Buyer Beware! Yet another sad story to learn from

I am a Certified Staging Professional, CSP(TM), and the quality of my workmanship and the level of impact it makes are incredibly important to me. Why wouldn't I put the very best of my creativity, resourcefulness, and expertise into all projects I complete. As a Home Stager, I would be out-to-lunch if I didn't strive to provide my clients (sellers and the Realtor(R)) with my best. After all, if I do a lousy job of Staging a property, it will continue to sit on the market and continue to drain everyone's pocket-books.

Wouldn't that be a great way to make a name for my business? Ummmm, NO. Word of mouth is absolutely the most powerful form of advertising. My company would die a quick death if I didn't put effort and care into my projects.

I want to tell a story about my dealings with my last Realtor(R). I am sharing this story in the hopes of saving some of the Professionals out there from going through the same situation.

In this story, I will not use names at all. We cannot get through life successfully by spreading pointed defamation. This is negative, and I refuse to do this to anyone.

So, I get a phone-call from a Realtor(R). He would like to meet with me at a 700 sq. ft. vacant condo he has listed. He would like me to provide to him a proposal for the investment required to Stage the whole condo.

Okay, so I start building a respect for the Realtor(R), right away, because he obviously understands how important it is to Stage the empty properties. Awesome! Now, I don't have to educate him.

I show up to our meeting, and am ten minutes early as always. He rolls up in his vehicle approximately 17 minutes past our meeting time. He saunters up to me, makes no eye contact whatsoever, and starts fumbling with the lock-box. He introduced himself to me. Yet, there was no explanation or apology for arriving late. This makes a very bad overall impression. The professionalism is already lacking. But, I remain positive and open.

We go up to the unit. I take all my measurements, record all interior colors, and do up my sketch of the layout. I have compiled all that I need, and I explain the process to him. I let him know that I was heading out to prepare the proposal for him, and that I would have it sent to him by early afternoon. We part ways. I spend my usual full hour on creating the proposal for him, and send it off to him.

A couple of days later, I noticed I hadn't heard anything from him, so, being concerned, I e-mailed him and left him a phone message. I asked that he get back to me to confirm that he had received the proposal. In this electronic age, it does sometimes happen where e-mails and their attachments get lost in cyber-space.

A few more days pass, and I have still heard nothing.

In the mean-time, I am watching the particular listing on the internet to see how it is all going. It is still sitting empty/vacant. I find this unfortunate, because it is at a competitive price-point, and it was fairly spacious in person. But, because it is vacant, the photos make the unit appear very small and dark. This is obviously deterring many buyers from being interested in the least.

So, two days ago (the 20th day since I had met the Realtor(R)), I opened up my internet browser and went to the listing once again.

Well, looky here! The condo is now "Staged". I put the quotation marks around the word, Staged, because of the fact that I was literally appalled at how the condo is set up. Bright red sofas, huge dark area rugs, huge dining table, crazy mismatched throw pillows, odd placemats on the dining table, and the list goes on. Clicking to open the photo literally made me gasp aloud.

Now, my first feeling was sadness for the Realtor(R) and the seller. I went on to look at the rest of the photos, and it just got worse. It truly appeared as if someone went to the Clearance area of a big-box store, and bought the last one of every item, in every clashing color you can dream of, threw it into a truck, and stuffed it into this poor little condo.

The result here is that the condo looks even smaller now. It also appears cluttered and confusing. It now appears as if it is being lived in by a couple of college roommates who have pooled together all of their hand-me-down belongings just for the sake of being able to "crash" at their pad.

So, there are a few morals to this upsetting story.

The property is still not moving, and it will now probably sit on the market for much longer, and may even need a price reduction at some point.

The Realtor(R) was not professional or amicable in his meeting with me. Nor did he even take the 30 seconds it would have required in order to let me know that he was not going to use my services. Instead, he ignored me altogether.

I, at this point, have to assume that he received a lower quote from another Home Staging company, causing him to jump and go with them.

He has now completely burnt his bridge with me as a partner. But, not only that, he is now stuck in a monthly contract, with a condo full of large, chunky, vivid, awkward furniture pieces that do not work together.

Most importantly, either he, or the seller, or both have literally thrown their money into the toilet. Now, do they leave this sub-standard "Staging" job in tact? Do they contact said "Staging" company and demand that the items are all removed from the property and the contract is eliminated? How quickly now do they realize they have to start from scratch, now that they have literally wasted 28 days being on the market with no offers?

I can safely estimate that the investment involved in Staging a 700 sq. ft. condo ran them around $1200-$2000. Money gone, wasted. Not only that, but now they have to spend the money all over again in order to seriously attract any buyers' interest.

So, how can the Realtor(R) avoid this type of mess? This is where the "Buyer Beware" comes in, once again.

* Ask any Stager you consider for proof of their credentials and/or Education (Look for the CSP(TM) designation).

* Then, further to the last point, ask for their Stager ID #. All credible Home Staging Training programs provide successful graduates with their ID #. This # is also verifiable on the various Academy websites. Make sure that they are in "Good Standing" with their academy, as this can also be very telling of their character, intention, reliability, and level of capabilities. (Our Stager ID# with Canadian Certified Staging Professionals is 1712)

* Demand to see their portfolio of completed projects. You shouldn't have to demand this, though. Credible, talented Stagers will tend to bring these out without being prompted. Ensure that the photos are not "Stock Photos".

* Ask the Stager where they plan to acquire the Rental Furniture and Accessories from for the project. If they say that they have their own inventory, and demand that you see photos of a sample of their inventory. You want to ensure that they are using quality furnishings. If they tell you that they rent from The Staging Warehouse in West Edmonton, this is a good thing, as they have nothing but stellar quality pieces.

* Do NOT be afraid to test the Stager to see how in-tune they are with the current Real Estate market. The Great Stagers out there LOVE to talk about this, because they are actually passionate about what they do, and they are the ones who actually care whether or not their Staging work sells a property.

* Ask them for details on their previous successful projects with measurable time-frames. How long had the listing been sitting on the market before they got their hands on it. How did the process play out? What impact did the Staging have on potential buyers? How quickly did it sell afterwards, and for how much in relation to asking price?

You, the Realtor(R), or client, absolutely have the RIGHT to know all of the above. And, any Stager who hesitates in readily providing any documentation you wish to see is not worth your time or investment.

The reason I want to post these warnings as they come up is the fact that the Home Staging industry is still un-regulated. This means that there are still too many people out there deciding that tomorrow, out of the blue, they are going to be a Stager, with no experience and/or education. They have watched shows on t.v., and their mom has assured them that they have a talent for it. Well, this doesn't cut it, as we all know.

I am just trying to protect those of us out there who ARE credible, who have experience, and who excel at what we do. I am also attempting to protect the people who realize the value in Staging, but experience uncertainty in choosing who to trust.

Now that I am done spewing forth, I would love to hear anyone's stories regarding "Staging gone Bad".

Success to all!

Rhonda Wilson - CCSPTM
Owner/Operator of
Revealing Assets
Home Staging and Decluttering Services
We transform properties into highly
sought-after products that sell in half
the time and for 7-10% more money.
Through personal experience, extensive
research and training, and a compassionate
approach, we De-clutter living/work spaces for
up-lifting and positive life changes.

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


Comment balloon 0 commentsRhonda Wilson • March 08 2010 04:27PM
Buyer Beware! Yet another sad story to learn from
I am a Certified Staging Professional, CSP(TM), and the quality of my workmanship and the level of impact it makes are incredibly important to me. Why wouldn't I put the very best of my creativity, resourcefulness, and expertise into all projects I… more