Stagers... are we red headed step children that get no respect?

Industry Observer

 Lately I have been getting a lot of email from stagers that are frustrated with the response they have been getting from the real estate community. Basically they are surprised that realtors are not flocking to them with open welcoming arms and lavishing them with clients. Compared to mortgage brokers or home inspectors we are "red headed step children that get no respect".

The best advice I can give you is to "persevere".

Staging is new and in many parts of the country untested. So it is up to us as a united industry to get the word out about staging and the benefits it provides. When you are marketing yourself to realtors keep in mind the following and remember ultimately you need to craft your message to them and their issues/needs/concerns/benifits.

1.) Staging has become a marketing tool for realtors that demonstrates they are savvy and leading edge.

2.) Staging fee is typically the seller’s expense, not the realtors! (Many realtors think the fee has to come out of their pocket.)

3.) Real estate staging is NOT just renting furniture… it is much more. It is up to you to explain the depth at which you go to prepare a house for market.

4.) The best time to stage is BEFORE a property is listed. Our work can move the listing price to the top end of the property’s possible price range thus covering our fees and making the seller MORE money.

5.) Let us discuss our services and fees directly with the home seller… this keeps the home seller from feeling as if additional fees are being tacked on by the realtor.

6.) INSTEAD of a price reduction… consider using us. Staging can be less costly and have more of an impact.

7.) Do not market yourself as a designer/ or decorator... rather market yourself as a "real estate/property merchandiser". Why? Because bringing in a "designer/decorator" may be construed as an insult to a seller's tastes. Hiring a property merchandiser is a wise marketing strategy.

In today's age, where it seems like it is all about hard core marketing, sometimes what is forgotten is that marketing ourselves and our services is ultimately about building authentic relationships. Finding ways to be of help to the realtor will surely end the "little orphan Rodney syndrome" we all experience in this new industry.



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Carole Cohen
Howard Hanna Cleveland City Office - Cleveland, OH
Realtor, ePRO

Craig, Ellen may be right, we are cheap lmao.  But I like to think it's not at the risk of being 'penny wise and pound foolish.'  : 0 )

I get the feeling that eventually, Rodney won't have to be wearing that red wig; like anything else that is a newer concept, no matter what the profession, change is hard. AR folk are IMO a bit more used to change or more embracing of it, because we jumped into blogging after all - but somehow I think the value of staging will become more and more second nature to us agents and your posts have gone a long way to helping me see why that is true.  You rock.  

K, I had to come back and add this: we used a real stager for new urban town homes just being built. The model needed pizazz, not just furniture. She did a fabulous job, and we have her brochures located at strategic places around the model. She did a fab job of picking furniture that enhanced the urban steel bannisters, for example.  Everyone who comes in to see the property comments on at least one or two pieces - it's an invaluable service. I've already recommended her to others, including someone buying one of the townhomes! 

Oct 30, 2006 11:32 AM #21
Janice Sutton
1st Stage Property Transformations - Murrieta, CA
Home Stager - Temecula Murrieta


Thanks for the GREAT BLOG.....and Ellen who????  ;)

Oct 30, 2006 11:57 AM #22
Val Allocco
Staged 2 Sell New York & Long Island - Northport, NY
HSE; ASHSR - Home Stager, for Manhattan, Brooklyn & Long Island

You know, I need to make another comment here - I posted mine after reading Craig's blog and before reading all of the comments.

Actually my comment is a question.....What makes some of you assume that "Ellen" is a Stager? 

Some of us "newer stagers" on this site (that is only 5 months old I might add), may be voicing our frustrations, but to anyone reading this comment, who might be a realtor, I would like to say this:

Please do not misconstrue what we are saying - we are not directing any animosity or anger toward realtors or the real estate profession, we are just, collectively, trying to figure out how to introduce a new 'product' and show how useful and profitable it is to both realtors and sellers!

For the most part we are dialoging amongst ourselves - sometimes we might ask realtors for their opinions because they have the experience and knowledge and can give invaluable advice.  It is always good to hear from another perspective. Just look at how beautifully that worked on the "Stagers Attending Realtor's Open Houses" blog post!

I am a little disappointed with some of the negative energy that I'm picking up here tonight.  We are here to network and the Webster Dictionary defines Network as "a usually informally interconnected group or association of persons (as friends or professional colleagues)".

We can all learn from each other - even the "newest" of us have valuable insights to share.

Where is the 'love' guys?!  Let us not diminish some wonderful 'networking' advice from one of the best!



Oct 30, 2006 12:00 PM #23
Laurie A. Mahoney
Designed, Staged and Sold, Inc. - Islip, NY

As a stager/merchandiser I like your advice ,Craig. to start building relationships with realtors.  Usually I'm just trying to sell my services, instead of educating them and letting them get to know me.

 They will be more likely to use me as a stager if they know me and trust me and see that I really do care about my business and theirs.



Oct 30, 2006 12:01 PM #24
Carole Cohen
Howard Hanna Cleveland City Office - Cleveland, OH
Realtor, ePRO

Craig, when are you doing your 'Return from the Road to Hong Kong' blog with pics????

