Cold Hard Reality: Dying Dreams and Limited Opportunities

Industry Observer

 With each passing week I receive emails with questions from stagers asking me how to approach and solve a myriad of issues and challenges facing them and in their staging business. Some of these are issues QUITE complex and take MORE than just a quick email response. Unfortunately as I work on growing my own business I do not have the time to reply. I would love to help, but I literally could have a career JUST answering the questions and solving the problems that new stagers are asking. But the realty of what has been going on got me to thinking... and asking the question, "Why are stagers having such a tough time creating successful staging businesses?" *

I have concluded that in order for individual home stagers to succeed, the home staging industry needs to look at itself and examine itself and correct that which it is doing wrong if it is to grow to its fullest and experience its greatest possibility.

This post (the first of a series) takes a tough look at one of the "stone cold" realities and dynamics many people who are entering into this industry do not take into consideration. These realities and dynamics compromise the possibility of owning and operating a successful staging business.

First, let me say I am NOT anti-education. However, as a whole, since the home staging training industry is not regulated in any manner, it makes it extremely easy for anyone to open their doors and start a home staging training program... and MANY have. With classes fetching anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000 per student for ONLY one week's worth of training, it is not surprising to see why trainers and courses in home staging are popping up all over. The home staging training industry is a lucrative cash cow.

Home staging foundation training company's have a vested interest and are quite successful at advertising to and enticing people to take their courses. Just go to any company's website and you will see courses on home staging being offered all over the USA and Canada. Plus to make it even easier some companies are offering training in the comfort of the student's home... via the web.

Starry eyed students are buying into the dream that you can take a class in a week... and be a "professional" stager tomorrow. The home staging training industry is a resounding success.

Unfortunately, while home staging training companies have done a GREAT job at selling the dream of being a stager, they have not done an equally effective job at educating the real estate community and the home seller so that they want to invest in the services of their graduates. There is a huge disconnect in the market.... the consumer market is not educated enough to absorb the glutton of stagers that graduate weekly from the multitude of home staging foundation courses offered nationwide.

People who invested their time, money and hearts into these courses to learn how to be a home stager are finding themselves spending a considerable amount of time NOT STAGING, but trying to convince and educate realtors and home sellers on the virtues of home staging. Just becasue Home Staging works, does NOT make it an easy sell. (This totally baffles me... but it is true.)

This is not to say all hope is lost, as there are those who will train to become home stagers and go on to be quite successful. But, it is important for people interested in becoming home stagers to know the realities and dynamics they face.

It would be wonderful if the market for staging services was accepted and growing as fast as the market for training. However, these markets are mutually exclusive of the other! So please, do not make the mistake in believing they are one in the same.

Stage It Forward,

PS: If you are a Realtor reading this... please click on your answer in the Poll on the right. >>>>>>>

THANKS! ABC Orlando News for picking up this very important post on the Home Staging Industry.

*POST SCRIPT: The original opening paragraph of this post has been changed... I incorrectly stated that the featured Oprah Stager was closing her doors. This is not the case... I have learned she is EVOLVING her business.... but not closing. The original text can be seen below in a comment if you want to read it.


Comments (66)

Christy Powers
Keller Williams Coastal Area Partners - Pooler, GA
Pooler, Savannah Real Estate Agent
I don't know many home stagers around here. At least, none have sent me anything or approached us. I think I am going to do a search and see if there are any here.
May 11, 2007 10:44 AM
Toronto's 2 Hounds Design: Decorating + Staging
2 Hounds Design + Home Staging - Toronto, ON

Your question: "Why are stagers having such a tough time creating successful staging businesses?"

I don't think people taking the training are told the truth about it being a hard go, just like any business. To many think it will be simple, just take a 3-5 day course, and put out a sign. But the training institutions make it look this way.

Also, the training does not provide the business marketing theory required to run an ultimately successful business. Graduates are left without a clue as to how to market themselves after the initial start up of their company.

I think those who find AR will be much further ahead than others, due to the number of experienced stagers here and different approaches to learn from.

May 12, 2007 11:25 AM
Melissa Marro
Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team - Orange Park, FL
Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging

If any training organization does not clearly advise students that this is a business - like any other business - then clearly they are not doing their job.  Not only do I drill into my students that hard work, education and significant marketing are key, that it will take time to be profitable (and I advise them that I personally went over $50K in debt my first year due to my desire to focus on vacant home staging), it will take money invested (like any other business) but I also spend one full day of training doing nothing but working on business planning, marketing & goal setting.  I also follow up with my students on a routine basis and answer all phone calls and emails in a timely manner (timely meaning as soon as I can but always within a few hours).  I have recommended to each and every student & member to join AR as a support group. 

