Professional vs. Non Professional Staging Example

Home Stager with Judy Heinrich Home Staging

I've been a bit frustrated lately with the poor quality of staging I've seen.  And even more frustrated that I've lost a couple vacant staging jobs to others who seem to be charging pennies!  To be quite honest, I believe I am very reasonably priced and provide a quality professional service.

One project I didn't get was a home with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, family room, living room, office and kitchen.  We discussed the different levels of service for a vacant and the owner wanted more than just a simple, vignette staging.  So I prepared a proposal that I thought was well priced, especially considering the large number of built in bookcases that needed to be staged properly (we all know how that eats up inventory!).  According to the seller, I didn't get the job because he found "a stager who was able to fully stage the house for three months within their budget of $1200-$1500."  Now I don't know how anyone can provide quality, professional staging for that price for all those rooms fully staged and still get paid!  I haven't seen any pictures of it yet, but I can imagine.  Oh well... on to the next one.

I had another project I would have loved to do.  Two model condo units in a renovated building in the Fan district of Richmond.  I had staged a model condo for this builder in 2007 with great results.  Well this time around I'm guessing they wanted to save some money.  At least that's the only thing I can think of since the listing agent (who I prepared the propsal for) never responded to my several follow up emails/calls.  First of all, I think it's very unprofessional of the agent to not respond, let alone not have the courtesy to tell me "no thanks".  Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to discuss my proposal and ways to work within their budget, if at all possible.   Well, I just found the photos of the units online and needless to say... They Got What They Paid For!

It's probably not too professional of me to post those photos so I won't, but I can't resist just a comparison of my staged living room in the unit I staged a couple years ago vs. the living room of this unit.  Let's hope the builder and agent decided to do it themselves.  I'd hate to think a professional stager did it!


Here's the living room I did not stage...

Here's the one I staged...

Living Room staged by Judy Heinrich Home Staging, LLC

Any other stagers running into this problem?  I'm afraid sub par staging is giving us a bad name!


For professional, quality staging, please consider Judy Heinrich Home Staging, LLC, serving the greater Richmond, VA area.  For more information, visit my website at





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Pangaea Interior Design Kitchen & Bath Design, Remodeling
Portland Oregon - Portland, OR

It is a problem when people come in and decide to compete by price alone. We do have this going on in our market here in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately, there will always be a percentage of clients who think "staging is staging" and don't perceive the difference. My best weapon against that is my portfolio ... spectacular even if I do say so myself :0) LOL I make a point of telling clients that, although I don't think I'm very high priced as far as the average goes, I absolutely am not going to be the cheapest stager, and I don't care to be. I emphasize the ways in which my staging work excels. The ones who value a very good job will hire me.

I have run into brokers who attempt to stage a property for free by borrowing furniture from a store. Unfortunately, the staging is incomplete and the store is just interested in selling their furniture. I gave a proposal on a very modern townhome. The architect/builder had failed to budget anything for staging! They loved my work, but felt they couldn't pay anything. I went by the other day to see what ended up going into the property for free. I could have cried it looked so sad. The rug they used for the living room was an unbound remnant. Just a couple wood chairs ... no upholstery ... a coffee table & console table. This place has concrete floors ... so the whole effect was cold and pathetic. Kitchen table was a traditional model, completely the wrong style for this extremely contemporary property. Too sad. It is still on the market and it's been months now. Maybe I should call them again?

Feb 12, 2009 06:21 PM #5
Judy Heinrich
Judy Heinrich Home Staging - San Diego, CA

Michele - Let's hope you don't... for the seller's sake as well as your own!

Maureen - Makes you wonder if the agent wanted to proposal just to try to copy it, use it as a guideline.  I just have to believe that they truly know how bad it turned out, for all the reasons you listed!

Pangaea - I will now have to start pointing out the difference between hiring me and a cheaper stager (and I'm really not that expensive!).  I've never had to do that before, but witht the popularity of HGTV I think there are a lot of people who think it looks easy and can do it themselves. Too bad about the townhome... I'm sure you had all sorts of fantastic ideas for it running thru your head, then what a let down to see how they did it!


Feb 12, 2009 10:48 PM #6
Allegra Dioguardi
Styled and Sold Home Staging and Staging Training - Westhampton Beach, NY
Home Staging & Training, Suffolk Co. Long Island

I feel your pain. I totally relate. All I can say is "You get what you pay for". We still have so much educating to do. Sometimes I feel like I'm so ahead of the curve that I'm going backwards. The worst part is, if people don't understand why Staging works it's only because our "competition" is providing "staging" like the photo of the staging you did not do above. How is that going to sell a house???

Feb 13, 2009 08:38 AM #8
Debbie Wheeler
Real Estate Staging/Rooms Rearranged, LLC - Chandler, AZ
Chandler, AZ Rooms Rearranged RESA, IRIS

Yep, it's happening here.  Many new stagers are under bidding their proposals (taking no money for their work) just to build their portfolios and get some exposure.  Clients BEWARE - it is so true that you get what you pay for.  Under bidding a job and not thinking your time is worth anything is what will stop this industry from moving forward.  It will be a no win situation for everyone down the road.  Realtors that do not promote staging or ones that are doing there own, are bringing to the forefront a different outlook for stagers.  Every SIF Round Table, or staging meeting I attend has stagers speaking out that they are now getting their Real Estate license.  They feel if Realtors don't want to use or promote them, they will get their license and also do both.  I feel this is sad and wrong.  I think we short change our clients by trying to wear two hats.  Just my humble opinion. 

