By Felicia Pulley, Real Estate Staging Association
Some real estate agents don’t understand how home staging actually works. The Real Estate Staging Association recently spoke to home stagers and asked them what they wish real estate agents better understood about professional home staging. The following are some of the most common misunderstandings they cited:
1. Staging is not interior design.
A professional home stager is an interior designer in reverse. Their objective is to make a home look as inviting as possible to a broad audience. So in other words, they take away design elements rather than introducing new ones.
Decluttering a house is always the first thing on a seller’s to-do list. Professional stagers simply organize and fine-tune that process. When all the extraneous items are taken away, the stager may add some neutral touches that will help buyers see themselves in the home. (Learn more about the process: The Consumer’s Guide to Real Estate Staging.)
2. Professional home stagers have a lot of overhead.
Home stagers wish real estate agents and sellers understood that their overhead can be pretty high. They maintain constantly rotating inventory and storage or warehouse costs. They also have to pay for transportation and gas, as well as ordinary business expenses such as insurance, payroll, and business licenses. “I wish other agents would understand the cost of labor these days,” says Klara Dove, a home stager and REALTOR®. “It’s not just about hauling a couch over there. The moving prices with labor that’s insured is expensive. Movers make more money than I do sometimes!” (Tip: Find out the laws in your state regarding moving expenses and income taxes. In some states, sellers can deduct certain moving expenses, and staging service may be included.)
Laura Jones, founder of Home Harmony, says the cost of home staging can pay off in the end. “I wish agents realized how much less staging a home professionally is versus a $10,000 to $20,000 price reduction when they don’t get an offer in a reasonable timeframe,” she says.
3. It’s more than installation day.
Professional home stagers need time to prepare. “We don’t drive around town with a truck filled with furniture,” says Andrea Young, founder of Intuitive Design Studio. “There is planning and preparation that goes into it.” Real estate pros should bring a home stager in for a consultation as early as possible so that they can work with the client to discuss the listing agent's process, timeline, and budget for staging. “Staging shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be a priority, like photography or cleaning,” says home stager Savannah Jones, founder of Where the Heart Is.
4. Stagers really mean it when they say the property needs to be ready on installation day.
In a perfect world, the property would be vacant, and the landscaping and cleaning would already be done. But too often, stagers find a house that isn’t fully prepped.
For a vacant staging project, Rebecca Boler, founder of The Rebecca Bolder Company, broke down an ideal situation: Agents and homeowners would have all work (contractors, landscapers, cleaners, etc.) completed a minimum of 24 hours prior to arrival. The access details would be provided a minimum of 24 hours prior to arrival and no other people (including the homeowner and agent) would be onsite for the duration of the stage. Then, the photos would be scheduled a minimum of 24 hours after the trucks arrive.
5. Let the home stager sell their services directly to sellers.
You don’t want to jeopardize the listing by pushing outside services. Not to mention, home stagers say, it’s usually easier for a professional third party to tell a seller that their cat odor is really bad. Let the professional home stager do the dirty work.“
Far too often real estate agents pass along our bids to the sellers, void of context and the expertise to sell staging at a high level,” says Ryan Marsh, CEO of OnStage Inc. and a member of the RESA National Board of Directors. “Simply by allowing us to meet with sellers directly, the odds of selling our services and increasing the competitiveness of their listing increase ten-fold.”
6. Professional staging is your silent partner.
Some agents may balk at the idea of professional staging. But according to the National Association of REALTORS®, 82% of buyers’ agents report that professional staging helps clients visualize a home as their own. As more and more buyers search for properties online, it’s more critical than ever that sellers make a great first impression. Staging a property has a tremendous influence on a buyer’s decision to see a property in person, and perhaps even make an offer.
“Professional home staging can be an agent’s silent salesperson,” says Nicole Schenk, founder of Simple Elements Home Staging. Plus, agents will have another professional by their side: RESA home stagers adhere to a code of ethics.
“Stagers want to be real estate agent’s partners to elevate not only the value of the property but elevate the agent’s value and brand,” says Kathryn Lenhardt, a home stager and founder of First Impressions Staging + Design in Seattle.