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Don't Make Me Put on My Pantyhose!

Home Stager with FEATURE THIS... Real Estate Staging & Interior Decor

I've been reading blogs for a while here on Active Rain about stagers who are staging properties only to have them "re-staged" in their absence.

It hadn't ever  happened to me, until a couple of weeks ago, when I was conducting a very through curb appeal strategy for a neglected ranch house (our specialty!). Now, I have to say, we provide our clients beforehand with digital images of our ideas, so they know what the end result will look like, so everyone is on the same page. Our new client was no exception.

He  was a fella who had heard about our work from his mother over the course of several months, and we had met him on a couple of casual occasions. When he was ready to begin in earnest, he called our company to increase his curb appeal.

So, we ran some of our ideas by him, and we got the go-ahead, so we jumped in and started the very next day with a full crew. It involved power washing, painting, restoration, landscape removal, new window screens, some glass replacement, new rain gutters, and installing new landscaping. It was a full transformation.

 Although we discussed each project and received approval, it seemed like as soon as we got a color up, or a bit of new hardware installed, or brought a plant on site, our client disapproved. For one project painting a pair of service doors in a color he approved beforehand, he became so angry, he stopped talking to us for the entire day. He didn't like the color.

It was uncomfortable, to say the least. But, we just kept on staging, since he didn't exactly tell us to stop.I had never had so many decisions being second-guessed, and I just wanted to get the job over with.

So finally we get down to the last couple of days. The last few landscaping plants we special ordered finally came in, and everything was ready for planting. We worked hard, and when it was complete looked magnificent. We left with only a couple of things left to do to wrap it up the next day.

So, we pull up into the driveway the next morning, and to my horror, I discover he has removed all the key landscaping and relocated it in other areas that already had been addressed with plantings. The major impact zone, which greets visitors, is a large flower bed, where we had planted some shrubs, a large fern, and a luscious bed of white and red periwinkle,  and it was now bare... nothing but a 10x10 patch of bark mulch, very inviting to cats, but not to people.

It seems I was still in a state of shock, when he came out and asked me what I thought of his new placements. I didn't censor myself  in time, and I told him exactly what I thought it looked like... a great place for a cat to leave a calling card.

Then he asked me, "What makes your opinion on what looks good better than mine?" He wasn't being snide. He was honestly asking. And that was when I knew where I had failed this client, and that I was the problem, not him.

We had been talking to this fella for months, seeing his mom all the time, and discussing the upcoming job so often, I never presented our company to him with a proper presentation with our beautiful Before & After Slide Show and Stats, and while he knew of us, he didn't know about our company. He didn't understand our goals for his property, our experience, or how carefully we planned his budget to insure him maximum ROI.

And I knew better! I know how important it truly is to get every project started on the right foot, but I just dropped the ball completely and totally. It all made sense, the difficulties we were repeatedly experiencing on this job, which we  hadn't encountered before.

So, I learned my lesson.

There is no such thing as an informed customer until I, myself, inform them.

We have to put on that suit (pantyhose, pumps, and all!) and grab that briefcase, and explain who we are, what we do, and why we do it. We need to whip out those "purportedly" useless credentials many of us have, and talk about our affiliations and associations.We have to qualify ourselves as an expert to be treated like one.


Even if it seems like they already know.

Even if they are chomping at the bit to sign the contract.

Because if we don't, we deserve to be second-guessed!


~Michelle Molinari


Certified Professional Stager, Feature This... Real Estate Staging, www.FeatureThisDotDotDot.com

Lead Virtual Designer, www.CurbAppealForDummies.com

President, Acadiana Real Estate Staging Association, www.AcadianaRESA.com






Pamela Cendejas

I think since we are so knowledgeable and accustomed to what we do, we sometimes forget that all important first step of information; making sure everyone is on the same page and going in the same direction.

Good for you for recognizing what went wrong and taking action steps to fix it.


Jun 25, 2009 10:33 AM
Irene Kennedy RealtorĀ® in Northwestern NJ
Weichert - Lopatcong, NJ

Ouch, Michelle! Having had a decorative painting business, I can attest that many folks cannot envision the outcome no matter how detailed your presentations are. Was a shame he didn't touch base with you before rearranging.

Hat's off to you for striving to avoid this in the future - and your pretty gold star!

Jun 25, 2009 10:50 AM
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Michelle, what's the definition of an expert? 'Someone who has forgotten more than you will ever know.' You are an expert at what you do and you are right, we have to inform our clients. BUT I do think this guy has issues way aside from not understanding the process...like control AND not being able to adapt to change. I'm sure your staging looked great!


Jun 25, 2009 11:11 AM
Bob & Carolin Benjamin
Benjamin Realty LLC - Gold Canyon, AZ
East Phoenix Arizona Homes

Oh no -- not the pantyhose -- well gotta do what you gotta do -- all the best.

Jun 25, 2009 12:18 PM
Janet Guilbault
Platinum Home Mortgage Company - Walnut Creek, CA
San Francisco Bay Area Direct Mortgage Lender

I read this this morning and thought it should be featured just for the headline!

We have all dealt with people like you describe here. I was laughing so hard by the time he moved all of your plants.

I used to have a vaction rental decorated "just so" by the beach. I would rent it by the week.

One group that came to the house decided to completely redecorate including replacing the bathroom rugs with a different color, moving pictures and plants around, and switching the linens on the beds.

I guess they thought they could "stage" better than me. LOL

Jun 25, 2009 01:06 PM
Julie Martin
Port City Realty - Mobile, AL
Realtor, Broker - Gulf Coast Real Estate

Jenifer of Jenifer Laurie is a home stager and a real estate photographer. When she stages a house she does the photograhy too because she cannot stand to have the house looking great and then have a Realtor come along and take bad pictures.

