Cole House Design Asks "Do You Offer a Guarantee" on your Home Staging Work?

Home Stager with Cole House Design

Cole House Design, a home staging and interior redesign company located in Georgetown, Ontario, recently received a promo for a Feng Shui company who also does home staging.  Near the end of the email I was surprised to see they offer a "guarantee" on their work. Here's a portion of the email:  

"Applying the principles of Feng Shui to sell your home will increase your selling price and reduce the time your home stays on the market. When the Feng Shui is done correctly, your home will sell within 30 days of its listing, guaranteed."  

I will be honest, Cole House Design does not offer this sort of guarantee.  However...

I DO GUARANTEE that we offer professional home staging service, knowledgeable advice, and that our customer service is second to none! 

And based on the homes we staged in 2008, all of our client's properties sold within an average of 23 days on the market!


I have never heard of "guaranteed to sell in 30 days" home staging.  Statistics prove that staged homes sell faster and for more money, but no one has ever claimed that staging will guarantee a sale in 30 days or less (especially in today's current real estate market).

Home sales are based on three factors: condition, location and price. 

If Cole House Design improves the condition of the property through home staging, and the location is good, but the price is astronomical for the neighbourhood...then I would not want to be blamed for the house not selling.

My question is - do any home stagers offer a guarantee or something similar on the work they do? 

Thanks for reading!   



Nicole Hurst - (President)

Phone 416-878-0338

Cole House Design logo  

(Cole House Design is a professional home staging and interior decorating firm serving the Halton and Peel Regions of Ontario including Georgetown, Mississauga, Milton, Brampton, and Oakville.)


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  1. Matt Stigliano 02/12/2009 11:58 AM
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Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

When the agents start offering guarantees perhaps I will CONSIDER it.  Until then it's cost prohibitive for the investment that I make in each staging.  It is interesting but not logical. 

Feb 11, 2009 07:58 AM #9
Julie Cleland
Prudential California Realty - South San Francisco, CA

I think Matt raised a very valid point when he discusses the fact that it is hard to quantify exactly how staging (as well as other marketing techniques) increased the sale price on any particular home.  It's a question that comes up when I suggest staging for a listing, the seller wants to know what their return on investment is going to be.   That information can be discussed in general terms and for some clients, that's enough but for others without a specific number they wont bother.

Feb 11, 2009 08:46 AM #10
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Peg - I think you do, but please understand (I want to be very clear on this), I am not against staging.  I also understand the work (and investments in time and money) that you put into a home.  That isn't questioned in the least (on my part).  I think I just see too much "use a stager and your home will sell x times faster than the average home."  Because the effects on any particular home are hard to quantify, it makes it harder to justify the expense (especially to a seller who is looking hard at their bottom line).  Of course, I see the correlation between stagers and agents.  There's a lot of the same kind of "I'll sell this house quicker and for more money" thinking going on with both of us.  You for the appeal of the home, us for the pricing and marketing of a home.  Using both can be a definite benefit, no doubt there.  I was just thinking out loud that perhaps if there was some way to use a guarantee, staging might become a bigger business than it already is.  If clients knew they were getting someone to put their money where their mouth is, then they might be more willing to give up complete control (as mentioned by Michelle above and their use of guarantees).  In our case, I can see the need for the same sort of guarantees (although I don't imagine they would ever be welcomed by the Realtor public, much as I wouldn't expect it to be welcomed by stagers).  Although we don't give them, we do put up money that may never be recouped.  The marketing budget for any given home is paid for by us never to be recouped if we don't sell the home or the seller cancels, withdraws, or moves to another agent for the listing.  It can be costly in some instances.  Some agents have moved to a transaction fee system, where they collect x amount up front to do their marketing, then when the house sells, its figured into the commission - if it doesn't sell the agent isn't losing their shirt.  I for one am not a big fan of the transaction fee.

Overall, I was just curious to see what some stagers thought and I must say, I'm thrilled that someone commented on my comment (other than just Nicole - I'm a big fan of people commenting on comments as I think its great for dialog and idea building).

Ginger - You say its interesting, but not logical.  Do you think there are ways to make it logical?  Do you think its a viable business model?  I would think that many clients would be very interested in someone quanitiying what they do and making it possible to see a defined result.  As I said to Peg above, I can see the same being said for agents, so please don't mistake my line of questioning for any doubts about the industry.

Feb 11, 2009 08:47 AM #11
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Julie - I think you just summed up my thoughts with a lot less words.  Its hard to explain to someone who wants to see the numbers and the results - they want to know the exact value of staging.  For me, I'd love to see every property staged...I can see the difference on a buyer's face when they look at a staged home.

