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Stager? Or Con Artist?

Home Stager with Home Staging Online Services

I watched a movie the other day in which the main character is a real estate stager in Boston.  On a trip to Ireland, she found herself explaining to one of the locals what a stager does.  Not skipping a beat, he says "Oh, so you're a con artist." 

 cup game

According to the dictionary, a con artist is a person who swindles you by means of deception or fraud.  Let's look at how a stager and a con artist are different:

The carpet in a living room shows a lot of wear and tear in the main traffic areas

A con artist might cover it up with an area rug.  Or remove the light bulbs from the overhead lighting, so it's not so obvious.  A buyer will mistakenly believe that the carpet is fine.

A stager will identify the best feature of the room--a fireplace is a good example.  They will choose just the right art and accessories to draw your eyes to the fireplace. A buyer will recognize that the carpet might need to be cleaned or replaced, but the attractiveness of the fireplace leaves them with a good impression of the room.

Pipes are leaking, leaving unsightly water damage to a wall in the basement.

A con artist might turn the water off where it is leaking and put a coat of paint on the damaged wall.  A buyer will have no reason to suspect a water leak.

A stager will note the water damage, but see the potential the room has for being a great family game room.  They will rent a game table and chairs, and place colorful framed posters on the walls.  A buyer will see that there is water damage, but fall in love with the idea of a room where their family can congregate for fun.

These examples should make it clear that we are not con artists.  It is not our job to hide the flaws in your home in order to deceive buyers.

I had a seller just recently who pointed out some cracked tiles on his kitchen floor.  He asked me if I was going to cover it up with something.  I smiled and shook my head.  "No," I told him, "we don't do that. And, I hope the seller of the house you are buying doesn't do that either."





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Comments (28)

Julia Maher
Nestings: Connecticut Home Staging and Model Homes - Fairfield, CT
Connecticut Home Stager

Whenever I see a crooked or angled floor mat/small rug, I know it's covering up something.  So when I straighten it, the sellers complain, but sure enough - I'm right!  So I tell them that if the mat has to stay, it must serve a purpose, be straight, and not hide anything.  Suddenly, the floor lookes better because the mat isn't crooked.  Go figure.

Mar 14, 2011 01:50 AM
Tessa Skeens
Hampton ReDesign, Home Staging and Redesign - Grand Junction, CO
Staging For Realtors, Builders & Investors

I loved that movie Leap Year! Thought her Irish beau was gorgeous ;)

It did depict staging in a somewhat flippant light didn't it? I agree with everyone else here - I do not cover up anything deliberately. I recently had a seller ask me if I could cover a stain on the carpet with furniture and I said that's not what I do!

Mar 14, 2011 08:56 AM
Donna Ross
Room Remedy Interiors, Sydney, Australia - Salton City, CA
Home Decorating, House Staging, Sydney

Great post Elaine.

I recently staged a home with some damage to a small part of the floor in the kitchen. The agent told me he was inclined to cover it with a mat. I advised against it as buyers will find it and it will damage everyone's reputation if we conceal it. Instead I adivsed we focus on balancing out this obvious negative by focusing on the room's more appealing aspects. He agreed.

Mar 14, 2011 09:41 AM
Elaine Manes Gage
Home Staging Online Services - Denver, CO
Staging done ONLINE!

Thanks, Christine!

Emily, when I was thinking of writing this, the first thing that came to mind was the shell game! Took me forever to figure out how to put a house in my photo!

Mark, the movie made me think about how many other people might think the same thing.

Maureen, I thought the movie was really cute, and I liked the part where she set the table beautifully, and he asked if that was staging! We can't help but want everything to look great!

Mar 14, 2011 12:12 PM
Elaine Manes Gage
Home Staging Online Services - Denver, CO
Staging done ONLINE!

Hello Sir Charles! Even if there are stagers out there who would try to deceive, all shall be revealed by the home inspector!

You're welcome, Peg! Anyone can hide the problems, but it takes a stager to make buyers fall in love with an imperfect house!

Cathy, all we can do when faced with that situation is take the high road and show our integrity!


Mar 14, 2011 12:28 PM
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
Retired New Hampshire Home Stager

BRAVO!  Love this post!  Haven't seen the movie yet, but of course I have to now!

