Living in Your Home vs. Staging it to Sell

Still confused, or perhaps even a little skeptical, about the power of staging your home to sell?  Home Staging Expert® Marla Alt, owner of 123Organize in Westchester County, New York, shows us here that the way you live in your home vs. the way you show your home to sell are two different things!

Marla and her team run a full service home organization company specializing in moving, staging, and organizing spaces.  They have worked with clients throughout Westchester County, Lower Fairfield County, Bergen County, and the New York City area.  They’ve assisted their clients in selling their home and moving as far as California to the West, and Israel to the East, and they obviously know their stuff!

While the original listing looks comfortable and cozy, buyers are really looking for space and want to see the details of the actual structure which will help them picture themselves living there.  But all too often, buyers get hung up on all the owner’s stuff, which typically means they overlook what the home truly has to offer.

Marla Alt BEFORE (2)

By thoughtfully editing and rearranging what the homeowners already had, Marla was able to create visual square footage and help place positive attention back on the actual features while downplaying the décor, which felt overwhelming.  The end result is a room that feels spacious, calm, and beautifully appointed!

Marla Alt After

The visual impact staging had on this room is indisputable.  And when it comes to selling a house, that visual impact is exactly what draws the buyers in and prompts them to make an offer!

Marla took our online course to earn her Home Staging Expert® certification.  If you are interested in adding Home Staging to an existing organizing, interior design, or real estate business, or would like to start a Home Staging business from scratch, we are currently offering our course for half-price.

No Final Exam Fee – No Annual Renewal Fee

CLICK HERE to check out info on our Home Staging Expert® Certification Course and receive your instant download right now!




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“Ask the Home Staging Expert®” – How do I start actually getting PAID for my staging services?

free leaf living room


Good Morning, Lori!

I took your online course last year which I LOVED and learned so much, but now I have a problem!

I’m a real estate agent and had planned on just offering staging services to my own clients.  It has been a great tool for me to get more listings signed as I use my complimentary staging services as a bargaining tool.

The problem is, I now have a number of co-workers in my office who have asked me to stage their listings for them, too.  While I definitely take it as a compliment that they have so much respect for my abilities, they offer absolutely zero compensation for my time and effort.

Agents I’ve helped out once are now starting to ask me to assist with every listing they sign and even ask me to join them on appointments to consult with their clients about staging!  One listing took several trips and a financial investment in accessories on my part.  All I got from the other agent was, “Thanks!  This turned out great!”  Well, the listing sold in a few days, and I never heard another word about it, nor was I compensated!

How do I actually start getting PAID for my staging services?  I don’t want to do this for nothing anymore and feel like I’m being taken advantage of!

Patty the Doormat in Tucson


Hello, Patty!

First of all, thank you for purchasing our course!  I certainly appreciate your kind compliments and am glad you have been able to utilize the information.  However, you are definitely not utilizing ALL of the information.

The reason you feel like you are being taken advantage of, is because you ARE being taken advantage of!  It’s one thing to help out a fellow agent in need, it’s another thing to allow someone to take advantage of your generosity, which is exactly what’s happening and very disrespectful on their part.  But they are taking advantage of you because you are allowing it.

In the course that you purchased, we provide information for Realtors staging their own listings, as well as those looking to turn a profit for their services.  That is something you might need to go back and re-read.  And then it’s time for that frank talk you’ve been avoiding.  “As much as I loved helping you out, this is what I do for a living.  I am more than happy to help you again, but here are my rates for doing so going forward.”  And then give them your pricing.

While your intentions when purchasing our program might have been to use the information for your own clients only, you are now officially in the business of staging homes.  You’re just doing it for free, at this point!  As we teach in our course, you have to place a value on your own abilities before anyone else will do the same.

By simply letting your fellow agents know that you expect to be comped for your time and effort, many of them will simply stop asking.  But I have no doubt some will be more than happy to pay you for your talents, so it’s definitely time for that discussion!

Thank you for getting in touch and please do keep in touch and let me know how it goes.

If you have a question for “ASK THE HOME STAGING EXPERT®”, please contact


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Would you like to become a Certified Trainer for the Home Staging Expert® brand?

Freepik couch-with-blue-cushion_1203-320

Do you love staging homes?  Are you a ‘people person’?  Would you like to have the opportunity to earn additional, unlimited income on your own terms?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, we cordially invite you to attend our exclusive 2-Day training session in Minneapolis, MN, September 17th & 18th.