Feb 11, 2009 08:49 AM #12
Peg Prather
Vancouver, WA
Vancouver, WA

Thanks back at Matt for his reply. We are always interested in what Realtors have to say about our industry. (See my post a week or so ago about this issue.) I am relieved that you support staging, as I support hiring a Realtor (vs FSBO). Not because there is a guarantee, but I believe that in any market, a home seller needs to have professionals on their side to help them, advise them, and guide them through the process. We are a sellers biggest fan, and give a shout out for joy when one of our staged homes sells! And Nicole, I love the "guarantee" that you give; it is realistic and optimistic at the same time!

Feb 11, 2009 10:07 AM #13
Cathy Lee
CL Design Services Home Staging - Danville, CA

Great post!  My staging agreement states I do not guarantee my staging will result in the sale of their home-but I do.....and I list the value of investing in staging and what my company gives my high quality accessories, matching lamps and end tables, luxury bedding and pillows..etc.    Nicole-you are my kind of professional!!

Feb 11, 2009 10:26 AM #14
Margaret Oscilia
Creative Concepts-Home Staging and Contracting, Salem Oregon - Salem, OR
Home Stager, Salem Oregon

Today I went to follow up on a staging consultation where I had given the seller a detailed "to do" list -- so their dated home would be more desirable and show well.  Well, the "after" shots, look like "before" shots to me -- they thought it looked wonderful. I was irritated that they thought someone would love their dated lighting in the kitchen and 35 year old woven shades, gaudy paint colors (and much more). . . I have a guarantee for this house . . .

it won't sell in 30 days and they won't get their price either!

Realtors can't guarantee a sale even if a home is well priced . . . while stagers can guarantee professional quality results, it is just one ingredient of selling a home.

Feb 11, 2009 12:56 PM #16
Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

Matt, having done this business for many years I have considered many different methods of working with agents to get a house SOLD.  Afterall that's my ultimate goal in all of my staging work.  This discussion has also been through the mill more than once here in Stage it Forward and usually the result is...we (stagers) don't have control of much of the sales and marketing process so we can't guarantee results.  Some stagers believe that if we collected a percentage of the sales price, then they would consider it.  Of course then, as with agents, there would be a chance of lossing it all for many reasons.  

Actually my financial advisor believes that I should get a percentage AND offer a guarantee, BUT he's seen my work and believes 100% in what I do.  However, he doesn't totally understand the nuiances of the team work that would have to be involved.  So perhaps the answer is in creating a VERY strong, cohesive, communicative, trusting team with all parties (agents, sellers & stagers) committed to making the house the best it can be in condition, pricing and marketing. 

BTW I never thought that you were AGAINST our industry and I appreciate the conversation.  It's never bad to get the brain thinking of new ways to get it done AND I think that I can safely say that most of here in Stage It Forward LOVE hearing from Realtors.  Thanks.


Feb 11, 2009 02:53 PM #17
Pangaea Interior Design Kitchen & Bath Design, Remodeling
Portland Oregon - Portland, OR

Woweee! What a debate. I do not give a guarantee. Same as others pointed out, I don't have full control over price and marketing. Because we rarely have two homes side by side, exactly the same, one staged and one not, it is a little tough to quantify exactly the value of staging. Those statistics that are given are based on averages, and they are valid. Statistics help you when looking at "likelihood" for a group, but are not a guarantee that a specific outcome will happen in every instance.

Feb 11, 2009 07:41 PM #18
Anne Bourne
StagingWorks - Toronto, ON

It's just not possible to give any guarantee.  I've had homes that have been beautifully staged, well marketed and priced right but if the homeowner insists on holding out for more there's not a whole lot I can do about it.  I know our statistics show that staged homes generally sell faster and for more money but it is a really hard thing to qualify.  I don't quote those statistics myself.  Rather, I try to educate people that in order to sell their largest investment they had better be ready to put a little money into preparing it for sale.  What I do quote is "you only have one chance to make a first impression".  No one can deny that point.  The home stager that can really guarantee a home will be sold in 30 days is going to be one very successful stager, or one that's out of business in three months!


Feb 12, 2009 12:08 AM #19
Donna Plant
Home Staging by Streamline H. S. Ltd - Oshawa, ON

I agree that giving a guarantee would not work.  One house I staged would not sell and after a short talk to the agent who had recieved complaints from the home owner on the time it was taking to sell we decided to go in an check the house, we found dog hair all over the carpet, and a shopping bag of garbage hanging on the outside of one of the kitchen cabinets, the smell was not pleasant. The owner had a tennant who really did not like the idea of finding new accommodation, so they were refusing help keep the house clean, actually stuck chewing gum on the dresser for all to see, and as he left after the owner every morning he left wet towels all over the floor, and ensured that the bag of wet garbage was hung up in the kitchen.

