Our members are excited about our February IAHSP Magazine issue! This is an exclusive benefit of being an IAHSP Member and our digital magazines are great to re-read and use as a resource for the topics covered. This month, we discuss Shabby Chic and Boho Styles, remind ourselves why we LOVE what we do, and much more!
Not a member yet? You can join by going to www.IAHSP.com – and join now to start receiving all the benefits of membership!
Our first issue for 2022 is OUT and ready for you to enjoy! The IAHSP Magazine is emailed to all current IAHSP members and is one of the many benefits of membership in the world’s largest Staging association.
by Jennie Norris, President & CEO, Stagedhomes.com, CEO, Sensational Home Staging – We Stage Colorado, Chairwoman, IAHSP
We need to talk about it in order to understand it for our industry, and yet so many stagers are afraid to talk openly about pricing and what their market supports. As such we have an industry under valuing their time, product and service. You don’t want to be the Low Ball Leader.
In general, staging pricing is tied to the price of homes in a region. If an area has higher priced properties, stagers can charge more, and if the pricing is more modest, they charge less. Our industry is hard to explain as it is not based on hourly or salary or even experience per se. If the region has grown and staging is established, there is a benchmark of pricing that is accepted by the clients, and stagers need to be taught what that is.
Some established stagers believe that a newbie should not/can not price their services at the same rate as an experienced stager.What this has done is as new stagers enter the market and are told they cannot charge as much as an experienced stager, the market is devalued and undercutting happens. I have always taught the opposite. New people entering are benefitting from a seasoned stager who established the market. The seasoned stagers should not want a new person to charge less and drive the market down. The public honestly does not always care about experience or even education when it comes to staging – it is pricing and results. We all strive to add value and use our credentials to get business.
FACTORS IMPACTING PRICING:Pricing is a factor of many things – and ultimately, turning a profit of 25% or more is the goal. We have costs and overhead to run our business, not just a project. A stager who has more overhead, has to charge more to cover their costs for their overall company, versus one who does not have a larger operation. The larger operation must do more volume to cover costs and find ways to be very efficient with their staging. However, all stagers need to analyze their operating costs and factor that information in when pricing their projects. It is never just about that one project – it is always about the overall bigger picture of what the revenue is covering.
EFFICIENCY IS A FACTOR: A new stager usually takes way too long to stage – and they do not always factor all those hours into their time, nor should they be paid for all their time because they are slow and learning. However, a stager who is charging less could still be more profitable than a seasoned pro – it all depends on the type of operation they run.
WERE YOU TAUGHT HOW TO PRICE FOR YOUR MARKET? I wish I had one “right” answer but the price vs cost vs value discussion is one we all have and it irks me when I see stagers who have not been taught how to price their services, think, “I got paid $2000 to stage! I made all that money.” Yes – but that is NOT all profit! They rarely take a look at the costs to secure the business let alone the costs to run the project. Did they actually make a profit?
I once had a student in our ASP Masters course and as we broke down business models and talked about pricing, she shared she was getting $4500 per staging project. We were all very impressed. She had a little warehouse that cost her $1700 per month. She owned all her own things. So I was thinking, “Wow – she is doing pretty well.” UNTIL I asked, “How many stagings do you do per month?” Drum roll please. . . . she told me, “I stage about 6 houses – PER YEAR!” Yes – per YEAR! I mean – WHAT? As I looked at THAT fact, it was clear, she was losing money and not making any profit. I shared, if she could add in just 6 more per year – she would at least make some money. She was sort of in shock when we analyzed the reality of her biz – but it was a good eye opener.
Personally, I would not survive on 6 stagings per year. We do that in one week in our staging biz that serves Denver. Now her pricing per staging was good – she did every room (not necessarily needed) and only had one client. In my opinion, she should never have invested in a warehouse at that amount when she did not have the business to support it. We didn’t even get to cover all the other expenses she had: marketing, events, education, insurance, maintenance of her things, etc. She ended up selling her items and moving to a different state to live with her daughter (that was already sort of in the works anyway) and wanted to focus on consultations were there is much lower overhead and good potential for profit.
IAHSP actually has a pricing course that has 7 different webinars, handouts, planning forms, etc. For those struggling with where to price their services, it is worth looking into it – one of the handouts is the hourly price range each major city in the US supports for staging. There are 4-5 ways to price a project and help with coming up with guidelines for your country/region and deciding which model works the best for a staging company is subjective.
Stagers who want to crank out proposals and use a more predictable framework will opt for % of list, $ per sq foot or $ per room. Using actual costs is the 4th method – figuring out what rooms need staging, pricing out what goes in each area – is one half of the equation. The labor is the other part. If the % of list, price per sq ftg or price per room do not cover the labor and create a profit or price the stager out of their market, the actual pricing model has to be used. We use a hybrid method of pricing – a combo between #3 and #4 to price our vacant staging projects.
KNOW YOUR BOTTOM LINE: I believe every stager needs to take a look at their actual costs – and then for expediency can use one of the other models for pricing as long as they know they are turning a profit. We can all framework our own set of pricing that works for us – and it is hard not to compare to others. We do not own their companies so we have no way of knowing if they are making money or not. We do know if something is greatly undervalued such as $500 for staging a 3 room condo for 90 days. Because entities like NAR put out pricing averages for Staging that are not based in reality, the buying public believes our pricing should be that low and it is up to US to educate them.
