By Liana Grey
As she does at the start of every holiday season, Neila Deen, director of sales and business development at RealDirect, recently sent out an email blast to clients reminding them to tone down their Christmas and Hanukkah decorations.
“I tell sellers to keep them simple, elegant, and to a minimum,” she said. “Even a simple thing, such as a child’s snowflake cutout on the window, shouldn’t be there. You want to let light in, and show the view.”
Few sellers list their apartments in December, of course, and many remove their homes from the market between Thanksgiving and New Year. But for clients hosting open houses well into the holiday season, Deen advises choosing neutral colors — such as a glass bowl filled with gold and silver ornaments — over red and green objects, which are more likely to clash with existing décor.
Displaying holiday cards from friends and family is okay, she said, so long as they’re arranged on a decorative plate.
“It gives a sense of lifestyle, but it’s not in anyone’s face,” she said. For that reason, Deen suggests that clients minimize religiously-themed ornaments. “If you have a tree, the size should be small,” she often reminds clients. “Make sure it’s not obstructing anything, and is tasteful.”
White lights are preferable to colored ones, she said. Though as a compromise for families with young children, she recommends pulling out multi-colored lights just before Christmas, when housing-hunting activity comes to a virtual standstill.
In her six months at RealDirect, which advises buyers and sellers on everything from advertising to listing management, Deen, who previously worked as a sales director with the Marketing Directors, hasn’t faced too many tree-related decorating disasters.
“A lot of people in New York City get their tree last minute, or don’t have one at all,” she said. “I know I don’t have one.”
Last month, Harold Kobner, a broker at Argo Residential, was hired by a client that couldn’t be more ideal: a single woman with no plans to decorate for the holidays.
In fact, she planned to take her apartment off the market for December, well aware that open houses are quiet before Christmas.
City dwellers with large families, however, can be prone to over-decorating. Kobner, who himself limits his holiday decorations to a menorah, recently helped sell an apartment owned by a couple with a bucket-load of grandkids. During Halloween, the couple adorned the walls with black spider webs.
“Then they did a whole different thing for Thanksgiving,” Kobner said. With so many young kids expecting a festive welcome from grandma and grandpa, Kobner had little say in how the listing was staged.
Luckily, the décor didn’t deter prospective buyers. Several weeks ago, before the sellers had a chance to pull out the stockings and tinsel, the apartment went into contract.
Deen, of RealDirect, has also had to encourage clients to tone down decorations for holidays like Halloween, which occur when apartments are much more likely to enter the market. Her advice: “Don’t wrap your door” with banners or faux cobwebs, she said. “Neutral wreaths are advisable, even for Halloween.”
One thing brokers have little control over is how a building’s lobby and common spaces are decorated. But the presence of a small tree or menorah can’t hurt. At the Visionaire, the luxury tower in Battery Park City, all holidays are accounted for in order to make residents feel welcome, according to a spokesperson for the building’s developer, the Albanese Organization.
Over at MeadowWood, a condo development targeting middle-income buyers in East New York, Brooklyn, with units starting at $100,000, the sales and development team is hosting its third annual tree-lighting ceremony on December 9, which attracts families of all backgrounds.
The event, which will take place in the development’s courtyard, and is currently restricted to residents, will offer hot chocolate, free gifts from Santa, and a performance by the Community Christian Choir. Last year, an Emmy-award-winning choir was hired to sing carols.
“Over the past few years, we’ve had great turnouts,” said Jean-Paul Ho, a vice president at Filmore Real Estate and MeadowWood’s sales director.
The festivities supplement a community-wide tree-lighting event held around the corner from a local No. 3 train stop.
“We should open [our event] to the public,” said Ho, who is considering marketing the ceremony to attendees at a homebuyers’ seminar he hosts on Saturdays.
Like Ho, Elizabeth Weintraub, a broker at Lyon Real Estate, a firm based in Sacramento, California, sees a marketing opportunity in holiday cheer — so long as presents are stacked in a closet or neatly in a corner, and trees are the tabletop, rather than the ten-foot, variety.
For sellers that insist on playing up the holidays, Weintraub suggests winning over prospective buyers with edible treats.
“Set a plate of cookies on the counter, next to festive paper napkins for guests,” she advised in an online decorating guide. “Simmer spicy apple cider on the stove, and set out cups and a ladle.”