Should Real Estate Pros and Stagers Join Forces?

By Erica Christoffer

In an effort to form a more perfect union between real estate practitioners, home stagers, and sellers, Matt Stigliano with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio is proposing a new business model. In his ActiveRain blog post, he suggests that practitioners and stagers pair up and charge a joint commission rate to offer their combined services to a seller.

This partnership, Stigliano says, would alleviate seller apprehension about paying for staging costs upfront. The commission would be higher, but it could be approached as a “no money down” option to have a team of professionals working to sell the home.

“The commission is a risk-based pay structure,” Stigliano says. “Maybe with a commission, the stagers would be willing to take that risk.”

The stager would be present at the listing presentation to share their ideas for the home. Instead of staging being a one-time service, having a commission may motivate a staging pro to come back and check on the home – even modify their initial decor ideas until the house is sold.

“It would create a team between the agent, stager, and seller,” Stigliano said. “Sellers like the idea [of staging], and they know it helps – maybe this is the trick to getting them over the cost hump.”

Stigliano has yet to try this business model himself, but says he would if he found a stager who is willing.

“It’s frustrating to me because I have homes I would love to have staged, but the sellers don’t have the cash,” says Stigliano.

In less than 24 hours, Stigliano had nearly 100 comments on his blog post, with opinions varying greatly on the topic. Even if his idea doesn’t come to fruition, Stigliano says it’s worth getting people talking and thinking of ideas outside the box.

<br /> <a href=”” mce_href=””>Would you team up with a stager and charge a joint commission rate?</a><span style=”font-size:9px;” mce_style=”font-size:9px;”>(<a href=”” mce_href=””>online surveys</a>)</span><br />

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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  1. Teaming up with home-stager is a good idea in my opinion. Financial problem can always be managed by the professional stager himself, home seller, or even the third party possible. One thing for sure is that staging will really enrich the effectiveness of real estate marketing and vice versa. Visit us also and know more about building solar panel. This would be useful to the industry you hold surely. Thanks.

  2. Absolutely brilliant idea, Matt!

    Real estate staging is the most powerful and effective tool a realtor can carry in their marketing toolbox . . . . Staging is real, it works (statistics prove it) and teaming up with a stager will show a realtor’s clients that they are informed, savvy, and know that “selling” doesn’t sell a house — “unique and creative marketing” sells it!

    If realtors truly want to differentiate themselves in their industry – they should take the time to learn what staging is really all about and how it can become an integral part of their marketing mix; adding exponentially to their success.

    As the saying goes — “try it – you’ll like it” — and so will a realtor’s client when their house sells faster and for more money! Words couldn’t ring more true — “an investment in staging will ALWAYS be less than a seller’s (and their realtor’s), first price reduction!

  3. Erica – Thanks for taking the time to chat about this the other day and putting this up here. I’d love to see some more interest generated in the idea and perhaps a few test cases to see how it goes. I’m still on a hunt for a San Antonio stager that likes the idea.

    Look forward to hearing from more people on the idea.

  4. We do work with many agents who treat us as a partner in preparing their listing for success. Before they list, they are on the phone with us, coordinating meetings and developing a staging plan. Sometimes the agents pay for some of the staging, or reimburse the seller a portion of the expense at closing.

    Personally, our income would increase under this business model – in the last two weeks we’ve staged two vacant homes that were sold within hours of our staging. In 2009 we’ve only had one staged home not sell – overpriced and that resulted in a deed in lieu.

    While we own our inventory, many stagers rent furnishings to stage homes, and in this situation, this business model would not work. Another thought – no stager could afford to have their inventory sit in a home that was overpriced or had severe maintenance issues that weren’t addressed – it would be difficult to offer this to all sellers as some won’t be realistic on price/maintenance issues.

    Persuading sellers to pay a higher commission – even though these agents are providing premium services is the big challenge.

  5. As I said on the Active Rain blog, I am all for the commission-based model but I do think Margaret brings up a good point.

