How to Interview a Home Stager

Selling a property? Then OF COURSE you've heard about professional Stagers...but how does it actually work, and how do you get started? It's easier that you might think.

According to NAR (National Association of Realtors), thoroughly preparing your house before it goes on the market is one of the most important things you can do to aid in getting showings, and your best offers, quickly.

If you're like most people, your days are already pretty full. Getting your house ready for sale is a daunting task, and there is a lot riding on getting it right. 

You see professional stagers on HGTV, but wonder: how does it work, how will it work for your house, and where do you start?

Well, putting a good visual together is just the beginning. As more and more sellers must stay in their home until it closes, Staging it, then keeping it looking that way can represent a real lifestyle change. For that to happen, there needs to be motivation and commitment, and at the root of that needs to be a good relationship.

Staging someone's house can be a fairly intimate undertaking. You want  insights into the Stagers' personality as well as their skill, so you can be confident, knowing if you've found the right person to partner with.

Sellers: You really want to know the person who is going to be in your house, moving things around, and advising you. Agents: You have a lot at stake too. This person needs to be a good representative of you and your business, communicate well and be a team player.

Here are some questions I'd suggest agents and sellers use to start the conversation, and begin a successful Staging experience.

1 How did you get into doing this? (There are many different hats a stager wears in the course of a job, this will tell you exactly what's in their toolbox.)

2 Why do you like it? (Getting a home ready for sale, especially one that needs a lot of clearing out can be challenging, you want someone who loves what they do and can always see the light at the end of the tunnel.)

3. What were some of your more challenging situations, and how did you handle them? (Whether they were challenged by a person or a space, what and how they answer will tell you a lot.)

4. How do you handle getting along with so many different personalities? (A variation on the old stand-by, you want to open the door and see if and how they choose to walk through. Again, this shows attitude, character, and judgement).

5. How would you handle_____ (Pick your own most outrageous or uncomfortable scenario, and put it in the form of a general question. A house that smells bad? Spouses in an ugly divorce? Art in questionable taste? Bugs? Meddling relatives? Just like Miss America, their poise as well as their actual answer both count.)

Notice "the M word" has not yet been mentioned. I recommend NOT making money part of the first 15 minutes of conversation.  

Of course cost is important, but remember: A stager needs to be know more about what needs to be done, and who is going to do it. If there is no discussion/agreement on that first, all you've got is a number: unhelpful at best, wrong at worst.

Also-if you don't like/trust/respect the person, why would you consider having them in your house-or care how much it would cost? If it's an unpleasant, or ineffective experience, you will never, ever remembered what you paid-or thought you saved.

Overall, preparing a house for sale is just as much about the people living in it, as it is about the stuff. Taking the time up-front for you to know each other will actually result in you getting the best information, in the quickest way. Don't be shy...just start the conversation!

NEXT: What to expect when a stager interviews YOU.

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kidschlepper October 27, 2011 at 01:30 PM
Very helpful. Thanks. So money shouldn't be part of the interview but how much money does this cost? Is there a ballpark figure? Is the seller renting the furniture or is everything included in the price?
Marie Graham, ASP, IDS The Refreshed Home October 27, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Money is always important. But without first establishing what is to be done, and what is of value to the homeowner, it's just a number-like calling a mechanic and asking how much it'll take to fix your car. First-they need to see the car. Second-what are your needs and plans? Need to insure car is dependable and safe? Make sure infrastructure is solid: tune-up, good tires/brakes, bright headlamps. Selling/trading-in in a couple of months? Fixing the radio would be money well spent. The most effective preparation looks at the whole property, inside and out. It considers the sellers needs/goals/expectations, the competition, the agent's marketing and pricing strategy, and the seller's resources-which could be forgotten stuff in the attic, or people to help just as much as it could be funds. Staging doesn't always include bringing in furniture. I've had vacant co-ops sell quickly(very crowded segment of the market) because we presented a clean, but fresh and updated space. The position I present to sellers and agents is that basically, it can cost/be structured whatever way you want it to-let's first talk more about what you need/want to accomplish.
kidschlepper October 29, 2011 at 12:48 PM
Thank you. Yes, I understand what you are saying, but I am wondering if there is a ballpark figure you can offer. For a modest 3 bedroom house, are we talking hundreds, low thousands, 8 thousand, or more? Are fees usually charged by the hour or by the project? Is furniture rented or included in the price? I understand that stagers can work withing people's budgets, but what are the typical costs?
Marie Graham, ASP, IDS The Refreshed Home October 29, 2011 at 03:55 PM
Without seeing the space, and knowing more about the people who live there, and their goals, it's really a dis-service to throw out a number. No one likes to hear that, it sounds like a sales ploy, but that's the truth. Everyone works differently. My specialty is range; I tailor my services to a sellers' needs/wants/circumstances. . I have prepared pre-forclosure homes for sellers who are motivated and willing/able to do work themselves, via a very detailed room by room written report for several hundred dollars; and I have managed/coordinated $60K+ worth of repairs/updates in a 1930s home. It all has to do with the motivation and the circumstances. Thank you for your interest, hope this has been helpful. If you'd like additional info, please visit my website, http://therefreshedhome.com/the-process/ where it's addressed in greater detail, or feel free to contact me directly. The more I know about you, the more specific I can be.
kidschlepper October 30, 2011 at 01:50 PM


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