Was Barb Schwarz the "INVENTOR" of Home Staging?

Industry Observer

 Once you have written a blog, for any amount of time, it's inevitable that you come to a point where you search for that one "right word" that clearly conveys exactly what you are trying to say. Finding the right words is critical to communicating a message... and ultimately establishing one's credibility. Your words are a reflection of you.

Recently I was reading a post here on Active Rain, in it Barb Schwarz of StagedHomes.com was cited as being the "inventor" of home staging. As I read it a few bells and whistles went off in my head. I thought that it was a mighty audacious statement to claim that Barb "invented" the process of proactively preparing a home for sale to maximize its appeal to potential buyers. This infers that prior to her 1972 "invention" no Realtor EVER advised nor did any home seller EVER do anything to prepare or improve their home's appeal specifically to entice a potential home buyer to buy it.  

Since this is the industry I work in and since I love words and constantly seek out the right one's to accurately communicate what I want to say... this got me to thinking.

First I looked at and looked up the word INVENT... wondering, what ACTUALLY does it mean? The American Heritage Dictionary's definition for "invent" is: "To produce or contrive (something previously unknown) by the use of ingenuity or imagination." 

So when applying the dictionary's description of the word, it is really easy to see why we say that Alexander Graham Bell INVENTED the telephone... because BEFORE Bell's invention there was NO such thing as a phone. Likewise, it is easy to say that Thomas Edison INVENTED the electric light bulb... because before Edison's light bulb there was NO such thing.

Speaking of electric...did anyone really INVENT electricity? Well actually NO. Ben Franklin DISCOVERED electricity... but he did not invent it, as it had been in existence forever, just not harnessed by man.

Which brings me back to staging.  Did Barb Schwarz "INVENT" staging? I guess I would have to say no. But if she did not INVENT staging what DID she do? Well, I think she "coined" a term. She named a process.  Barb brilliantly assigned a word to a process that savvy home-sellers had already been doing all along. "Staging" is the perfect word that clearly conveys exactly the process to that which was being done.  Barb found the the one 'right word' that easily captured and communicated a message.

Since Barb had the bright idea to call the process "staging", she has been a tireless champion for it... sharing the message of the benefits of what can be gained if home seller proactivly take steps to ready their home for it's sale.  Barb is now joined by the Pegs, the Marthas, the Loris and so many others here on Active Rain who continue perfecting the staging process and contribute what they have learned to benefit the seller and ultimately improve the entire home staging industry.

So the moral of my story is, choose your words carefully or you may look like a fool. Words do matter in the communication of a message... for if Barb Schwarz had not come up the term "staging" who knows what I would be blogging about today. Hmmm... which now makes me wonder, who came up with the word "blog"?

Word It Forward...



POST SCRIPT 1: For whatever reason something I wrote here has hit a nerve with a few of you... and you have written me on the QT to express your concerns about this post with comments like "I don't think you wrote this blog to stir up any negativity, I'm just nervous that it will appear to others outside AR as such."  Well, I have some things to say about that... see my comment below.

POST SCRIPT 2: See re-edited version of this post on NBC - NEW YORK's website.

POST SCRIPT 3: My follow up to this blog (Part 2) can be seen here: My Personal COMMENT on a STAGER'S STORM in the Rain


Comments (83)

Donna Harris
Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - TexasRealEstateMediationServices.com - Austin, TX
Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator

Didn't Al Gore INVENT the Internet??

Barb may not  have invented Staging, but she took the initiative to Register the words Staged® and Staging® for her business.

Apr 17, 2007 03:55 AM
Edite Liepina-Lawrence
ERA Tradewind Real Estate - Longmont, CO
Well, Barb did put "staging" in spotlight first. Cudos to her! Just a perfect example how you can take something so simple and obvious and make it better!
Apr 17, 2007 04:01 AM
Sheron Cardin
California Moods Inc - Selma, CA
ARTIST - A Home Stager/Sellers Best Friend!

I commented on your other post and want to add it here as well. Hope you don't mind.

What is a good leader? My favorite teacher of all time, Betty Jean House, said to all her students and I quote; "You will all become greater than I, the student always becomes more than the teacher". She continued with "for you will use what I have given you and evolve it making it your own, using it in places I have never known".

Stage It Forward!