TEACHING THE VALUE OF STAGING – what the hourly rate should be to calculate the lump sum pricing for the client – SHOULD be shared with ALL stagers so they don’t have to guess. If stagers are using a consistent number, the decisions to use one or another won’t be about price and who is cheaper – but be about quality, availability, relatability, responsiveness, etc. Price will always be a factor as people do not want to overpay, but stagers should be within acceptable range of one another in a market where they understand their value when it is an apples-to-apples comparison.
TIME IS MONEY: I know we run a tight ship and can get staging done quickly and efficiently. This means I am more profitable than a stager who takes all day to stage a property when we can get it done in 1-2 hours. Time is the great equalizer. And if I can make MORE than another stager because we are faster, that is a good thing. If I can get it done in 2 hours and can charge as much as someone who takes 8 hours, and win, I just made 6 hours of profit that was not needed. It also provides me with a buffer to negotiate if a client comes back to me and asks for an adjustment. I want to win the business, not at any cost, however I am willing to negotiate within reason. Sometimes that might be doing a little less, taking out a room, or making a little less profit. I NEVER go in knowing I am going to lose money. I know what my walk away price is: The price where I am essentially paying the client for the privilege of Staging their property. I refuse to start off at a loss. There are times things go awry on a staging, and we do end up costing ourselves more than planned, however that cannot be the norm.
Stagers need to be focused on making as much as possible, not just enough to cover their expenses. There are clients where I know I can pad the proposal, and then times where I know I have to be tighter. If you are reading this and are not sure what your rates should be, ask a colleague. If they are not forthcoming, take a look at sister industries and other affiliates who are part of the overall process of buying and selling a property. A stager can take a look at the hourly rate for interior designers in their region, and then fall in below that number as designers are usually seen as expensive. They can also take a look at what other pros involved in the sales/buying process for a property charge: what does an appraiser charge, and what a real estate photographer charge, etc. In other words, look at the others involved in the sale of a property and make sure for the service we are providing in the real estate industry, we are on par.
PRICING PSYCHOLOGY:The psychological factor of pricing is also important. $1950 sounds and looks a lot less than $2010 and they are only $60 apart. If I am adding up our pricing and we bump up just over $2000 or $3000 – I will see if I can get it down to just under the next thousand level. I stay away from round numbers – never add up to something with “00” as psychologically it sounds too perfect, like you didn’t really add up anything for their property quote. Look at $1987 versus $2000. If you got a quote and saw one or the other, which one seems like a better price? Visually 1987 looks a lot less because it has a “19” in the front. Once you bump up over that next threshold, the client’s see it as a lot more.
THE ETHICS OF PRICING: Having open discussions about pricing and agreeing from an ethics standpoint that a stager will not knowingly come in and undercut a market is key. Having recourse for stagers who deliberately do this is key. There are stagers in every market – who stage “for fun,” who don’t actually care about making money – and they will charge less, drive a market down, and do not care they are leaving LOTS of money on the table. A Stager who is NOT money motivated will ruin it for the pros that are out there. The good news is eventually, running at a loss year over year, will become a problem for that stager as the IRS does not like seeing a loss for more than 3-5 years.
Additionally, the adage, “You get what you pay for,” rings true and their quality will suffer, they will be forced to take a look at their poor business strategy and whoever is bankrolling their operation and allowing them to just do whatever they want and lose money, will wise up – after all that person does not want to lose thousands year after year. If that cheap stager exists in your market, go after the higher-end listings as the cheapo cannot stage them to the standard of expectation of a client – and so they will not go after that biz. The investors or agents who don’t care about quality, will hire the cheapo, and when the clients start seeing the lack of results and find themselves having to supplement stagings with their own things or not getting the results they expected, they will start to seek out a true pro.
Edify the industry.
Encourage others to price according to their value and their market.
Focus on how you can be most efficient to reduce overhead.
And be strategic with who you target for business.
When real estate prices are climbing and everyone involved in the sale is making more (Realtors, Lenders, Title companies, photographers, appraisers, etc.) why shouldn’t Stagers? If we truly are tied to the value we bring to the process of listing and selling a property, we should be making MORE as the markets grow stronger. Not less.
If you are an interior designer, decorator, professional organizer or feng shui practitioner looking to add Staging to your business, watch this 1 hour complimentary webinarthat shares what it takes to add Staging to your business. Having an “eye” is not enough. The business goals are totally different, process is different and factors such as front-loading furnishings is a necessity not found in these sister industries.
Decorated with honors such as Innovator of the Year, five consecutive Best of Home Staging Awards, multiple individual awards for her staging work, and the only two-time winner of the Staging Award of Excellence, to say that Jennie Norris lives and breathes the art and science of home staging would be an accurate statement about a woman who has had her hands in over 5,700 staged properties and dedicated 20 years of her life as a preeminent authority in field. She is a changemaker, a torchbearer, and a champion of the industry. Recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the Home Staging Industry, Jennie is an international expert and speaker on the subject and the author of the go-to sourcebook for anyone working in the field: Marketing Made Simple – A Guide for the Home Staging Industry. She is an Accredited Staging Professional Master® (ASPM®) Stager trained by none other the Creator of Home Staging®, Barb Schwarz, and part of the elite group of professional home stagers to have earned the rare double certification of ASP® and ASP® Master.
