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9 Things Home Sellers Do During the Holidays That Scare Off Buyers

By Janet Siroto, Realtor

Once upon a time, the month of December was a snow-swept dead zone for selling your home. The thinking was, “Why even bother showing it? No one is home shopping now.”

Fast-forward to today’s full-boil real-estate market, however, and this traditional home-selling timeline has changed. Even amid the holiday hubbub, people are house hunting in earnest. So if your house is for sale now, yes, you should be hosting open houses, home showings, and more.

Still, selling your home during the holidays does come with some complications. For one: your holiday decor. According to real estate agents we spoke to, many homeowners are so zealous with their Christmas lights, tree, and other adornments, they could stop certain homebuyers in their tracks.

Curious what holiday home-selling no-no’s you should avoid? Check out some things agents see below that make them cringe, and drive away perfectly viable buyers.

1. Inflatables on your lawn
“Avoid lawn inflatables during the holiday when selling a home,” urges Deni Supplee, founder at SparkRental.com in Hatboro, PA.

Need we explain why?

Fine, here goes: “It makes for bad curb appeal,” Supplee says simply.

And that’s if your inflatables look perfect, which they very often do not.

As Supplee puts it, “It’s particularly bad when they are partially deflated and just lying there on the lawn.”

2. Holiday decor overload
Some folks (you know who you are) embrace displaying a crazy over-abundance of lights, shiny baubles, nutcrackers, and needlepoint pillows. And that’s just fine if you aren’t selling your house. If you are, it’s time to trim back your Yuletide enthusiasm a bit.

“If you choose to display holiday decor, keep it simple and classy,” says Erin Dunlap, a Denver-area real estate agent who specializes in fixing and flipping homes and blogs about it at List in Progress.

For example, “Buy a fresh pine wreath for the front door. Stick with white lights.”

3. Heavily scented candles
“A big turn-off, especially during the holiday season, is over-scenting a property,” says Leda Broxson, a leading real estate agent with Spears Group in Destin, FL.

You may love pine and gingerbread atomizers and candles, but not everyone wants to be walloped over the head with the smell of sappy or spicy fragrance.

“It’s always better to have neutral scent for the properties, in order to leave the best impression for potential home buyers,” Broxson says.

4. A too huge tree
A Christmas tree is fine to put up when selling a home. The one rule of thumb agents stand by, though, is that it should fit appropriately in your space.

Don’t squeeze a massive conifer into a cramped corner. Why? Because this will make your whole space look too small, which is not a good takeaway to leave with homebuyers. They’ll also have trouble imagining what the space looks like without the tree.

5. Highly religious items
You may love putting out Grandma’s nativity scene or hanging a “Jesus is the reason for the season” banner.

But Joshua Blackburn, founder and director of design and construction, Evolving Home in Cleveland, TX, counsels: “Keep the holiday paraphernalia to a minimum, especially those with overtly religious themes.”

Your goal is to have your home look a little festive, but basically to be a blank slate for a prospective homebuyer, regardless of their religion or degree of faith.

6. Personalized stockings and ornaments
“When the holidays come around, people tend to add things like personalized stockings and ornaments, plus Christmas cards on display,” says Brittany Hovsepian, owner of The Expert Home Buyers in Augusta, GA. “These really distract from the buyers being able to imagine themselves in the home.”

7. A chilly temperature indoors
“Jack Frost nipping at your nose” sounds cute in a song, but in real estate? It’s a big no-no to keep the thermostat low to save money.

“Frugality is a virtue, but not when you’re trying to sell your home,” says G. Brian Davis, co-founder of SparkRental.com. “Turn up the heat when you have showings, so the house feels warm, cozy, inviting, and energy-efficient. The last impression you want to give is a drafty house.”

8. Overly restricted home-showing hours
“O, come, all ye buyers” is the tune to sing. Don’t limit showings to a tiny window, like Tuesday mornings, over the holidays.

“Sellers who place their homes on the market but put significant restrictions on showings will end up with a longer time on the market,” says Bruce Ailion, Esq., a real estate executive at Re/Max Town and Country in Alpharetta, GA. “This leads to the dread impression that a home has been sitting and is undesirable or unsellable. Today, more than ever, homes are judged by the time on the market.”

So if you have a packed calendar or crew of houseguests descending, and you’re worried about your listing going stale in the meantime, you may want to skip putting your house on the market until the New Year.

9. Listing photos showing holiday decor—after the holidays
While listing photos showing a Christmas tree or other holiday decor are fine and dandy before the holidays, make sure they come down once the holidays are over.

After all, “If your home doesn’t sell quickly, you don’t want a Christmas tree in the listing’s living rooms photos in June,” points out Ashlei De Souza, licensed associate real estate broker at Serhant in New York City and host of “Staged,” an original web YouTube series.

Ideally, she says, “Have listing photographs taken before the decorations go up.”

And if you just can’t muster up the energy to perfectly deck the halls, don’t worry!

“Too many times, sellers believe they need perfect holiday decor done before they can show their home, so they don’t look like a Scrooge,” says Chantay Bridges, a certified negotiation expert and senior real estate specialist at EXP Realty in Southern California.

Not true!

“It’s OK not to have a single twinkle light up,” she says. “Most buyers are looking at a place that will meet the needs of their family, whether it’s location, schools, or size. Whether or not you having a tree adorned with presents won’t be their deciding factor.“

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