I think that people on AR give trainers and training facilities undo responsibility on success.  Sometimes we can do everything possible to ensure the success of our students and they still fail.  This is the same as any other industry.  Ultimately it is the responsibility of the stagers themselves to do the work. 

This is not to say that there aren't trainers out there who simply cash in, take the money, do the week, send their students home without a clue or a care of their future.  I would like to say that not all trainers are like this though.... some of us really care about the success of our students, put reality into perspective & then offer them as much help along the way as we can....

May 12, 2007 12:00 PM
Gail Robinson
William Raveis Real Estate - Southport, CT
CRS, GRI, e-PRO Fairfield County, CT

As a Realtor, I am just starting to use the services of a stager.  I don't understand how you get business as stagers.  It seems to me that I can sell in the services of a stager to my clients easier than a stager contacting my clients directly, but I really don't know enough to be able to sell a stagers services.  I'm just curious.

May 13, 2007 01:06 PM
Lori Matzke

Uggers!!  I am so not a blogger  Who has time??  But every now and then, someone sucks me into your rants and ravings, and what can I say?  Today I feel like ranting back.  :)

So here's my gripe with this post, Craig....I am not sure why staging training always takes such a flogging on here.  But it does.  And there is certainly enough foo flying around that I can't help but roll my eyes. 

First of all, there seems to be a huge misconception about what a home staging course can do for you and what it can't do.  And while I can not personally speak for any other courses out there,  I have heard via the grapevine, that we are not the only company to inform our students of all the pitfalls of starting your own business.  In fact, it's been posted on my website since I've been offering training!  And it is definitely part of the training program.  That said, the problem from my perspective is not that the students are not informed or WARNED of the facts and statistics.  But many show up with stars in their eye's from watching too much HGTV and simply tune it out. 

It never ceases to amaze me when I get an e-mail from a former student complaining that GOLLY, they took the class six whole weeks ago, have yet to put together a portfolio, have yet to put together a website, but they did get off their bum and contact a couple of realtors last week...So why aren't they rolling in clients yet? 

Hmmm.  Perplexing. 

The entire orbit of our training is to show people the realities of professional home staging and starting up their own business.  But the fact is, many people who want to get into professional staging already have a preconceived notion of what it's all about....because, like golly!! They've seen it on HGTV, remember? And doesn't that look like fun?  And gosh, they want to do it, too!!  All they need is that certificate that says they passed a staging course and they are well on their way!!  

REGARDLESS of what we teach them.

The problem is, just like any other business out there...let's take Real Estate for example...there are people who are going to work their keesters off to succeed, take the knowledge they gained, team it with some genuine passion, skill and enthusiasm and run with it.  (FYI - I could share with you plenty of success stories that came directly out of our workshops!!) But then again, there are some people who are going to sit on their hineys and wait for business to come to them.  And there are plenty of those stories out there, too. 

So here's a little heads-up for anyone contemplating any kind of home staging training in the future...

WHAT A STAGING COURSE CAN DO FOR YOU - A decent training program should not only be able to teach you how to advise your clients and finesse your staging skills, it should give you a business and marketing plan of action that will get you up and running without having to guess exactly what steps you need to be taking and in exactly what order. 

WHAT A STAGING COURSE CAN NOT DO FOR YOU - Follow you home and tell you when it's time to turn off the t.v. and get cracking at your marketing materials.  Scold you every time you opt to take an afternoon nap instead of getting off the sofa and heading out to introduce yourself to agents in the area. Smack you in the forehead everytime you decide to waste your time BLOGGING instead of putting together a kick-ass website with some kick-ass before and after photos of your own.  Etc, etc., etc.   

As for people out there teaching staging training courses...well, why the heck not?  What's wrong with that?  No different than seeing a need for staging and marketing your skills to agents and home owners now, is it?  You see an opportunity, you take it.  That's what business is all about.

I personally got into training for two reasons.  1)  There was only one course out there being offered at the time.  And I felt the incredible urge to break up that monopoly.  2)  Like you Craig, I was so bombarded with questions from staging wanna-be's, I could not help them get started and concentrate on my own business at the same time.  I figured if I actually made them PAY for the information, they would stop asking. 

They never stopped there ya go.  

As for my final rant with your post, I have to admit, I feel personally insulted by some of your comments, but these two really struck me as such...

"Home staging foundation training company's have a vested interest and are quite successful at advertising to and enticing people to take their courses."