As chairwoman of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals® (IAHSP®), Jennie is the energic, passionate force driving the largest home staging industry trade association in the world—and she’s determined to help its over 4,000 members of real estate professionals and stagers across the globe to thrive in ways they never imagined. For 22 years, the IAHSP has been dedicated to advancing the education and staging excellence of the home staging industry—and it’s the only association that requires quality education to join. It’s also the only organization led by home staging experts who currently own and operate their own successful businesses—Jennie among them. She is also the president and CEO of the world’s leader in home staging training and education—StagedHomes®. It goes without saying, if anyone knows the intricacies of the industry, it’s Jennie.
After serving in leadership roles in the organization since 2003, Jennie took the helm of the IAHSP in 2016 and, with her team, worked to double its size, expanding into 20 countries to answer the growing demand by industry members. She’s also the imaginative mind behind its wildly popular conferences, attended by thousands of members each year. These lively, star-studded events are replete with keynote celebrity speakers—Jonathan and Drew Scott, better known as “The Property Brothers,” Jeff Lewis of Flipping Out, and HGTV stars Carson Kressley, Thom Filicia, and Candice Olson, to name a few. From speakeasies to champagne diamonds, awards dinners to dancing till dawn, for guests who manage to grab a “golden ticket” to these galas, it’s a night to remember.
As Jennie prepares for this year’s blow-out SOAR Conference with the awards gala set in the Great Gatsby theme and welcomes the steady wave of new IAHSP members, she took a few minutes to sit down with Top 100 Magazine to share more about how the industry is evolving and how she and the IAHSP are helping to propel its members—and the industry—into the future.
With home staging videos across the Internet and TV reality shows, why has a formal education and credentialing in home staging become critical for staging and real estate professionals?
Successful home staging is much more involved than what is depicted in 30-minute video tutorials or TV shows. The staging industry has evolved, and real estate agents need to understand that staging is a key market differentiator for them to get business. Staging is no longer an option—it’s a critical necessity for both their success and that of their home sellers. The impact staging has on a property is proven with statistics that have been tracked since 2003. There are an estimated 10,000 professional stagers worldwide and several million real estate agents, and staging makes a positive impact on 20% of the real estate sold each year just in the U.S. alone. This means properties sell faster and/or for more, making REALTORS® more successful, sellers happier, and buyers excited about the houses they purchase.
Real estate agents need to seek out education on how home staging can help them differentiate themselves and increase their business by using it as a key listing and marketing tool. I wrote The Real Estate Agent’s Guide to the Home Staging Industry, available on the IAHSP.com site, to help agents understand how and why to include home staging as part of listing a property, process, pricing, and where to find a Pro-Stager™. Home stagers need a professional education in staging so that they know how to own and operate a successful staging business, including logistics, pricing, services, marketing, and growth. They need to understand how to communicate their value, and to understand the partnership they have with REALTORS®, builders, and investors. Credentials also give us credibility and clout with our clients and separate us from the masses of untrained hobbyists who watch HGTV or YouTube videos and market themselves as home stagers. A reputable staging course greatly shortens the learning curve and the struggle cycle so many business owners enter when they do not invest in a proper foundation for success.
We’ll get to the IAHSP and its mission to provide these critical credentials. But first, the burning question on the minds of many readers right now—how can real estate agents and stagers benefit from taking your accredited courses?
In addition to being a key listing and marketing tool, staging impacts the agent’s reputation. Many agents believe they do not have to stage a listing because we are in a strong seller’s market. Agents are tying their reputations to a product that should never be for sale and shown publicly, and it makes them look bad. Many are afraid to tell sellers the truth about their properties, opting to remain silent instead of partnering with a pro-stager who can be their liaison with the seller and help preserve the client relationship. A REALTOR® has a fiduciary responsibility to get the most in the sale of a property, and staging helps them achieve that. Our ASP®-RE course increase their confidence, teaches marketing strategies, provides scripting and role playing, and supports agent productivity and profit.
Our stager graduates rank in the top 2% of all home staging company owners in the world as far as success and revenue, and it has been one of our grads that launched staging in every major market in the U.S. and Canada. To run a successful business, stagers need to understand how they fit in the process and why a client would hire them. Staging is not decorating or design, and people who enter the industry believing that based on what they see on TV need to adjust their perspective quickly in order to obtain business. Our courses teach them how to market, manage and maintain a thriving and lucrative business.
The IAHSP is the only organization that requires education. Why is this important, and how are you helping home stagers and real estate professionals keep up with the evolving trends of the industry?
Home staging is our passion and helping our members succeed is our purpose. Since 1999, IAHSP has advocated for education, excellence, and ethics, and our members adhere to a higher standard in these three areas than any other staging association, alliance, or organization. No one else requires education first, and that means our base level of membership is elevated and stronger.
I believe strongly as an industry we all must establish and strive for higher standards and professionalism to make sure the public can differentiate between untrained hobbyists and educated experts. By increasing our professional standards, we will increase the visibility of our industry and the impact we make in the real estate industry as a whole. We also increase the viability of the industry for future members.
We offer our members resources and education for business success and growth, the opportunity to network and engage with industry colleagues through our member chapters and online social media groups. We host educational events that teach vital topics to help business owners thrive.
