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10 Scenarios When A Home Stager Should Walk Away from a Job

Home Stager with Home Star Staging

This topic has never been far from my mind or my business policies. As a small business ownWalking awayer of a Plano, TX home staging company one of the benefits of running my own business is knowing when I should walk away from a job if certain scenarios are in place or come into question.  Not only does this help my business (and often my sanity) it actually helps the prospective client know why their job is not one I'm able to assist them with and explains policies and expectations that all parties need to understand.  However I try never leave them without the opportunity to know why I cannot work with them or where they may find help if I cannot.

On Monday, April 30th at 7 PM CST this topic will be discussed in a forum on twitter called a "tweet chat". Using the hashtag (which is represented by the # symbol) #StagingChat anyone who has an existing twitter account (sign up for free!)  can join in the conversation and discuss various topics related to home staging, stagers and the challenges and victories we each face. 

I was so looking forward to this topic brought forth by one of the regular stagingchatters and RESA member, Vanessa Helmick with Fiore Interiors, however I booked a job for a client who could only meet during the hours of the chat.  But I am passionate about sharing my thoughts on the subject and wanted to share my thoughts, outside the forum.

Here are my 10 Scenarios When A Home Stager Should Walk Away from a Job

  1. You are asked to work for FREE
  2. The scope of the job is beyond your company or your own capabilities
  3. The scope of the job includes more than home staging can help and the client refuses to do the work necessary but insists on staging anyway
  4. Unrealistic budget
  5. Client has unrealistic time and job expectations
  6. Delays outside of your control continue to happen costing you time and money and client refuses to compensate
  7. Your health or safety is compromised
  8. Your professional policies or contractual agreements are broken
  9. Ethics come into question
  10. Your inner voice tells you from the first meeting or call that this job or person seems like trouble, listen to it!


1.  You are asked to work for FREE.  We may have all been guilty of this in the beginning to prove our worth and value.  I know I was - once. I took it as a lesson burned. If I don't value my time or myself who will?  What other service industry in the world is asked to provide their services for free? Hey Mr. Carpet Guy, can I have that carpet free just to try it out and see if I like working with you the first time?  RUN don't walk from this request.

2.  The scope of the job is beyond your company or your own capabilities. This not only helps your client but your business. When you understand your limitations you've thereby established expectations and policies that can only work in your favor, not against. On my website I've include the square footage and price points of vacant homes that I will stage. Working in Texas anything over the $1,000,000 5000 square foot limit becomes a job that I will refer or turn down. The size, scale, style  and amount of furniture and decor needed for these homes is not something I can easily find for a budget most home sellers are willing to pay. I work with national furniture rental companies and their pieces tend to be smaller in scale and more modern in style than some of these Texas mansions need. I was recently shown photos from a photographer friend of a staging job for an $800,000 home and literally the accessories covered up the assets in this home while the furniture used was the wrong scale and style to showcase the rooms and their purpose.  While I was told the Agent got the job 'cheap', it also certainly showed in the work and in the photos. Don't take on more than you are capable of, it reflects poorly on you, your company and the entire home staging industry! I do not hesitate to explain this to anyone calling with a job that is outside the scope of my abilities however I have found resources and referral partners I am confident to share.

3.  The scope of the job includes more than home staging can provide and the client refuses to do the work necessary but insists on staging anyway. This is always a tough one for home stagers, turning away a staging job when the client insists on it.  Here's a common scenario;

You arrive at a client's home for a home staging consultation. The home itself needs a lot of work in order to present itself as move in and buyer ready. Although staging the home would be the final touch this home needs (and a great way to sell your services), the other work is vital to the marketability of the property.  25 year old green carpet, dark paneled walls, 25 year old appliances with burners not working, wallpaper throughout and what's that musty old dog odor you smell? 

If we as home stagers are to do our job correctly, then during a home staging consultation (or in your written report) the items that STAY WITH THE HOUSE and help sell the home are more important than the staging itself. Yes, I said that.  Let me repeat, things that STAY WITH THE HOUSE for selling are more important than the final staging.  Your recommendations during the home staging consultation should give them all the information they need to do the final staging work themselves (if they are only using what they own - and maybe you even recommend they move everything out!) however always stress the importance of doing the recommended work (painting, carpet replacement/cleaning, repairs etc.) as being priority over spending more money on final staging services. While getting the additional work itself is always a plus and where we can shine, when budgets are tight and priorities need to be set, your professionalism and commitment to doing the best by your clients will not go unnoticed, especially the their Realtor.