Give me a break.  We have a website.  That's it.  If people stumble upon us, awesome.  We do nothing else to 'entice' people into taking our courses.  I don't pay a dime to anyone, anywhere to promote us.  I do not get publicity for the training courses.  So kindly do not make statements like this and lump us all into one category. 

"Unfortunately, while home staging training companies have done a GREAT job at selling the dream of being a stager, they have not done an equally effective job at educating the real estate community and the home seller so that they want to invest in the services of their graduates." 

HA!!  Any clue how many articles I have personally written on home staging over the years, let alone instigated and/or contributed to?  Google me.  Or check out the Star Tribune sometime.  I do a bi-weekly column EDUCATING REALTORS AND HOMEOWNERS on the importance of staging their listings for market.  And I still go from city to city doing local television and radio broadcasts, discussing the benefits of home staging, talking to homeowners and realtors on the air to EDUCATE the general population.  (HEY!!  I was even on the old Oprah show in Chicago last spring!!  Did you get a chance to see me??  I sucked!!)  And speaking at as many realtor meetings and home and garden shows as I can.  And do you know why...which FYI started LONG before I ever offered training workshops...because I knew I needed to educate my market for the very reasons you posted.  Without getting the word out to the public, my business would have shriveled up and died had I not gotten the word out.  And 99% of these educational opportunities, I created myself.  I DID NOT WAIT FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT FOR ME!! 

Learning how to successfully educate your own market is part of our training.  In my eyes and based on my own experience and common sense, educating your market should be part of any stagers marketing plan.  So why the heck are you not all doing the same, which would obviously benefit your business directly, instead of simply complaining about it on here??  For all the time and energy you people spend on this blog, I am surprised I do not see more staging articles or hear about more television and radio broadcasts on the benefits of staging your home to sell.  Good greif.  If you truly feel there are more stagers than available staging business opportunities...which I personally do not agree with...


And kindly consider this a direct smack to the forehead!!

May 15, 2007 08:21 PM
Craig Schiller
Trempealeau, WI


First, think of blogging as writing. Nothing more nothing less.  So I answer your first question with a question. When did you find the time to write you book Home Staging: Creating Buyer-Friendly Rooms to Sell Your House ?

Second... there is much in you comment I want to reply on. I will when I have the time. I have work to do.


PS: Kindly know that I would rather make a person THINK with their head them smack in it. Physical violence just ain't cool.

May 16, 2007 01:20 AM
Carol Ellis
Luxury-Domain to Home Stage - Charlottesville, VA
Oh Craig, you smack me in the brain every time I read your stuff!  I consider blogging on this site part of the work I do, which is, educating!  I learn from it and I try to give back to it and I do consider it writing.
May 16, 2007 01:54 AM
Lori Matzke

I guess I forgot to mention...I wrote the book to EDUCATE people on the benefits of Home Staging.  It was a marketing tool for myself, affiliates, and future students.  And it's worked out very well. 

I did the enitre book, which included finding the homes, staging the homes, writing the text, photo shoots, concept and layout, etc.  between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., when I wasn't working on the day-to-day stuff of my actual staging business.  The entire thing, from start to finish, which again included staging, writing and editing, took me a total of 2.5 months.  If only the printer would have been as quick!!

PS - Do I really need to explain the smack was a figurative smack??

May 16, 2007 03:09 AM
Margaret Ann Innis
Decorate To Sell - Merrimack Valley Real Estate Staging - Andover, MA
Real Estate Staging - MA & NH
Lori!  Great comment!  "Get off your keesters!"  Love your perspective!
May 16, 2007 03:37 AM
Phyllis Pafumi
ReStyled to Sell Home Staging New Jersey - Old Bridge, NJ
ReStyled to Sell Staging Homes NJ

Hey Lori

I personally trained with you and YES while your course was great, if we do not take what we learned and APPLY IT by getting off our butts and MEET and GREET (I have said this over and over) then how the heck can business come to us??

I have worked like a dog to sometimes 3 in the morning on my marketing materials, I visited Open Houses, did Gift Certificates for FREE CONSULTS, sent postcards, joined business groups that I had to be at at 7AM every Tues just to network. IT WAS EXHAUSTING. BUT I staged over 50 houses my first year alone!!

Now I admit that that has made me a little lazy, BUT when the phone does not ring as much I up the anty again and continue getting out there marketing and educating all about the benefits of home staging.

THis is NOT EASY work and I resent it when I hear people say what an easy fun way to make a lot of money!! Say that when you are carrying a couch up a flight of icy, snow covered step.

Thanks Lori for giving us all a kick in the butt.