Apr 17, 2007 04:23 AM
Jeff Belonger
Social Media - Infinity Home Mortgage Company, Inc - Cherry Hill, NJ
The FHA Expert - FHA Loans - FHA mortgages - USDA loans - VA Loans

Craig... late to the party and I didn't read any comments. Sorry, I usually try. But in any case, not a good or great blog, but an EXCELLENT blog. Not only was it well-written,but the message was loud and clear.

Acting as a professional, especially in forums and blogs, we do need to choose our words very carefully. And no, I am not perfect, but I will write in a blog when I am offering my opinion. Just the other day, I read something that someone did on points. Stating that this is not the time to buy or pay for points. In my opinion, this is misleading people. He never talked about goals of each individual.

In any case, I was very impressed.... great job.

                                                                                                              jeff belonger

Apr 17, 2007 06:01 AM
Stefan Scholl
Buyer's Broker of Northern Michigan, LLC - Petoskey, MI
Northern Michigan Real Estate
I had the opportunity to hear Barb Schwartz speak at our state Realtor convention last year and found her to be a very dynamic, fascinating speaker.  I'm not sure what all the controversy is about.  I am curious, are there other organizations which teach staging courses which Realtors can attend to attain a home staging certification or designation?
Apr 17, 2007 07:33 AM
Sharon Simms
Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International - Saint Petersburg, FL

Craig - you've made some excellent points, and I think your blog was very fair, not negative. You also made a point about designations and what they are, and leapfrogging from that I just posted on that aspect. The staging discussion has been interesting, but rather departed from your excellent point on choosing words. As a former English teacher (at least one lifetime ago) I can appreciate that.

Also very interesting that you sometimes use your Active Rain blog as a proving ground, before posting to Your Other Blog. Kind of like your own Board of Directors or mentoring group, isn't it?

Apr 17, 2007 08:44 AM
Melissa Marro
Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team - Orange Park, FL
Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging


I have to say this is the longest comment list on blogs that I've ever actually read through (usually after about 10-15 comments, I'm done).  I feel compelled to comment since I've gone this far.  As an instructor for my own staging training facility, I give thanks to Barb for being such a pioneer in the industry.  I also wish she would choose her words more carefully, or does she choose them very carefully already?  I do feel that her amazing God-like personna has made her company hugely successful, but at the same time alientated her from much of the industry.  I actually had another staging company comment to me about the connotation of the designation ASP (read the designation and don't think too hard).  Basically they didn't want to be one and was of the opinion that everyone who took the course was one.  I don't personally feel that anyone can identify an entire organization by association.  I also think, as has been expressed by so many other stagers that she was a poineer in the industry.  How many of us would have the opportunities we have now if she had not decided to market the profession?  By the way, My mother also did this everytime we moved, which was extremely frequently - if she had made it a profession, maybe she would have been the "inventor"....

Words are extremely important, as you have so boldfully pointed out.  Perhaps we should all remember as Shell said that our thoughts and actions can also impact things dramatically.  Don't get too high up there - you may find yourself unable to connect to others without falling.  Don't let the little things get you in a twist - find a way to make it your advantage.  Stay with what you know is right, forget the rest. 

Stefan - YES!  There are many other organizations that you can become certified through - don't let the marketing fool you. 

Melissa Marro, First Impressions, www.StagingAndRedesign.com - become a member today!

Apr 17, 2007 09:18 AM
Irina Netchaev
Pasadena Views Real Estate Team, Inc. - Pasadena, CA
Pasadena CA Real Estate

Craig, yes... you are absolutely correct "staging" or readying a house for sale was done way before Barb.  She, as others stated, did coin the term "staging".  I don't know if anyone referred to it as Staging before.  Does this not mean that she invented "staging"?

I think that it's sad that you are trying to take that away from her.  She was the pioneer and proponent of the movement and has done more for staging than any one else.  Let's give credit where credit is due.

I am sure that most would agree that you can turn words around every which way and argue different points by reading the same sentence.  Look at the politicians.  They're experts at it.

Blogs should be fun.  In my opinion, they shouldn't be over analyzed.  Otherwise, most people will not feel comfortable writing blogs. 

I agree with your point that we should be careful choosing words, but at the same time,let's not get too technical.

