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A Christmas tree decorated for the holidays. (Credit: Northforker)

For many homeowners, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day mean plenty of twinkling lights strung inside and out, doors and windows decked with lush evergreen wreaths and pine-scented candles permeating the air.

But if your home is on the market, you may be wondering if you should decorate this year. After all, real estate agents often advise clients to remove too many personal effects when showing their properties to cut down on clutter and so prospective buyers can visualize themselves living there. 

Holiday décor seems to fall into a different category, as long as sellers keep a few rules in mind.

“I think decorating is fine if it is very limited and very tasteful,” says Diane Mollica, real estate salesperson, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. “A good-sized tree not overdecorated is a beautiful and joyful symbol of the season. It brings warmth, good vibes and a wonderful smell.  I would also recommend a wreath at the front door to welcome visitors. Anything beyond that, I would consider a distraction as well as a space-eater.”  

Overdecorating can mean different things to different people, however.

A good rule of thumb is to try to see the home in the eyes of the buyer. While you may love the life-sized Santa you bought your child in elementary school, it and other decorations like it can be off-putting to buyers looking to see a home in its best condition.

“Sellers need to be very mindful of using only minimal holiday trimmings as to keep each space in the home looking as spacious as possible,” says Susan Orioli, owner and licensed real estate broker, NoFo Real Estate. “A few subtle touches such as small greenery or pinecones can set the mood. However, too much holiday decorating can be very distracting to buyers.  If the home has too much clutter to begin with, over-decorating will most likely hinder buyer interest, as it will be very difficult for a buyer to envision the home and its best features.”

Sellers should also keep in mind that the holiday they are decorating for may not be the holiday prospective buyers celebrate.

If you’re looking to be as inclusive as possible, “I would advise one significant decoration and something welcoming at the door,” says Mollica.

Timing is also something to consider, especially if you are marketing your home online with photos.

“My recommendation is to shoot before and after decorations,” says Matthew Leone, chief marketing officer, Brown Harris Stevens. “There is a nice feeling around the holidays to present the home in the warm and inviting spirit of the season, but it is imperative to change out your visuals immediately after the holidays.”