Home Staging Expert® and Center Stage Home are actively seeking qualified individuals to teach our Home Staging Workshops nationwide!  Cost to attend and receive your Home Staging Expert® Training Certification is $595.00 if paid by July 31st, $695.00 thereafter. 

While we do not require prior teaching experience, your love of staging homes for market is a MUST!  Compensation for teaching our workshops is very generous and we have many territories available.  If you are interested and would like further details about teaching our course, please call 952-412-0566 or email

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“Ask the Home Staging Expert®” – Should we spend the money on a bathroom and laundry room remodel?

Bathtub decoration in bathroom interior


Hi, Lori -

We live in a smaller community an hour away from a large metropolitan area where my husband and I both work.  We are planning to put our house on the market later this summer to find something closer to our jobs.  Houses are selling out here like hot cakes for full price!   Most of them are newer homes, but a house flipping company has been remodeling many of the older properties in our neighborhood and turning them over very quickly.  They’ve all got new kitchens, bathrooms, and flooring, and are absolutely stunning!  We’ve got an older property too and have already done many updates, but the one thing that has always bothered me is the main floor bathroom and a laundry room that is way too small.  I can barely even get in there to do the laundry without standing sideways!  My husband and I agree that the rooms would work much better if they were switched, as both of these rooms are oddly out of place as they are positioned right now.  We will need to put new flooring into both of these rooms anyway, but switching the rooms around would cost an additional $6000.00 to move the plumbing, add venting, a new tub, additional tiling, cabinets, etc.  I think we should do it as I see the current layout as a deterrent for buyers.  My husband doesn’t think it’s necessary and doesn’t want to spend the money.  What do you think?

Metro Bound in North Carolina

Dear Metro Bound -

You already know who your competition is, so $6000.00 seems like a steal for a new bathroom, functioning laundry room, and a layout that works!  If the rest of your home is ready to roll, I would consider that a small investment to make and take the plunge.  Your other option would be to price your house lower, but the risk of this strategy is that it seems buyers in your area are more apt to buy something ‘move-in-ready’ as opposed to ‘fixer-upper’ based on what you’re telling me.  I think you would be money ahead to make the changes and ensure you’re not going to lose out on a fair price for your home and less time spent on the market.  If your husband still has his doubts, start interviewing Realtors® now for a professional opinion.  Finding an agent who specializes in your neighborhood is key.  They know what the market there is like and they know what buyers are looking for.

Hope this helps and thank you so much for the question.  Wishing you much success on the sale of your home!

If you have a question for “ASK THE HOME STAGING EXPERT®”, please contact


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9 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Professional Home Stager

Free women shaking hands

Unless you’ve already been referred to a professional home stager by a trusted friend or real estate agent, you might have to find one yourself.  And while it can be somewhat confusing and perhaps even a bit intimidating, it’s easy to find a good stager if you just know the right questions to ask!

1) Do you have a portfolio of your own work?

A picture speaks a thousand words, and that is certainly true when it comes to hiring a staging pro!  An experienced stager should be able to provide before and afters of homes they’ve staged and should be able to explain what they did and why.  PS – Some training companies provide before and after photos for their students, so make sure to verify the photos portray their own work.

2) Do you have current references?

Likewise, you always want current refs.  And actually CALL THEM!  Just like you would check the references of any contractor.   Since Home Staging is not a state or federally regulated industry, anyone can call themselves a stager!  Make sure you hire someone who legitimately knows what they’re doing and has industry experience, or if they are new to staging, at least you can find out how they did.  Was their reference happy with their work and would they hire them again, are good things to know!

3) What is your fee structure?

Every stager is different and their fee structures can very from hourly, to by-the-room, to by-the-job.  Make sure you know ahead of time how they plan to charge you.

4) Are there any additional fees involved?

No one wants to find out what they were quoted and what they are being billed for are two different things, after the fact!  Find out what is included in advance, and specifically ask if there are any additional charges not included such as furniture and prop rental, travel fees, etc.  Then make sure to get everything in writing before you hire!

5) What do I need to do before you arrive?

Preparing yourself and your home for a professional stager to come in can vary from ‘nothing’ to ‘box up everything smaller than a football.’  The more you can get done yourself will typically save you $$$…especially if the stager bills by the hour.  So make sure to ask in advance.

