As Halloween nears, strange things start creeping up in neighborhoods across the country. Zombies hang from trees, inflatable pumpkins pop up on lawns, and freakier-looking clowns start appearing in schoolyards and supermarkets (oh wait, that last part actually began way before Halloween).

It’s unquestionably a fun holiday to decorate for. But what if you’re trying to sell your house? Just how far can you go with Halloween decorations if you don’t want to truly scare off buyers?

Experts say you don’t have to forgo all festive decorations, but you do have to choose them wisely. In general, decorations should be neutral. Think scarecrows, pumpkins, and hay bales. As for what not to do, well, it’s easier to show you.

Blood and gore

Sorry, “Walking Dead” fans.

“Gruesome scenes of death and zombies are definite no-nos,” says Paul Sian, a Realtor® with Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Real Estate. “People with young kids will be very unappreciative of decorations that depict murder, gore, and more.” At least we hope they will be.

A not-so-pretty sight at a home showing
A not-so-pretty sight at a home showingShopko.com

Dead children

And speaking of kids: Anything that depicts dead ones, even if they’re kinda creepy cute, probably isn’t going to go over too well with parents, either. You knew that, right?

A blood-spattered front door

We’ve already said blood is a no-no, but just in case we weren’t clear, writing scary messages in gory-looking red paint—even something as chipper as “Happy Halloween”—is a bad idea, too. It’s fine and dandy if you’re just trying to give trick-or-treaters a fright, but to prospective home buyers, this graffiti-style treatment just looks messy, and screams “go away.”

Halloween front porch, day
Halloween front porch, day

Pumpkins whose time has come—and gone

If you’re going to use real flowers, pumpkins, and other perishable decorations, make sure to keep them looking fresh. No one wants to see (or smell) produce that’s well past its prime.

Political statements parading as Halloween decor

It might seem obvious, but politically themed decorations are a definite don’t. This election is plenty scary enough already.

Clowns

While no Realtor we interviewed mentioned this season’s scourge, terrifying clowns, we’re going to go out on a limb and say it: No creepy clowns—even if your house isn’t on the market. Talk about the stuff of nightmares…

Clowns? Not cute. Ever.
Clowns? Not cute. Ever.halloweenexpress.com

Too many decorations, period

It’s easy to get carried away with decorations as you get caught up in the festivities, but don’t. You’re not trying to impress buyers with your decorating skills; you’re trying to impress them with your house, which can get buried if you’re not careful.

“Don’t overdecorate,” says Stacy Benson of BHGRE Metro Brokers in Atlanta. “Some people just go overboard and create a crowded space. You want to keep your house decluttered and inviting. That’s very important.”

One pumpkin is fine, but you really don't need this many.
One pumpkin is fine, but you really don’t need this many.Roadsidepictures/Flickr

If your Halloween dreams have just been crushed, fear not. Tracy Hampson, a Realtor in Santa Clarita, CA, says if you or your kids are devastated without the scary stuff, you can always put out the gory decorations on Halloween night.

“Otherwise, unfortunately, your home isn’t really your home anymore when you’re trying to sell it. You’re trying to put your best foot forward.” And that means a foot that’s not covered in zombie entrails.

Julie Ryan Evans is an editor and writer who has covered everything from politics to pop culture and beyond. She loves running, reading, cold wine, and hot weather.