She had a house that she had some fabulous photos and a virtual tour of on the river. I was talking to her tonight and the seller decided to repaint the kitchen and the dining room. The Realtor did not want to pay to have Jenifer come back and take pictures of those two rooms so she took pictures herself and ask her to substitute them in the virtual tour. Jenifer said the kitchen was okay, not great, but useable. The dining room had glare so bad from the window that it was a burst of light. She had to put her foot down and say "no, it could not be in her virtual tour."

In this case I don't think it was bad explaining. I think the Realtor was trying to save a buck and was sure she could take adequate pictures BTW it's a $950,000 listing.

Jun 25, 2009 01:42 PM
Jeff Engle
Neighborly Realty - Lincoln, CA

LOL, and it happens to all of us.  I was just reading about several photographers who have had their pictures replaced with the agent's pictures.  And it's amazing to see, but of course you need to look at this as a way to open up communication with your client(s) and discuss what's going on.  First, see what you can learn.  Second, make sure you are paid, and leave it up to the client ;-).

Jun 25, 2009 03:57 PM
Joannie Williams
J.Williams Home Staging LLC. - Lake Charles, LA

Wow, Once again you have reminded me why I joined active rain. To learn from the professionals and hopefully not to make the same mistakes. I am sure I will make enough of my own. Thanks for sharing

Jun 25, 2009 04:02 PM
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Wow...that's hard to have happen.  I've not had this happen thus far and hope it doesn't, that is just gut wrenching.

Jun 25, 2009 04:02 PM
Cindy Bryant
Redesign Etc. Home Staging - Houston, TX
"Houston Home Staging Pros"

Great title, I know you were upset.  But I think we I take for granted that people already know what they need to know when I show up.  Great reminder!

Jun 25, 2009 04:24 PM
Lori Kim Polk
Premiere Home Staging : Home Staging Services - Roseville, CA
Home Stager - Roseville, Sacramento

Hey weren't those the legs from the wicked witch of the west... when the house fell on her?  Still wonder where I can get those leggins in green ;)))

Jun 25, 2009 05:24 PM
Kimberley Hawley
Hawley Interiors & Staging - Caledon, ON
Hawley Interiors & Staging

That's so frustrating...Don't blame yourself...Some people you just can't please. It probably wouldn't have mattered it you gave him a fancy schmancy power point presentation first...I'm sure it looked fabulous before he rearranged it.

Jun 26, 2009 01:12 AM
Kathy Anderson
Arizona Luxury & Lifestyle Living - Cave Creek, AZ
Arizona Homes For Sale

I've been guilty of this too.  It's easy to do when they call you because they've "been watching your business for years" or "feel like they know you".  You kind of get a little casual about your normal presentation.

Jun 26, 2009 01:53 AM
Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

Michelle,...great post, great story, great reminder.  We don't always get to see how they REDO things since most of us focus on interiors.  Did it get changed back?  I too am guilty of rushing through the business story because I am concerned with budgets AND clients dollars, but for the few minutes that it takes it should be done.  Eeuw...pantyhose...no thank you! 

Jun 26, 2009 01:57 AM
Preston Sandlin
Home Inspection Carolina - Charlotte, NC

Hard to believe after they paid for you to do it - knowing your the expert - that they would take it upon themselves to switch things. 




Jun 26, 2009 06:34 AM
Michelle Finnamore
Toronto GTA, Alliston, Newmarket - Vaughan, ON
Preparing your property for sale

Hi Michelle, well I busted a gut laughing about that one! Live and learn. We all have to remember to present our credentials first.

I recently went through something similar. I am a CSP and the class of new graduating students needed a house to stage for their test.  I supplied a house for them to stage. It was all very last minute. 6 o'clock at night I had my sister in law who works for a realty company send out an email blast to all the realtors in the office to phone me before 8 o'clock if they had a house that we could stage at no charge the next morning at 9 o'clock. At 7 I got a call and was about an hour away from the house. I blew up the road to check it out and apparently offended the clients as I presented what would typically happen on a staging day and the reasons for merchandising the house to appeal to the masses.  I thought I explained it all very clearly, however, I offended them and didn't find out until the next day. Of course I apologized and said that no excuses, it was entirely my fault for breezing through what should have been a longer consultation.

The homeowner said that if he had known having 21 people in the house for four hours to stage the house would have created so much chaos he would never have agreed to the staging. Of course the house looked fabulous when it was done, but as mentioned above, some people do not handle change well even when they know it will unlock the equity in their home and get it sold.

We can all learn a lesson here with your very funny story. Take the time to let your client know the whys and hows and be thorough as possible. You still might have a client that cannot accept change but you will know that you acted professional and with the right plan.

Thanks for sharing your story, you are a superstar!

Jun 26, 2009 09:46 AM
Shaun Rice
Keller Williams Landmark - Astoria, NY

That's a great story - and its too bad that most great stories come at the expense of someone elses' hard lesson.  But thanks for passing it on - its true, no one knows exactly what we're all about until we let them know!

Jun 26, 2009 10:15 AM
Chrissie Sutherland
Ready Set Stage - Greensboro, NC

great story Michelle.  I too often get so excited about what I'm doing that I forget to really let the client know my company.  Great lesson.  Thanks for sharing.

Jun 27, 2009 01:35 PM
Kathi Presutti
RE:STYLE LLC - Brighton, MI
Re:Style, LLC

Thanks for the wonderful reminder. I'll be sure to present first and stage later!

Jul 10, 2009 12:08 PM
Ana Hitzel
AccentPositives Home Staging - Corona, CA
Professional Home Stager Inland Empire

This was a great post Michelle, I am running out to the store right this minute!

Jul 29, 2009 01:54 PM