6) Should I be here for the staging session?

Some stagers want the home owner on site, some prefer they not be there at all.  However, since it is YOUR HOME, you can be there if you want to be there.  But if you absolutely can’t be there (or simply prefer not to hang around), make sure to verify that is ok with your staging pro!  You might be needed for further instruction.

7) Can you make recommendations beyond your scope of expertise?

Just like fee structures vary among stagers, so do services.  Some specialize in consultations only, some only stage vacant listings, etc.  Ask up front if the stager you are contemplating hiring can suggest paint colors, interior updates, curb appeal enhancements, etc., even if providing those services is not something they can do themselves.

8) How long will it take, from start to finish?

This can be tricky sometimes depending what all needs to be done, but most experienced stagers can give you a ballpark figure of how long it will take them from start to finish.  Keep in mind that if your house is larger or you have a lot of collections and the stager will need to box up some of your things, this will add to the time on site.

9) Are you insured?

If you are going to be hiring someone to come in and move your precious belongings around, make sure they carry some kind of insurance.  You don’t want the stager to accidentally drop your prized Ming vase, only to find out they can’t cover the expense to replace it.  Ask for their insurance policy number and call to verify it’s current and up-to-date.  Better to be safe than sorry.


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Getting Ready to Sell? How to Make Your House Feel 20 Years Younger!

BANGKOK, THAILAND - AUGUST 12 2016: Beautiful luxury living room

When it comes to selling, older and more dated homes tend to linger on the market longer because buyers have a hard time seeing the potential.  You have two options…either price accordingly, or give your house a face-lift to compete!  A few easy updates can have a major impact and will literally take years off the appearance of your space while appealing to more potential buyers!

1)  Box up the Collections and Clutter – Nothing screams ‘granny’ like a lot of knick-knacks scattered throughout the house!  Likewise, accumulated piles of ‘stuff’ are distracting and make the walls seem to close in.  Box them up and store them away for your next place.  Or better yet, get rid of as much as possible now so you don’t have to deal with it when you move.

2)  Remove the Wallpaper and Borders -  Wallpaper and wallpaper borders are frequently very design specific.  And while wallpaper is making a comeback in small doses, it’s typically frowned upon by potential buyers.  Removing it will create a more modern look.  Especially if the wallpaper or border is more than just a few years old.

3)  Choose Modern, Neutral Paint Colors – And to really make it feel fresh and much larger, be consistent and use the same paint color throughout.  This will make your entire house feel seamless!

4)  Replace Carpeting with Wood or even Faux-Wood Floors – Wood floors are very popular right now and more appealing than carpeting for most.  At the very least, replacing dated, worn carpeting with wood on the main floor alone can make a lasting impression.

5)  Scrape Off the Popcorn Ceilings – Say goodbye to the 1980′s by giving your ceilings a clean, modern look.  It’s work, yes…but totally worth it!  Fill a spray bottle with water, mist the ceiling in sections, allow 15 minutes soaking time, then use a putty knife to scrape it all off.  Or, you can always hire a pro to do the work.  Totally worth the money!

6)  Get Rid of the Heavy Drapes – Not only do heavy drapes tend to drag down a room, but they also block a lot of light!  Replacing drapes with sheers will make your space feel brighter and a whole lot larger.

7)  Update the Lighting Fixtures – This is an easy one to implement as affordable lighting fixtures are plentiful and can make a tremendous impact on the overall feel of the house!  Head to a big-box store, and you will find many styles and finishes that are budget friendly.

8)  Enamel Dated Cabinetry and Trim – If your cabinets and trim are out-of-date, a fresh coat of paint or two can make them come to life and will give a more contemporary twist to what might be considered a total remodeling job by potential buyers.

9)  Hide Dated Upholstery with Slip-Covers – While staging is not about hiding imperfections, since furnishings are not normally sold with the house, there is absolutely nothing wrong with masking old upholstery under a new slip-cover!  Go for something with an elastic band and you will find a much better fit than slip-covers of the past.

10) Invest in New Bedding – A bright new bedspread or comforter can literally give your bedroom an immediate face lift!  And with the ‘bed-in-a-bag’ options they have right now, you are sure to find something affordable to help you create a whole new look.

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