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Like most staging business owners on Active Rain I value it as a tool not only to educate the Real Estate Community about the benefits of staging but also as a voice to educate consumers about our fledgling industry. There have been many articles written about the multitude of staging courses, the alphabet of designations and the lack of an industry wide governing board and accreditation agency.
What has not been written about is that no matter how many HGTV shows on staging or blogs about designations, consumers are still unsure about what to look for when hiring a staging professional. At last count there were 33 classes graduating new stagers nationwide each week some in as little as one day or over the internet with print it yourself credentials.
With no real standards and newbie stagers flooding the market each week, how then can home sellers be sure that they are hiring an experienced professional and getting the "right" staging advice? You see, as home stagers we are not selling a widget or an item that a home seller can inspect and decide whether or not to buy. We are selling an abstract service, a promise to make the client's home more saleable and more marketable. We are selling an idea that the client cannot see until the work is complete. With only one home to sell, home sellers must be choosy when deciding which stager to hire- but they are not!
The biggest mistake home sellers can make when hiring a stager is to look at the bottom line only. This can mean the difference between simply having a stager plunk down furniture in a vacant home or having a property merchandising professional determine the target demographic for a property, design a scheme to reflect that core group of buyers, and select items that highlight the selling features of the home. In less complicated language- staging isn't just putting furniture in a home it is about putting the right furniture in a home. It is up to consumers to do their homework and find out what the stager's intentions are, not just look at the price.
I see bad staging all the time- Yes I said it! This is something that has been gnawing at me for a long time now. As a former staging trainer and as a coach and mentor to many staging entrepreneurs, I find it hard to pass judgment on other's work. Surely my first staging projects pale in comparison to my recent work, however the intent was still the same- to add value to the property and to showcase its selling features. With less professional stagers wanting to earn a quick buck in this industry I see shoddy work that quite frankly DECREASES the value of the home. Instead of the home being the star of the show, the ridiculously poor staging has become the thing that buyers most remember. Such was the case with the home I saw with a wooden cowboy in the living room of an urban condo! He became a legend in a way the home seller had not intended. To date I have been asked 7 times to redo the work of stagers that I bid against because their staging did not reflect the best attributes of the home or quite honestly looked cheap. Home Sellers beware- you get what you pay for.
So what should home sellers know when they are choosing a stager?
1. Don't worry about the initials after a stagers name or lack of them. There is no accreditation for stagers and no industry standards. Ask for the following:
Does the stager have photos of work they have actually done?
Does the stager have a business card, a web site, a brochure? How professional is it? The first impression they make is a good indication of their work.
Does the stager have business liability insurance? This is a business not a hobby.
Does the stager have workmen's compensation for their employees? You do not want the risk.
Does the stager have testimonials from satisfied clients? Can you speak with the actual clients?
How quickly have the homes sold that the stager has staged?
What is their opinion of the current real estate market in your area- they should at least have an opinion since they are in the real estate industry!
Ask how many homes they have actually staged. If staging a vacant ask how many times they have worked with a rental company and how that process will work.
Ask how long the project will take to complete. One staging client confessed to me that he chose another firm because they were less expensive. In the end the job took 5 days to complete and the home was not ready in time for the broker's open. If they had hired our firm the job would have been done in 8 hours.
2. If you are selling a vacant home understand how many AREAS the stager will be staging for you. Their proposal and contract should include specific areas so you know what you are paying for. One client confessed to me that he interviewed another stager and when he asked her which rooms she was staging she replied "I won't know until I get there."
3. If you are renting furniture, ask to see the furniture or examples of the furniture before making your decision. One stager's estimate may be lower because they have selected the lowest caliber of rental furniture because they wanted to get the job. Another stager's prices may be higher because they are recommending furniture that is more in keeping with the taste and price point of your home. The worst example of this I have seen is a recent project that I lost to a stager that added dorm room quality furniture to a $3.8 million dollar country farm home that should have had the Ralph Lauren look it deserved. The builder had her remove her items and Realtors are still discussing how absurd it looked!
4. If you are staging a vacant home understand how many props or accent items you are actually getting for your money. There are no rules but a few things to keep in mind is that even though when you stage a home you are not completely furnishing a space, the room should still feel warm and complete, not hollow when staged. A stager should provide you with things such as area rugs, artwork, lighting, items for the table surfaces, and items for the bedside tables, dresser and kitchen areas. Putting a sofa in a room with no coffee table, lighting or accent items and adding a toss pillow is not staging! Some stagers will offer staging at a discount rate because they are not adding enough items to the home. You may be paying less but the results will not be the same.
5. Make sure that the stager's bottom line is really the bottom line! Ask the stager if the quote includes transportation, taxes, assistant fees, the destaging of the home and hardware fees. I recently bid $2500 on a job to stage 10 rooms in a client's home. Another firm came in at $1750 so the client hired them. The client emailed me a week later to ask me to help her- the firm had been there 3 days longer than they said they would be and told her that they would have to charge her another $1000 for their time! In the end she ended up paying more and did not get the service she wanted.
6. Do not be afraid to ask the higher priced stager to reduce their fees or revise the proposal. When I submit a proposal I include ALL the work I feel a client should do to best market their home. Surely I could recommend less and then my proposal would be lower but this would not be in the best interest of the client. If a client has budget concerns I am always willing to adjust the scope of the job to be in better keeping with the client's budget. Discuss this open and honestly with the staging professional so you can both be on the same page.
Selling a home is an important financial and emotional decision. Just like hiring the right Realtor to market and negotiate for you, hiring the right stager can make a crucial difference in how buyers experience your home. For more information on home staging visit www.hartstaging.com
Disclaimer: ActiveRain Corp. does not necessarily endorse the real estate agents, loan officers and brokers listed on this site. These real estate profiles, blogs and blog entries are provided here as a courtesy to our visitors to help them make an informed decision when buying or selling a house. ActiveRain Corp. takes no responsibility for the content in these profiles, that are written by the members of this community.