Jennie Connected the Dot... Now I am Gonna Paint the Picture!

Industry Observer
  •  While I have learned much from fellow members here on Active Rain and in Stage It Forward... I have to admit there are some member's posts I follow more regularly. What they have to say about Home Staging and the Home Staging Industry time and again captures my attention.

So recently when Jennie Norris, a Vice President at, connected one of the critical and troublesome industry "dots" that other home stagers in others markets have experienced... I was intrigued.

Jennie wrote a bit of an expose' on home staging and what she felt were wrongful pricing strategies in her post entitled Get off your back and on your feet - and walk out of the red-light district! I have to say THIS POST really got my attention. If you have NOT read her post, Jennie describes her frustrations with what she felt were low ball fees other stagers are charging for their services. Jennie writes "When are we going to stop giving it away - and realize the VALUE of what we bring to the table?  And if you are out there undercharging because you think it's the only way you can get business - for shame!  Take another look at what your market will bear - and don't leave money on the table!"

While low ball pricing may be a new issue for Jennie in Sacramento, it is NOT new to other stagers in other markets... including myself. It is good to see that Jennie finally connected one of the  problematic issues (dots) that I and others have written of in the past.   But you might be surprised to know that I believe the fact that lowball pricing is occurring, it is NOT that big of an issue. WHY lowball pricing IS occurring is a bigger issue that I want to address.

Let me paint a bigger BIG picture why the industry is experiencing some of the difficulties it is right now. While this is NOT going to be a pretty picture, this also is NOT a post trying to point fingers and BLAME ANYONE for where the industry is at. To be honest blaming doesn't change these facts. What I hope to do is show and propose solutions that benefit all. BUT here is where we are within this industry NOW:

  • FACT: It is very EASY and FAST for someone to become a home stager. NO formal training is required. (This happens to be the category I fall under).
  • FACT: Because foundation training programs have made it SO easy and fast (from 1 day to 1 month) to become a trained certified/accredited stager, there is NOW and continues to be a glut of people freshily graduated and empowered as a "professional" stagers entering the market place. In some markets there are more then it can bare. Of course the larger the market the greater the probability a stager WILL compete with some fellow graduates from the same foundation course they took, as well as graduates of other foundation training courses.
  • FACT: The home seller/consumer has NO idea what good staging is or is NOT.  The home staging industry has created NO way do differentiate or compare common types of service or FEES for those services we provide our clients. (For example the auto indsutry has common TYPES of cars: Compact, Economy, Midsize, SUV etc...)
  • FACT: When starting and operating a staging business new stagers who are hungry for business WILL undercut the "going" rates in order to get some work under their belts. Sometimes a new stager's "pay" could be the opportunity to capture amazing after photos for their portfolio, for services they have actually provided. (I did this when I started.)
  • FACT: The home seller/consumer market has NO idea what staging costs. What a homeseller believes staging costs is is often based on a distorted understanding... which often comes directly from TV shows like Designed to Sell. This show NEVER takes into account the LABOR fees to pay for Lisa LaPorte (a VERY talented staging host) or her team of laborers.
  • FACT: The real estate market is extremely slow... and in some markets totally stalled. Because it is so slow, less people are trying to sell their homes and those that are, are VERY cautious about spending their hard earned money on staging... for MANY home-sellers, staging is an unproven risky venture. So if they are interested in staging, price is the ONLY way to differentiate so the cheaper they can get staged... the better.

Again where the Home Staging industry is is the result of MANY players and MANY circumstances working in tandem and unfolding over time. If you see this as an attack on any one person, company or orgainzation you are mistaken. Again... blaming is ugly and useless. What I hope is that WE can create a masterpiece of a solution.  However, I will say this, there are those individuals, companies, and organizations that must step up and work together and do their parts to create solutions... instead of trying to breakdown any attempt at building this industry up. Also, standing on sidelines doing nothing is equally harmful. One fine example of a company working to improve the home staging industry is Brook Furniture Rental. Brook's sponsorship of 2 SIF RoundTables and their formation of a staging advisory panel is a HUGE step and huge commitment that will benefit ALL.

