By Christine Rae

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!


  1. I read the articles points on using only a certified and licensed stager, then get to the bottom and see the author also has written a book “home staging for dummies” makes me feel the author is talking out both sides of her mouth. Which is it, buy the book and even a dummy can do it, or only have a certified stager do it?

    • Hi Nadine:

      Good point!

      BTW, you could instead buy ‘my’ newly released book on the Amazon/Kindle ebook site, entitled:

      “Riley Youngblood and the Passport to Santalamanchia”, and I guarantee you wouldn’t be a dummy:-)

    • Bless you Nadine. I ad nothing to do with the title- it is a brand- the title also says A resource for the rest of us.
      I wrote the book because there is a need for people to know the work of staging is not simple or easy. Yes there is a ton of valuable information on the minutia of prepping property for sale but the skill of placement and the knowledge of what updates matter most you need a stager who is certified to stage. Definitely not talking both sides of the mouth; I have been an advocate for staging performed by a professional (see PART OF TENS in the HSD book) The article is to wake agents up to what is at stake when they only pay lip service to the most important marketing tool a seller can use. I believe seller should pay the fee and oh BTW always use a real estate professional. BTW we have a special agent training too

  2. I believe that home staging is a value proposition for the seller and it most certainly intrigues buyers. I believe the article states that features of staging help to draw the eye to elements that the home offers. It may not be a cheese board and wine glasses that sell a home, however, while a prospective buyer is spending more time looking at a particular staging element, they may notice an upgraded counter or back splash. I feel this article did a good job in explaining this.

    Staging can be very useful in a unique space. I have looked at vacant homes for sale in communities where it’s difficult to see something basic like where a tv would sit or mount. Sure the space is beautiful and everyone loves open concept but is the space functional?

    Lastly, not every market is a multiple offer situation.

    Ergo, let’s let everyone consumer or realtor decide what works for them, their buyers, sellers and own personal business be it that they are for or against staging.

  3. Bravo Christine – right from the preacher’s mouth. I have trained under Christine 13 years ago and everything she says is dead on! We have experienced stagers coming and going- only those that work it like a real business and provide top quality service and work on relationships with the agents have very successful businesses. I personally have mentored over 130 stagers. There are many great professional stagers in our industry but it is up to the agents and sellers to ask the right questions, not starting with just the price.

  4. Staging as an industry may not be very old – but the concept is centuries old. You stage homes for sale, but millions of others do to: 1. feel good themselves (fenshui), 2. To impress visitors, 3. For gatherings, parties – you get the picture. Staging home for sale, done skilfully, definitely creates favorable impression on buyers mind = higher value. Perception is important. Even de-cluttering adds value. However, over-staging borders on deception. That’s my opinion from trading in real estate over 32 years.

  5. Really? Staging is necessary to sell a home in this hot market? When there are anywhere between 5-20 offers made in almost any property coming on the market in the big cities, then staging would not make a difference. People want the Location and size of the property, heck some of the buyers are only looking for the building site and plan on tearing down whatever exists and building their own castle.
    Vivien Levermore

    • Sadly Vivien this is a perception many have, however today’s buyer wants “turn key” move in ready and is willing to pay more money for it- hot market or not. If it sells anyway because shortage of inventory it sells for even more fully prepped! A point in fact a property recently staged by a graduate of our program sold for $250,000 over asking- proof is things change and not prepping a property because the “market is hot” is a way to lose market share- ’cause someone else will.

      • “if it sells anyway because shortage of inventory it sells for even more fully prepped! A point in fact a property recently staged by a graduate of our program sold for $250,000 over asking-”

        It’s statements like that that raise my ire. It’s just as bad and as misleading as the umpteen Realtors whose flyers all have the spiel – “sell faster, and for top dollar.”

        Not one of those statements is provable! Not one! That is a measure that can only happen if the property is listed simultaneoulsy both staged and unstaged or by two different Realtors and sold both ways.

        And while staging can certainly add value to a property, there is zero evidence that it is what is responsible for the sale price unless of course the stager is claiming as many do, that it is their effort that is what resulted in the sale much less for $250,000 over list – the same tired, ought to be banned claim, as is suggested by your statement.

