I’ve received so many questions about the home staging business over the past few months, many from individuals who have their own staging company and/or would like to, so I thought it would be worth sharing those most frequently asked. Please note that my answers are based on my own experiences and opinions. But I’m hoping it will be helpful to address some of the most common questions in one big Q & A for our readers.
As more Realtors start offering their own staging services, do you think the market for professional stagers is shrinking?
No, I don’t. I still get just as many calls for staging. And other stagers I know are still just as busy. I think Realtors who offer their own staging services were probably already doing so on some level prior to making it official. But there are still a lot of agents out there who really have no desire to get involved in the staging process and prefer to call in a third party. It really just depends on the individual agent.
When you work on a listing through a Realtor, who pays for your services? The agent or the homeowner?
It all depends. Most agents I work with will pay for a consultation. If they decide they would like me to come in and physically stage the property beyond the initial consultation and/or I’m called in to stage a vacant property, they still sometimes pay for it. But more often than not, the agent will either split the cost with their client or their client will be responsible for the entire bill. I’ve learned from experience to find out upfront who will be paying for the service so there’s no confusion or misunderstanding, after the fact.
Do you get more calls for staging from the homeowners or Realtors? Men or women?
In both instances, I would say it’s about 50-50. Just as many homeowners contact me directly as Realtors now, and just as many men contact me as women.
Do you prefer staging a vacant property or an occupied property?
I don’t really have a preference. They’re both fun for me! But they do each come with their own unique set of challenges. Staging a vacant is much more physical since you have to procure the furnishings and accessories, pack it up, load it up, haul it in, unpack it, then stage the property. And when the house sells, you have to go back in, pack it up, load it up, haul it away, then unload it, and unpack it, again. Occupied homes are a little more limited in the furnishings and accessories you have to work with and often require more creative solutions since what you have to work with might not always fit what you envision.
Is there anything you see with other stagers or within the industry that bothers you?
I pretty much keep my eyes on my own paper and just concentrate on what I’m doing, myself. But I have been asked to come in a few times to ‘re-stage’ a vacant property that another stager has already furnished and staged. For the record, I’ve never taken those jobs on because I think it crosses a professional line. In those particular instances however, I can see where the client might have been unhappy with the staging job. So with that in mind, my only critique would be for stagers to make sure they are actually staging and not designing. I think sometimes those two get confused. It’s always important to remember, you’re not setting up the house to live in, you’re staging it to sell.
What do you like the least about owning your own Home Staging business?
Probably the marketing. I’m not real big on trying to convince someone what’s best for them. IMHO – They either get it or they don’t, which is probably why I use so many before and after photos in my marketing materials. I think if they can see it, they’ll understand. But marketing is part of owning a business. Any business. If no one knows about you, if you don’t get your name out there and start building your brand, you’ll be out of business in no time. On the upside, once you do start getting clients, word of mouth grows too and you’ll soon be able to reap the rewards, which makes all the effort worthwhile.
What do you like the most about owning your own Home Staging business?
The actual staging process…vacant or occupied…from start to finish. I absolutely love every single aspect of staging a property for market! Our company tagline is WE LOVE STAGING HOMES and that’s not just a marketing ploy, it’s an absolute fact! When I’m staging a property, I’m totally in my zone. It’s a major rush for me. I love being able to use my creativity to transform a listing for my client. And when I can help them achieve their goals and that house sells so quickly, for more than the original list price, or both, that just makes it twice the thrill! I’m very proud of my work as a stager and very passionate about it.
If there is one thing you could go back and do differently with your business, what would it be?
I would have definitely started much sooner, but I had never heard of home staging before, so not sure how that would have even been possible. I was a home organizer and without realizing it, was actually doing some staging, as well. So when a chance meeting with a Realtor exposed me to the concept, I was quite literally soliciting agents online the very next day! There was absolutely nothing about home staging on the internet back then, so I had to kind of feel my way through as I went along. But I really didn’t think about it too much before taking the leap. It was such an amazing idea that resonated so strongly within me, I just closed my eyes and jumped!
Lori Matzke is the Founder and President of the Home Staging Expert® brand. She has been professionally staging homes in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro since 1999 and offering Home Staging Training Workshops nationwide since 2003. For a complete list of upcoming workshops, please visit our training calendar.