It’s late November and your clients want to sell their home. Should they use their holiday decorations or not?

The answer depends on whether professional photos have already been taken or not, says REALTOR® Jane Hay of the Real Estate Group in Springfield. With more than a dozen years in real estate and professional staging, she says it’s better if homes do not have holiday decorations in the photos, so that if they remain on the market after New Year’s Day, the photos will not seem dated.

In today’s Illinois REALTORS® podcast, she draws a distinction between staging and design/decoration, stating that staging improves the chances of selling properties by appealing to a wider variety of people.

Along those lines, homeowners should take a minimalist approach, with simple decorations and neutral colors. She recommends classic lights on the on the exterior of the home to enhance curb appeal.

For more details, listen to the entire podcast.

Full Transcript:

Jeremy Goeckner: Hello, and welcome to the IR Weekly podcast, keeping you up to date with all of the latest news in the REALTOR® world. I’m Jeremy.

Kelli Jessup: And I’m Kelli.

Jeremy Goeckner: And on today’s episode, we are talking with Illinois REALTOR®, Jane Hay, with the Jane Hay sales and staging team at the real estate group in Springfield.

Jane Hay: Good morning.

Kelli Jessup: Good morning. So with Thanksgiving this week and the rest of the holiday season right around the corner, can’t believe it’s already that time.

Jeremy Goeckner: My goodness.

Kelli Jessup: Jane is here today to share some tips for staging homes for the holidays. Jane, welcome to the show.

Jane Hay: Thank you very much for having me.

Jeremy Goeckner: We are so excited to have you here because this is honestly something I’ve never even thought about, but I imagine it’s so very, very important, so I’m excited to learn about it, but before we get into all of that, Jane, we want to know about you. Okay? So before we get there, just tell us a little bit about your business, how long have you been in real estate, and why you decided to include staging among this services that you provide?

Jane Hay: Well, my name is Jane Hay, as they said, and I have been in business since 2008. I have wanted to go into real estate since I’ve been about 19. I won’t tell you how many years that is, but it’s a lot. So it was kind of my dream job. And after two 10-year careers, I got to do it. So, it was very exciting, and we do free home staging with all our listings. So for all our clients, it’s just a service we provide. And I started, actually, with a house that we had listed, and I hit my head on the dining room light about 12 times.

Jeremy Goeckner: Oh no.

Jane Hay: And so, I decided to put a little table in there so someone else wouldn’t hit their head because it was just an awkward location. So, I bought a little bistro table and then I had a dear friend, that was also a REALTOR®, and another friend of hers that liked to decorate. I’m not a huge decorator if you saw my house, you would know. And so we just did a few things. Towels, and so we just kind of thought looks so good. We’ll get into it. It was really before staging was very popular, still, at least in this area. I mean, I’m sure in the big cities they were doing it. So I, by no means, invented staging, but that’s how we started. And then I got a little five by 10 warehouse and kept some pillows and some towels and some bathroom stuff. Couple years later, I bought a two-car garage and then I added on to the two-car garage and now I have 8,000 square feet in a commercial building.

Jeremy Goeckner: Wow.

Kelli Jessup: So, what type of impact does staging have on a listing or what impact have you seen?

Jane Hay: Well, we would say it makes a huge impact and staging isn’t, I would say, not decorating. It’s more just about appealing to the most amount of buyers, which is why it makes me a good stager, because I’m kind of bland and everything’s neutral in my world. And so we put some colors into it, but we take into effect or account who may be our buyer. Is it going to be a young buyer that may want something a little more trendy? Is it going to be someone downsizing because maybe the neighborhood leans more to that and the floor plan leans to more of that? And so we’re a little more, maybe conservative. May not always be right, but across the board, we’re just a little more bland than decorating. I would say decorating is appealing to someone’s personality and this is more trying to, to appeal to everybody.

And it’s a team work. I mean, the clients, we ask them to do certain things if it needs a little more cleaned or if the bushes need trimmed, I mean, we’re kind of very particular about that. We want it to look nice and show nice. And so we at least give the customers the information they need to know. So them of them choose not to do some stuff and we give them a priority list. Like-

Kelli Jessup: Okay.

