odor lurking under artificial sprays. Instead, find the source of the odor and fix it.

Keep your home warm and toasty

Turn up the heat of for your Open House to tempt buyers into staying longer. A crackling fire in the fireplace is always a winner.

Buyers that sit down is always a good sign! They are imagining themselves living in your home.

Gaudy outdoor Christmas lights and Santa display.The "WHAT NOT TO DO" of outdoor Christmas decor when staging your home during the holidays!

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