Holiday Staging: How to make your home a neutral zone

  • Encourage home sellers to use winter decor and hues instead of holiday decorations
  • When using lights, go for more elegant white lighting used sparingly instead of colored lighting
  • Use accent pieces to brighten up the space and make it feel cozy for the season without being in your face

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Do you have a last-minute home to show this season?

When you’re staging a house for a client during the holidays, you may run across a client who wants reds, silvers, blues and golds and other holiday-style cheer thrown into the mix. Indulging in festive staging may create a cozy winter wonderland, but there’s a risk of losing the house’s real charm amid the holiday kitsch. You’re selling a home after all, not a festive stage prop.

The key is finding that sweet spot between festive cheer and a home people want to live in all year round. Just follow this handy list of “dos” and “don’ts” while staging a home for the holidays and you’ll have a house that even the grinch will want to purchase.

Especially in urban cities like San Francisco, not everyone has the same religious background. It’s important to think: winter cheer. That way, everyone who might want to purchase your home will feel warmly included.

First, Some house staging ground rules

Do: Assess what needs to be staged as if it were any other time of the year. Make necessary repairs and upgrades, and aim to leverage the home’s selling potential.

Don’t: Go in with a decorating plan right off the bat. Start with your basic staging process first and work in a winter holiday decorating strategy once the basic needs have been met.

Do: Design a tasteful color palette that will work in the home all year round.

Don’t: Use holiday patterns. These are difficult to complement and can make the house look cluttered and busy. Also avoid pairing Christmas colors together; reds and greens are great, but placing them side by side will have your buyers celebrating Christmas in July.

Do: Invest in high-quality seasonal decorations.

Don’t: Use decorations that have any risk of falling apart or being messy. Tinsel, for example, is prone to hitching a ride on clothing and gets everywhere.

Sprucing up your holiday curb appeal

Do: Add a seasonal winter wreath to the front door. Choose a simple wreath that has just a pop of color in it.

Don’t: Use colored lights. While they’re fun, colored Christmas lights that can make a house seem tacky when you’re going for glamorous.

Don’t: Those inflatable, motorized, giant snowmen, and Santa Clauses? Just don’t.

Do: Keep the yard free of clutter, minimally decorated, tasteful and inviting.

Using accent pieces when staging a home

Do: Use accent pieces, such as rugs, lamps and statement furniture to add that touch of seasonal cheer.

Do: Breathe some life into staging a house by using plants. Choose both neutral plants and seasonal plants, such as poinsettias.

Don’t: Make the home look like a poinsettia farm.

Don’t: Make every accent piece scream Christmas spirit. A red chair, for example, will feel both neutral and festive at the same time. A chair patterned with candy canes and Christmas trees is better kept at Santa’s workshop, which is really the only place a chair like that belongs. Likewise, while they are beautiful, you’ll want to avoid displaying clearly religious objects such as menorahs.

Express yourself! (neutrally)

This one is a little tricky. Certain clients may have strongly sentimental feelings about their homes and the season. It may feel like a loss if they cannot include holiday momentos and trinkets. Be sensitive, but be direct. Let your sellers know that proper staging has a big impact on each home’s sale price. Remind them that the winter season is usually a harder time of year to sell, so it’s important they do everything they can to maximize the sale.

With that in mind:

Do: Hide away family and personal photos, per regular staging.

Do: If for any reason it is necessary for your client to stay in their home while it’s showing, keep holiday cards stored away. Displaying cards will cause clutter and is too personal for neutral staging.

Don’t: Proudly display your hilarious family Christmas or Hanukkah card from last year.

Do: Use art as statement pieces, but keep them neutral. If you want some seasonal flair, choose art pieces that contain seasonal motifs, such as outdoor scenes, and colors like white, silver, gold, blue and red.

Don’t: Display cartoony or homemade holiday artwork. That gingerbread house your kids made is adorable, but that’s not the house you’re selling.

Above, all think: ROI. The holidays come and go, but an awesome return on your investment is forever!

Danielle Lazier, Senior Broker-Associate, Keller Williams San Francisco, is a top 10 San Francisco real estate agent. She is founder of SFhotlist.com, San Francisco’s first real estate blog.