How do you become a property stager?

Wow, what a question! Let’s think about that for a minute.  Do you have to have a degree?  Are there special schools just for staging? What qualifies someone to stage a property?

 Do you need a degree?

In order to stage a property, one does not need a degree.  In fact, there is no degree program for staging!  Some may challenge this statement and say that obtaining an interior design degree would qualify a person to stage properties.  The degree alone will not qualify an interior designer to stage.  It does not even qualify an interior designer to be an interior designer. (Interior designers must pass the prestigious NCIDQ exam in order to obtain a license and the title of “Interior Designer” and/or practice interior design in many states)  The practice of property staging is almost the complete opposite of interior design.  Although some technical skills are similar, the design concepts of stagers are intended for the marketing of properties and may not be functional to living.  Interior design concepts are intended for interacting in a space or living. (Speaking of residential interior design)  Interior designers look after the interest of those who will be living or occupying the space long term.  Stagers look after the interest of a seller who has a product they want packaged and sold.  On the other hand, interior redesign is a growing trend among stagers.  Interior design is the process of creating a visually pleasing, functional, and organized space for living; using existing furniture, lighting, accessories, and art, while keeping cost of purchasing new items down.

 NOTE: This is not to say that interior designers are not qualified to stage.  Many interior designers have come to understand that when they combine their expertise with knowledge of marketing, real estate, and most important, depersonalization; they make great property stagers.

 Are there schools for staging? 

Yes there are! Unfortunately, there are so many, and each with their own accreditation!  Many people recently have been drawn to this industry because of the glamorous portrayal of staging on networks such as HGTV.  People must understand that these shows are for entertainment only.  The stagers and designers on these programs spent years learning and perfecting what they do.  There is so much work that goes in to each job that is not shown on TV. (i.e. 5 day projects condensed into a 1 hour show, how much are you missing?)  With this increased interest in the profession, many established stagers have created courses for those who have a desire to become a stager.  Many of these schools are simply correspondence, online, and seminar courses.  In my opinion, these courses lack many technical skills that are becoming critical for a stager to establish themselves as professional, and creditable in the real estate industry.  With that said, however, many people have used these courses to add to the marketing and real estate knowledge they have already acquired.  And many others view these courses as a milestone in their ongoing staging education to becoming great stagers.

 NOTE: This is not to say that people who enroll in these courses are not great stagers, or that the courses themselves are not practical.  Nor is this to say that stagers coming from these courses are in any way less qualified than an interior designer with a degree!  So what the heck am I saying?

 What qualifies a professional to stage properties?

Because real estate staging is a cross-industry profession, a professional must have a good understanding of basic principles in each industry they represent.

 The Design Industry:

A professional stager must have a good understanding of basic principles of design.  In addition, technical skills such as space planning, color theory, drawing (basic sketching and drafting), contract administration, budgeting, furniture styles, architectural styles, basic construction, building materials and uses, and how to work with trades such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and painters.

 The Marketing Industry:

A professional stager must have a good understanding of the marketing process.  Since stagers do not simply go into a property and design according to the design industry principles alone, they must acquire additional skills such as conducting market research to understand the property (product on the market), its competition, and the buyers.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of this property?  What does the competition have that this property does not and can we compensate for it? What about the buyers, what/where are they currently buying, what do they want to see and feel when they come to the property; how can we, through our concept, give them that feeling?

 The Real Estate Industry:

A professional stager must have a good understanding of the real estate industry as this is the industry that many stagers will be classified under.  Understanding the process of buying and selling property, the agency relationships, and contract administration, help stagers to better serve the sellers and realtors when it comes to educating them on how they can fit staging into the marketing plan.  Also, understanding how real estate agents conduct marketing analysis on properties give the stager much needed information for creating the packaging concept for the property.  Real estate comes in many forms and agents for those properties vary just the same.  There are many kinds of agents and how they work is very different. (Experts in luxury properties, commercial, residential, multi-family)  Understanding how they work with their clients can have a positive effect on how the staging is carried out.

 There are many other qualifications to consider, however, my goal here was to explain what it takes to become a property stager, whether we come from an interior design background, or we jumped into the industry though a staging course, the requirements are and should be the same.  It is the proof of practice, references, and code of ethics that currently qualify the stager.  It is my hope that soon, we will have our own regulation and standardization of educational and accreditation requirements that are in the best interest of our industry, clients, and professional allied partners, and not to a particular educational program or its students alone.


“So, like a decorator?”

When I tell people I am a property stager, which is what I consider myself, many times I get a confused look.  When I say that I am a real estate stager or home stager, I get the “Ahhhh, like on HGTV” or “So, like a decorator?”  The truth of the matter is that staging is a completely different discipline than that of decorating, just as decorating is a completely different discipline than interior design.

We all share the same design principles just as with any other designer. (i.e. graphic, fashion, photography, art, architecture) however, we all apply them for completely different reasons.  Interior designers and decorators apply these principles for the personalization of interior spaces.  These designers create wonderful interior spaces for specific persons, or a specific type of person if commercial.  Property stagers apply these principles for people they do not know yet, and strive to create an interior environment that appeals to the widest range of personalities.   The goal of interior design and decorating projects is to solve a design problem with a specific person in mind.  The goal of staging is to solve a marketing problem with many people in mind.

Another question i am asked, which I will write about next, is:  So, how do you become a “stager”?

What is property staging?

A little interior design, some decorating, marketing, real estate, and set design all rolled in to one.  Imagine wearing all those hats!  A properly trained real estate stager does just that.  So, where does it all fit in?

 To stage real estate properly, the designer must have a good understanding of spatial considerations, color, architectural and furnishing styles, the real estate market, and organization concepts to name a few.  In addition to these very technical understandings is the ability to use these techniques to create environments that speak to a wide range of buyers.  As with the advertising industry, stagers, realtors, and sellers have a product to market as well.  In the advertising industry, prior to the public seeing an ad, hours of planning and concept consideration have been done.  When we purchase something due to an ad that appealed to us, we are purchasing the result of research about us, the product, the products’ competition, and market trends.  Also, hours of design time have been spent to create a look that stands out among the crowd of competition, and makes an impression on its target market.

 It is no different with real estate staging.  Once a property is put on the market, it becomes a product of that market.  As a product, research must be done.  Who is/are the competition?  Who is the target market? What does the target market want in a property? What does this property have that the others don’t?  What is this property missing that the others have?  What do I like about this property?  What would make me purchase this property?  These are some questions that a real estate stager would ask themselves within the first few minutes of visiting the property.  Imagine the work that goes into the actual staging of the property.

 The goal, then, is to create an environment that attracts buyers.  It is as simple as that.  Not to create an environment that attracts the owner, realtor, or stager alone, but one that appeals to the largest number of buyers.  This can only be done through research, careful planning, creative ideas, and hard work.

 Staging real estate means to enhance a property’s best features, increasing the perceived space, convincing prospective buyers that this is their home and it is ready for them to move in! Staging is obviously more than just the placing furniture, accessories, or lighting to beautify the space.  This is marketing a product to gain a faster and more profitable sale.