Are You Decorating For Your Open House All Wrong?

Forget everything you know about open house decorations. Yep, we said it. Times have changed—and home buyers are getting younger and younger.

The largest share of home buyers are aged 37 and younger, with the median age of 31 years old, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2018 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report.

Even people as young as 22 years old are eager to get into the real estate market.

A recent survey conducted by PropertyShark showed that Generation Z (born between 1995-2010) poses serious competition to millennials on the real estate market—83% of Gen Zers are planning on buying a home within the next 5 years.

If you choose to hold an open house, traditional open house decorations aren’t going to fly. You need to decorate for the modern buyer in order to sell fast.

“It’s a crucial part of the process. The decor needs to be appealing to the target demographic,” says Holly Connors, a top real estate agent in Arlington Heights, Illinois, who sells homes 54% faster than the average agent in her area. In her market, she sees young buyers under the age of 35 who are ready to start a family come from the city to the suburbs.

“We call that the suburban march. Things that are attractive to that demographic are a more modern feel—so whites, greys, navy blues, and lots of light,” she adds.

Out with the old, in with the new. We’ve identified 5 traditional decorations that send bad vibes to modern buyers and found fresh replacements that’ll save you time and money—not to mention, help you sell your home.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it.

Replace warm cookies with citrus scents.

One of the oldest tricks in the book: warm cookies, fresh out of the oven, ready on the counter when buyers walk through.

Yes, sensory marketing is a proven tactic for reeling in buyers. But the smell of cookies is just that—an old trick.

“It’s very attractive to someone who was born in the ‘60s or the ‘70s because feeling at home for them is something baking,” Connors says. “But feeling at home for somebody who was born in the ‘80s or the ‘90s, which is your younger demographic now, is clean and simple.”

Buyers today aren’t looking for a home that smells like cookies. They’re looking for a bright, clean investment to grow into and, eventually, grow out of.

As Connors puts it, clean sells.

Instead of showing off your gourmet baking skills, make sure your home is clean and smells fresh above all. Deep clean from day 1 and clean again before every open house or showing.

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An experiment by realestate.com.ua shows that the smell of citrus in a property can increase the perceived value of a home by over $100,000 in the eyes of potential buyers.

A natural citrus scent is more effective in stimulating buyers than the chemical citrus scent of cleaning products. A buyer that recognizes the smell of cleaning products could think there is something wrong with the house that’s being covered up.

Create a natural scent to increase the perceived value of your home with these easy DIY tricks:

Replace kitchen accessories with clear counters.

Much like cookies, decorating the counter with traditional kitchen accessories is no longer something that buyers find charming. A cluttered countertop distracts buyers from noticing the actual counter—an important feature in a typical home search.

Plus, traditional kitchen decor makes the home feel lived in and used, which is the opposite of fresh and clean.

open house decorations for modern buyers
Traditional kitchen accessories make a house feel lived in and cluttered. Remove items from your countertop to attract modern buyers.

Remove things like:

  • Cookbooks
  • Cutting boards
  • Potholders
  • Fruit bowls
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning Racks
  • Wine
  • Utensils
  • Small Appliances

And replace them with nothing. OK, maybe some fresh flowers in a vase… but that’s all!

open house decorations to attract buyers
This kitchen looks and feels brand new because it’s empty. Buyers can imagine their own things on the counters.

According to Connors, the first thought young buyers have when they walk through a home isn’t baking or cooking.

“They’re thinking about playing Nintendo in the basement,” she says.

Replace busy wall decor with a blank canvas.

The biggest mistake you can make when you decorate for an open house is over decorating.

Walls covered in decorative paintings, decals, clocks, and mirrors can make a house feel small and congested.

Plus, particular wall decorations can turn off buyers who may not have the same taste. When it comes to wall decor, less is more.

So, strip the walls and brighten them up. Emphasize the clean feel of your home with a fresh coat of paint. Go for light beige, white or grey paint to make your house feel big and bright. And when you’re done, don’t feel obligated to decorate blank walls.

how to decorate open house
A home with a neutral color palette and minimal furniture and decor makes it feel larger, brighter, and newer.

“Simple sells,” she says. “If you’re unsure of adding or subtracting, the answer is to subtract.”

Clean, blank walls elicit a more positive buyer response than complex art.

Remember: you are selling the home, not the decor.

If you hire a stager, a few neutral wall decorations can help style the home in a trendy way, but make sure you aren’t going overboard.

Replace holiday decorations with green plants.

Holiday decorations make a home feel homey… when it’s your home. But it’s not your home anymore. Your house has to appeal to everyone, so any decorations that identify with certain religions or affiliations must be removed.

Instead, create a lively space with bright green plants. A neutral color palette with pops of green leaves is just the ticket for modern buyers.

“We always have the lights on, the windows open if it’s a nice day, and we bring in some live plants that are freshly watered,” Connors says.

open house decorations for home sellers
Bright, green plants add a pop of color and life to a neutrally decorated home.

Remove personal photos and mementos.

If a young buyer sees your family’s pictures and personal belongings all over the house, they won’t be able to imagine themselves living there. It’ll always seem like they’re walking through someone else’s home.

When it comes time for an open house or a showing, make sure the following personal items are removed from the house:

  • Family photos
  • Calendars
  • Mail
  • Everything on the refrigerator (magnets, postcards, etc.)
  • Trophies, degrees and certifications, or awards
  • Height charts

These personal touches won’t help modern buyers imagine their future in the house, nor pull at their heartstrings. Fewer buyers are looking for forever homes. In today’s day in age, as Connors points out, people look at homes as transferable and disposable.

open house decorations buyers love
Buyers need to visualize their family living in your home, which is difficult if your family photos are everywhere.

According to the 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers by the National Association of Realtors, the typical home seller lived in their house for about 10 years before moving on.

A minimalistic, low-maintenance home is just what young buyers look for.

All in all—less is more when it comes to open house decorations

Remember what Connors says, if it’s between adding something or subtracting it, always subtract it.

A clean home sells. Today’s buyers want something they can get into and get out of quickly, and you don’t need to use decorations to remind them of everything that happens in a house. Keep it simple to sell your home faster and put less time and effort into decorations.

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