Phyllis Pafumi

ReStyled to SEll Home Staging

May 16, 2007 05:57 AM
Jennie Norris
Sensational Home Staging - Littleton, CO
Denver Regions Premier Home Staging Resource,

Hi Craig,

I could not stay away from this nugget and I have to agree 100% with Lori - and I thank her for putting it out there with so clearly.  Have you actually attended a class to offer up the blog thoughts or is it based on speculation?  I am just curious because I respect your views . . . Using someone else's reasons (translation: excuses) for why they found it hard to succeed doesn't count either - because usually when someone does not make it in Staging - the only thing or person to "blame" (for lack of a better word) is themselves.  They did not put out the effort to get rewards.  I can't speak for all training companies out there but I am familiar with most of the larger ones, and I have to say, this is not what I see and hear is happening.

Targeting the classes now for the problems in the industry - it just does not fly with those that have actual experience - and on both sides.  AND I know there is cause and effect - and the MARKET DOES create a NEED for Stagers - that's why the classes fill upWhen Staging begins to grow in an area, it grows not because a bunch of people decide to "BE A STAGER" - it grows because there is a service need - and these people realize they can fill that need.  To me - I see it opposite of what you wrote - find a need and fill it.  In my market, the Staging took off when the market needed it to and not the other way around.

There are many, many Stagers that are successful and doing LOTS of work.  These same Stagers could have been in a class with an individual that will proclaim, "There is just no work here." or "No one where I live wants to hire a Stager."  Attitude is Key.  Truth is - when someone is focused on a goal and has a strong motivation they WILL achieve what they set out to do. When the motivation - the WHY - is not strong enough when the challenges come (and they will) those people give up.  It's sad but true - AND it happens in EVERY industry!  I actually tell students that the 80/20 rule applies in our industry too.  That is not my rule - it is a rule of thumb for business.  Those that put forth effort strategically and are patient for success, and are in it for the long term, will do the bulk of the work.

There is no "end all" of education for Staging.  Have you learned it ALL yet?  I doubt it.  Neither have I.  There are ideas related to Staging that have not even been discovered yet.  To expect any training company to provide it ALL is unrealistic.  If you have taken a class, you would know that there is a limit to how much a brain can absorb as well.  When I teach, the goal is to give a good foundation and then it's up to the individual to put the steps in place to properly set up and market their business.  Make no mistake, the classes are taught with the clear understanding that it takes WORK to succeed.  I have not seen any course offered that guarantees income, or says it's so easy to be a Stager.  That is NOT being sold to a person looking at being a Stager. 

The culprits of the misperception really are often the family and friends that tell a person - "You should be a Stager - you have such a flair for decorating."  And then they research what they want to do - some decide to take a class, they invest $$ in a class, and then when they have no business skills to back it up - they struggle.  Also people we work with - they often have that impression.  They see what we do as so fun - we get to shop, and Stage. And they are not seeing the WORK that went into getting a job in the first place, the planning, they physical side of Staging, the sweating that goes on.  Staging is NOT glamorous, but it IS rewarding.  And it takes money to make money - so there is an investment to set up a business- basic costs to the investment in inventory for those that choose to pursue that avenue of income. 

What a good course should do is offer a foundation, and then ongoing support and help.  We don't want people to struggle, but as Lori wrote, we don't follow people home and hand-hold.  The company I train with gives opportunities to be mentored for free, paid coaching services, free networking to get around successful Stagers in the same market, to learn, to stay plugged in, conference calls, monthly meetings, annual convention, and more.  I can't tell you the number of Stagers that CHOOSE not to participate in things that would help them succeed.  It is a CHOICE and the person responsible is the individual.

The fact is, you can lead a horse to water and yet you can't force them to drink.  If someone really wants to succeed, they have to take ACTION.  Those that have fallen by the wayside - there was no shortage of work in Staging - they just did not want to put out the action to get results.  It boils down to motivation! Those that are willing to get out and DO get the rewards.  When it is set up as a BUSINESS from the start with professional systems in place to marketing activity, then it rewards like a business.

As for the educating of the public - as Lori stated, there are hundreds of articles that share about Staging benefits that help drive business to Stagers.  Many of the articles feature Stagers found through training organizations, or the organization itself.  The awareness of Staging comes from the foot-soldiers of Stagers that are TAUGHT what to say to a particular audience to help educate them.  They are coached what to say - but then they have to actually open their mouths.  To state that is not happening is not acknowledging the truth as all you have to do is look at the hundreds of articles found on Staging and see who they feature and why.

