Danger: Stager At Work!
Certification for a stager is as important as a real estate license is to an agent. Why? Simply to know what to expect when hiring a stager.
Real Estate regulation has been in place for over 100 years however staging is in its infancy, barely two decades as a practice and less than ten as an industry. It is female dominated, smattered with hobbyists with dreams, part time struggling mom’s-trying to balance work, home, life and business startup, sandwiched between professionals with training, business insurance and business overheads in an industry with no official measure of talent or pricing. This “wild west” mentality harbors danger for the consumer!
Shockingly there are hundreds- if not thousands of “under the radar” stagers conducting business without insurance, without structured knowledge, measured technical skills, no best business practices and no one really cares, except the professional stager whose business is taking a beating because the cowboy stager is plying his/her trade at rock bottom prices with no thought to what it jeopardizes. You might think “oh well, natural economics. Competition is a “fait accompli”. Well au contraire!
Even though the staging industry is non-regulated, we work IN the regulated industry of real estate. Many of the regulations & ethics for real estate agents apply to the independent stager who started a business doing work they love, without much thought to structure of business, profit or protection. There is a perception that stagers are a commodity that all stagers are the same, working the same way, producing the same work and no differentials. When you don’t know how to select a great practitioner -you choose cheap price! The loser(winner of cheapest price) may inadvertently jeopardize the goal of the transaction!
Be aware, pricing a staging project depends on many things; size of the property, quality & quantity of goods, labor & storage costs, packaging, planning, sourcing, employee costs, warehousing, delivery and a margin of profit! Stagers are in business to make money too- they have families, homes & lives – yes, they love their work, but it is impossible to work for peanuts! Demanding lower rates will affect outcome. Look at the airline industry who have succumbed to low pricing as what the public demands. The profitable airlines have found ways to augment the cheap prices with add on services “Oh you want to bring a suitcase- costs you more” “Hmm you want food- it will cost you” “You want to get on first-it will cost you” Get the picture? “Our mantra is “cheap staging isn’t good, and good staging isn’t cheap.”
You might say “I just want the best price I can get” – understandably, however at what cost? Doing the work yourself or using a cheap stager works against the goal. You may think the goal is to get the house sold. WRONG! And therein lies the first problem. The goal – selling property is secondary to securing the most equity for the seller. Demanding lower pricing for staging will compromises the number of rooms staged, quality and quantity of items, AND results. 90% of people can’t visualize beyond what they see; if there isn’t furniture in the room- they can’t buy the room.
Surely the focus should be results, value for money, and quality of work. With airlines I want to arrive safely, on time, have my luggage arrive at the same time and not feel like I have been squished into a sardine can. For staging, curating an outstanding finished product is vital to secure excellent photos! We know 99% of potential buyers are deciding, sitting on their couch with the swipe of a finger, whether they want to see your listing. Don’t compromise the opportunity to secure quality photographs. It is the first impression of the listing, and a measure of what you represent. Great photos gets the property on the “must see list”, great curb appeal moves the listing to “I want to see inside”. First impressions are made in the blink of an eye and 72% if the first impression is made from the threshold. What can be seen, smelt, felt, heard. All of which should be addressed at the consultation. The average buyer takes three minutes to tour property and wherever the eye rests the sale begins. The stager must know how to strategically direct the eye to the features of property vs décor/furniture, understand the neuroscience behind buying signals and be able to use it to create subliminal signals of “buy me” throughout the property.
CSP International™, the Hallmark for professional stagers, has led the charge for professionalism, best business practices, code of ethics, insurance requirements, continuing education AND a comprehensive certification process. In an emerging industry where there is no official measure of credibility, we felt it was important to provide a strong, measuring tool for excellence for real estate agents and property sellers to base hiring decisions on. Many competitors claim that no one needs certification for this work, which is true when no one cares – anything goes. The point is the end user (property seller/real estate investor/builder/real estate agent) shouldn’t have to guess or worry about the quality of work they receive. Every year at the Real Estate Staging Association conference, CSP graduates rank highest in award recipients, across all categories. Recently all finalists in the Luxury and Occupied category were CSP graduates; this affirmed to us our program is sound.
Staging is a serious responsibility! Seriously, real estate professionals in particular, we need you to hear this. What it means to you as a conduit of service is that YOU are the policing force of the staging industry. YOU have to make the decision to refer the stager who will visually illustrate the value of the asking price without compromising equity gain for the seller!
So many people have the totally wrong perspective of what staging actually is! Staging is an umbrella word for three vital steps needed to prepare property for sale. Many stagers, sellers, investors, builders and real estate agents are totally missing the point when they counter staging proposals with a request to slash pricing, without a thought to consequence.
We maintain Staging is an under-valued, mis-understood and definitely, under appreciated. We know this because time and time again the #1 challenge stagers face is price. Stagers who have done amazing work, causing incredible offers over asking, to have their euphoria shriveled in an instant with a withering comment “you should give me money back because it sold in a day”! REALLY? The work so excellent netting more money than you could have possibly hoped for and you want money back? Darn the stager needs a bonus!
In my opinion, agents across North America (indeed the world) need to re-evaluate their own thinking, perspectives and beliefs about the staging process. We have been educating real estate agents since 2005 with a unique educational platform called the CSP Elite Agent™ program. (www.cspelite.com). Your clients deserve it.
Staging cannot be done well by everyone who says they are a stager.
It requires careful use of skills in a systematic and coordinated methodology. An effective stager needs great communication skills to not offend a seller, to be able to discuss the need and scope of staging as well as knowledge & abilities in real estate, property renovations & creative design principles all married to a plan to secure a buyer. Anything less than this is like putting lipstick on a pig. Integrity is doing what is right, even when it is difficult, even when no one else is and especially when no one is looking. Working with a Certified Staging Professional® and Staging every property is the differentiator you need to stand out in a crowded real estate market. Care enough to provide the very best to your clients. We do!