Getting back to what can be done... First, all members of the home staging industry must realize this industry is no longer made up of 1,2 or 3 players... it is made up of 1000's... stagers, vendors, and trainers. The Stage It Forward Group on AR and now SIF RoundTables are a START in the breaking down of the barriers between those individuals and companies that for whatever reason try/wanted to operate in a protectionist bubble.

  • RESA has been trying, (with some success) to get foundation training programs to work together. What RESA is undertaking is NOT to get foundation training companies to share proprietary information and methodology, but to set some guidelines and define some standards that can be communicated to the general public as to what constitutes good training. The public needs a way to KNOW what a TRAINED STAGER is and how the consumer can differentiate a formally trained stager from a "yesterday I arn't one today I is one" stager.
  • SIF RoundTables are NOT about fellow members trying to to gain access to a companies proprietary information and "have ideas given to them for free"... as was recently communicated to a group of stagers. The issues we are tackling are bigger and touch all stagers regardless of where they were trained, what market they are in, who there competition is, or how big/little old/new their staging company is. Banning, thwarting or scaring people away from opportunities such as this keeps us stuck.
  • The SIF Quartley Qwick Staging Stats (QSTAT's) WILL help to begin to address some of the issues above. In fact, SIF QSTAT's will directly address the pricing issues Jennie spoke of. The stager who got the job will know what average rate for staging is for a DEFINED type of staging in that market. Currently, how a stager ultimately chooses to PRICE their services is totally up to them. BUT with QSTAT's bench mark price ranges could be communicated. The competing stager's who presented THEIR solutions would have NATIONAL, STATE and LOCAL data that can be presented to the consumer to EDUCATE them to make an informed decision. You might say the playing field would be leveled... NOW individual stagers can compete.

There is so much more I can write about that will help begin to paint the masterpiece of a industry so many of us see and believe in. But for now... this seems to be enough.

Sorry this was so lengthy...


Comments (24)

Karen Dembsky
Peachtree Home Staging LLC, Home Staging in Atlanta, GA - Peachtree City, GA
Atlanta Home Staging
Thx for mapping out more steps to follow as we climb up this mountain, Craig!  Going up is always the challenge, but we will get there and the view will be awesome in every direction! 
Nov 29, 2007 05:16 AM
Brian Bloom 1-630-292-2710 - Bartlett, IL
All in One Staging Inc. - Home Staging Consultant, Redesign Expert


I think this is one of your best posts. You really said what had to be said in a wonderful post.

I have more to say about this, but need to think out and research some things before I post more about this.

This is why I to think RTM are a positive way to express your thoughts and feelings how to make this industry grow, writing down words for some (me) are harder then to be face to face.

Best Wishes.

Brian Bloom,

All In One Staging Inc,



Nov 29, 2007 07:06 AM
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging,

One of my goals personally is to see home staging (and the services of a professional home stager) become a Real Estate Industry Standard for all residential sales transactions, whether it be consultations or full blown staging, I believe it is truly a necessary part of preparing a home for sale. The aesthetic inspection before the final inspection prior to closing the deal.

This is a big pie and there is enough to go 'round! Rather than worry what others are doing, help create solutions to the problems we stagers ALL face as you are doing here Craig.

I look forward to hosting the Dallas, TX Roundtable January, 10 2008.  More to follow soon.


Nov 29, 2007 07:32 AM
Sharon Simms
Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International - Saint Petersburg, FL
Craig - much the same has happened in the real estate business. Many agents were listing properties for 0% if they could get the person's business when they bought another home - there will always be people in every industry who need to buy business, and there will always be customers who aren't able to differentiate. Educate, and have patience. One positive for agents in the current down market is that most customers now recognize the difference among agents and are willing to pay for good representation.
Nov 29, 2007 07:34 AM
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN
Craig-  I am with you 100%, as you know.  I really feel that blaming and pointing fingers helps no one, it actually brings us all down and holds us each back from our true potential.  Assessing the situation and finding out what we can do as professionals (and adults) to turn it around is really the only thing we can do that will make any difference.  I'm glad to do what I can to be part of the solution.
Nov 29, 2007 07:35 AM
Fernando Rosado
West Palm Beach, FL
561-906-0050 or 561-840-8950

Craig   (clap, clap, clap, clap)  You have a great way of writing and a true leader. Great information.