Mar 14, 2011 01:20 PM
Janet Jones
Just Your Style Interiors, LLC - Kihei, HI
Home Staging, Interior Redesign Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

Hi Elaine--Have to see the movie.  I always tell sellers there is not point in covering things up. Savy buyers will find them and home inspectors will, too.  Why not fix the problem instead of trying to avoid it?  It may cost the homeowner far less to replace worn carpeting or cracked tile floors than either the price reductions necesssary to get the property sold with these "defects" or the discount the buyer will take because he/she has to do the work. 

Mar 14, 2011 02:23 PM
Elaine Manes Gage
Home Staging Online Services - Denver, CO
Staging done ONLINE!

Lil Sis, I know you would never cover up flaws!

Julie, I notice that all the time! It's hard to fool a stager!

Tessa, I'm in total agreement about the guy! Very charming, too! I love how the sellers look at you funny when you refuse to do something unethical!

Mar 14, 2011 04:24 PM
Beth Lester
Beth Lester Designs - Torrance, CA
Home Staging & Interior Decorating
I took some ribbing when that movie came out, too. All in good fun......I hope.
Mar 14, 2011 05:46 PM
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector


That is an interesting read and I get your point loud and clear

Mar 15, 2011 02:56 AM
Elaine Manes Gage
Home Staging Online Services - Denver, CO
Staging done ONLINE!

Donna, good way to handle it!

Sharon, it was great to see a movie with the main character being a stager, but I'm thinking we weren't shown in the best light. Still a cute movie!

Janet, I like to go one step further and encourage people to keep their homes maintained, so when it comes time to sell it, they won't be deluged with fix-ups! How many times have we heard "My house has never looked so good, but we won't be living here to enjoy it."

Beth, she was certainly a perfectionist but that trait helps when you're a stager!

Steve, good because I hate when my message is muddled! :)

Mar 15, 2011 07:46 AM
Olga Diaz
Potter, Mng Broker, CRS, ASP, ePRO, ABR

Elaine!  I really liked your post. You pointed out such great differences.  Have a nice rest of the day!

Mar 15, 2011 11:49 AM
Michelle Seidelman
Staged To Sell - Portland, OR

Such a good post, staging is all about pointing out the positives and the potentials, without hiding the flaws : )

Mar 15, 2011 02:02 PM
Elaine Manes Gage
Home Staging Online Services - Denver, CO
Staging done ONLINE!

Olga, thanks!

Michelle, the public knows what stagers are, but I'm not sure they know what we do!

Mar 16, 2011 05:48 PM
Michelle Finnamore
Toronto GTA, Alliston, Newmarket - Vaughan, ON
Preparing your property for sale

I have only been asked on a few occasions to cover something up. I reply that it is in their own interest to not cover up anything as people are quick to sue these days and who wants that hassle. It seems to get the idea through to the seller that it isn't worth it to decieve the buyer as it might come back to bite them you know where!

Mar 19, 2011 08:54 AM
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
Retired New Hampshire Home Stager

I watched the movie tonight and I really enjoyed it.  I think it's great that ouroccupation was featured in a movie and I didn't think it was portrayed all that bad.  Yes, she had some issues, but she was likable and she was successful!  Loved the Irish scenery too.

Mar 20, 2011 03:45 PM
Elaine Manes Gage
Home Staging Online Services - Denver, CO
Staging done ONLINE!

Michelle, that is a point I hadn't thought of!

Sharon, I thought the movie was cute and with $600 shoes, she must have been a very successful stager!

Mar 22, 2011 03:18 AM
Debra Gould
Staging Diva / Six Elements Inc. - Toronto, ON
The Staging Diva


This is a great post and a wonderful contrast of the two different approaches to a house problem. The one with integrity and the one without!

I once bought a house where there was all kinds of clutter on the bathroom counter and wondered why they wouldn't clean up for a showing. When I moved in I realized it was because the laminate was damaged under all their junk. As a home stager I should have known better than to assume they were just slobs!

I have had many clients  re-plaster and paint to repair damage from a leaky roof, but only AFTER the source of the problem has been fixed. To do otherwise only invites more problems down the road.

Thanks again for a great post!


Mar 22, 2011 04:52 AM
Elaine Manes Gage
Home Staging Online Services - Denver, CO
Staging done ONLINE!

Thanks, Debra! I bought a condo once, and when I saw it for the first time empty, there was a huge red Kool-aid looking carpet stain where the seller's sofa was. There was no getting it out, so I put MY sofa over it. When I was ready to sell, I bought new carpeting, because I couldn't live with myself if I hadn't!

Mar 22, 2011 04:36 PM

Would that all people had your moral sense. I can't tell you how goodyour post made me feel. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Nov 05, 2011 01:55 PM