Certification for a stager is as important as a real estate licence is to an agent. Why? Simply so people know what to expect when hiring a stager.
Real estate regulation has been in place for over 100 years but staging is in its infancy, barely two decades old as a practice and less than 10 as an industry. It is female-dominated, smattered with hobbyists with dreams, including part-time struggling moms who are trying to balance work, home, life and a business start-up. They are 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 harbours 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 and best business practices. 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 and 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 and that all stagers are the same, working the same way, producing the same work. 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 and quantity of goods, labour and storage costs, packaging, planning, sourcing, employee costs, warehousing, delivery and margin of profit. Stagers are in business to make money too – yes, they love their work, but it is impossible to work for peanuts. Demanding lower rates will affect outcome.
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. The goal of 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.
We know 99 per cent 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”.
Ninety per cent of people can’t visualize beyond what they see; if there isn’t furniture in the room, they can’t buy the room. First impressions are made in the blink of an eye and 72 per cent of the first impression is made from the threshold. What can be seen, smelt, felt, heard.
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.
My company, CSP International, 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.
Seriously, real estate professionals, 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.
Staging cannot be done well by everyone who says they are a stager.
It requires careful use of skills in a systematic and co-ordinated 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 and abilities in real estate, property renovations and 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 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!