 The stagers that have the ASP designations, have sort of like a round table, its called IAHSP (International Association of Home  Staging Professionals) and it unifies everyone, but I also like the Round Table idea so that the information of the industry could be shared with more stagers, no matter theyre certification.

Keep us informed Craig !

Nov 29, 2007 08:13 AM
Craig Schiller
Trempealeau, WI

Gary:Sometimes I don't know where the words come from. Jennies post inspired me. A headline popped in my head and WA-LA... big honking wordy blog.

Anthea: Sometimes I feel like I am saying the same thing over and over. But each time I write I get clear and clearer as to what we can and need to do... which is COMMUNICATE AND EDUCATED!

Melissa: Today I got 2 phone calls from people interested in becoming stagers... I am afraid these issues are NOT going to go away soon.

James:If one of those "dots" sounds familiar it is because I know a guy in Rockford who articulated it so well... hmmm I wonder who that was?

Karen: I got my boots on... and they are NOT _ _ _ _ Kickers.

Brian: Sometimes I have AMAZING clarity on what I want to say. THIS was one of those times... but the more I SEE where we are at I can SEE where we can go.  THANK YOU for your kinds words.

Karen: I believe EVERYONE in this industry shares that goal. Respecting that OTHER'S hold the same goal will CATAPULT this industry forward. It is a simple yet POWERFUL act.

Sharon:When ever a Realtor graces our conversation with a comment I am honored. Your wisdom and insight is cherished.

Kimberly: Hmmm what can I say? But thank you for all you do and are.

Fernando: Buddy your words always make me smile. I'll keep informing if you keep making us smile.

Nov 29, 2007 08:44 AM
Terrylynn Fisher
Dudum Real Estate Group - - Walnut Creek, CA
HAFA Certified, EcoBroker, CRS, CSP Realtor, Etc.

Craig, I have taken more than one of the staging trainings to fill in the gaps and improve my staging business because, as a Realtor coming into staging it is how Realtors think.  We continue to educate to keep up with new trends and laws and to  be of better service to our clients.  I take training, some have life skills or come to it another way.  I am good with that.  I just need to know you are competent, ethical and honest.  The business will come if you are viable and won't if you are not.  That is just the harsh reality of business.

At the risk of bringing up NAR again.  Your analogy is right on.  The staging trainings and staging companies are like the REMAX and C21 and independent real estate companys that sell real estate.  We ALL have our various conventions and associations and referral systems proprietary to those organizations, but most working Realtors also belong to NAR which includes all companies regardless of their affiliations and gives them member benefits and the ability to regulate and advance the industry.(Perhaps RESA can do that for staging) NAR has local meetings (like Roundtables) to get the voice of the members to the National Association and wha laa you  have a voice in shaping your industry. 

The point is that some training companies and some (not all I know that) individual stagers get so busy holding on to a perceived territory that they don't see themselves as part of the bigger picture.  They are "ripples on the ocean that think they are the ocean" (Wayne Dyer quote for those of us who take ourselves too seriously) And the beauty of Active Rain is that so many get that you are more than your training or assocation and have found each other.  Together WE are shaping the future of the industry.  How right you are that takes nothing away from the many who came before us and started this path in different directions.

The caution for those who want to keep things from progressing on this path is not to get so wrapped up in the little stuff that the big picture almost gets away from them because it keeps them fragmented.  But that's another blog, oh I wrote that one already.  CRAIG, GREAT BLOG AND THANKS FOR YOUR CONTINUED ANALYSIS AND CLARITY ON THE BIG PICTURE.  It's what gave me the impetus to jump in to AR and I'm so glad I did.  Terrylynn  The Staging Realtor

Nov 29, 2007 10:00 AM
Toronto's 2 Hounds Design: Decorating + Staging
2 Hounds Design + Home Staging - Toronto, ON

I took Debra Gould's and Kimberely Seldon's words to heart.

  • Charge what you are worth.
  • You are not charging for your time but for your knowledge.

If a job comes down to price, I know I'm not going to get it and that's just fine with me.

While some poor sod is schlepping around possibly loosing money on a number of jobs...I only need one client to make the same $ and actually turn a profit. I like to work wise not hard.

My husband of course would disagree about my making a profit...I turn around and spend it on accessories but at least it is investing in my company and the fewer rewarding jobs are keeping me and my family sane!