Oct 30, 2006 01:50 PM #25
nobody - I asked for this to be deleted i
c - Winston-Salem, NC

Craig,  You say a lot of good here. Obviously, you wouldn't want to stage a house on the low end of the market.  I'll have to forward this to a couple of agents I know. It's amazing though how cheap some sellers can be. They can end up costing themselves a lot of money by not even doing the simple things like leaving the power on.



Oct 30, 2006 02:39 PM #26
Craig Schiller
Trempealeau, WI


With all that went on in the comment section of this blog, I just had to write another blog on this blog.

Here is a blog filled with my thorny and flowery thoughts on the comments above.

Oct 30, 2006 03:10 PM #27
Jessica Hughes
Ambiance Staging - Boulder, CO
I second Val here.  I really don't think that "Ellen" is a stager.  And if, by some chance she is, she might want to consider brushing up on her PR skills.
Oct 30, 2006 03:40 PM #28
Ann Guy
NA - Allentown, PA

I have not hear of staging until I joined AR.  I personally think it a great marketin tool.  If I ever sell my home, I plan on looking into it.  I believe it will help sell it quicker. First imperssions are priceless. 

I am not a REALTOR, I do not think you guys are "cheap".  I know that most of you put quite a bit of time, effort, and money into you job.  Ignorance is bliss...."Ellen" must live in bliss.

Oct 31, 2006 01:42 AM #29
Jennifer BeGole-Bunting
Argyle Title Agency - Fenton, MI
Like all new things to the Real Estate Market, it takes time for the Industry to become accustomed to the change. Craig hit the nail on the head when he said "educate".  Education is the key to anything that is new or different. Real Estaging may not be the answer for every property, but it could be the missing link for some.  Brick walls can frustrate the best of the best, Perseverence is hard work.
Oct 31, 2006 10:44 PM #30
Judy Kincaid
Tampa, FL

Talk about being treated like a redheaded stepchild!!!  I know just how that feels.  You wait days for the King of AR Stagers to grace your blog with one of his much sought after comments....and he calls you by the wrong name!!! 

Great blog though....another keeper for my files!

Nov 02, 2006 08:33 AM #31
Claudia Grasso
GRF - Raleigh, NC


You are so on the money (as usual). We are part of the marketing arsenal for Realtors and they are our biggest client. We're all on the same team.


Thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking posts. I sense that you are truly committed to quality and excellent client service. On that note, I have a few thoughts to share...

Having spent a few very tough years in resale real estate and a short while in new construction, I sympathize with your 'everybody's after the money I haven't even earned yet' sentiments. I had to start a mass mailing newsletter advertising other realtors' listings just to be able to afford to advertise my own (placed prominently in that mailing, of course:).

It had occurred to me, too, that it would be a great idea to take payment at closing. I mean, we do that with other contractors, right?! That plan is flawed, though, for a  couple of reasons, the most obvious being that we don't usually bringin those contractors until an agreement has been reached. You wouldn't need a stager at that time.

The second, less obvious reason is that, while most agents who stay around for very long have done so because they (as you mention above) have learned how to price appropriately or decline the listing, many have not -- successful agents know that an overpriced listing will suck the life out of a marketing budget and reflect very poorly on them later when a new agent takes over and, after a huge price reduction, sells the place inside of a week.

But I digress...the problem is that a great number of listings emerge on the market overpriced and, from your earlier posts it is clear that you know that, even with its gold-plated nails, and custom Zebra carpet with coordinating Monkey chandelier (I'm so derivative here; had to pay homage to Jessica's awesome blog), property will very rarely sell above the CMA range. More clearly put, even the best property, if priced incorrectly, will languish on the market. 

As I no longer hold an active real estate license, I am without access (at least in my area) to the complete information from the MLS to determine whether or not I believe the price is right. Of course I could look at the public tax records, but those sq ft prices are skewed by the fact that the tax office estimates square footage of the home based on a drive by in most areas; consequently it is very often in significant error.

I believe it was Craig who discussed that a stager's job is to merchandise the house so that it will bring the top end of its range of price. That said, not all stagers know how to assess the appropriatenes of the home's price even with full access to information. We must rely on the expertise of the Realtors we work with to price and accept listings as prudently as they govern their marketing budgets before our services can really pay off. Similarly, the Realtor must rely on our merchandising talent and focused approach to making the home appeal to the largest cross-section of the population possible.

So, to take payment at closing would require a leap of faith on the stager's part--faith that the Realtor priced, and will market the home appropriately and aggressively.

It's a circular and interdependent relationship that Realtors and stagers have. I would submit that we all owe it to ourselves to make every effort to educate and understand each others' industries for the common goals of supporting property values in our home areas and providing stellar client service with every sale.

-Brenna, (GRF stager)



I have done as you suggested and turned this comment into a blog here: .

Thanks for the great advice!




Nov 02, 2006 03:24 PM #32
Craig Schiller
Trempealeau, WI

CLAUDIA, WELL SAID.... THAT shoud be a BLOG POST! NOT just a comment.