And because there are so many avenues of business for a Stager - many of which have NOTHING to do with the sale of a house - there is no shortage of work for all of us.  Planting a seed of fear in people to make them think that the market will be flooded with Stagers and we will all lose income or painting a doomsday picture of the future of Staging - is not telling the reality of the situation.  With over 240 million people in the US, and millions of home owners, 1.2 Million licensed REALTORS, and many more agents . . . there is no shortage of work.  What I have learned is the more people that know about Staging, the more Stagers we will need!  One person could not Stage an entire city or even for one entire Real Estate office of 20+ or more agents - if all the agents were using Staging for all their listings.  You or I would burn out and we would NEED more help!  And as I said above, there are many services we can offer as Stagers that have nothing to do with selling - so even in a slow market, there are many avenues of income.  It's all HOW we MARKET ourselves and carve out niches that count.

So the issue at hand is how to get the sellers and Realtors on board by continuing to educate them, using what is taught through various methods - classes, online, real-life experience - and not discourage people from following their passion.

- Jennie

May 16, 2007 08:45 AM
Dana Dickey
Inside Redesign, LLC - Cadiz, KY

Interesting that so many individuals missed Craig's points entirely.  But, that's another blog somewhere else.

Today I learned that someone in the small town (~6000 pop), lake community I live in decided to become a staging "person" as she explained it.   I have owned a successful business here for 4 years decorating, staging and remodeling for clients.  She told me that she would be needing to rent a large space to hold furniture and accessories and wanted to rent space from a friend of mine.  She said she can't wait to take a course and says she already knows how to pick good color and hang pictures and rearrange furniture so staging will be an easy business to start.  In fact, she said that she was told this when she called for information.  She is even excited to have "lots of people in her class!  I almost fell off my chair when I heard her tell me this. 

Here's what this person will do: she will take a class from (who she has chosen), spend whatever the cost of the class is with about 50 other people (she was told this already).  Go to a home that has barely reviewed before they stage it, stand in a room with about 10-15 or MORE people who have no clue what to do and then clap and hooray when the homeowner comes home.   Then she will leave, come home excited about what she thinks she knows, set up meetings with realtors who will smile and nod and listen to her.  She'll market all she can and hope she gets calls. I mean, it's a buyer's market, right?  There are lots of homes out there that need our services.........

Craig said earlier, and I quote "Unfortunately, while home staging training companies have done a GREAT job at selling the dream of being a stager, they have not done an equally effective job at educating the real estate community and the home seller so that they want to invest in the services of their graduates. There is a huge disconnect in the market.... the consumer market is not educated enough to absorb the glutton of stagers that graduate weekly from the multitude of home staging foundation courses offered nationwide. 

HE IS RIGHT.   Who has legitimized the industry?  Barb Schwartz?  Absolutely not.  She's marketed the industry extremely well but she has not legitimized it, otherwise, every state would be hiring staging professionals to sell homes too.  That's the challenge for the next few years.  How to tackle it is the next big idea. 

Oh, no Barb bashing here, not really.  She has been successful in creating a business for herself and done a great job doing it.  Gotta love her for that.

May 16, 2007 12:10 PM
Jennie Norris
Sensational Home Staging - Littleton, CO
Denver Regions Premier Home Staging Resource,

I really hoped we could blog about a topic without singling out one group - and yet here it is again.  There are MANY training companies and when someone calls for information more than what you shared above is relayed to them, and there is comprehensive information on what they will receive in class and what it takes to succeed.  Her impression may have been that it is easy, and whether or not that was actually shared with her is irrelevant because in the training that you singled out, I KNOW with 100% certainty that the fact that Staging is WORK and it is a BUSINESS will be hit home to her when she is class.  Having many people in a class creates synergy and actually builds in a network for business and ongoing support from the start - so it is a good thing, not something to mock.  I can tell you - the class offers a heck of a lot more than what you reflected above and to be fair, unless you have actually taken a class to offer an assessment of what they are or are not getting, it is not fair to single out - yet again - the ASPs, or Barb. 

As I wrote above - many trainers are out there, not all of them are of the same professional caliber, and so there is a sort of "buyer beware " mentality - which is why it IS good to research various options.  The SHC program is well rounded, as are others, and the only element is NOT clapping with glee over a house that is Staged.  However, that element of actually going out to a house to Stage it is one of the BEST ways to put into immediate practice the theories and philosophies being taught and more than one company that trains has this as a key part of their program.  The success of all who attend any class is in the effort AFTER the class is over.