Jane Hay: …these are the top two more important things. Here’s 10. If you want to do them all, we would love that. But we understand people. Time and money is an issue. So…

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah. Well it’s interesting that you talk about, because obviously when you talk about staging, I automatically think the interior of the house, but you’re right, the exterior of the house is-

Jane Hay: Very important.

Jeremy Goeckner: …very much just as important. So is that something you’ve done since the beginning?

Jane Hay: Yes. So we always tell clients that we feel, my professional opinion, is the three most important things are your kitchen, your master bath. Those are the two people that pay the mortgage.

Jeremy Goeckner: Right.

Jane Hay: Kids’ bathroom doesn’t matter as much. So if you’re going to put, we call a little bit of lipstick, on a house, which might be a little cleaning, might be a little money, might be just a little bit of handy work. And then the third thing is curb appeal. Because if they drive by or they just don’t feel it. If they don’t feel it or they don’t like the look from the front, you’re probably not getting them in the door and that’s really important.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah. Yes, absolutely. I’ve got a bush that I have to take out of my house because it is dying every single year. So got new bushes to play it soon for that curb appeal. But so obviously we’re heading into the holidays here. Again, as Kelli said, this is nuts. We’re in November of 2020 somehow.

Jane Hay: We’re in a time warp these days, stop.

Jeremy Goeckner: Time has lost all meaning. But so since we’re coming up on the holidays, what are some of your tips for staging?

Jane Hay: Well, generally there’s two things that matter in there. Are you decorating for Christmas and then having your pictures taken for your listing? Or have your pictures already been taken for your listing? So, if you’re decorating and then your photographer, your REALTOR®’s photographer, is coming in after you decorate, I would say maybe don’t decorate. I would say maybe hold off or maybe talk to your REALTOR®. Not everybody’s as particular as I am, but I’m slightly particular about that. If, for some reason, that house was still on the market in three weeks, your holiday decorations, your Halloween, your Christmas, they date the listing. So, if you’re listing sitting there in February, well, you probably got more problems than you’re decorating but-

Jeremy Goeckner: This market, right?

Jane Hay: Yeah. Yeah. But it does date it. So, if you’re sitting there in January and your whole house is decorated for Christmas, then again, it may create some problems when people are seeing it online. But overall, just minimalize, which is what staging is all about. Again, it’s about appealing to all your buyers. So I would normally say put a tree up. Don’t put 12 up, don’t put nine trees. I don’t understand that anyway, who’s got time for nine trees?

Jeremy Goeckner: I have a friend who does that.

Jane Hay: Yeah. I have several.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah. They have a tree in every room of their house.

Jane Hay: I drag my tree up from downstairs. It’s got all the decorations on it and a sheet over the top.

Jeremy Goeckner: There you go.

Jane Hay: I am a holiday person, but I just-

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah. It’s just exhausting.

Jane Hay: Time.

Kelli Jessup: It is.

Jane Hay: So again, minimal. Also, very general. Like if you had a theme and you just went crazy on it across the whole house, it just makes it hard to appreciate the features of the house when you really can’t get past the witches hats that are all over from Halloween or Christmas. They may have elf on the shelf or they may have 22 of them laying on every… And so it’s distracting. So just be classic. Maybe stay with the neutral colors and I’m not saying that I don’t love the teal blue and everything like that, but if you have someone that’s maybe your mature crowd and maybe more conservative. The pinks and greens and neons or maybe just, they don’t appeal to them so red and green always appeal to everyone. So keep it neutral and minimal, I would say would be my overall-

Kelli Jessup: Good tips.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah. It’s very good tips.

Kelli Jessup: So, you kind of touched on it earlier, just how far you want to take the staging and I’m sure it could add up how far you take it or whatever, but are there some low-cost decorating ideas that sellers can do during the season or anytime I guess, to stand out?

