It has been quite some time since I have been able to write a blog about my adventures in staging. Not because I have not had anything to write about, but because I have not had time to write at all. But summer is here, school is out and I finally have a day off, so I wanted to share this story with all of you because I learned so many valuable lessons from the situation.
A few months ago I was summoned to an investment property by a real estate agent whom I had never worked with before. She had gotten my name from another agent and was hoping that I could come to a listing appointment with her. You see, the seller asked for a stager she said and she wanted to show him that she could provide one.
Upon entering the house, the seller was visibly surprised that I was there. The agent introduced me as part of her team - huh? - and made it appear as though I worked with her exclusively. At this point I was confused. I got the sense that he was put off by it and I decided to politely shake his hand and then quietly follow them through the house, making my presence as unnoticeable as possible.
During the course of the tour, I heard the agent say things that made me want to run out the door. The look on the sellers face told me he didn't like what she had to say - or her for that matter. I was kicking myself for not insisting that we meet before our tour to make sure I wanted to work with her at all. But, it was too late for that, so I kept my mouth shut as most of what I had to say would contradict her and that would be extremely unprofessional on my part. I did, however, manage to have a few moments alone with the seller during which I showed him my portfolio and explained briefly the benefits of staging his property. He asked if I could send him a bid, though not that enthusiastically.
I left the property convinced that the seller was not going to hire that agent - or me for that matter. I prepared a bid with little hope to hear from the seller again and went on to the next project.
Over the next few weeks I received various phone calls and emails from the agent that were pretty unsettling. Mostly, she wanted to know if I had heard from the seller, but the most disturbing call was when she had informed me that she had been researching stagers on the internet (why?) and saw that most of the stagers in our area are mostly real estate agents (yep, its an issue) and wanted to make sure that I was not an agent myself. She wanted to make it clear that I was not to steal this listing out from under her. Again...HUH? I assured her I was not an agent and didn't want to be one. As a final comment, she informed me that if she didn't get the listing, I was not to agree to stage it. In shock over that statement, I dumbly agreed and hung up the phone.
A few quiet days went by and I unexpectedly heard from the seller. He informed me that he had not been looking for a stager, but after talking with me, he thought I could be the missing link in his business that he had been looking for. He was excited about my abilities and definitely wanted me to come out to the property again and talk with him some more. Unsure what to do, I agreed to talk. After all, he had never asked for me to be there in the first place (still confused) and I thought I owed him the courtesy of explaining myself.
After a second tour of the property, I decided to come clean with the seller and explain the situation and tell him what the REA had insisted upon. The seller was outraged. He told me that he had no intention of listing with her, especially after hearing her demands, and that she had no right to decide for him who he could work with and who he could not. He also pointed out that he decided to list with that agent, but hadn't liked me, she surely would have found another stager without hesitation - she had been researching other stagers, afterall. He ranted on for several minutes, adding a good scolding for me for agreeing, as it is my staging business and not hers - I should not have let her make that decision. I took the scolding, because he was right.
Since then, I have built a good working relationship with the seller. Not only did I stage the property, I also chose the paint colors and did some personal shopping for him. He is a great client - as we bonded over our controversy - and I look forward to working with him again despite his many quirks. I have also had a chance to scold him back for some decisions he made, so we are even. :)
Anyway, I took away from that experience a few valuable lessons:
1. It is your business - you decide who you work with.
2. Be honest with any referring agent that you are not a package deal. You can send them a small referral fee if it is an issue.
3. Never give an agent any power over your business - The power is all yours.
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