How can you guarantee something that is out of your control?

Unfortunately companies who offer guarantees that home owners have little or no chance of ever recouping simply bring the whole profession down. It is a major problem in an unregulated market.

Donna Plant

Home Staging by Streamline H. S. Ltd.


Feb 12, 2009 02:19 AM #20
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Wow, I'm really excited by all the talk on this one.  Thanks to everyone who chimed in and let me see what's going on in the stager's world.  Ginger's thoughts quoted below intrigued me and I wanted to put them in here to discuss further:

Actually my financial advisor believes that I should get a percentage AND offer a guarantee, BUT he's seen my work and believes 100% in what I do.  However, he doesn't totally understand the nuiances of the team work that would have to be involved.  So perhaps the answer is in creating a VERY strong, cohesive, communicative, trusting team with all parties (agents, sellers & stagers) committed to making the house the best it can be in condition, pricing and marketing.

Perhaps there is a possible solution in there.  Percentages with guarantees and a team of professionals working together to get the job done right.  Agents often create teams (one agent does buying, one agent does selling) - where the money is pooled and split.  Perhaps there is a possible business model in that.  I know that one of the obstacles of getting someone to stage their home is the cost.  What if a team effort was struck between Realtors and stagers and instead of just charging x% for commission, the agent's team was charging x+y%.  The team makes the listing presentation with the agent doing the "numbers" and the stager doing the "aesthetics" - a combined presentation that then showcase both skill sets and the value that justifies the higher commission rate.  We all get paid at closing (agents and stagers) instead of any up front fees.  The stagers could potentially make more money this way and have a vested interest in doing their best and giving it their all (not implying that you don't, but commission based sales always help push people to do their best I think).  The stagers also share in the responsibility if the home doesn't sell (ie, no paycheck), so it gets the agents and stagers talking, thinking, marketing, and overall doing whatever it takes to get that property sold for their clients.

What kind of additional % do you think it would take to a) satisfy the stager's need to recoup and profit and b) keep the costs to a point that a seller would think its valuable and worth the extra percentage?  I am not trying to say there's a set way to do it, but since I am not a stager, I don't know or understand fully the expenses and business side of your work.  So I'm curious to see what kind of % stagers think would be suitable if a business model like this were to be applied.

Feb 12, 2009 04:08 AM #21
Kelly Townsend
Coldwell Banker - Santa Rosa, CA
CDPE, Realtor

Hi Matt -

Thanks for your input on this. It is nice to hear a Realtor's perspective. What I have offered to my preferred Realtors recently is to accept payment at close of escrow. Maybe getting a little up front just to cover my outlay of expenses, rental of the truck and paying my assistant and then collecting the rest at close. I would have to agree once I saw the property however. I have done this before and got stung because the homeowner promised to finish some projects that he never did and the house felt unfinished. I would probably just give a rate at close of escrow as opposed to a percentage. Each job is different and I would want enough to cover the costs on that particular job plus I would charge a little extra than I would had I got payment up front. I would just put it in the contract that I would collect $? at close of escrow with possibly $200-$300 upfront if it was a vacant to cover some hard costs. How would that sound to you as a Realtor?

Feb 12, 2009 05:23 AM #22
Deb Waters
Rearrange with Style - North Myrtle Beach, SC


You've really hit an "emotional" hot button for everyone.  I never offer a guarantee but I do back up my assertion that my staged homes sell faster than unstaged home in our local market by listing my staged properties and days on market.  For most buyers, this gives them enough comfort to use my services. 

I am experimenting with offering builders to stage their quick delivery homes on commission (same structure as a Realtor).  I'm charging a premium of 1-2% of selling price for my staging services, payable when the home is sold.  Prior to staging the home, the builder pays for upfront costs, such as furniture and accessory rentals.  This way, I don't have any out-of-pocket costs but do have highly profitable but deferred income.  I'm only offering this to a small group of builders to see if it works for me.   I've recently done 1 quick delivery home with this structure so I'll see whether it brings me more profitable business. 

As business owners, we have to think of innovative ways to gain customers and grow our business.

Feb 12, 2009 08:45 AM #23
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Kelly - I like your idea and I think it would encourage more sellers to use staging services.  I think one of the greatest obstacles to staging is the upfront costs.  Even if the pay now or pay at close costs are exactly the same, the perception is better for the pay at close.  Much like if I asked every seller to pay me up front.  Once you "see" the money going out of your hands the perception of it changes.  Its much like the difference in paying taxes out of your paycheck or paying them all at once (or quarterly).  Its a lot easy to swallow if the money never hits your hands.