I agree with you Craig, I don't think low-ballers are a big deal and they will always be there. As long as someone wants something for nothing someone will be there to provide the poor service...and it ain't ever going to be me!

Nov 29, 2007 10:04 AM
Betty Haney
Haney Consulting - Calgary, AB
Craig, this is another of your wonderful informative posts.  I think in the long run - the low ballers will be out of business very quickly.  You can't keep taking jobs where you are losing money and survive very long in any industry - not just staging.  Well said!  Betty
Nov 29, 2007 12:55 PM
Kim Dillon
Creative Eye Home Staging - West Chester, PA

I am attending a SIF Roundtable discussion today in NJ and am excited about the "grass roots" effort Stage it Forward is promoting.  Together we can set standards for our budding industry.  Thanks for the post, and by they way, read one of my blogs, would you?  I feel left out never having a comment from "me"!  LOL

Kim Dillon, Creative Eye Home Staging

Nov 29, 2007 11:17 PM
Yvonne Root
rooms b.y. root - Prescott, AZ
Home Stager - Northern Arizona
Craig, You are, of course, an excellent painter. Thanks for taking the time to not only fill in the dots but also to paint the picture. Your post was well thought out, well put together, interesting and above all right on target! Educating the public begins with educating the industry. 
Nov 30, 2007 09:41 AM
Audra Slinkey
Home Staging Resource - San Diego, CA


Great post!  Let me add to that some encouragement as well...

FACT - You get what you pay for - This speaks for itself

FACT - "Fly by Nights" are exactly that - While there may seem to be many home stagers entering into the fray, very few are actually investing seriously into their business (marketing, website, training or associations).  This leaves tremendous opportunity for anyone serious about creating a business.  In my constant marketing research to see how many professional home stagers are ACTUALLY connecting with their target markets I find VERY FEW DO.  For example, the Atlanta Board of Realtors who have thousands of agents as members, have only one professional home stager affiliate member listed on their site!  Are there more stagers then Misako in Atlanta?  Absolutely, but they are not seriously investing into a strategic marketing campaign that will enhance their business.

I believe that our greatest competition as professional home stagers is NOT other professional home stagers.  Our greatest competition is the home seller who reads a "how to" book OR the agent who was told they can learn the ART of staging in 2 day course who has NEVER had a serious interest or eye for design and is now BELIEVING that they have "staged" the home! 

If other professional home stagers would share the above belief and UNITE rather then see each other as the competition what a FORCE to be RECKONED with we would truly be!  My vision is to work together to change the way people sell their homes SO THAT EVERY HOME IS PROFESSIONALLY STAGED TO SELL.  Craig, I know you share the same vision and I love that we can dialogue about HOW to do this.  Cheers friend!

Warm Regards,

Audra Slinkey
Home Staging Resource

Nov 30, 2007 10:22 AM
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

Audra - I become more and more impressed with you by the day.  I totally agree with you that we are not our biggest competition.  For me, it is the agent that takes and short class and then offers the service for free.  How do you compete with that?  How do you convince the general public (especially in the Midwest) that free is not always better? 

Many 'staging agents' are seeing their businesses grow because of it. Unfortunately it is a catch 22 - the more listings they get the harder it will be to keep up, then they will need a stager and how will they still off 'free' services?  The big picture, indeed.

Nov 30, 2007 10:42 AM
Terrylynn Fisher
Dudum Real Estate Group - - Walnut Creek, CA
HAFA Certified, EcoBroker, CRS, CSP Realtor, Etc.

Audra and Kim - Not to worry.  I am a Realtor who has been staging her listings for about 18 years.  When I first started, it was because there were no stagers to help me do so.  I must say that I have evolved to need my staging team.  As you get busier and busier you don't have time to stage them yourself and it was a great relief to me to find stagers who could be part of my team.  It saved me time and allowed me to do more business. 

So, the reason Realtors take the class is because they THINK they will be able to stage the properties themselves.  Most of them don't have a clue and get that pretty quick but by then they have learned why they do need staging and seek out a staging partner...So, their education really drives them to you in the long run. 