4.  Prospect has unrealistic budget.  I don't know about you but I'm in this business not only because I love it but I also want to make a living. Although I realize that I may not be the least expensive I am also not the highest priced staging company in town. However there are other companies with business models different than mine and if a prospect calls me wanting to stage a vacant home I have a certain budget they would generally have to meet in order to do the job by the standards I have set for myself and my company brand. When they insist that another company charges only "X" for the same job I respond to them with something like this;  "Then by all means you should go with them! I liken this to having a choice where you can shop and if price is how you are shopping then you will get what you pay for.  We can all shop Walmart, Macy's or Neiman's if we choose, not all staging companies are created equally."

5.  Prospect has unrealistic time and job expectations. Ever get a call from someone you've never met on a Wednesday saying; " We only need the furniture for a weekend. We have an open house scheduled for Sunday and we need the vacant property staged for MLS listing photos on Friday!" ?Man jumping through hoop

Far more than some may realize these types of jumping through hoops situations usually never pan out well nor likely will  they meet the budget requirements neccessary to complete a job scenario described above. "Only need furniture for a weekend" clues you into "we don't want to pay much for this".  And for those of us with established professional relationships with the Realtors we work with regularly already understand the need for lead time and expectations.

6.  Delays outside of your control continue to happen costing you time and money and client refuses to compensate. Delays will happen. And it's important to keep the lines of communication open as well as account for delays outside of your control in your contract.  Once I've schedule a job on the books, it's theirs and should others delay our schedule due to circumstances I cannot control and the client has failed to inform me of the delay with at least 24 hours notice given then they are charged for services (whether they are performed or not).  I have lost time and money when I am not able to schedule another job or work for the time committed to the other project.  If this is a repeated problem with this client and you have not be compensated for the delays prior to the actual job, you should take that as a sign that payment for services may not be as easy to get either.

 7.   Your health or safety is compromised. Unsafe working environments are never ones to eCaution tapenter into. From fumes from floors drying to exposed electrical wiring.  If a client asks you to do something that jeopardizes your safety or that of those who work for you this is not something to take lightly. Recently during a home staging consultation a client asked me to help him move a couch from an upstairs room down.  I refused. He insisted that it wasn't so heavy and together we could manage and I said "No" that I was not there for moving furniture but a verbal home staging consultation paid for by his Realtor.   I was giving him the tools to do the work himself or hire help to move items and if I returned to finalize the staging these types of things would already be done.  I did give him the name of  a mover but I was rather shocked that he actually expected me to do something so dangerous. 

8.  Your professional policies or contractual agreements are broken.  This goes without further explanation and it is one of the reasons why you have a contract in place. It is not only to protect you but your clients as well. If any of your policies or contractual agreements are broken beyond what you can reasonably accept or the client is willing to repair, it's time to walk away and you may need the advice of a lawyer in some instances.Shady man

9.  Ethics come into question.  I will never hide a flaw or cover up structural defects and if a client asks you to do so, refuse and explain why. If the client continues to insist on this, walk away.  Also, I've heard of this done more times than I care to know but if you purchase items for installation into a home and keep the tags on them then return them to the store you purchased this is un ethical! You have used these items and are using the store to increase your own bottom line. Charge appropriately for your services to begin with and you won't feel the need to cheat the system.

10. Your inner voice tells you from the first meeting or call that this job or person seems like trouble, listen to it! Call it your 6th sense or intuition but that gift is something we all need to listen to more.  We are born with a fight or flight instinct but often squash it as "nonsense or paranoia".  Pre qualify your clients by phone, get as much information as you can. Google search their names if you can find them. Let others know where you will be and how long you're expected to be there, even when the client seems like a great person on the phone.  I once received a call from a man who said that we "live very close to each other" for a re design job.   I don't advertise my private residence house number although I do office from home.  It gave me a strange feeling and re design is not a core service and it's generally reserved for existing clients I've worked with on the staging to sell side first.  I explained that I was unable to help him at the present time and to call back in a few weeks.  I never heard from him again.


Please feel free to share your stories and reasons for walking away from a job and why! And feel free to join the #StagingChat on TweetChat tomorrow night, 7 PM CST, 8 PM EST and 5 PM PST!


Home Star Staging LogoSelling a home in North Texas? Exceptional Home Staging services for Dallas, Richardson, Plano, Allen, McKinney, Frisco, Carrollton,TX and surrounding cities.


  • Affordable pre-list home staging property consultations
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  • Is your office interested in hosting a home staging class or presentation? Just ask! Contact Karen at 496-964-0516 or Karen@homestarstaging.com
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Posted by

Home Staging Dallas - Karen Otto

Comments (93)

Michelle Finnamore
Toronto GTA, Alliston, Newmarket - Vaughan, ON
Preparing your property for sale

HI Karen, Words to live by.  I run my company the same way and have never regretted turning down a job.

Having referrals at your fingertips to give to clients that require services that are beyond your scope of work always lets people know that you are professional.