Jane Hay: Sure. I mean, again, as we talked about, curb appeal is always the most important or the third most important. So that’s easy. Trim your bushes. I can always get a feel for how the house is going to show by the front porch and the front door and the trim around the front door, and your mailbox. So those are easy. I mean, those are easy things that take a little bit of time. Maybe you can hire, you can maybe do it yourself, but clean it up. Paint the trim around your door. Maybe put a fresh coat on your door, trim your bushes. Lights are an easy way to stage over the holidays or anytime. The more light that is in a house, it just shows better. So if you have Christmas lights in various different places, that’s fine, I think.

I think the house decorated in the front with lights, especially when it gets dark at three o’clock in the afternoon is nice because they’re driving by and they see it all lighted up. Again, nothing crazy. It does not look need to look like Clark Griswald was there, but just some classic lights on the top of the house and the bushes. Just keep it basic. But lights, people love lights. Lights around your back fence. We have those all year round in my backyard and then the neighbor did it and then the other neighbor did it and the other neighbor did it. And so, when we look out, and it’s just peaceful and so that’s a nice touch you can do for… And you can take it with you. So it’s not something you’re spending on the house and not getting back. So you can take it to your new house. So lights are easy.

Jeremy Goeckner: Absolutely. Well we did talk about it, but on the flip side of that, specifically with Christmas and stuff, what should they avoid in there? You already talked about, don’t go nuts with trees and everything, but is there even anything else, even smaller that they should avoid in holiday decorating?

Jane Hay: I would say decorating every room. Again, some people like that, and I’m not talking about trees, but just stuff in every room. Smells are kind of a big thing. Amazingly enough, we get people that put the plugins. The plugin smell things are probably our biggest complaint about houses, which is crazy. People are very sensitive to smells. They may think that you’re trying to cover up something with your smell. And then a lot of times, you’ll see people that have these plugins that have maybe two or three different scents. So they’re competing against each other.

Jeremy Goeckner: Right.

Jane Hay: But they’re very strong. You may get used to it because you’re in the house. But I would say if you’re going to use a smell, maybe like a warm vanilla, but in the holidays you see people doing a lot of-

Jeremy Goeckner: Nobody wants the pumpkins-

Jane Hay: Pumpkin spice.

Jeremy Goeckner: Cinnamons. Yeah.

Jane Hay: I love me some pumpkin spice, especially in a cocktail, but…

Jeremy Goeckner: There you go.

Jane Hay: Again, just keep it basic. Either nothing or like a light, vanilla or bake cookies, or something like that. That’s always-

Jeremy Goeckner: Who doesn’t-

Kelli Jessup: I heard that cookies one.

Jane Hay: Yeah.

Kelli Jessup: Bake some cookies.

Jane Hay: Brownies and leave them for your REALTOR®.

Jeremy Goeckner: There you go.

Jane Hay: So again, low cost or, well, you actually were talking about things to avoid. We talked about lights. People have the things that flash the video on their house. I wouldn’t have a problem with that. As long as it’s tasteful, sometimes they’re just snowflakes or something like that. I would just put it on something like that. Again, it’s just hard to do too much because it does date it on the picture. But if your pictures are already taken, go to town. Don’t go crazy, but still feel free to decorate.

Jeremy Goeckner: We don’t want one of those like Trans-Siberian light houses, right?

Jane Hay: Yes. Yeah. If you still have those little villages and you have 42 little villages with the courthouse.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah, yeah.

Jane Hay: Most of us older people had those. You guys are too young for that, but yeah. Don’t put all that up.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah.

Jane Hay: Don’t put all that.

Kelli Jessup: Absolutely. That’s awesome. Well, I think you gave our listeners some great things to think about. Even the smallest things I wouldn’t have thought.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah.

Kelli Jessup: So, thank you, Jane, for joining us today and sharing these great ideas for staging homes for the holidays and in general.

Jeremy Goeckner: Jane, this has been absolutely fun. I had an absolute blast talking to you here and some really great tips. Thank you so much for bringing your knowledge here today.

Jane Hay: Anytime, anytime.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah. So that’s it for this week’s IR Weekly podcast. Thank you all for listening and as always, give us a rating and a review on your podcast app of choice. And if you want any more content, simply search for Illinois REALTORS® on your favorite social media app. We will see you next week.