Then if you happen get a Realtor who happens to have some talent, they get too busy in real estate to spend all their time staging.  Believe me, I love staging, but when I stage my team comes with me and most often I have to send them as I have no time.  For me it is a wonderful sideline of my real estate business but I make no mistake what my primary focus and business is.  I would never want to short the client from what I need to be doing on their behalf.  A stager can also teach the Realtor how to get the seller to pay for staging and as I watch Realtors on this path who offer FREE staging, they usually evolve to paying for a consultation or a portion of the staging in a short time.  It is just too valuable to continue to give away. 

Sellers are not a threat from a how too book either for many of the same things occur and they soon realize they just can't do it justice and call someone like you.  Some of the sellers that do it are the same ones that want to sell their homes themselves.  Those people will always exist but they are not your target client anyway.  So really, not to worry.


Nov 30, 2007 01:24 PM
Julianna Hind
eXp Realty - Tacoma, WA
REALTOR, 206-679-4768, Tacoma Federal Way, Auburn, Kent, WA

Craig, your right! It really does come together full circle when all the dots are connected, doesn't it? Jennie did a good job with that post -- vocalizing what she, and many others of us have been experiencing for a couple of years now.

Nov 30, 2007 05:22 PM
Craig Schiller
Trempealeau, WI

Terrylynn: I LOVE They are "ripples on the ocean that think they are the ocean"

Betty: I am glad you like the post AND all the other insights being added in the comments.

Audra: FACT - them is some good facts you write of.

Kimberly: I am not surprised at Audra at all. A year ago Audra was the FIRST owner operator of a foundation training company that reached out to me this "naked" stager. She is not theatend by the growth of this industry. In FACT she embrasses it.

Terrylynn: Yup and it is our responibility to EDUCATE realtors and homesellers who WE are and WHAT differentiates what we do.

Juliana: Not quite full circle... comments above add more that help me see more. Ain't this forum great?

Nov 30, 2007 11:09 PM
Minnesota Home Staging Firm, Minnesota
Minnesota Home Staging Network~ MN's Top Home Staging Firm - Inver Grove Heights, MN
Don't ever apologize for being lengthy Craig. you always have great things to say so keep typing away!
Dec 03, 2007 04:25 PM
Jennie Norris
Sensational Home Staging - Littleton, CO
Denver Regions Premier Home Staging Resource,

Hi Craig,

I have not been on the past few days so had not seen your blog until now . . . and to see my name - named in the title - was like an "uh-oh" for me.  Good to know it was just a reference point (LOL).

I agree there are issues on pricing - and it is not new to my market - but is a growing concern for all of us - not just here but everywhere.

As I shared in my blog post where you wrote some of the same points, the issue that I see is not there are too many Stagers, it's that some are not taking the time to find out what to charge.  It is easy to become a Stager - a person would just have to wake up one day and decide to do just that.  Whether he or she got training or not - is not a prerequisite for setting up shop.

I also know that not all Stagers stay in business and that I have shared the 80-20 rule applies to our industry just like in all others.  There are hobbyists, and there are dabblers, and then there are full-timers.  All this comes into play when we talk about the pricing issue. The hobbyists and dabblers are less likely to price according to the market, or care about pricing it to the market.  They are just "having fun."

I know when I teach I specifically cover this area and have a real-life grip on what the market will bear for whatever region I am teaching in - so the "I didn't know factor" is not part of the equation.  It would not be fair for me to state that it's only the Stagers that haven't gone to a class that are to blame, any more than it would be for you to state the opposite, which you did not.  But, having the info and acting on it are two different things. 

There are some that know the info and will still undercut the market - and that is the WHY I don't understand.  I don't want to knowingly leave $$$ on the table - especially when the client is expecting to pay a reasonable rate.  We are not talking about ripping off the client - I am talking about earning what we can based on the value of what we do.

As I wrote in another post - people just need to ASK about pricing to find out what their market will bear.  Failure to do that leaves Stagers guessing.  Last question - when are you going to start taking on the TV shows? (LOL)

- Jennie

Dec 03, 2007 07:40 PM
Minnesota Home Staging Firm, Minnesota
Minnesota Home Staging Network~ MN's Top Home Staging Firm - Inver Grove Heights, MN

Darn, why didn't this one get featured??? Excellent post Craig.

I don't have anything to add...looks like it's all been said :)

Jan 04, 2008 08:42 AM