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Home staging is a proven method of preparing a home for sale. Professional home stagers showcase a home’s architectural features and focal areas while at the same time, downplaying a home’s weaknesses. Home staging is all about adding ‘WOW’ to a property so that the house stands out and is memorable for buyers in a great way.
I’ve written and featured guest articles on how to choose a good home stager however its important to understand that when selecting the professional who will stage your home, that you do your homework. Some stagers will emphasize their prices and say they are the ‘best deal in town.’ Great. Price matters, most definitely, but does that professional have the experience and talent needed to showcase your home? Or do they rely on cheap staging tricks to make your home memorable? Are the photos they show on their website examples of their work or are they stock photos which they have taken off the internet and used to impress potential clients?
As a home owner, its important to do your research and know what kind of home stager you want to work in your home. Your house is your single biggest asset so why would you trust that to someone who doesn’t have the experience or talent to stage your home properly? Bottom line is, you wouldn’t, and as with any professional you hire you would want the one best suited and experienced to do the job. It’s not just about price, its also about the quality of the job the home stager will do for you. Focusing too much on one element will only result in selecting the wrong professional for the job.
How do you find the stager to work on your home? Well, you can do internet searches as this will turn up a list of home stagers in your area. Visiting their websites and ensuring they have a professional and impressive website is also important. This means they take their business seriously and will therefore approach staging your home with the professionalism it deserves. The portfolio is the key however and when you are going through their online portfolio, its vital to see more than one photograph of a staging project with a clear ‘before & after’ transformation. This way you can accurately judge the true talent of the home stager and get a true sense of how they transform the homes they stage.
Why are those things important? Well, showing more than one photo of a staging project means that the stager actually did the work. Stock photos, which I referred to earlier, are commonly used by a lot of less professional stagers and they are images which were obtained either through a staging course the person took or they were taken off someone else’s website. These stock photos are not examples of the stager’s work and therefore a home owner is unable to judge the stager’s true talent and style. It is easy to mistake these stock photos for true examples of the stager’s work, mostly because that is what the stager wants potential clients to believe. Stock photos are not often accompanied by any ‘before’ pictures – which is a great way to tell if the photos are actual examples of the stager’s own work. Without ‘before’ pictures how then do potential clients judge the experience and talent of a home stager? Obviously, they can’t. The stager is simply hoping the stock photos will impress the client so much that they will be dazzled and not ask for more information. A lack of ‘before’ pictures is a red flag and should be taken as a warning that something is not right about the stager’s portfolio.
So what happens when a home owner hires a home stager who either emphasizes low pricing instead of actual staging results or who misleads clients with his/her portfolio? Sometimes, the home owner lucks out and the house turns out fine. Most times, it is a staging disaster with ‘too cute’ staging vignettes which make buyers roll their eyes or the stager does not do a good job in furniture layout, maximizing focal points or neutralizing a home’s colour palette. This results in a home which doesn’t show well despite the seller’s investment into staging. Here are a few things to look out for when preparing to hire a home stager:
- Too cute staging vignettes or obvious staging gimmicks which are showcased either in a home on the market or in the stager’s portfolio. For example, I recently viewed a home where the stager had set up some stuffed bears reading a child’s book on the floor in a baby’s room. Cute, yes. This however is NOT what staging is about. A pro stager will want buyers to remember all the great architectural features of your home, not a cutesy or ‘stagey’ vignette.
- Poorly laid out rooms with the furniture on strange angles. Some staging courses teach the students to angle the furniture to make the room appear larger – this makes us cringe. Furniture should be laid out to emphasize focal areas, to maximize traffic flow and to showcase how the next home owner would really set up their own furniture. Would they do it on angles? Doubtful.
- The furniture does NOT emphasize focal areas or it blocks them altogether. This makes rooms appear awkward and strange to buyers so that instead of being impressed, they walk away wondering what is wrong with the house.
- The decor of the home does not change between the ‘before & after’ pictures. Sometimes home stagers have to work with existing decor styles and make do but if the stager’s portfolio consistently shows no change it means that they are not addressing these issues with clients. Dated decor styles, wall paper, too personal paint choices are all key issues with buyers and a pro stager should be addressing them in every home they consult on.
- Home staging courses – did the stager take one? Because anyone can start up their own home staging business without having to take a single course, finding a pro stager who has invested money in training and education is vital. Again, this shows that the stager is serious about their career and is willing to take the time to ensure they have the right education to do the job.
- The home stager’s professional affiliations; a pro home stager should have at least one if not more professional affiliations. From the training course they took to joining nationally recognized organizations such as RESA (Real Estate Staging Assocation) a home stager who is serious about their business will have professional affiliations. The organizations they are a part of tell a great deal about how the home stager conducts their business. For example, RESA members are not allowed to use stock photos in their portfolio and they are held to a higher code of ethics in their business practices. For consumers, this means the stagers who are members of RESA will have a portfolio which is truly reflective of their own work.
Finding the right stager for your home – or for your clients if you are a realtor – takes time and the willingness to do some research. Call the home stager, meet with him/her and have a list of questions. Get a sense of their design background, experience and how they run their business. View their portfolio and have them explain the steps they followed to achieve the staging transformation. By looking at their work you should get an excellent sense of their staging talent and what they can therefore do for you, or your client’s, home(s). If they only use stock photos, walk away. Ask for references, testimonials and call these past clients or current realtor partners to get an objective character reference. If you do all these things, you will definitely select the right home stager for your needs.
To illustrate what I mean, I will use Rooms in Bloom as an example:
- Rooms in Bloom is a member of RESA, both Heather & Alana are graduates of Debra Gould’s Staging Diva program and Heather is also a RESA-PRO member. Heather, who is currently enrolled in a distance interior design course has also taken steps to become a member of the CDECA, the Canadian Decorator’s Association.
- All of the photos in Rooms in Bloom’s portfolio represent their own work and clearly show staging transformations with their ‘before & after’ pictures
- None of the photos in their portfolio show any staging gimmicks or tricks – all the transformations emphasize the focal or architectural features of the homes
- In virtually all of the pictures, the decor is altered and neutralized. Where it is not, it is clear that Rooms in Bloom introduced neutral accents and furnishings to balance out any personal decor choices
- Rooms in Bloom offers a wide range of testimonials on their website from satisfied clients and realtor partners all of whom can be reached for personal confirmations of the work performed for them
- Additionally, Rooms in Bloom has been in business for almost three years. Our staging designs are widely known and recognized, having been featured in local newspapers and most recently the Ideal Home Magazine. Nominated for the regional professional stager of the year by RESA, Rooms in Bloom is one of the top three home staging companies in all of Canada.
So, when it comes to hiring a home stager or selecting a pro stager to work with in your real estate business, don’t be afraid to do your homework. By ensuring that the professional you hire to stage your home has the experience and talent to do a great job, you will ensure that your home is a staging success.