10 things you should you look for when hiring a property stager

TV networks have used design and staging as entertainment and have made the profession seem glamorous, easy, and fun.  This has given the profession of property staging great attention and has caused a mass of people to pursue a new career in this industry, or to take on staging as a hobby, or to make money on the side. For this reason, it has become difficult for realtors and sellers to select a qualified professional to prepare their property for the market. Selecting a property stager should be taken as seriously as the decision to sell the property and/or selecting a realtor. With so many “professionals” to choose from, what should you look for when selecting a property stager? 

You will find that many stagers will promote their accreditation or certification as proof of ability or credibility.  The problem with this is that each of these schools of staging has their own certification and accreditation.  Imagine if each real estate school issued its own licenses, or if each design school gave their interior design students a license.  With these professions, the state issues a license based on a passing score or of a regulated qualifications exam.  Unfortunately, there is no qualifying exam for stagers at this time, so each school qualifies its own students. 

So how do you know if you are hiring a “qualified” stager without looking at their schools’ accreditation or certification?  Here are 10 things (not in any particular order) to look for in your search for a qualified property stager.

  1. Knowledge – A professional stager would have an understanding of each industry they represent such as the design, marketing/advertising, motion picture, and real estate industries.  A property can not be staged correctly if the stager has only completed a staging course and has no knowledge of marketing and real estate. 
  2. Seriousness – A professional stager understand that staging is not a hobby but a career.  You can see the seriousness in the stager by what they have invested in their own business.  Do they have a functional website, business cards, and a reliable telephone number?
  3. Portfolio – A professional stager will have developed a portfolio with various rooms or styles.  When viewing a stager’s portfolio, ask if the photographs are of an actual client’s property.  Some inexperienced stagers will use their own home as their portfolio; however this will only show you how they staged within the security of their own time frame and personality.  This does not give you confidence that they are able to work with clients, or within the time constraints of others.
  4. Flexible – A professional stager is flexible with their time, pricing methods, and services rendered.  A professional stager is able to stage as much or as little as you need.  However, the professional opinion of the stager should be considered first, after all this is why they were hired.
  5. Relationships – A professional stager has formed relationships with resources for furniture, art, accessories, lighting, and trades professionals such as painters, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and landscapers.
  6. Education – A professional stager understands that keeping up to date with the industries they represent is critical to the success of the properties they stage and the sellers or realtors they work with.  For this reason, they keep moving forward in expanding their range of education beyond their initial staging course.
  7. Expert – A professional stager is an expert in their field and proves so by the content they produce on their websites, marketing materials, and other written communications.  They do not rely on templates or pre-written marketing materials to educate their client base.  They educate based on their own statistics and personal research.  As with any profession, keeping up to date and having strong research skills makes for a better professional.
  8. Professionalism – A professional stager carries themselves as a professional.  They should be dressed appropriately, show respect to their competition, clients, vendors, and allied professionals.  If they are unable to perform a project due to lack of ability, they will recommend another stager rather than attempting the project. They know that it must always be in the best interest of the seller.
  9. Questions – A professional stager will ask questions about the property such as how many days on the market, list price, who is the owner, and what are prospective buyers currently saying about the property.  A professional stager will never ask the seller or realtor to give an opinion about design such as “what do you think about this chair? Or do you like this table here or how do you feel about this color?”  These are things that the stager should already know.
  10. Individual Producers – A professional stager is an individual producer.  When speaking about staging, they can give you information about projects they have actually produced.  Many inexperienced stagers or hobbyist will refer to successes as an industry or successes of another stager.

Once you have narrowed down the list of stagers you might want to work with, it is an absolute must to meet them in person.  If you are a realtor, you will want to make sure that this person is the best fit for working with you and your client. If you are a seller, this is the person you will be allowing in your home; you want to be sure you are comfortable with their personality.  This is a lot to keep in mind when hiring a property stager, but remember, it is your investment you are protecting, and in fact it is this investment you are entrusting to the stager. 

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