    What about the “toxic listings” which are priced too high and don’t sell? If a staging company stages a vacant home and the seller backs out, we have A LOT more expenses to cover and more to lose than an agent does. So, like Realtors do, we would have to factor in “lost sales” as a cost of doing business, and raise prices accordingly to absorb that cost.

    Also, I’d like to point out that stagers do not typically make a lot of money. I know, because I coach, consult with and train stagers every day. We’ve also conducted 2 industry surveys which indicate that the majority of stagers NET less than $10,000 annually. Most aren’t even able to pay themselves a salary. Being underpaid for the valuable service stagers provide the plague of our industry, as far as I’m concerned.

    As a side note… our company is doing something that has been working well for all. We offer a delayed payment option but we provide huge incentives to pay up front (20% discount), because, in essence, we are loaning the client money if they pay later. With a small business, cash flow is king. In our case, we pay the stagers who work for us right after the work is done so a commission-based model would definitely merit higher prices.

    Most of our clients see that paying 20% more to “finance” doesn’t make sense, so if they truly don’t have the cash, they are better off putting their bill on a credit card with a lower interest rate, then paying that off at closing.

    Loaning money and managing the bookeeping, closing dates and payment tracking for a model like this takes more time and resources, so the bottom line is, it will increase the cost of staging to the customer. Then again, if you’re a stager who is doing this, you are offering more value, and almost a completely new service, so it should command a higher price tag.

  6. In a twist to this very scenario…

    Another agent and I (I am a Broker) have teamed up to do just what you are suggesting and have taken it a step further!

    We meet with the Seller together. While my partner reviews comps and pricing I take pictures and notes. I provide a pre-listing evaluation summary to the Seller with a check list of what needs to happen before the listing. Once these items are complete I stage the property and once listed I am the prime marketer. My partner schedules Obeo to come out, is the official listing agent, handles all the contracts and is the expert negotiator. At the closing I receive a percentage of the listing agent’s commission.

    Honestly, it is unfathomable to me that any agent would list a house without some staging (whether using what the Sellers have or hiring a pro). Buyers really expect to see ultra clean homes that look like models. Listing agents get a nice percentage of the home sale and Sellers should expect that they get more than an MLS listing, sign, and a couple of pictures.

    Pairing up realtors and stagers is long overdue!

  7. kria

    I just stage it myself. I have over the years collected quite a few things to do that with and I made the investment. But if I were to use a stager this is the senerio I would use.

  8. One issue that might need to be worked through is the fact that as Agents we are not allowed to pay a commission to anyone other than another real estate licensed person. If the stager is a licensed agent than they can receive a portion of the commission but if they are not licensed than we can not give them a portion of the commission. Does anyone have a work around for this scenario?

  9. Sandra

    As a Realtor with a lot of experience, I believe “staging” a home can be very helpful. However, a past listing client hired a stager online for one of my “upper end” vacant listings. The stager brought in furnishings that in my opinion, did not improve the saleability of the home (very tired and “used” sofa and chairs). In fairness, some of the other accessories looked nice. This stager charged the owner quite a large sum up front, and additional monthly charges after the first 90 days.

    Toward the end of the listing, another realtor (associated with the stager), “previewed” the property several times. Luckily, this listing sold before the listing expired. I believe I was competing with the “stager” before the listing sold. If stagers were Realtors, they would be required to work under the same “ethics”.

  10. I have always offered my sellers this tool– I have them pay the fee up front and when the property closes I will reimburse them the staging fee. It is a great marketing tool and a great asset to the seller.

  11. I read recently that sometimes vacant properties are staged, photographed, then un-staged. This minimizes furniture rental expenses. The idea is to have photos only to get buyers out to the property.

    Anyone find this effective?

  12. This post make me think of what to do with my clients and other projects. Thanks for posting this topic, it surely help me a lot.

  13. Yes, they should join forces to be able to gain more clients. With this, a sure income is in store for them.