Nov 02, 2006 09:20 PM #33
Val Allocco
Staged 2 Sell New York & Long Island - Northport, NY
HSE; ASHSR - Home Stager, for Manhattan, Brooklyn & Long Island

Wow Claudia - you made some wonderful points here - and in such an honest and thoughtful way!

Thank YOU for adding yet another dimension to the reason that Stagers and Realtors need to work together - and in a spirit of reciprocal trust.  We really are on the same team after all!

Nov 03, 2006 01:40 PM #34
Claudia Grasso

I am so grateful to Audra Slinkey (our staging association is HSR) for introducing us to this community where we have the opportunity to read and share ideas for growth with such a welcoming and forthright group of folks.

Thanks for the supportive remarks. I will continue to strive to give back at least half as much as I have learned from the professionals in this network. 

Nov 04, 2006 06:56 AM #35
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging,
I went back to read this post - it touches many of the points I've already thought about, asked about, worked on etc.  It is truly a slow and steady wins the race game and I believe we're making headway. Thanks for linking this to your most current blog.
Mar 28, 2007 08:00 AM #36
Terry Haugen STAGE it RIGHT! 321-956-2495
Stage it Right! - Melbourne, FL

I agree with Ellen.  I dread having to hire a realtor when ready to sell my own property.  They are all warm and fuzzy at the signing, then I never hear from them again till a contract comes in.  In fact, I've never had a house sell because my realtor showed it.  As I've said in a previous comment, you'd think they would want to make the sale, do anything to make the sale, especially in today's market, but they don't check on their vacant listings, and if they do happen by, they dont bother to pick up accumulated trash in the yard, weeks of newspapers, pull weeds or just sweep.  I get the impression that anything physical is just way below them.  So why should we think they would consider a stager? My staging contract does not say I will do the yard work, but I feel its my reputation on the line when prospective buyers drive up to the house, so I do the work myself.  Here in my area we have several realtors who do their own staging.  I've seen their work.  Whateveeeeeeeeeer!

Terry Haugen - STAGE it RIGHT!

Mar 28, 2007 08:38 AM #37
Derek and Mariana Wagner
The Artisan Group- Keller Williams Premier Realty - Colorado Springs, CO
The Artisan Group - Colorado Springs REALTORS®
Sometimes a bad apple(s) can spoil the whole bunch. There are plenty of people who care about their profession - real estate, staging, lending ... and do a great job at what they do. Im sorry that you feel this way about a profession that you are tightly knit to. I wish you better luck with more competent Reltors in the future, Terry.
Mar 28, 2007 08:58 AM #38
kathleen cochrun


At least in the Pacific NW, many realtors pay for staging costs - all or a large part - credited to sellers at closing.  I agree with many of the comments about how hard it is to entice realtors to consider staging.  I feel your pain!

I've been thinking (a lot) about realtor's barriers to stage.  Is it lack of education?  Not really.  I have yet to find one realtor who either didn't know about staging, at all, or did not appreciate its value.  The majority know, unequivecably, staging works and their payday comes faster.  I do meet plenty who have never used a stager, so that's an issue as is entrusting their client a/k/a profit to a stager whose work they have never experienced personally.  But...even when realtors have seen homes I've staged, in person, especially those that have toured them pre/post staging...and have raved, and have given me feedback about my reasonable rates..there is hesitation.

Even though most realtors here pay for a good portion of staging costs, sellers are the ones that pay me out of their pocket when I am done staging (too risky to wait until closing, plus I view staging in the same vein as a painter/other contractors who would not wait to get paid).  This means we have to overcome the cost barrier not only with realtors who fear losing their client over the suggestion of yet one more cost, but we have to convince sellers.  And of course, reaching sellers directly, whose homes are listed with an agent, is virtually impossible.

We all know that staging costs a fraction of many first price reductions, which means they are a fraction of the reduction in realtor's commissions.  The logic seems inescapable:  invest a few hundred now to gain thousands later.  Nevermind, avoid months of making double mortgage payments.  As near as I can tell, even though taking a $15K price reduction vis a vis staging costs seems illogical, it is the "idea" of putting out more money up front that is either untenable, or undoable in many cases.  Sweeping costs up into that invisible closing day is preferable as is avoiding the risk of losing a seller who might switch agents at the thought of more costs/work.  One option is to let sellers pay by credit card.  Another option is to make the business case - as with any endeavor where one wants to shift market behavior and it involves cost. 

Perhaps we stagers need to give realtors strong talking points they can give to sellers - a marketing flyer that hits this point head on, with two columns: one adding up the costs including price reductions and time on market and all that implies - double mortgage payments, reduced traffic because listing has cooled -  versus a speedy sale at a higher list price with a staged home.

That's as close as I've come to the staging hesitation.  Others?




Apr 05, 2007 06:20 AM #39
Jim Lee
RE/MAX Shoreline - Portsmouth, NH
Portsmouth NH Realtor, Portsmouth, NH

Staging is a career still in it's infancy in many areas. It will take more time before it's embraced everywhere. I believe lots of sellers (and agents) look at it as an expense instead of an asset to get their homes sold faster for more money.

Jul 21, 2008 03:03 PM #40
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