The Dilemma of Ethics may sound like an oxymoron however, in truth, it is becoming more and more of an issue in the daily lives of stagers across Canada & the United States. Before I elaborate let’s review ethics in the real estate industry.
The business of real estate takes place within the confines of regulation. If you had to comment you would likely agree, the professional integrity of people working within the real estate business, (e.g., agents, lawyers, mortgage brokers, banks, title searchers) is generally understood to be ethical, honest and fair. Without question, what we expect as standard ethical business practices.
Real estate professionals in Canada & USA are bound together by a strict code of ethics. Failure to adhere, observe and comply with that code, renders them not fit to hold a license, disciplinary action may be taken, it may also affect eligibility to continue holding a license.
As a real estate professional, you know it is serious stuff!
The Code of Ethics covers compliance with the law & regulated government legislation, professional knowledge, and competence, (meaning agents should keep informed of any laws, essential facts and developments in the real estate market in order to be able to advise their clients in a responsible manner.) During their business dealings, RE agents must maintain integrity, fidelity, and honesty.
Protecting their clients against fraud, misrepresentation, or any unethical practices in connection with real estate transactions, while exercising care and due diligence. Real Estate agents must minimize any conflict-of-interest situations, disclose any pecuniary or other beneficial interests in relation to the property and avoid any practice which may bring discredit and or disrepute to their agency or trade. Adhere to the principles of fair trade, not injure directly or indirectly the reputation of, nor publicly disparage, the business practice of others.
Striving to provide services and opinions based on knowledge, training, qualifications, and experience in the real estate business.
Every day real estate staging professionals struggle to maintain professional boundaries, deliver quality service and excellent results. Their work performance is often compromised by a well-meaning real estate agent or a non-educated seller asking for a lower price without consideration for what that means.
Low price is not the way to select a surgeon, a mechanic, a home inspector, an electrician, a restaurant, clothing or even detergent. We know cheap pricing means sacrificing something either service or quality- meaning results are compromised- satisfaction levels are not guaranteed.
Real estate agents and sellers need to know “Caveat Emptor is in play when hiring a stager. Stagers are not bound by a universal code of ethics, there are no standards for pricing, payment, policies, contracts or even insurance.
There is a Staging association which stagers can choose to belong to. However, there are no requirements for membership, like licensing, training, certification, or insurance but they do foster professionalism among members, provides advocacy and has a Code of Ethics. Enforcement of the Code relies on other members to challenge unprofessional conduct. If reported a stager faces an investigation by an ethics committee. Getting to that stage can be arduous, but it is a beginning.
NOTE: RE-read HIGHLIGHTED AREA:
One of the dilemma’s faced by stagers is increasing pressure to keep fees low, as if price is the only thing to consider.
What you also need to be aware of is, to offer cheap pricing shockingly, stagers report many stagers do not have even rudimentary best practices for their business. One abhorrent practice is the buying and returning of furniture & furnishings! We think this is most unethical! However, it is a common practice with some stagers who struggle to keep pricing low and gives all of us a very bad name. Some agents have even encouraged their clients to do it or do it themselves, then brag about doing it! They do not see it as theft. Whereas, if an unknown stager showed up at their home, to “borrow” furniture, decor, art etc. for a property she/he was staging they would call the police. It really is no different if an agent or owner goes to a store and does it, it is unethical! Agents are making a commission for their work and sellers earn a profit on the sale of their house! Many stagers say they hear it most from agents, during occupied, residential consultations when the stager recommends the purchase or rental of soft goods.
You should also know, Stagers report other stagers have plagiarized the work of others, displaying it on social media and websites -even use Stock photography!
Do you know many stagers don’t have any training, haven’t had their skills evaluated, don’t carry business, liability, crime & fidelity coverage, or E&O insurance, they have no clue how to price the value of service and don’t even have a contract! Who do you think would be held responsible? Imagine what real estate practice would be like without the discipline of regulation.
Stagers tell us, agents have asked for a referral fee! Also, stagers have been asked to ‘cover up’ defects in a house, realtors have asked for carpets to be put over stains on the flooring. Surely that contravenes the REALTOR® code of ethics? The dilemma for a stager wanting business is: – “I am being asked by a professional working in a regulated industry to do something I know to be unethical- do I do this? Should I report the agent? “
Some agents delay payment, won’t pay, or refuse to honor the staging industry SOP of fees upfront. We have heard of stagers either being asked or under their own volition (cheap pricing) only do a partial consultation. Just enough to overwhelm homeowners but not enough to have them be able to do the job themselves. Real estate agents and sellers compromise results when they suggest only staging a few rooms; buyers only know what they see – not the way it should be. NAR reported last November that 90% of homebuyers CAN NOT visualize beyond what they see. If what they are seeing isn’t what they want- they will move on to another listing!
Yes, Staging is still a non-regulated industry; what people fail to realize Stagers are working in the regulated industry of real estate. As such we must hold ourselves accountable for a higher level of practice and service than might be asked for. CSP International™ has always operated from a platform of quality education, impeccable standards, and leading-edge results.
We believe that real estate staging is a serious responsibility! One of our proprietary teaching points is that a stager not only visually illustrates the value of property and connecting emotions, but they are also charged with the responsibility of securing the equity of property. Done well it involves, “a systematic and coordinated methodology using skills, knowledge, and abilities of real estate, property renovations, creative design principles all married to a plan to secure a buyer™”!
CSP International™ Staging Training Academy not only offers the only true certification for stagers, a continuing education program, a code of conduct, licensing agreement, a standard for measuring knowledge and technical skills of its students both during the course and afterwards in the field. It teaches best practices, professional etiquette and as a precaution for maintaining work standards requires continuous licensing for the use of logo; use of the logo demonstrates compliance with Code of Conduct, maintains integrity of work and confirms technical competency. We require submission of work to be evaluated before bestowing Residential Staging Expert™ and International Master™ level is achieved not only with skills and knowledge but longevity in the field. They are also NOT classes for money as other training providers do. What that means to you are standards you can rely on, honesty, integrity, and the skills of the holder of that designation. People who do not “bait & switch”, who will give excellent service, quality work, excellent value, and outstanding results. People who will do what they say they will do, not compromise on ethics and who believe in being the best they can be. The training & certification process is voluntary. The graduates of this program invested thousands of dollars to be the best they can be, to learn all they needed to know and to have someone in authority measure and approve their technical competency. Choosing a CSP® graduate as your staging partner will strengthen and support your professional reputation, lower days on market, provide outstanding photos, have impactful open houses, provide the best opportunity to secure and buyer bringing you and your client closer to SOLD. Isn’t that what you want? When your reputation with a seller counts, make sure you hire the best in support of the service you want to build your reputation on!
There is no better time than right now to take the plunge if you are interested in starting a home staging business or training a team member to be your in-house stager at your brokerage. Contact me, Christine Rae today to learn more! Or learn more & get our 65 Steps to Starting A Successful Staging Business ebook.