Since 2003, IAHSP has hosted educational conferences for our members that are truly a celebration of our industry. From quality speakers teaching on topics vital to all business levels (beginner, intermediate, and advanced), to our Vendor EXPO, where we bring key companies directly to our members, to our Industry Awards Gala Dinner that honors members for their staging quality in various categories, to the relationships that form from meeting colleagues from all over the world—no other group hosts an event like IAHSP. And they’re a blast!
The IAHSP has experienced astounding growth under your leadership. To what do you attribute this?
When I took over as chairwoman in 2016, I opened up our association to the entire industry, where previously only graduates of one educational course could be a member. I felt that as the leaders of the home staging education industry, it was incumbent upon us to support all members across the growing home staging industry and the real estate agents they serve, plus mentor and groom the next generation of industry leaders. We expanded into Europe in 2018, and now have members from 20 countries as we continue to make a global impact.
I also believe that people are looking for a place where they can connect and are accepted, a place where the negativity often found in the world is gone, and members are supported, encouraged, and cheered for their growth and success. That can only be accomplished by leaders with a heart for helping others. All our IAHSP leaders have a spirit of giving back. We either volunteer time or are paid very little compared to the number of hours we invest. We give back because we are passionate about our profession and we want to ensure our industry—and the members we serve—thrive now and for decades to come.
Unlike other staging organizations, you and all the leaders of IAHSP currently run your own staging companies as well, is that right?
That’s right! My entire leadership team, our IAHSP Board members, and I all own and operate staging companies. Collectively, our leadership team has over 150 years of experience and over 20,000 properties staged, so we not only talk the talk; we walk the walk. No other industry association can say this. We have a personal stake in the longevity and viability of home staging. I believe to understand what a stager experiences, a person has to live it themselves. We do not just teach theory or tell someone what they hope works—we teach what we know works.
In what other ways is IAHSP different from other staging organizations?
Because we believe education is critical to the success of industry professionals, IAHSP reviews and accredits home staging courses for quality and content. We do not charge for this service, so the public knows we are truly objective, and it is not a “pay to play” scenario where the course provider has paid us to say they are a quality course. We also provide resources, such as industry statistics and informative guides to the public and clients we serve so they can see the data behind the dazzle. In early 2020, we were the first to respond to the issues surrounding diversity and inclusivity and formed the Staging Industry Diversity Coalition (SIDCglobal.com) to support our minority members now and into the future. Lastly, IAHSP has heart. Our members truly care about one another and our leaders care about our members. We are a family and that is why one of our slogans is: “IAHSP® is Your Home in the Home Staging Industry®.”
You mentioned that you’re not paid much for your work as the leader of IAHSP or StagedHomes. What drives you?
That fact may surprise people, but it is true. I lead these organization because I feel that it’s my calling. I had worked in the field for 14 years before assuming the role here at IAHSP, so people look to me for guidance. My whole mission is to help people succeed, and I’m passionate about it. I am dedicated to an industry I love that has supported me and my family for years. The reason I devote the hours I do to both the IAHSP association and StagedHomes is I feel a responsibility to carry the mission forward that was passed to me by the founder of our industry, Barb Schwarz, who was my personal mentor for years. This is why I’m in this industry, and this is what drives me every day.
The IAHSP conferences are the most unique and popular events in the industry. I understand this year’s theme is SOAR—Seek Opportunities and Rise—with your gala awards dinner theme of Roaring 2021—The Great Gatsby, complete with a speakeasy, is that right?
We are all incredibly excited for this year’s conference in Denver, Colorado—The Mile High City! We added the words “Family Reunion” to our event as it is a time where our industry family comes together to learn, celebrate success, and forge strong friendships. “The IAHSP Family Reunion Conference & EXPO” is the official title. Last year was a challenging year for all of us. We were unable to meet in person, many businesses were hampered with shutdowns, and for many it was a scary time not knowing what to expect. The anticipation of this event gives people hope and joy as they look forward to being together!
In addition, we are the only group that hosts a big gala awards dinner with a fun theme. This year our theme is “Roaring 2021–Great Gatsby Gala,” and attendees are encouraged to come in costume, enjoy a great dinner and hopefully win some awards! We have a VIP Speakeasy planned and dancing to wrap up our three-day event. We have keynote business and motivational speaker Chris Widener, sharing on Making a Big Impact in Business and Life. He’s written 22 books, worked personally with Zig Ziglar and Jim Rohn, and is ranked in the Top 50 Best Motivational Business Speakers in the world. We also have one of the best social media experts I have ever heard, Jonny Fowler, as our keynote marketing speaker. We have Ravi Hutheesing, cultural catalyst and former band member for Hansen, speaking on staying viable as an entrepreneur. We’ll have over 25 speakers total and will cover a wide variety of topics with general sessions and breakout sessions by topic and business level. We also have our Advanced Stager Training (AST) workshop for six-plus figure business owners. This training is held the two days following our annual conference and the conversations and discoveries that take place with the advanced business owners is incredibly valuable.
That sounds like a lot of fun! Tell us about some of your past conferences. I understand one of them involved a massive diamond giveaway of sorts?
