Ask the Expert – Disparity in Staging

Q: Christine, As a responsible real estate agent, I’ve watched the growth and influence of staging via TV shows, magazines and newspapers, etc. I confess to being confused! Why do […]

Q: Christine,

As a responsible real estate agent, I’ve watched the growth and influence of staging via TV shows, magazines and newspapers, etc. I confess to being confused! Why do some people think staging is totally renovating a house, when some people do minor repairs, and some stage a few rooms, and some do nothing except add a few cushions! WHY is there such disparity? Which approach is right? I can’t honestly see myself recommending a client invest $20,000 to $30,000 to put their house in tip-top condition, when I know it will sell anyway because it is a hot market.

– Mary, NYC

A: Great questions Mary, and thank you for the opportunity to respond. I am sure many people are wondering the same things.

Range of Interpretation

Frankly, it is the result of several situations. Ultimately, I think of it as evolution. It is hard to believe this service has only grown in acceptance during the last decade. Starting in the late ’90s, when mortgage rates were as high as 21% in some places, buyers decided they wanted and expected more for their money. That paved the way for the development of a professional service provider. (Prior to that agents would suggest sellers simply cut grass, put baby pictures away, and declutter.) The financial collapse in 2009 gave birth to the investor/flip-this-property shows, which really pushed the envelope into renovation. Everything is still subject to interpretation, which is why the spread of the service exists.

Sellers, real estate agents, and sadly even stagers’ perspectives are only as current as their past experiences/knowledge. Sellers usually only know what they see on TV and are told about via their agent. The agent only has the knowledge they have sought out; they are naturally protective of their client. From an emotional point (they don’t want the seller offended, shocked, or upset), a financial perspective (to some people it sounds crazy to invest lots of money in a property they will not be living in) and of course because it has always been done THIS way (no change in process).

Staging is a non-regulated industry and still embryonic in its development. Practitioners can decide to use their own interpretations or seek out professional training. Even the training varies from mediocre to excellent, which means if a practitioner chooses a training that isn’t comprehensive and rooted in real estate vs. decorating, you will find a stager who focuses on decor. At this point, there is no accepted right or wrong solution. CSP International Staging Academy believes differently. We believe we are working in real estate, which is a regulated industry, so intensive training, certification, great skills and knowledge are “must-haves”.

Time, money, and inclination all affect what gets completed prior to marketing a property; unfortunately, there is still a permeation of POGE (Principle of Good Enough). What you need to know is that research shows that at least seven out of ten buyers not only want move-in ready – they are willing to pay more money for it! I believe to maximize the opportunity to secure the most money possible for the sale of the house every conceivable thing which can be done, should be done. Bringing a close to perfect product to market makes it easier and faster to sell. It also creates bidding wars in hot markets.

Recommend Financial Investment

I can understand why this concern is raised because the perception is there are no guarantees. Would it be irresponsible to make the recommendation when you know for sure the house will sell as-is? Real estate professionals have a fiduciary responsibility to do the very best they can for their client. Speaking to them about considering staging as a marketing leverage option is the smart, progressive, responsible thing to do. What the seller decides to do is up to them. It is like a home inspection; an informed buyer wouldn’t think of not having one prior to purchase. Likewise, a smart seller would at least listen to the recommendations from a certified staging professional. I think of it as going to the negotiation table with eyes wide open. In the event a seller chooses to go to market without fulfilling all the staging professional’s recommendations, they are totally accountable if offers come in at less than what they expected.

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About Christine Rae

Christine Rae blends her passion for the staging and decorating industries, her desire for helping people develop their potential, the thrill of training to the presentation of the CSPâ„¢ workshop. She has honed her skills and built her knowledge through extensive training in a variety of disciplines. During the last five years Christine has trained over 1600 people and in 2004 was recipient of an International Staging Award. Christine believes a crucial part of success as a trainer is to keep your hand in the industry you speak and teach about. This is why she continues to work (outside of training sessions) at building her own staging business, and works with a select group of Realtors® . The best business anyone can have is from a referral - it is an honor and privilege to work with you and your sphere of influence. Wellness with Essential Oils: http://www.christineraelivingoils.com/weblog