        Ultimately, a tidy house wiill sell for more than an untidy house, an empty house will sell for more than a cluttered house. A house well and properly marketed by a knowledgable Realtor has a better chance of selling for more t han a well staged house marketed to the wrong type of buyer.

        All of these claims about selling for more beacuse of the staging or listing Realtor attempts to hide the fact the buyer’s Realtor’s ability plays a big part which, when lacking, will not translate into the best interests of their buyer client and will most assuredly have nothing to do with staging..

        Finally, you can teach a lot of things, but, like art or photography, or landscaping, without the inate ability a graduate can stage all day to little effect.

        But this part of the industry also needs some oversight.

  6. Staging is as important as a registrants licence to trade in real estate? I can hardly wait for the law suit in which the client sues the stager because of improper couch and chair placement. To bring house decorating into the field neuroscuence is a bit of a stretch. Sure colours can evoke emotion but what is the effect of a tartan throw blanket draped over a wing back chair? Or that popular wood cutting board with fake fruit , cheese and a couple of wine glasses sitting beside. Yes once I see that set up I am ready to buy! I think this entire article can be filed under fiction in the fantasy section. Most buyers are looking for price point , location and a home that fits most of their needs in their budget. A fifteen hundred square foot row house that is staged will sell for the same price as the same townhome unstated or vacant. And I can guarantee that If the structure and components of the home are not in sound condition a buyer will not buy that home just because the bathroom has fluffy white towels and candles set up. Or a 60’s table with four cheep chairs around it.

    • Hi David:

      Re your “I think this entire article can be filed under fiction in the fantasy section.” statement.

      Following up on the “fiction/fantasy” aspect…boy, have I got a read for you!

      I recently completed my novel, “Riley Youngblood and the Passport to Santalamanchia”.

      It has just been uploaded onto the Amazon/Kindle ebook site. It has already gleaned a five star rating. Have a look. The first four chapters–of twenty-seven in total—are offered up free for public consumption. Just click on “Look Inside” at the upper right of the cover page. If you decide to purchase it ($4.99 U.S./$6.57 CDN) feel free to write a review.

      Happy reading!

      • well Brian I am not sure what the relationship is of your post and the article other than perhaps a place to encourage people to buy your book. I am not being disrespectful to you and don’t see the need for the comment

        • Hi Christine:

          You are quite right. David’s “fiction/fantasy” description caught my eye, and yes, I did shamelessly jump on that choice of words in order to put in a plug for my ebook. It’s still a free world here in Canada after all, and the ultimate arbiter over what qualifies for publication herein falls on the very broad shoulders of Jim the-Editor-guy. Your beef is with Jim, not me. Many of my posts over the years have ended up in Jim’s special drawer if flammable materials…now bursting to overflowing…but not this one-:)

          However, now that you have raised the subject—home staging that is—and likely unbenownst to you, me speaking as a former Realtor and former real estate appraiser, let me be clear: Staging is a form of creating something that has nothing to do with the actual bricks and mortar of a property, building integrity, site location, etc. Staging creates an illusion in the minds of folks who cling to illusions. Staging is designed to create a kind of fairy tale in one’s mind, something to cling onto, something to imagine. But one is buying bricks and mortar, empty rooms—space—on a piece of earth in a certain location amongst other empty spaces on nearby pieces of earth. When all is said and done, and the makeup is removed, one moves into an empty box on a plot of ground. Thus, an astute buyer knows all of this before offering to purchase. Sadly, there are not many astute buyers of much of anything. Ergo, advertising reigns supreme, and staging is a form of advertising. People buy the advertising, not the empty spaces. “Sell the sizzle, not the steak” is a well-worn sales norm, of which i am sure you are well aware. Staging is a kind of sizzle. My comment was also a kind of sizzle. Staging soon fizzles, but readers of my book will continue to sizzle-:)

          Not being disrespectful; we all have to do something to earn a living, but thanks for providing me with another opportunity to plug my literary efforts-:) I offer the first four chapters—of twenty-seven in total—free of charge online. How much of your service do you offer free of charge? As old gravelly-voiced Clara Hughes used to yell: “WHERE’S THE BEEF!”-:)

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