It did! In 2019, we held our live conference in Nashville with the theme “ROCK Your Business in Music City.” Our gala theme was “Denim and Diamonds.” I actually got a two-carat diamond and 99 cubic zirconias, put them all in individual glasses of champagne and sold them to attendees as part of a fundraiser for the IAHSP Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation that supports the World Wide Staging Service Week® initiative. Since 2005, our members around the globe have completed service projects to give back to their communities.
In 2018, we were in Charlotte with keynote celebrity speakers Jonathan and Drew Scott, better known as “The Property Brothers.” In 2017, we held our conference in Fort Lauderdale and welcomed Jeff Lewis from Flipping Out as our keynote celebrity speaker. In 2020, our conference theme was “Vision for Success: Focus, Clarity, Future,” and we delivered the best virtual event given the remote limitations and everyone had a blast—and learned a lot! So, each year, we bring quality industry pros sharing on educational topics, and then add a little fun or flair with a special guest speaker.
Tell us about StagedHomes and how you’re helping stagers and real estate agents thrive.
StagedHomes is the world’s largest and longest-running home staging training company. It was founded in 1999, and I took over as president and CEO in 2016. To date, tens of thousands of real estate agents and stagers around the world have taken our courses. Education is the key that unlocks the understanding of the importance of proper presentation of a house for sale. Staging is no longer optional—it is critical. First impressions matter, and as the old adage states, “You only get one chance to make a first impression. Make it a good one.” We help all levels of stagers and real estate professionals gain the knowledge they need to capture these dollars and provide the best service possible to their clients.
Can you give us some details about the courses and credentials StagedHomes offers?
I’ll be happy to! We offer four core courses. The Accredited Staging Professional® Stager Business Course is for those who want to build a successful staging business. Our Accredited Staging Partner® Real Estate Agent Course is for agents who want to learn how to use staging as a key listing and marketing tool for their business. It teaches the process, foundation, and communication skills agents need to get sellers to say yes to staging, and then they know who to partner with them for staging their listings. We offer the Accredited Staging Assistant® Course for those who want to plug into an existing company and stage for them versus running the entire operation. Lastly, we have the Accredited Staging Professional Master® Course, which is the advanced-level training for stagers who want to increase their success, profit, and knowledge. These courses are taught worldwide and anyone can attend from the convenience of their home and learn with a virtual live course with one of our Certified ASP® Course Trainers or a self-paced recorded webinar. All graduates receive a full-year membership in the IAHSP and get access to the private Staging University®, the only online resource for our industry with forms, templates, agreements, and the ability to obtain leads for business with our exclusive online directory.
All graduates receive ongoing education resources that come along with their training, including over 100 hours of the Home Staging Talk Show Live segments, over 20 hours of FAST Track Sessions – Focused Accelerated Stager Training, and other niche-specific courses taught by industry professionals. We can never stop learning, as the industry is always evolving. If a person stops learning and advancing their skills, they fall behind and become stale. It is never “one and done” with staging, and that is why we continue to update and develop new curriculum based on where our industry is headed, and not remain stuck in the past.
Let’s end with a somewhat personal question. What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
I often ask my students and colleagues what their “why” is. It has to be more than money to keep a person committed long term to their business. What you do in life has to be a passion—and that will drive a person to continue forward even when they’re facing challenges. I knew when I discovered home staging way back in 2002 that I had found my passion. I have a degree from UCLA in Psychobiology and was pre-med. I realized that I didn’t have it in me to continue the long—and expensive—journey to med school and found my way into marketing and business development for environmental companies. I was using my science background, I loved marketing and working with people, but it was not my passion. When I found home staging, I was excited as it combined my love of helping others with my passion for creativity. Plus, my marketing background made understanding how staging is used to help make properties more marketable. My “why” is that I truly am about helping others succeed.
My whole mission is to empower business owners to success—whatever that means to them. If a person wants to learn how to make seven or eight figures in staging, I can show them how. If they want to have a smaller business, I can show them how to accomplish that. No matter the size of their dream, I know I can help someone achieve it. My “reward” is the joy I get from seeing our industry advance, the satisfaction I get from helping launch and support new business owners, and the pride I have in our team and leaders who are my colleagues and my staging family.
(article written by Heather Andrews of The Top 100 Magazine – from an interview with Jennie Norris)
THE Home Staging Industry Event of the YEAR is coming to you LIVE in Denver – Sept 24-26, 2021.
The IAHSP Family Reunion Conference & EXPO brings TOP Educators, Expert KEYNOTE Speakers, Topics that will INSPIRE, MOTIVATE, EDUCATE and CHALLENGE you to RISE above your competition and bring in MORE business!
We chose our conference theme carefully based on what we all experienced last year with not being able to travel, to see our colleagues and friends in person, to shift to stay viable, and more.
SPACE IS LIMITED! Do not wait to register. We have to share numbers with the host hotel – and plan for food, space and hotel rooms. You can pay 50% now and 50% later – just get registered! Go to www.IAHSPConEXPO.com and get EXCITED about what you will LEARN and who you will MEET at this year’s conference!
Make your reservation now – don’t wait as the hotel block with our special rate goes away August 23rd! You can reserve your room – and then if you need to change things, you can with no penalty (based on hotel terms) when canceled within the time permitted by the hotel.
THANK YOU TO OUR CONFERENCE SPONSORS! These wonderful companies will be at our conference to meet YOU – and you can learn about the products and services and SHOP while at the conference!