In my eyes, Barb did invent "Staging".  After meeting her and listening to her talk, I changed my view of staging and started incorporating it with all my listings.  She is the inventor to me.  She is the reason that I hire STAGERS.

Just like Thomas Edison is known for inventing the light bulb - you can not take that away from him.  Electricity might have been there, but he was the one that brought it to the world.

You accomplished what you set out to do - write a good, controversial blog!  :-)

Apr 17, 2007 02:29 PM
Jennifer Kirby
Kirby Fine Homes - Minneapolis, MN
The Luxury Agent
My husband is always saying that "Words mean something". He gets so aggravated at people who use words in the wrong context. Now he has got me hooked and it is so hard for me to hear politicians speak because they twist words so easily. Remember, "Well, it depends on what the definition of "is" is?" (Bill Clinton during his scandal) When I started reading your post, I knew right away you would need to pick your words carefully or someone out there would think you were attacking her. Good Job! I wish I could write as well as you.
Apr 17, 2007 02:48 PM
LH2 Staging Inc
LH2 Staging Inc, Minnesota Expert Home Stagers - Minneapolis, MN

This has been very interesting.  I am surprised.. and not so surprised how many of these comments have been made by ASPs or ASPMs.  While many of you have met Barb or spent some time around her...most of you do not know her.  That said... for the few us that do, lets be very careful not to turn this blog into an argument.  Rather let it feed your mind a little food for thought.  While there are those very influencial people that have "helped" create the staging industry, by making everyone aware of it, there are many others, including people like Shell that have had a very large hand in what you now see today.  MOST of these people have never received credit for their incredible contributions, and much of it has been claimed by only a very few, each claiming sole rights to the knowlege or "invention" mostly contibuted by others.

Like Shell, we at one time also had a hand in perpetuating some of the "Barb-isms" but.... we got wiser.  But some of those things she brilliantly coined and no matter how you slice it.... they are still some of the best ways to get a point across to a client.

The bottom line is, this blog is here to help continue and develop both your skills and knowlege through the EXPERIENCES of other stagers.  People that have developed a truly successful business and found the most successful methods to do so are beyond valuable.  Its not an act, or a show, but a true working model.  These are the people you need to listen and learn from.  It is NOT here however to worry about the validity of people like Barb.  I will drop it with this passing thought.  For many of you here, much of what you needed to know you have either learned from here, or experiences, and unfortunately not in your classes.  We know, because we were there in the beginning of several of them.  Which is why we are where we are now.

Your walk talks and your talk talks, but your walk will be louder than your talk. 

Shell... really??  Al Gore??? :-)

 L and L

Apr 17, 2007 05:57 PM
Randy L. Prothero
eXp Realty - Mililani, HI
Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645

Great Post!  I have never seen so many responses that were written in such detail.  I am glad the staging industry is so well represented here on Active Rain.

Apr 17, 2007 08:55 PM
George Tallabas
RE/MAX Advantage - Nampa, ID
Idaho Real Estate
Craig - I don't know if this is the same Barb Schwarz but in the late 80's & early 90's the was a Barb Schwarz in the Pacific N.W. (Seattel I thought) that was a big hitter in real estate.  She was interviewed many times by the Realtor magazine and wrote some books.  Later in her career she wrote a book on nutrition and proper diet.  Same Barb Schwarz?
Apr 18, 2007 12:29 AM
Patricia Barta
Staging by Patricia - Great Falls, VA
Staging by Patricia, N. Virginia

Ok, ok, ok I was NOT going to comment but something has been really bothering me and seeing that we have an open forum well....

First let me say Barb Schwartz is brilliant in advertising and she has done a lot for the staging world. Is she an inventor? I don't know and truly I could care less. I do thank her for bringing Staging Awareness and it's importance.

What is bothering me is this: I took the class because I am so passionate about staging.  I love to help people and I love to see the end result.  I have been burned as I am sure many have.  I was hired by a Realtor that I did a lot of work for and she paid very little money. It was the beginning of my tenure with staging.  I wanted to prove myself so I accepted the work.  The Realtor returned my things damaged not once but three times.  She lost the listings and I lost out on inventory.  She was dishonest with me and the entire ordeal was not pretty.  I once blogged about it.  The realtor constantly told me how she staged properties herself and I would ask myself why is she hiring me? I looked at the properties the Realtor so called, "staged" and well that is NOT staging in my book.  Clutter, clutter, clutter.

