I need your input on free staging, PLEASE!!

Home Stager with Egan Design Group Inc.

Hi everyone.

I need your input on a proposal I have submitted to an exclusive Realtor Group in a gated retirement community. The Realtors are direct agents to the community. The community itself did a buy back on several homes from original owners who moved into upgraded homes in the community. The neighborhood is over 500 homes and right now 80 or so are on the market.

I have been working with the Realtors to get into this neighborhood to do staging. Most of the homes listed are vacant or in desperate need of updating. Many are owned by children of the original owners who have passed away or are in nursing homes etc.

My offer to the Realtors and the community was to stage one of the vacant homes directly owned by the community as an example to all other listings as to the difference staging can make in marketing their properties.

I offered all my labor, design and delivery services for free and my proposal was to charge them $1500 per month to lease ALL the contents, furniture accessories etc. for a period of 3 months.

This price was too high for them, so I offered them 3 months of lease for the price of 2 months which would be a total of only $3000 to stage the home and keep it staged for 3 months.

They now tell me they want the home staged for no charge at all, totally free. If I do this, they say they will hold an open house and invite all their homeowners to see the staging and also send my marketing materials in their monthly newsletter.

I need the input of you experienced stagers to tell me if I am crazy to even consider this idea?

To be the exclusively reccomended stager in a community with 80 listings could be a huge break for me, but I feel I have already reduced my price enough.

What do you guys think??

Comments (13)

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

Patti- It does sound like a good opportunity, but I'm always cautious about giving services - and tying up inventory - for free.  How will they recognize the value?  Where does it all end?  Would you be willing to be paid when the home sells?

What are the price points for these homes?  Do they support the staging fee?  Julie

Aug 20, 2008 08:38 AM
Patti Egan
Egan Design Group Inc. - Viera, FL


I have been considering the idea of being paid after the home sells.

The prices range from $150,000- $350,000. A lot of them are owned outright with no mortgages.

Aug 20, 2008 08:49 AM
Jan Whitlow Accredited Staging Master


I have been doing Professional Staging for almost two years.  While on this journey I have given away some services but never the whole enchilada.  Foremost if you do not value your services neither will the Realtors with which you desire long term business relationships.

With that said; the offer of some advertising for you by them is good.  I believe there is always room for negocation - make sure what you are providing is of equal value to what they are providing.  Does that make sense?

What is your Staging worth?  What is their marketing worth?  It should be equal.  Staging works but not all Realtors get it - they are too caught up in the dollars to make sense of anything else.

Consider budget, length of Staging; exposure; but mostly value - value yourself & your Professional Staging work.  There is no free lunch and you cannot go into this deal expecting your "hopes" of future business to become real.


Aug 21, 2008 04:42 AM
Patti Egan
Egan Design Group Inc. - Viera, FL


Thank you so much for your comments. I have been merchandising Model Homes for Builders for over 10 years and due to the current market conditions I have branched out to offer staging services. I have always had a very professional relationship with my builder clients and have been paid very well for my services.

I agree with you that giving away the entire enchilada is not a good idea. I am having a hard time getting Realtors to buy into the concept that staging works and that the fees are reasonable.

Aug 21, 2008 06:00 AM
Kelly Townsend
Coldwell Banker - Santa Rosa, CA
CDPE, Realtor

Hi Patti -

I would at least charge enough to cover your expenses on the job.  Do you rent furniture or carry your own?  I would only do it if you had inventory just sitting in your warehouse and didn't have to buy anything. It's a tough call. It depends on how much business you already have or if you are just getting started, if so it could be the break you need. Once someone sees your work it kind of snowballs from there.

Aug 21, 2008 11:47 AM
Closed Xlosed
Closed - Belle Haven, CT

There are times in the early stages of building your business when discounting your services as part of your  business building strategy, but this case seems extreme.

At a minimum, you should cover your expenses, as experience has taught us that these future business carrots rarely materialize.

There are some deals that you should walk away from, and leave them for others in your market.


Aug 22, 2008 07:49 AM
Patti Egan

Kelly & Akanke,

Thanks for your professional input. I have decided to stick to my last proposal and if they don't accept it, then it is their loss. As Jan said earlier, my talent is valuable. It would probably turn into a nightmare situation in the long run because they would continually want me to cut my profit margins. The carrot isn't tempting enough!! Thanks you guys!

Aug 22, 2008 08:23 AM
Virginia Tatseos
Stage-Show-Sell - Bloomfield Township, MI

Is there an update to this post?   What did you decide to do?

Aug 31, 2008 01:34 AM
Nicola Lindsay
Nicola Lindsay ReDesign and Home Staging - Saint Stephen, NB

I too am having a difficult time getting my staging business off the ground. No one seems to "get it" yet. I am interested in knowing how your story played out.

Sep 01, 2008 12:48 AM
Patti Egan

To update everyone on this story:

I have decided not to pursue this project. I feel they are asking too much with no future guarantee. I also feel that if I set this precedent with them they will continue to want deep discounts or freebies.

Thanks to everyone for your input!!

Active Rain "Rocks"

Sep 02, 2008 12:38 AM
Val Allocco
Staged 2 Sell New York & Long Island - Northport, NY
HSE; ASHSR - Home Stager, for Manhattan, Brooklyn & Long Island

Hello Patti...well you asked for it, so here is MY two cents worth of advice...

Never, ever, give away your services!  To do so causes you to lose your credibility as a professional!  I wouldn't even have lowered my staging fee....I feel that you were giving them an excellent price at $1500 per month for the 'rental' of your furniture, accessories and props and that included the staging fee!

In case you haven't read Juliet Johnson's post of fees, here is a link to that blog: Fees Revisited... yeah, yeah: Location, Price and Condition, same as for a house... NO! Let's talk VALUE!!  (Members Only)

Good luck with this, Patti!


Sep 02, 2008 01:41 AM
Heather Cook
Beyond the Stage Homes - Kitchener, ON
Delivering beautifully staged spaces

Hi Patti,

I think you did the right thing and as hard as it was to walk away from the project, you do need to know when to draw the line!

Our business is just in the beginning stages as well and we are having a tough time getting Realtors in our area to really see the value in what we do. Strangely enough, home owners are much more receptive to home staging and we are consistently contacted by home owners for staging and re-design projects.

It's hard, and you  need to find the balance between giving a Realtor a deal so that you can demonstrate your capabilities and still charging enough for the value of the services you are providing.

Good luck in future projects!

Sep 02, 2008 11:33 AM
Please Delete Account Please Delete Account
Please Delete Account - Barton City, MI

Hi Patti,

I agree that you did the right thing.  In my area Realtors and homeowners don't understand the value of staging.  I charge considerably less than what you stated and Realtors are telling me my prices are too costly.  Oftentimes they opt for a price reduction of thousands of dollars. 

I have been in business for over 3 years and am now competing with other "stagers" that are underbidding me.  I know they won't stay in business long because they can't make a living if they aren't making money.  In the meantime I keep praying that the public will catch on and understand how important staging is.

Thanks for starting this conversation.  It was interesting to hear the advice and comments.

Sep 03, 2008 03:42 PM