How to run an efficient and profitable staging business 101 would be another perfect title.

Oct 20, 2012 11:29 PM
Michael Dolezal
Main Street Properties - Pensacola, FL
REALTOR, Pensacola, FL

Thank you for this great post.   The 10 reasons are similar to what I hear at listing appointment.

Oct 20, 2012 11:36 PM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Karen, congratulations on this feature! My favorite point is, "You are asked to work for FREE. " This point can be made for every profession.

Oct 20, 2012 11:55 PM
nobody - Alamance, NT

Karen, I'm still hooked on number one. Do clients work for free? Valuing our time needs to become number one.

Oct 21, 2012 01:00 AM
Peg Barcelo
Fluff My House! Home Staging Inc. 250.486.6369 - Summerland, BC
The FlufftasticStager from Summerland, BC

Karen, this is a wonderful post! So much great information & explanation! Congrats on the feature, so well deserved!

Oct 21, 2012 01:04 AM
Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

Although this  is directed to reasons for stagers to walk away, there are truths here for any professional.

Oct 21, 2012 01:31 AM
Pat & Steve Pribisko
Keller Williams Greater Cleveland West - Westlake, OH

Karen, your post is spot on.  I feel so strong about staging that I became an ASP (Accredited Staging Professional).

Oct 21, 2012 02:11 AM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Karen,

Most of these work for us as agents as well. Too many nice people out there to get stuck with unrealistic creeps.

Oct 21, 2012 02:22 AM
Kim Gaston
RE/MAX Advantage Realty - Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado Springs REALTOR®, CNE (719)661-6987

Yep, all excellent and valid points, Karen. #3 is a lesson I learned my first year when the Realtor as well as the homeowner turned the other cheek to my recommendations. They had some major upgrading to do and wouldn't reflect that in the listing price. Expired, and re-listed, after 3 years it still hasn't sold. Lesson burned.

CONGRATS on your gold star!

Oct 21, 2012 03:47 AM
Ric Mills
Keller Williams Southern Az - Tucson, AZ
Integrity, Honesty, and Vast Real Estate Knowledge

Nicely put together and you are right.  If you don't value your time and expertise, no one else will. 

Oct 21, 2012 04:36 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Many of your ten points also apply to my work as a copywriter.

As to #10 - I couldn't agree more. That's a lesson that every service provider should heed. It took me a while, but I've finally learned to "listen to myself" and turn down the job if it "feels" wrong from the initial consultation.

Oct 21, 2012 05:25 AM
Travis "the SOLD man" Parker; Broker/Owner
Travis Realty - Enterprise, AL
email: Travis@theSOLDman.me / cell: 334-494-7846

All excellent rules. The last one is sorta a "catch-all" that covers the other nine!


Oct 21, 2012 08:56 AM
Rob Renk
Center Street Lending - McKinney, TX
AE | Fast Fix/Flip Loans for Residential Investors

Great post sahring staging from your professional  viewpoint.  Excellent tips all of us should be aware of.  Thanks.

Oct 21, 2012 07:59 PM
Kathy Booth, Setting the Stage
Setting the Stage - Newmarket, ON
Home Staging and ReDesign Professional

Excellent advice!  

Oct 21, 2012 10:03 PM
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging, www.homes

WOW! Thanks everyone for reading this post which I wrote back in April of this year. It was so kind of AR to feature some staging posts on their recentt newsletter  I appreciate all your feedbak & thoughtful commentary!

Oct 22, 2012 12:14 AM
Carol Lynn Johnson
Re/Max Elite Realty - Franklin, NC
Residential Specialist

There is nothing that de-values someone's expertise like being asked to work for free.  What you do has value.  The challenge is in convincing someone to fork money out when they think their home is the 'cat's meow'.

Oct 22, 2012 12:59 AM
Sharon Sein
Sein Organizing Solutions & Home Staging - Feasterville Trevose, PA

Hi Karen,


Just LOVE your post! All great points, but number 10 is especially important. Personal safety cannot be emphasized enough. Thanks for sharing.

Oct 24, 2012 07:18 AM
Brad Baylor
ERA Coup Agency - Milton, PA

Karen - I especially like point # 2.  To quote Clint Eastwood from the movie Magnum Force, "a man's got to know his limitations!"

Oct 26, 2012 01:34 AM
Matt Robinson
Professional Investors Guild - Pensacola, FL

I'm not a home stager. but I do stage all of my renovations...and that sounds like great advice for stagers.  Thankfully I never put my stager in that situation, and we have a great working relationship.

Feb 22, 2013 01:56 AM

Unrealistic budget and unrealistic time & job - is my favorite!!!It came as a red flag . One has to be careful about these.

Jul 12, 2017 10:34 PM