Check out this GUIDE for people who want to be Home Stagers and have a successful business. It includes all the important information you need to know to make the right choices when considering establishing a staging business and working in the home staging industry.
Our May-June DOUBLE ISSUE is our BIGGEST issue yet! With over 55 pages of content – this issue is all about FAMILY! From working with family, tax strategies with family, what defines a family, Occupied Home Staging and working with our Client Families, and Marketing Messaging to get business in a HOT market. All issues of our magazine are available to current members and can be found by logging into the http://www.IAHSP.com site and accessing the archives.
Our latest benefit for our members is a guide we want to share with real estate agent clients, their offices, office managers, brokerages, leaders and all who need to know how we work to support them and the real estate industry, and what to expect when working with a Pro-Stager. From protecting a Real Estate Agent’s Commission to the Process of Staging, Who to Hire, Where to find a Pro-Stager, Pricing and Stats, and more – this is the quintessential guide to help understand how to incorporate Home Staging to maximize profits in selling a property.
You can share the link or download the guide and send.
By Jennie Norris, ASPM®, IAHSP®, Chairwoman, International Association of Home Staging Professionals®, President & CEO of Stagedhomes.com, and Owner of Sensational Home Staging – We Stage Colorado
Real estate agents are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition. Some Agents invest their own dollars to prepare and market properties, paying for services on behalf of their seller to ensure the house is ready for buyers to see prior to hitting the market. One of the key value-added services is home staging. Statistics provided by both The Profile of Home Staging (NAR®) and The 2020 Home Staging Industry Report (IAHSP®) both share staged houses sell for up to 20% more than the non-staged competition. Sellers need to make sure their house is show ready and throughout the years, the home staging industry members have seen a steady increase in the number of agents providing this as part of the marketing services to prepare and successfully sell a property.
Realtors hire a professional home stager to provide a staging consultation for the sellers where they receive detailed information on what to do room by room to prepare their house for sale. A consultation costs about $250-$500 around the country and agents consider it part of their marketing strategy and pay for it on behalf of the seller. When compared to other services agents will often pay for to prepare and sell the house, such as carpet cleaning, window cleaning, professional house cleaning, landscape clean up, photography and virtual tours, staging is a the only service done in preparation of the house for sale that bring measurable value proven by the statistical surveys conducted by NAR® and IAHSP®.
But what happens if the property needs more than a consultation? Many houses need the addition of furniture and décor brought into empty rooms in a house or added to supplement homeowner’s items to fill the gaps and provide a more updated look for buyers. Sellers may not have the available cash flow to pay for professional staging, so agents are offering to pay for the hands-on staging and inventory fees because they know the staging will help the house sell faster and at the best price. It is a win-win for the agent-seller team.
The challenge is the market can be unpredictable. A Realtor is not in charge of the market and cannot guarantee a house will sell in a certain timeframe, although they approach every listing with the strategy of getting the house under contract quickly. There are external factors that impact the market including interest rates, the economy and other properties that are for sale. When a REALTOR® offers to pay for staging services, they need to make sure to protect their commission and offer creative solutions to their sellers.
Here are seven tips to keep in mind when incorporating home staging into your listing process and protect your commission:
1. Get an estimate for the staging BEFORE you establish your commission.
The Staging should be an add-on service that is covered by the commission. If you don’t get a price first and then agree to lower your commission in order to secure a listing, you are now receiving less money for the sale. Most agents who incorporate this strategy of paying for staging use the staging as a way to validate being paid MORE than another agent who is not bringing staging to the table. Depending on what pricing you received from the stager, you would increase your commission percentage by 0.25 or 0.5% to pay for the initial Staging and could increase by 1% or more if the house is luxury property. In most markets, this small increase in commission earned will cover the initial Staging investment. Contact your stager to get a price for staging the main rooms of the house and use that as a guideline when negotiating your commission.
2. Do not pressure your stager for “the price” to stage when they have not seen the property yet.
You want to know what the costs will be to determine how you will structure your commission but a stager usually needs to see the house to provide you with accurate pricing and this is ideally done in person but can also be done using photos. An experienced stager can give a price “range” – but even with that it could be inaccurate when they have not really seen the house. Some stagers provide pricing based on list price, square footage or number of rooms being staged, and with this type of pricing, you need to ensure you are getting the appropriate style, volume of furnishings, and quality that is appropriate for the type of property you are listing. When an agent does not get an accurate estimate, they risk their commission because they do not own the staging business and do not know how a stager prices their services. When the Stager provides the estimate, the listing agent can be in a tough position because they agreed to pay for services that are more than planned. This means the Staging could be scaled back, or the agent has to pay more than planned. Getting the estimate UP FRONT before negotiating commission ensures agents do not end up getting less than they deserve for selling the house.
3. Make sure to cap the amount you are contributing toward the Staging.
If furniture and décor are provided, there can be an ongoing fee paid for inventory supply or rental. The items ideally need to stay in place until the house is under contract and it is safe to remove. This could be in a month or it could be several months after the initial staging, and when an agent does not cap the amount they are contributing, the ongoing inventory use fee is added to the amount paid by the agent, which means you are making less and less commission. You are not able to re-negotiate your commission at this point, and so the ongoing fees are coming out of your earnings. This could add up to thousands of dollars, and when the seller is benefitting the most from the sale, they need to be the ones paying for the ongoing staging investment.