I have done this before and got stung because the homeowner promised to finish some projects that he never did and the house felt unfinished.

Agents can certainly share your pain on this one.  Imagine doing your marketing, investing in signs, advertising, your time, various other expenses that come up in the course of a listing and you lose the listing or head over the home to see the client and its a mess (and therefore wouldn't sell).  I think that's what I was getting at when I started my comment thread...there is a risk associated with listings and perhaps (this is part of what I wanted opinions on) if stagers were assuming some of that risk, it would make it easier for sellers to pay for their services.  I think if we as agents guaranteed our commission whether we sold the house or not, we'd certainly see a lot more for sale by owner than we already do.

Deb - Your last line says it all to me.  I was hoping to bring some innovative discussion to this post and sort of pick the brains of the experts on staging.  Since I'm not a stager, its hard for me to formulate a business model for you, but I thought maybe if we had a discussion about it, it might spark something and we could all benefit.

I can see how your builder offer could work great.  I just sold a builder's inventory home this week and with a bit of furnishings and some decor, it probably could have sold for much more.  It had a lot of open space, which I know can appear to be "too much" without the proper arrangement of furniture.

Thanks to everyone participating in the discussion...I am enjoying it tremendously and I hope some good things come from it (both for me and for you).

Feb 12, 2009 11:52 AM #24
Peg Prather
Vancouver, WA
Vancouver, WA

Jumping back in!

Matt, I think you hit the nail on the head when you commented about the homeowners who let their house be in a "mess" when it's on the market.

Professional Stagers that I know give it their ALL when staging, but if the homeowner still isn't on board, and lets the house go to "heck" again, then they should be the ones to "suffer the (financial) consequences", not the stager, if the house doesn't sell.

In an occupied staged home we just simply can't control the look of the house once we leave; and if some time goes by and the house doesn't sell, then the homeowner may want to blame the staging, when in fact it wasn't anything the stager did wrong. I think the homeowners should "assume the risk".

Also, many homes are going into foreclosure (which makes me sick for those people) if we stage a house, and the homeowner doesn't make their payments, and the house goes into foreclosure, then the stager would be one more business that is left hanging. 

Okay, I'll leave it alone now! Lots of good things to think about.

One last thing! Realtors set up their commission based fees decades ago, and I see why they did it, but most other businesses simply can't stay afloat with that type of pay structure.

Feb 12, 2009 12:54 PM #25
Chrissie Sutherland
Ready Set Stage - Greensboro, NC

That's a risky thing to put on a contract.  Like you said, if other things are not in play, you can't guarantee it.  It the price is too high, or the Realtor doesn't put great photos online, or market the home correctly to bring traffic to the home, you really can't guarantee anything.  I can't afford to put that in my contract, but like you, I guarantee excellent customer service, competative prices, and 110% effort into staging their home and maximizing the visual and emotional appeal of each space to the best we can.  Great post, thanks for sharing.

Feb 12, 2009 11:27 PM #26
Cindy Bryant
Redesign Etc. Home Staging - Houston, TX
"Houston Home Staging Pros"

Some home stagers can't even guarnantee they'll be in business in 6 months, much less that a house will sell.

I always say it is a guranatee that your house will show better.

Feb 13, 2009 03:08 PM #27
Debra Gould
Staging Diva / Six Elements Inc. - Toronto, ON
The Staging Diva

Agree with Cindy, we can guarantee the house will show better.

Whether it sells or not (and when) is based on many factors the stager has zero control over. As such, providing any such guarantee doesn't make sense in my opinion.


Debra Gould, The Staging Diva





Feb 16, 2009 08:47 AM #28
Tessa Skeens
Hampton ReDesign, Home Staging and Redesign - Denver, CO
Staging For Denver Realtors, Builders

I'm glad I stumbled across this discussion as the time it takes homes to sell and price to stage remains a sensitive issue when selling staging services. I recently had an agent ask me  "Do you offer any plans with a low deposit up front and payments at closing?"

He was asking on behalf of a development he is representing. I responded by saying that since most of the expense of staging is furniture and accessories, carrying those costs until a unit closes is not a good value proposition for me.

When I had originally been contacted on behalf of this developer they had been given quotes in excess of $20K from interior design firms to design and furnish a model unit. The cost to use my company to stage it is a fraction of that and yet they should still reap the same reward. Attracting more motivated buyers who appreciate the value of seeing the unit furnished and attractively staged!


Feb 17, 2009 12:26 PM #29
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