Five Suggestions for Struggling Montreal Home Stagers

Real Estate Sales Representative with Immeubles Deakin Realty

It is telling that these days the majority of calls I get for Montreal home staging come in the form of home stagers looking for work.  I know home staging in Montreal has yet to really kick off.  We Montrealers are not at all impressed with, nor do we feel the need to follow, what our fellow citizens in other parts of the country nor the continent are doing.  It's part of what makes us unique.

But it's also part of what makes it tough if you're a Montreal home stager looking for work.

I went from being a Montreal home stager to a Montreal real estate broker who stages for my sellers...and I have not regretted the decision for one moment, though during the transition the pocketbook was very lean and my energy reserves completely depleted.

Having just completed my second full year in real estate, however, and having reached my lofty business goals for the year, I humbly offer struggling Montreal home stagers the following suggestions:

Key and Words "Success"1. Get a website and a professional-looking business card.

These are your "credibility" essentials, and you can't go anywhere without them.  Make sure you've got loads of befores and afters on your website. If you need some work to get these befores and afters, ask your friends and family if you can transform their spaces for free. 

If you're a Canadian Staging Professional (TM) or CSP like me, as part of your training fee and CSP membership, you have pages on the CSP website that you can use as your own personal website.  I did this for the first two or three years with great results.  The CSP website has truly awesome SEO power for google searches related to "home staging" and "home stagers."  This alone is worth the price of the training, truly.


2. Do consultations with real, live results. 

When we start out, often our biggest source of business will be in the form of staging consultations for homeowners getting ready to put their home on the market.  Sometimes when I'm doing these consultations, there comes a point where I can see the homeowners' eyes glaze over.  It's just all too much, and up to this point it's been all talk - good, important talk, but still talk nonetheless.

It is at this point that I roll up my sleeves and say to the homeowners, "How about we transform a room right now?"  I get them to help me (if they are physically capable), and together we transform one space such as the master bedroom, the entry or the living room.  I declutter, open curtains and blinds, move furniture around to create a better flow, and I rehang art -- and all the while, I am talking to my clients, educating them on why we are doing these things and doing them in this way.  They are truly amazed at the end of the process and they end up taking my recommendations for other areas of the house a lot more seriously.


3. Get to know your local real estate agents, and be flexible in your offerings to them.

I got to know many Montreal real estate agents by going to their open houses and making some simple suggestions related to the home, respectfully presented of course, and always out of earshot of potential buyers.  Most important, I explained to them why I was making these suggestions in particular.

One agent had taken on a hardship case. I did a hands-on staging for her, using the client's belongings.  And then I came back and lent to them a few key pieces from my inventory at no charge. The goodwill this generated was astounding.

I was once hired by a real estate team for four hours: "Tanya, we've got a $400 budget for staging. Go to the house and do what you can please." That was enough for me and an assistant to work for four hours.  What an adrenaline rush!  And the results were amazing.  We went in, sight unseen, and transformed every room using what they had.  Both the agents and the homeowners were delighted, and the house sold quickly.

The key is to be open to working in different ways and to working quickly.


4. Build your own inventory.

OK, I know this is hard to do when you're struggling, but you can gain a lot of credibility and a lot of traction with the words, "I have my own inventory of accessories, art, lighting and bedding."


5. Leave your staging perfection at the door.

I know this one will raise some flak, but the fact is that I became a better Montreal home stager after I became a Montreal real estate agent.  I just became more realistic and had more experience in terms of what buyers expect...and what they don't really pay much attention to. 

Kids' bedrooms, for example?  Unless the rooms are extremely small, buyers don't really care if there are 30 stuffed animals on the bed.  A home office?  Again, unless the space is really small and cluttered, buyers will forgive you the full shelves. 

The key is to do your craft justice, but at the same time to do what you can to ensure the homeowners aren't so overwhelmed and find your suggestions so over-the-top that they end up ignoring everything you've said.

Good luck to you. It isn't easy, but when you find what you love and get to make a living at it, it's heaven.



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Professional home staging and professional photography: two critical factors to making sure your home looks its best, both in person and on the Internet, and neither of them cost you a penny when you list with me.


Put your best house forward. TM

Tanya Nouwens

Tanya Nouwens Inc., Montreal Real Estate Broker and Canadian Staging Professional (TM) 


C. 514-919-8468

This blog is written with my opinions. My opinions are presented with accuracy but not guarantees. Copyright Tanya Nouwens - 2015. If you want to reprint parts of this, just email me for my permission at


Comments (25)

Brian Madigan
RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto) - Toronto, ON
LL.B., Broker


I think this is very good advice for anyone starting out. I know it's a very tough business.


Jan 07, 2012 10:43 AM
Bill Cullen
REMAX Absolute Realty Inc. - Ottawa, ON


Montreal has a great sense of style, and the people always seem to be so fashion-forward. I love to visit, when I can.

The fact that you feel you became a better stager after becoming a real estate agent makes perfect sense. Mainly because you're seeing the experience from a different point of view. I would also be willing to bet that your skills as an agent is enhanced by your previous staging experience. They go hand in hand. Being more well rounded is almost always beneficial.

Jan 07, 2012 11:08 AM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Hey Tanya, great tips to help everyone improve their presence and skill level.  Congrats on the feature! :)

Jan 07, 2012 11:25 AM
Susan& Charlie Ahern
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Coronado, CA
Owner & Broker, Coronado Real Estate 4 Sale 619-92

I like your comment of being flexible.

In my area- Coronado Island, San Diego- that is, the stagers used to make us sign 6-month contract. It was so expensive I was forced to collect my own inventory. In doing so we had really helped with saving our marketing budget. Our sellers are much happier as well.

Staging works. If your stager  is reasonble and flexible, you should utilize her expertise and it is well worth the investment.