Let's keep it general - Please. I have had enough of the picking on one company and blaming all the ills of the Staging world on Barb or ASPs or to last me a lifetime!  If you notice, neither Lori, nor I, nor Melissa mentioned our company names where we train - and that I figure was intentional - at least it was on my part - as this blog was not about evaluating or trashing ONE company - it was a general assessment of what training offers.  I stand by my evaluation and agree again with Lori that training is a good thing - and yet what creates SUCCESS is WORK and ACTION and BELIEF and CONSISTENCY.  The failure of a Stager is not in what is taught - it is in what is APPLIED after the class ends.

- Jennie

May 16, 2007 03:01 PM
Craig Schiller
Trempealeau, WI

Lori: First let me say I think we are VERY MUCH on the same page.

This post was NOT directed at any single training organization. I have tried to help this industry and list as many training courses on my "pretty" site as possible. I wanted people interested in staging have one site they could go to to quickly find all the options (good bad & ugly) they had when it comes to home staging foundation training.  To-date I have posted 32 links to training sites including your site (and your book.)  (There are more than just 32, but I have not had the time to update my link list.) 

There seems to be home staging trainers and their course popping up left and right. Recently, I stumbled on a trainer that offers ONE DAY HOME STAGING for $250!!!!  THIS really ticked me off... whether you like it or not they are NOW part of the Staging Training Industry that you are part of. I believe THEY should share in the RESPONSIBILITY of education I say the training industry needs to provide so that their graduates can be absorbed into  the market.

You see home staging businesses and home staging schools (which also are businesses) are governed by the basic laws of Supply & Demand. If we have many schools churning out graduates we need to have a consumer market that wants to invest in the services of the stager (demand). If we have TOO many stagers, for what the market can tolerate, then the price for the services goes down. THIS is what is happening. Schools are getting the students... but there are not enough jobs upon "graduation".

There have been those of you who HAVE worked hard a educating the public. I know you have, as has Barb Schwarz and others. But it is going to take MORE, if MORE students are going to be churned out. (Remember: MORE Staging Schools = More Students=More Staging Graduates) Am I saying this burden lies solely on you or Barb? Good God no.

You say you share the pitfalls of this biz to students. That's GREAT. My Blog on Home Staging is read by many people within the industry and it is also read by those looking to get in industry. This post was MY fair warnings as to the pitfalls and realities of owning and operating a home staging business.

You took offense to my statement: "Home staging foundation training companys have a vested interest and are quite successful at advertising to and enticing people to take their courses." What the heck is wrong with that? YOU DO advertise and YOU DO get people to sign up for your classes. YOU DO make money off of this. AND... there is NOTHING wrong with doing so.  YOU and OTHERS have been successful at this. WONDERFUL! GREAT! THAT IS THE AMERICAN WAY. I am NOT saying this is wrong!  Cost effectively advertising (via just a website) that sells (entices) your services IS what you should be doing. I did NOT mean this as a dirty thing. 

My point was is that a Home Staging Business and Homes Staging Training School are 2 separate and distinct businesses types. The Supple & Demand in their respective markets are NOT mirror images of each other. I think Schools are doing a better job at selling their training services to students than their graduates are doing selling their staging services to consumers.

(Side note... it is refreshing that you can poke some fun at yourself. Thanks for the levity in the middle of your comment.)

Lori it comes BACK to the multitude of Training Companies that are popping up. This is what I "flog" in my blog. As they churn out graduates the market will be impacted. I always say the cream will rise to the top. Even one of the newbie trainers COULD end up being the best of the best.

As for opportunity.  Again, I agree. You are 100% right... there are ZILLIONS of opportunities to stage. But just because YOU see opportunity does NOT mean the consumer market see and embracing the possibility of what staging has to offer. THAT is a biggest mistake I think many people who enter this industry make. They see and get "IT" and think everyone else should/will/does. Reality is the consumer market is still working on "seeing and getting" what staging is and why they should use it.

THIS is the education (of the consumer market) I think MORE needs to be done within. I think schools have an OBLIGATION to not only train but make sure they can PLACE their students. It is a Supply & Demand thing.  With home staging still being a new concept that the consumer market is still learning of, if schools are going to generate a supply of students... then they should help generate the demand for their students.


May 16, 2007 11:27 PM
Craig Schiller
Trempealeau, WI

Dana... Thank you. I tried to make CLEARER what I posted originally. I just hope people don't read into or between the lines. THIS is not simple black and white stuff.

But if we don't discuss it.... then it stays where it is.