4. Share what, if anything, you are willing to pay toward the staging and put it in writing.
What we recommend is you share with the seller, “I will contribute up to $___ towards the Staging, and then any fees beyond that will be your responsibility.” If the seller is not able to pay up front, you can share, “I will cover the costs associated with the initial staging and will be reimbursed at the successful close.” There is a risk involved as the client could decide to cancel the listing. Make sure to protect your money in the agreement sharing, “If for any reason the house is removed from active listing or other changes occur (you) will be paid in full for the Staging investment paid on behalf of (client).”
When you are willing to pay a portion of the staging, ideally have the seller pay up front and you reimburse them at the successful close for what you want to contribute. “I will pay $___ towards the staging cost and it will be paid to you at the successful close of the sale.” That is the ideal scenario as you are not having to come out of pocket for any of the staging service, and if anything happens to the client or sale, you are not risking leaving money behind. If you just want to provide a consultation, you would share, “I pay for the services of a professional staging consultation where you will receive detailed recommendations on what to do to prepare your house for sale. Any additional staging services would be paid by you.” Always make sure the terms are in writing in your contract and clearly understood by the homeowners.
5. Do not quote pricing for the staging unless you received pricing from your stager.
Your clients may ask what the staging will cost, and if you have not received proposals and pricing for staging, please do not guess at what you think it should be. You may end up setting false expectations for the sellers, and the pricing could be way off – either too low or too high. There are other factors to consider with the staging, and it is best to put the emphasis on the results they want versus putting the focus on the price. Lastly, let the Stager negotiate any price adjustments and be the one to explain the services and how they work. One key point to share is, “The investment in Staging is always less than a price reduction or a lower starting price.” And Staging is a tax write deduction (IRS Publication 523) and a price reduction or lower starting price is a loss of equity.
6. Always quantify the value of any services you are paying for on behalf of the Seller so they understand upfront your commitment and contribution to help them sell their property.
When a person gets things for free, it is human nature to not really assign any value to the service or item and a nonchalant attitude seems to prevail. Let them know you are investing in the sale of their house – give them the value – and reinforce your quality reputation and standards. This applies for staging and any other preparation services such as cleaning, carpet cleaning, window washing, landscape touch up, photography and virtual tours. When there is no value, there is no appreciation or understanding of the benefits you are providing versus other agents.
7. Be creative with options for staging and needed home improvements and connect with companies that provide this service.
There are companies, such as ZoomCasa,that will pay for any improvements needed for a property and require the house to be staged. They pay for all the services up front and get reimbursed with an added fee for loaning the funds. They evaluate the property, make sure there is enough equity or margin in the sale to cover all the closing costs, agent commissions, their fees, and provide all the financial resources for whatever work needs to be done prior to listing. Your professional stager will be vetted by them in advance and can share the names and contacts for the company. This option helps protect and preserve your and your sellers’ money as you are not having to put out any up front for the prep and staging of the property. If you decide to contribute a portion toward the staging, you can put that in your contract and have it paid at closing. One of the great aspects of this program is the companies providing the services to repair, remodel, improve and stage the house are paid when they do the work and do not have to wait for the house to close. You won’t have to ask anyone to wait to be paid, which can be a hardship for these affiliate companies.
Use these 7 Tips to help you protect your income while being seen as a Realtor that does more for your sellers than the average agent. Staging adds value to the sale and it should not break your bank.
Want to know the 2020 Statistics for Home Staging?
Go to www.HomeStagingStats.com and download our 34 page report with statistics on vacant, occupied, regular priced, and luxury priced properties, plus infographics on the process for consultations to help you better educate your clients.
About the author: Jennie Norris has been staging professionally since 2002, and to date she has Staged over 5,400 properties. She has yet to meet a house she could not help and she stages all properties from modest to multi-million dollar. Jennie runs the world’s largest home staging industry trade association, and the largest real estate home staging training company. She is passionate about the industry she serves and is committed to helping partner in education with real estate agents, sellers, builders and investors. Jennie resides in Littleton, CO with her family.
There are numerous groups on social media where idea sharing takes place to help provide guidance or tips to industry colleagues. One of the more common questions or posts I see are from newer Stagers posting pics of properties they are going to Stage or have Staged, asking if what they did is “right.” The answer to what all stagers need in order to stage a house in the best way is at the end of this article. This leads me to the question, is there one “right” way to Stage® a room? Are there a lot of rules that if you violate them, your staging is “wrong” and the house now will not sell?
In short. No.
Staging is subjective. It always has been and always will be. We need to be careful about boxing in our creativity and assigning one set of rules to every staging. Not only is that restrictive, it is unrealistic. Things like budget, timeframe, and resources are all factors in how a property is Staged. It is important we do not compare our staging to someone else’s or judge a staging that may not be as embellished as others because what is not being openly shared is how much of a budget the stager had to carry out the staging. Of course, someone who has a large budget can provide more than one that has a tighter budget, and the question we SHOULD be asking is, “Did the house sell?” When that answer is, “Yes,” the staging worked, the stager did a great job, and the client got the results they wanted. Of course, please never stage a house with too few things as it cheapens not only the buyer experience, the house, but our industry. Better to walk away from a client with too small a budget than diminish your reputation and staging integrity.