Jan 07, 2012 12:13 PM
Toronto, ON

Hi Tanya - Excellent advice for stagers and a great plug for Canadian Staging Professionals which are known as Certified Staging Professionals in the USA.

Jan 07, 2012 12:29 PM
J. Philip Faranda
Howard Hanna Rand Realty - Yorktown Heights, NY
Associate Broker / Office Manager

Excellent advice for anyone wishing to do business with real estate agents. 

I love the new photo. 

Jan 07, 2012 12:39 PM
Tanya Nouwens
Immeubles Deakin Realty - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager
Jill, what a nice thing to say. Thank you so much. And thanks for the "suggestion." Brian, staging is very tough. It's a lot of hard, physical labour combined with the need for continual diplomacy and creativity. A few years ago, my neighbor saw me stuffing my van for another staging job and remarked that it was like I was constantly moving. Bill, I couldn't agree with you more. Montreal is so fashion forward, and yet we haven't really embraced staging for occupied residences. Strange. Thanks, Laura :) Susan & Charlie, does that mean that stagers' inflexibility in contract length led to you equipping yourself so that you no longer need a stager? I hope not. Marc, it wasn't meant to b a plug for CSP but it was well warranted in this case. When you're just starting out, that web presence and SEO is invaluable.
Jan 07, 2012 12:46 PM
Tanya Nouwens
Immeubles Deakin Realty - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager
Thanks very much, Phil. Much appreciated.
Jan 07, 2012 12:48 PM
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH@Properties - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Tanya, I think that a clear understanding of staging is a huge advantage for any Realtor.  I'm planning to get some additional training in this area. 

Jan 07, 2012 01:28 PM
Morgan Evans
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY

I do agree with many of the comments that this is great advice for those who are just entering the staging business or who have been in the business and need to sharpen their skills with some new perspectives.

Jan 07, 2012 02:47 PM
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging Consultations that Sell Portland Homes"

Tanya ~ As a trained professional stager, those skills are obviously helping you in your new role as a Realtor.  Good for you!!  Best wishes for a very successful 2012!

Jan 07, 2012 03:52 PM
Chris Twing
Twing Staging & Redesign - Cedar Park, TX

As a new home stager in the Austin, TX area I was excited to read your thoughts. Now that you are a realtor yourself can you tell me the biggest reasons realtors choose not to use a home stager? Thanks

Jan 08, 2012 01:14 AM
Sandy Acevedo
951-290-8588 - Chino Hills, CA
RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale

Hi Tanya, Congrats on a well writtem post and a feature, too. You really do seem to have a grasp on both sides pf the fence.

Jan 08, 2012 03:19 AM
Chris Lewis
Gracious Living Realty - Front Royal, VA
I want to SELL your home, not LIST it!
A great post with some very important points for both Realtors and stagers. I think the ability to work with the client's own possessions or a very limited budget, is very important. As a side issue, I helped one home seller to stage and redecorate her home and when it was decluttered and the furniture rearranged, she liked it so much that she turned down a full asking price offer and stayed there!
Jan 08, 2012 06:52 AM
Tanya Nouwens
Immeubles Deakin Realty - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager

Patricia, the interesting part about most staging training programs is that they assume you already have a good eye.  Building on that, the training teaches you to view a property, and the spaces within that property, as a typical buyer would.

Morgan, we can all use a new perspective from time to time. Thanks for stopping by.

Maureen, they do help me, absolutely. Thanks very much. All the best to you in 2012 as well.

Valerie, I think the perceived cost of staging is a major impediment.

Chris, in my experience, there are 3 main reasons why real estate agents don't bring in a stager: 1. the perceived cost of staging; 2. the effect an agent thinks it will have on their seller if they introduce a stager into the process (take too much time, cost too much, buyer may feel insulted); and 3. the difficulty, according to my colleagues, of finding a stager who is professional in all aspects.  That last one bites, I know.

Thanks, Sandy.

Chris, those cases are rare, thank goodness!  I couldn't agree with you more on the need to work with a client's possessions and with their budget.

Jan 09, 2012 01:44 AM
Jark Krysinski *PREC (Personal Real Estate Corporation)

That is a great post! Thanks for sharing this with us! Yes, most sellers cannot afford the time or money to get their whole home staged and perfect.  I will share this with my clients!

Jan 16, 2012 07:23 AM
MichelleCherie Carr Crowe .Just Call. 408-252-8900
Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty - San Jose, CA
Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years

This is a lot of good information for Sellers.

FYI, I just subscribed to your blog as I am growing my North American and international referral base. I specialize in Silicon Valley, specifically San Jose, Saratoga and Cupertino, Calif. (home of Apple Computer). You are one of the first ActiveRain bloggers I subscribed to in your area. I hope we can help each other grow our real estate businesses in 2012 and beyond. You can read my blog at

Feb 22, 2012 12:11 PM
John McCormack, CRS
Albuquerque Homes Realty - Albuquerque, NM
Honesty, Integrity, Results, Experienced. HIRE Me!

Great information for Sellers and I always like to see Home Stagers getting love in the Rain!  I wish more of my listings would take advice and hire a professional Home Stager or at least consult one.  You have a new subscriber as of now :)

Sep 17, 2012 03:34 AM
Tanya Nouwens
Immeubles Deakin Realty - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager

Thanks very much, John. Much appreciated.

Sep 17, 2012 06:22 AM
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

This is a great article Tanya. When I walk into a home for an ispection I notice if it is well staged right away.

An empty space is negative, just like a place thats clogged with belongings.

Home staging demonstrates care and preparation and this is a good indicator that the same attitude came into play with home maintenance and property upkeep.

Oct 01, 2012 03:03 AM