You step out of your car at an open house and walk into what looks like your dream home. It's perfectly picturesque from the outside, but as soon as you get through the doorway, you see it — there's a giant "Live Laugh Love" decal stuck onto the living room wall.
For legions of prospective homeowners, real estate agents tell us that word art tends to be at the top of the cringe-inducing decor list — and, point blank, word art makes it hard to sell a home.
"Word Art is like a third rail — some people have a real visceral reaction to it," says Ed Deveau of Century 21 Mario Real Estate, who recently came across a house painted like a Tuscan villa with grapevine stickers and a Cucina Italiana sign. Whether it's a cutesy sign purchased on Etsy, or stick-on decals placed all over a wall, house hunters tend to have strong opinions when it comes to word art that shouts its message as if through a megaphone.
"From a Realtor's perspective, it's tough because you don't want to offend a seller who thinks of 'Live, Laugh, Love' as a personal mantra, or 'It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere' as personal lifestyle," says Deveau. But there's no doubt that decor can sometimes alienate prospective buyers, and a client's deeply personal decor tends to be an awkward topic for agents to broach.
Before you buy — or sell — your place, here's what you need to know.
If you're the prospective buyer:
If you're a prospective buyer who comes across word art that leaves a bad taste in your mouth, the most important thing to recognize is that it is temporary. Just like a couple on House Hunters who can't see beyond a home's wall-to-wall carpeting, you need to picture your own spin on the house, not the current owner's. Vinyl decals are easy to peel from a wall, and you can remove and patch hanging art before the ink is even dry on the closing papers.
If you're the seller:
Keep in mind that when prospective buyers are touring your home, they're absorbing the images you project. "Sparkly wall art that reads 'Follow your dreams' isn't going to help sell your house by any means," says Sarah Maguire of Compass Real Estate.
"Word Art on walls is up there with shell-themed decor (especially when you're nowhere near the ocean)," says realtor Dana Bull. "Just, don't! While there's nothing particularly wrong with wall art, it quite literally sends a message. It might be sending the wrong message."
Above all else, follow your realtor's advice
Maguire says before hosting an open house, she walks the home with her sellers, and points out about a dozen or two things that should be removed.
"I think that when you advise clients to remove things that they necessarily wouldn't have thought needed to be removed, they realize you are really just trying to do your job and help them prepare their home as best they can. You want buyers to be able to come in and envision their own things in the space," she says.
Still, the responsibility largely falls upon the seller to understand that small details can be very influential to a prospective buyer.
"Items that show personality become associated with you and your taste, and people will either immediately identify with them or not," says Alexa Collins of Homelight, a marketplace for connecting home sellers and realtors. "And the latter can be a big pitfall for homeowners when they're trying to sell."