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What to Look for When Choosing a Home Stager

By Charlene Storozuk, Dezigner Digz

BEFORE

BEFORE

With the growing number of home staging training schools popping up to make a fast buck, the result is a glut of “home stagers” in the marketplace with absolutely no experience and no idea of how to run a business.

Are you willing to put your client’s largest investment into the hands of someone without the expertise necessary to get the results you need? This could turn out to be a very costly mistake.

Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting a home stager:

Lowest Quote/Free Consultations

Beware of home stagers that come in at a much lower bid than others. Usually it’s reflected in the quality of accessories and furniture that they will provide.

AFTER

AFTER

Some home stagers may offer you free home staging consultations. As my parents always told me, “nothing in life is ever free”.  There’s always a catch and in this case, it may be that he or she has absolutely no experience and may give your client potentially harmful advice.

Web Site

Make sure that the home stager has a professional Web site; not just a “cookie-cutter” mini-site provided through their training school.  In today’s world, anyone serious about doing business must have a Web site.

If the home stager you are considering hiring does not have one, perhaps he or she is more of a hobbyist.

Having a Web site demonstrates that the home stager means business and takes a serious approach to what they do. Make sure you look for testimonials from other real estate professionals as this speaks volumes as to their credibility and capability.

Portfolio

When interviewing your home stager, ask to see either prints or a CD of photos from his or her portfolio. If they don’t have this, you should pass on this person.

In today’s world of technology, with the click of a mouse, photos can be taken from one home stager’s Web site and plunked onto another’s site and passed off as their work.

If the home stager did in fact do the work, she will have photographs that she can show you. She will probably have several photos of the same room taken from different angles than what appears on her Web site.

This is one way of proving who actually performed the staging if there ever is a discrepancy. A “copy-and-paste stager” would not be able to supply these other shots.

Also, if the home stager’s portfolio consists of only a few photos, there’s a chance that these are photos taken from a group staging project at their training school and not actual work that the home stager has completed on his or her own.

Stock Photos

This really falls under the Portfolio heading, but it’s so important, that it deserves its own heading. When checking the home stager’s Web site, be sure that the portfolio section of their Web site isn’t made up of stock photos.

The portfolio only should contain their work so it does not mislead the public.

Look for the True Portfolio logo on their Web site. Not all professional home stagers will have this logo, so don’t base your decision just on that, but the logo is one indication that these are in fact photos of their own work.

Members of the Real Estate Staging Association are banned from using stock photos in the portfolio section of their site. If they are caught doing this, they will be called before the Ethics Committee.

Business Insurance

Ask for proof of insurance coverage: both commercial general liability and errors & omissions insurance. A professional home stager will not set foot in a client’s home without having proper coverage. The liabilities are just too great (for both parties).

Business Contract

Ensure that the home stager uses a contract as part of their business practice. There are some home stagers that don’t. You want to make sure that your client is protected.

Real Estate Staging Association

Lastly, but certainly not least, check the Real Estate Staging Association’s Web site at www.realestatestagingassociation.com to see if the home stager is a member. All members are held to a strict code of ethics.

Some RESA members also have chosen to participate in RESA’s Staging Excellence Alliance program, which is similar to a Better Business Bureau for Home Stagers. It will give you added comfort to know that they subscribe to the standards set out by that program.

Also, some RESA members have now elected to work toward receiving the home stager designation of RESA-PRO,which holds its recipients to business, ethics, and integrity standards in the industry. Home stagers with the RESA-PRO designation are prohibited from using stock photos anywhere on their Web site; not just the portfolio section. Also mandated through this designation is a continuing education program, similar to that of a Realtor®.

As you can see, you need to consider lots of things before hiring a home stager. The decision should not be taken lightly since there is a lot riding on it.

Don’t be left looking like the bad guy with your client if something goes wrong. Make sure you do your homework before choosing your home stager.

Charlene Storozuk

Charlene Storozuk

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Charlene Storozuk is the owner of Dezigner Digz, a professional home staging and interior decorating company based in Burlington, Ontario. Her work is featured in the book FabJob Guide To Become A Home Stager, 2009 edition. She serves as regional vice-president, Canada for the Real Estate Staging Association and is a past recipient of the North American Leadership Award for her work as founder and president of the Halton & Hamilton-Wentworth RESA Chapter.

Comments
  1. Oh, so true. I’ve been a bit confused when seeing stagers advertise FREE Consultations. We had this discussion at our last RESA Chapter meeting and yes, the conclusion is a play on words, really FREE Estimate. I specialize in Occupied Staging and charge for consultations because I always share valuable insight. RESA-Pro is the way to go, guess I need to update that info on my website.

    Fabulous Post Charlene!

  2. You make some excellent points Charlene. Contracts and Insurance are critical and stock photos are a No-No! The “Home Staging” industry is unregulated and all you need to do is to hang up a shingle and call yourself a “Home Stager”. This is precisely why I started my own Home Staging Training Program, I want to help raise the bar on the level of professionalism in our industry in an affordable, personal venue as opposed to wanting “to make a fast buck”. (there are no fast bucks in this industry!) I believe in what I do, and how I do it, and I believe education is key to getting my message out there.

    I am a graduate of Parsons School of Design and I first started “home staging” over 28 years ago (we called it Interior Merchandising back then). I believe the best way to determine who to hire to help you merchandise your real estate property is to view their portfolio and to interview them. There are far too many professional staging organizations, some of them very reputable, to narrow your search by promoting just one. I don’t belong to any Home Staging organization. I’ve been “staging” successfully for far too long to have a group dictate to me how I should do it.

    As in any industry, there are some stagers with the utmost integrity/professionalism and some with out any, regardless of their affiliation. You do “get what you pay for” and I also think “the proof is in the pudding”!

  3. Good points. I’ve written on this subject a number of times and would add that potential clients should ask to visit an active, staged property to see in person the quality of work and furnishings used. Also, RESA – for a fee – will accept untrained “home stagers” into membership and legitimizes them. International Association of Home Staging Professionals® (IAHSP®) is the first and original home staging organization founded by the Creator of Home Staging Barb Schwarz, and requires completed training for members. The founder of RESA was a past employee of Barb Schwarz.

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