I live by the secret so I decided not to focus on the negative. I have never been rude just better to walk away.  This Realtor burned me so bad and to add salt to injury she now has an ASP designation???WOW! That just tells me ANYONE can have those letters. You sit in a class and you can have the designation.  That makes me sit and think.  I have a design background but I also am aware that design and staging are completely two different things. When I take a job.  I take it to make a difference.  I carefully plan out the space, look at the colors, choose the accessories. It is not about making things pretty.

Am I frustrated? YES I AM.  Do I blame Barb? NO she is doing a lot for the industry as a whole.  I would lie if I did not say I am frustrated. In staging I think you get it or you don't.  I certainly do not believe by taking a class and getting letters = Great Stager.  Is it just me?  I need to go and do Yoga.  I am sorry this is not a slam.  It is simple FRUSTRATION. Do I think there should be a test? Perhaps. If that will weed out anybody slamming cash down = Certification.

Apr 18, 2007 01:35 AM
Michelle Minch
Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA

I had originally signed up for one of Barb Schwartz's classes, paid my $1800+, mainly because I wanted to be "accredited" and also because I wanted to make sure that, even though I had been staging for a while, I wasn't missing anything. The night before the class, I received an email with a contract that I was required to sign and fax back before I could attend the class. I found the contract to be all in Staged Homes interest, and not to my interest at all. Firstly, I didn't believe that Barb held a trademark on the word Staged, or that I needed to include a registered trademark sign whenever I used it. But what got me was the fact that I had to link my website to hers, and that she could terminate the relationship and I could not (at least to my understanding). Needless to say, I cancelled my application to take the class.

I am appreciative to Barb Schwartz for all the attention she has brought to the profession of Staging. She has an incredible marketing machine that she has created.

Thanks for bringing this subject to light where it could be discussed in the open.

Apr 18, 2007 05:33 AM
Carol Erks Greater Midwest Realty
Greater Midwest Realty - Saint Paul, MN

  really enjoyed "all the blogging moments".  This is true communication, of great minds mentoring together.  To add your truth in words, takes courage and wisdom.  I have learned something from the comments, and will not take away or remember a bad comment. Why? Because there were none. Constructive criticism is good for the soul. 

Professional home staging takes visual courage. We create a visual thought.  We are controversial.  We are all inventors within ourselves, we set a stage and invent an idea each time we go into a home to stage.  Never/well almost never will any two homes be staged identical. After all, who is related to who and who said what and who did what and who made what

The International Accredited Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP),will be breezing  into the windy city for our annual Staged Homes Convention in June. 

 Hey Chicago, we are excited to see your lovely city!

Thanks for a Blog well done Craig.

Carol Erks ASPM for Stagingmyhome.com




Apr 21, 2007 02:22 PM
Karen Hurst
Rhode Island Waterfront!
Wow Craig, I came in reverse from your next blog, which I did not want to comment on until I read this blog. Did not realize the multitude of comments that would be here, but I have to say this was an excellent post, not only because of all the different avenues it branched out into ie, staging credentials, Al Gore, hot?:(   The Secret, etc. but because I am a great proponent of how words are used and the real controversey that can be caused when the WRITTEN word gets perceived differently than the way you first wrote it.  Apparently you are looking for some excitement and are attracting this to yourself:)  (don't take that the wrong way, I meant it as a result of you saying you practice the Secret:)
Apr 22, 2007 10:24 AM
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Eighteen Years Experience in Brevard County
What is amazing is the number of times Al Gore comes up in the comments. Personally I believe Al Gore invented Staging!
Apr 22, 2007 10:45 AM
Kathleen Lordbock
Keller Williams Realty Professionals - Baxter, MN
Keller Williams Realty Professionals
If Al Gore is HOT maybe that is the reason for our supposed global warming.
Apr 27, 2007 05:34 AM
Sheron Cardin
California Moods Inc - Selma, CA
ARTIST - A Home Stager/Sellers Best Friend!
I think Al is Staging the Planet!!! Any buyers out there??? ME.
Apr 27, 2007 10:05 AM
Al Gore

Al Gore Hot? WTF?

Aug 18, 2009 05:51 AM