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How to Hire an Accredited Stager

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    If you run a search on Craigslist for "staging" under real estate services, several pages worth of stagers pop out. All of them promise to sell your home faster and for more. Are they going to fullfill their promises? How do you know? Do you dare to use your equity to gamble on a stager you randomly found on the Web?

    Here are 5 tips to hire a qualified stager:

    1. Ask for qualifications. But don't mistake this with the letters behind this person's name on his/her business card as qualifications. When I was working as a Realtor, although I have passed my exams, taken my GRI and e-PRO courses, it didn't mean anything until I was out on the field. What I mean by qualifications is how much work has this person done in the staging industry?

      Ask to see resume, portfolio, past before & after pictures (make sure they are done by him/her, not some stock photos from some website. Usually a good way is "Oh, tell me about the story behind this picture!"), or certifications and continue educations if this is important to you.
    2. Ask for their professional policies. As a professional, for example, if you are a bank teller, there are certain procedures to follow when a customer shows up at your window with a wad of cash in their hands, right? If a customer is doing something inappropriate, such as depositing someone else's check into his/her account, there are certain protocols to follow, correct? Similarly with running a small business, which is what most of the stagers' businesses are. You want to do business with someone who has strong ethics and professional policies because these reflect on his /hers professionalism, as well as how serious they will take your job. When your potential stager comes over for a consultation (many do charge a fee for coming out and many don't), observe what he or she does and his/hers working style. Is he/she listening to your needs? Respectful? Willing to work with you?

    3. Do searches on the internet on the stager or his/hers firm. This is the NEW age of real estate. A web presence is VERY important. If your staging professionals do not even have a website, don't even think about hiring them. In a 2005 National Association of Realtors study, 79% of buyers now shop on internet first, and that number is rapidly growing. If your stager writes a blog, that is a bonus, read a few entries to get a feel of how this person works and how credible this person is.

    4. You have specific needs, since every home is different, but is your stager listening to you or just trying to sell you the most expensive option? Expensive does not equal to good work, nor does cheap means awesome. Staging is an investment. It's not money wasted. Sometimes, you will find stagers who are economical and good (at that point, please thank your lucky stars). Don't determine on hiring someone based on price. Price does not mean anything really. A good stager WILL work with your budget. (But of course be reasonable, you can't really have champagne taste on beer budget.)

      There are a few different ways stagers determine how much they charge. Some, like me, does it based on how much time, work, assistance and materials I need for the job. Some based on Listing Price, which is the main reason why you see $30,000 price tag on a multi-million dollar homes. Some does it per square footage. In San Francisco bay area, there are quite a few price points. You will expect higher pricing in SF in general, and very competitive pricing in San Jose area. I have heard that it will be tough! if you can get $1.10 per square footage, since it is extremely competitive down there. (Which I concur. I did a consultation in San Jose, the Listing Agent handed me her business card. It says "List your home with me for 1.5%, or let me represent you as a buyer for 1%. List a home at 1.5%? How does she make any money between all the marketing costs, MLS fees, ads, etc.?! Or represent for 1%? Just think about all the gas she spends to drive customers around make me shudder. Typically now agents show about 80 homes before someone buys one.)

      If you ask your stager "How do you charge?" They probably will not tell you. BUT, they will tell you how they work. Find out what will they do in your home? You may spend $1000 on a staging job, but the stager may skim on furnishings & accessories just to get your business, comparing to a $3000 stager who will do the job right. So use your best judgment and look at their portfolio.
    5. Don't take it personally. If you do, you won't survive the Open House. Stagers may make recommendations that offend you because you feel that your taste in home decorating has been totally dismissed. BUT, staging is about appealing your home to a broad range of buyers. You may have an impressive collection of neon green hunchback trolls, but it is much more difficult to find buyers who like neon green hunchback trolls than finding buyers who like no neon green hunchback trolls (even though they are very very rare) in their homes. Usually when a buyer enters a home that has such strong personality, they are blindsided. If they are online, they will immediately exit your listing site and jumps to the next one (just think back when you are online shopping). If they are at open houses, they will walk out the door immediately and go to the next one. It doesn't matter if you have smashing view and great floor plan, they will not be able to see themselves live in that home.

    By Diane Tuman

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    • Last edited October 12 2012
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