If a house is occupied and being Staged using what the homeowner has that is very different than a vacant property where the Stager gets to select all the furnishing and décor to create a look that fits the property and the budget provided. And when the homeowner is still living in the house, there is the added challenge of maintaining the look of the staging with an owner who is less-than-attentive to detail.
How often does PRICE factor into a Staging? Every time. It’s pretty rare that a Stager gets carte blanche for a Staging to charge whatever they want to for their services. I never have. Eighteen years and 5,400 properties and counting and I have never had a client tell me to spend whatever I wanted to get their house ready for sale. There is always a budget to consider, and more generous budgets allow for more items and more profit to the stager. The tighter the budget, the fewer options there are for Staging. And there is a point where all Stagers need to walk-away from a Staging project when they will be losing money. None of us got into this as a charity to pay our clients for the privilege of getting their house ready for sale.
The rules I see being shared have to do with things like area rug sizes, whether-or-not to karate chop a pillow, how to make a bed, how to dress a table, and how to position furniture. These are all subjective opinions, and not a reason a house will or will not sell. And I will share my thoughts and guidelines regarding each one.
Area Rugs: If you want to use a 5’x7’ rug because it fits in your inventory space better, or you don’t have access to 8’x10’ rugs from your inventory provider (most of the rental companies do not provide larger rugs), then use the 5’x7’. Staging colleagues who share a smaller rug is “wrong” used to use those same sizes when they were newer. When a wood floor is the selling feature in a room, I would not cover up the majority of it with a rug. This deviates from design principles where you want to have the furniture grouping on the rug and a larger size is preferred.
Logistically, the larger rugs are difficult to store, they weigh a lot, and one person cannot carry them because if they are good quality, they are like a bag of wet sand. Aesthetically the larger rugs may be preferred by some, however, until I hear the words, “We did not purchase the house because the area rug was not an 8’x10’size,” we will continue to use them in properties for Staging, along with our larger rugs for houses that do need a bigger size. And a TIP from experienced Stagers is use two 5’x7’ rugs that are the same and put them side by side, to create a larger rug.
Pillows: The only rule for pillows would be use them on sofas, accent chairs and beds as way to add layers of texture and color. Ideally you want matching pillows in pairs however the eclectic look is acceptable. Karate chop the middle of pillows with feather inserts or don’t do it. Either way is fine. One benefit of karate chopping is if you go to the house and the pillows no longer have that look, you know someone used your pillows, moved them, or sat on the sofa. Buyers do not run screaming for the door when they see a karate chop pillow.
Beds: Some stagers like comforter sets with bed skirts and shams, some like coverlets draped over the bed to the floor. Some like to layer up the bed and others are more streamlined and minimalist. Do you use a throw or a blanket folded neatly across the end of the bed? Do you have to make the bed with sheets? Do you put a tray on the bed? The answer to the questions is yes or no. It all depends on what you prefer. For higher end houses, you do want to take the time to make the bed with sheets and layers. These are the beds that would be rolled back tastefully to show off the layers. In other houses, a bed could be made without sheets and layers. One of the reasons we choose not to dress beds with sheets for all houses is we do not want people “in” the beds and when the mattress has plastic covering on it (for sanitary purposes) and not sheets there is less likely to be fooling around in the bed. Yes, that does happen. Stay in the industry long enough and you too will have the pleasure of discovering unmentionables in your beds.
Should you use real mattresses, box springs and frames? Stagers who share only real beds should be used must have forgotten when they were new(er) and had to make beds out of air mattresses, platforms that were camping cots or boxes or bins. Yes, our industry has progressed, and we do not want to promote cheap-looking staging. Much like the issue with the large area rugs, for stagers without a warehouse, carrying mattresses and box springs becomes a logistical impossibility. Good news is third party rental companies provide mattresses and box springs that are reasonably priced. And a TIP from experienced stagers is use two sets of box springs instead of a mattress to save budget. You can always put a topper on the box spring to create a softer layer before the comforter or coverlet is placed on top.
What about Headboards? They provide a nice, complete look to a bed and dress up a bedroom for a professional finish. There are headboards that fold up but most of them are going to be too large for even a large SUV. Stagers have created headboards out of foam, fencing, and other creative methods that create the “look” of a headboard without the storage needs. Sometimes a large piece of art is hung over the bed and shams bolstered up against the wall. It is all about the budget for the Staging and type of property.
Placement: When arranging a room, a stager needs to consider focal points and function. An architectural focal point would be a fireplace or a view window. A living room could have two focal points while a bedroom may not have any and it has to be created with the furniture arrangement. In general, you want to feature what the room is from the entry way of the room, so placing the main furniture piece across from the entry or in that zone is usually the best option. Should you angle furniture? Angling furniture helps soften the corners of the room and provides an interesting alternative to having everything squared off. This may not work for smaller rooms as angling the furniture does create a “dead zone” behind the item and cuts the square footage. It is a subjective choice and harkens back to the notion that there is not one “right” way to stage a room, however there may be a better way. A Stager learns this with experience and/or moving things around to see various options.
In my opinion, the word “rule” needs to be changed to “guidelines” and then to “preference,” and when asking for feedback on social media, at some point you need to learn the answer to the question posed at the beginning: Gut Instinct and experience. Those two elements will provide you the confidence you need to successfully stage any property and trust your choices.