Feb 13, 2009 11:09 AM #9
Judy Heinrich
Judy Heinrich Home Staging - San Diego, CA

Vivian - It is so obvious when it's done correctly, isn't it?

Allegra - You know what's really sad, is that photo is from the model unit of a condo complex.

Debbie - You are so right!  Agents don't seem to like FSBO's much and think they offer a valuable service to a seller, not sure why they take that same approach when it comes to seeing the value of staging!

Feb 14, 2009 04:41 AM #10
Cindy Bryant
Redesign Etc. Home Staging - Houston, TX
"Houston Home Staging Pros"

I just saw one of these, I could'nt believe it.  For the price tag, it looked like a 5th grader did it.

Feb 14, 2009 02:17 PM #11
Lori Kim Polk
Premiere Home Staging : Home Staging Services - Roseville, CA
Home Stager - Roseville, Sacramento

I firmly "second" what Debbie Wheeler said. It IS sad.. and very wrong. But until people start to really appreciate the power of a professional stager who values their own business for the long run... they will continue to take the lowest stager regardless of the quality. You DO get what you pay for! Yep... I am smarter than a 5th Grader :)))

Feb 22, 2009 01:01 PM #12
Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

It's the agents that are "doing the staging" in my area and for the most part it is very sad.  What really drives me crazy is how the deem the house "staged" and I just have to scratch my head and scream into my pillow.  Add some old furniture, a dusty silk flower arrangement and a 1970's TV on a rusty cart, there that will do it. 


Feb 28, 2009 03:00 AM #13
Joanne O'Donnell
Chic Home Interiors - Oakland, CA

Judy, your after is just perfect, a good example of exactly what brings offers in, the other photo is just sad...  When someone tells me (and they do) something like what you heard from that client, I know that stager can't be my competition for long - they can't possibly survive with no margin.  I am always amazed, just thinking of all the costs that go into staging, destaging - rental, transportation on both ends, labor... The folks that did that job either don't need to support themselves through staging or they will not be in business this time next year...

Feb 28, 2009 04:56 PM #14
Judy Heinrich
Judy Heinrich Home Staging - San Diego, CA

Cindy - so sad isn't it?

Lori - I think part of the problem is that people are still uneducated and don't know what they should be looking for. Fortunately, I do work with several agents who "get it".

Ginger - I hate it when they deem it staged and we know it's not, that just gives staging a bad name. I really hope the agent/seller tried to "stage" this one, would hate to think someone is actually calling themselves a stager and producing work like that!

Joanne - Unfortunately, once those stagers that undercut us are out of business because they haven't made any money, there will be several more who think it would be "fun" to be a stager and take their place!  I don't think it will ever end.  On the bright side, they are giving us some good examples to share of bad staging!


Feb 28, 2009 11:45 PM #15
Nathalie Villeneuve
Dazzle Staging and Design - Wallingford, CT

Hi Judy,

The first picture looks like a sand storm came and left taking any signs of life and color with it! You did a great job on your end by the way. Don't forget, what goes around comes around. There is always a natural balance in everything. I'm sure you have some great things coming your way!


Mar 01, 2009 10:48 AM #16
Judy Heinrich
Judy Heinrich Home Staging - San Diego, CA

Nathalie - That's a great description :)  You're right, what goes around comes around... I hope great things are comming my way!

Mar 01, 2009 11:05 AM #17
Dale Staggers
Dramatic Home Staging - Houston, TX
Dramatic Home Staging

WOW Judy!  So that's why I can't get any staging jobs.  And houses aren't selling because of that type of poor service and presentation.

Mar 05, 2009 09:45 AM #18
Gina Dougherty
Fusion Design Consulting - Redondo Beach, CA
Home Staging Redondo Beach, CA-

Judy, the picture says it all.  It appears the builder used old furniture and did it himself.  Staging isn't filling space w/furniture, it's decorating to complement the style of the house and bring it to life for buyers to feel inspired- like the picture of your work.  It can't be a Stager, but if it is, they won't be in business for long.

Mar 07, 2009 05:06 PM #19
Lori Bennett-Davies
Essentials Home Staging - Kitchener, ON
Essentials Home Staging

Judy- as usual--Pictures speak a Thousand words--Congratulations on Your project well done!

Mar 11, 2009 06:07 AM #20
Judy Heinrich
Judy Heinrich Home Staging - San Diego, CA

Dale - You got it right!

Gina - Either the builder or the agent...let's hope it wasn't a "stager"

Lori - Thanks!

Mar 15, 2009 03:26 AM #21
Edgar Marroquin
ABQ Home Staging - Albuquerque, NM

I have also lost out on jobs because of this. My work is very detailed, I believe in creating a lifestyle, more inline with the phychology of staging. You can't create a beautiful home on $1500 and still make your business grow. Impossible.

Apr 06, 2009 01:53 PM #22
Teri Short
Emerald Isle, NC

Judy, I agree. If a seller is not going to hire a good Stager and get it done right, they might as well "stage" it with thrift store furniture, use plastic plants, put tin foil in the windows and get it over with already!!

Have a great day!


p.s. my husband is military too. we live in Maryland right now, but we might move to SoCal this summer (2010) and he'll be stationed at Camp Pendleton. if we do, maybe we can have coffee sometime!


Oct 31, 2009 02:21 AM #23
Judy Heinrich
Judy Heinrich Home Staging - San Diego, CA

Teri - so right!  Good luck with your move to California next'll love it here!

Nov 02, 2009 01:44 AM #24

I wonder how all the professionals got there start and built there portfolios.

Feb 13, 2016 10:51 PM #25
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