May 16, 2007 11:51 PM
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging,

Thought to ponder.... Does a college graduate expect their Alma Mater to place them in job once they've finished school? Or is it up to the individual to get themselves out there, network, get a resume together, call family, friends and acquaintances to see if there's a job opening? 

I believe that is a message we all need to keep in mind.  Onward staging soldiers...

May 17, 2007 01:13 AM
Jennie Norris
Sensational Home Staging - Littleton, CO
Denver Regions Premier Home Staging Resource,

If we have TOO many stagers, for what the market can tolerate, then the price for the services goes down. THIS is what is happening. Schools are getting the students... but there are not enough jobs upon "graduation".

Hey Craig - respectfully, I have to disagree here - and not because I train.  I Stage too and in my market we have gone from 1 Stager (me) to over 100 in 5 years. I have not slowed down, I have increased the number of people needed on our team, we have calls coming in and continue to expand our client base.  The new people did not take our business, and prices have not gone down.  They continue to rise.  We have seen a 33% increase in rates we charge from the inception of Staging in this market.  In some markets, the price increase has been significantly higher.  I wonder if you have actually done a poll to proclaim this - because what you write and what I have found from both polls AND teaching across the country contradicts that statement.  And since I do have the opportuntity to get to other markets and talk to those that are out there, I know that the prices for Staging are rising in most areas.  If they have not risen, they have not gone backward.  There are studies on this very topic, and in one year, the hourly range rose from $75-$125 to $85-$150.  This was based on nationwide numbers the Stagers turned in.

Maybe you are upset because you have to actually compete for business now because there are more Stagers in your market and you are not the only game in town.  That does happen as more enter the market, but as steel sharpens steel - having competition raises the game for us all - and makes us get better. I experienced that - and I don't win every job I go after, but we are not slowing down, and our prices are not going down.  We don't make PRICE the determining factor when there are other issues such as reputation, rapport, experience, availability - that come into play and in many instances are more important.

Not all the Stagers that have been trained have gone on to success - the attrition rate for our industry is not "special" nor should it be expected to be - it follows the same pattern of success in the business world for any industry.  But I'll tell you this - there are 13,000 Realtors in our market - and we are FAR from the point where ALL of them get it and are using Staging.  So the OPPORTUNITY is still very BIG.  Many of your markets (for those reading) have thousands more - like in Phoenix - 40,000-60,000 Realtors in the greater Phoenix regional market!!  I know in the Chicago area - you have thousands more than I do!  That is HUGE opportunity!  And don't forget the SELLERS that call us directly now as a result of the exposure found online AND with the MEDIA in general.

If someone feels that they are not worth their value and drop prices to get a job, they will devalue the market.  That is why getting training on HOW to price yourself for value is importantSee the training classes DO bring value!  One of the core principles that we suggest is to not under-cut the market to get business.  I can speak for the group I am associated with that we really honor that principle, and there is accountability if someone does not do it.  So that is a good reason to be associated with others too.  We openly discuss rates so that a new person KNOWS what the going rates are, so the market is not going down.  I wonder how many of the Stagers out there have ever sat down with a "competitor" and told them how to price, what to do, and how to do it right.  I have - many times I have sent over 90 people to take classes - essentially creating my own competition - and by the way, this was BEFORE I was ever a trainer.

My reason?  I was NOT going to stop these people from getting in to the Staging business, so I at least wanted them to have a foundation and have a benchmark of excellence for our region.  These people did not find out about Staging by having a random search on a website just cruising the internet- and "OH - Gee there is a site about Training to be a Stager. Hmmm - I think I want to be a Stager! Yeah!"  It does not work that way. 

What happens is THEY Decide FIRST to be a Stager - and make that decision not because of the Training Companies - but because they have a gift, an eye, a DESIRE to follow their passion - and then they find that there is a business they can wrap around this gift and talent.  THAT is how it happens.  Then the training companies help set these people on a course for success, which they then have to take ACTION in order to succeed.

I have openly shared with dozens of Stagers - helped them avoid the same pitfalls I experienced.  We can't stop people from wanting to do what we do - and we can't blame the training companies!  They are a resource, but it takes a DESIRE for someone to BE a Stager - FIRST. 

If you really want to point a finger - aim it at all those "bad" Realtors that are adding Staging as a key tool for their businesses so they can gain an edge, or the homeowners that want their houses to sell in the best time and for the best price - and need a 3rd party opinion.  They are the ones ASKING for help - and when they know someone that has a flair and talent - they suggest "Hey you should be a Stager - you really have a gift."  Tell me I am not right there - how many of you on AR ever had someone suggest that to you?

Supply and Demand - the training classes are not creating the demand - the Real Estate industry is and the people that want to sell their houses are - and the media is and all the positive exposure and results from Staging. The training companies are NOT planting the seed!  They just help them come to fruition!

- Jennie

May 17, 2007 03:55 AM
Angela Brooks
Certified Staging Professionals - Saint Catharines, ON

Okay, Craig, I am hijacking your Blog, adding a positive twist!

I love marketing! Everyone wants to be good at it, but if you are successful it is classified as "Thou$and$ are being shilled out to suck people in."  Smiles at Lori (edit)* no offense taken, I know that words are a funny thing and perception can only be changed by the person reading it.

Here is a marketing theory this marketing director (of a successful staging training company)works by and will share with everyone...

You will be successful in staging if your marketing consist of the 3 B's.

Be There! - Be where people who are looking will find you. If they know they need your services or product, where would they look? Ask yourself, if I was selling my house, where would I look to find a stager to hire? If you are a home staging consultant, you would want to be there!

Be an Expert! - You have a solution to a problem, but the person with the problem doesn't know you can solve it for them, OR they don't even know they have the problem. You need to educate them! Through articles, online, newspapers, magazines, direct mail, TV, workshops, presentations, anywhere people will look to learn more about your industry.  If you educate the ones with the problem, and you are the one that makes them say "AHA!" Who do you think they will go to when they are ready for help? You, because you enlighten many others, so you must be an expert!

Be Referred! - If your customer service is exceptional, and others believe your product or service can help others, you will be referred!

I believe we are a great staging training program because ...we are there, we are an expert, and we are referred!

May 17, 2007 01:20 PM
Lori Matzke www.centerstage

OOPS!!  That was my post!! 

 First of all...DANA - I did not miss his point at all.  I totally got it.  But I chose to comment only on the issues I personally resented.  First thing I said was "I'm not a blogger!"  So had I hit on EVERY point of disagreement, it would have become my second book. 

Craig - Again, I totally get what you are saying, but when you mention "Foundation Training Courses" what comes to mind are the established training courses, not the trainers who learn about staging today and train tomorrow.  Since I do not consider "Training Courses" in general to be the foundation of this industry, that may be where some of the confusion comes in.  I guess it has always been my belief that actual STAGING is the foundation of this industry.

While I agree, courses and workshops are popping up like dandelions, I disagree that they are responsible for 'job placement.'  These aren't 5 year-olds taking the workshops.  Most students I train are usually well beyond their college years.  So you don't think they are intelligent enough to make that decision for themselves?  I'm sure most would find that insulting.

While I can't speak for other training, the most expensive course we offer is the 4-Day Workshop which covers Staging, Re-Design, and Business and Marketing.  The cost is $1499.00.  Back in the late 1980's, at the tender age of NONE-OF-YOUR-BEEZWAX, I started working part-time for a catering company.  They needed a bartender for private parties.  So I went to the Minnesota School of Bartending.  It cost me $1100.00 and lasted three days.  I worked exactly two parties for the catering company, earned about $400.00 in tips and wages, and then they went out of business.  So here I sit with a bartending license...and I don't even drink.  Do I go back for a refund?  Ask them to help me find a job??  I am pretty sure they wouldn't do either.

 What about all the Realtors they are pumping out on a daily basis?  In Minneapolis, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting one.  So when the Realtor pool get's full, who should be responsible for saying, "OK, no more Realtors for a while."  Maybe the NAR?  What about Dental Schools?  When things get slow, the schools should start handing out free bubble gum to consumers?  Etc. Etc. Etc.

YES - I believe all those trainers should be pulling their own weight to educate realtors and homeowners.  But guess what?  I believe that of any home stager, as well.  In the end, it is up to the individual whether they fail or succeed. 

A website as advertisement?  Possibly.  Which costs me exactly $275.00 to maintain each year.  So really, not a whole lot of money pumped into that.  I think you are over exaggerating.  If you pay to be at the top of the heap, then yes.  Thou$and$ are being shilled out to suck people in.  I'm not one of them.

I know where you are aiming here, but when you say these kind of things, I DO get lumped into the same category.  And do you really believe the majority of your readers know the difference?  I doubt it.  I simply request you be more careful of who and what you make an example of.  It gives us all a bad name...not just those you have in mind personally.

May 17, 2007 02:54 PM
Gary White~Grand Rapids Home Selling Pro Call: 616-821-9375
Flexit Realty "Flexible Home Selling Solutions" - Grand Rapids, MI
Real Estate Services You can Trust!
Nice Post....hits the facts in the face.
May 17, 2007 11:11 PM