The home staging industry has been growing leaps and bounds in the last few years, and the job title becoming interchangeable with decorator and home designer. Everyone seems to be calling themselves a home stager – an expert in preparing and showcasing a home for sale. But be wary not all home stagers are created equal.
Just like hiring any service provider, consumers should do their homework and check a home stager’s qualifications before saying yes to working together. Here are 10 questions to ask a home stager to determine if he or she is capable of completing the project properly.
Training and Education
What formal training have you received to be certified or accredited?
Since, home sellers are trusting their most valuable asset to a home stager, it’s comforting to know they went through formal training to acquire the skills needed to lure in buyers. There are a handful of reputable staging training companies the Real Estate Staging Association recognizes to separate professional organizations from those imitators who can wind up costing customers a lot of money.
The RESA designation is something home sellers should look for in a home stager – it shows the stager’s commitment to the profession, since RESA acts as the portal to the staging industry and is the source of education and business tools focused on the needs of real estate stagers.
Without formal education, beware of hobbyists, or those who like to decorate on the side. Home staging involves much more than that; it's about emphasizing the focal point of the room, showcasing the positives and downplaying the negatives to attract potential buyers.
How long have you been working professionally as a home stager?
This question is important to determine if you’re speaking to a professional or a hobbyist. A hobbyist talks about the quantity of work he or she has accomplished for family and friends rather than quality and results.
If they tell you up front they’re a newbie just starting out, take note of their honesty, though a veteran home stager is usually a better choice when making a hiring decision. An experienced stager will have an extensive portfolio and experience coming up with simple solutions to difficult rooms.
Do you have a portfolio I can see?
Every home stager should have a portfolio for you to review. The photographs should be labeled with the company name on them and should look cohesive with one another. Make sure the portfolio is of their work, and not stock photos or stolen images from other staging professionals.
A home stager should be willing to provide before and after pictures of their work through a website or in print format, and she should be able to explain the thought process behind the staging project being shown. If they can’t it may be a sign that it’s not their photos.
Some follow-up questions to consider asking on this topic:
- Are the photos in the portfolio your own or example photos provided by your trainer?
- Did you select the accessories, furniture and paint, or was it a collaboration with others? (Hint: The stager should make the selections).
What type of style would you recommend for my home?
While you’re looking at a stager’s portfolio, check to make sure he or she offers a range of decorative styles to avoid every home looking the same. A staged home should look less taste-specific and personal in order to appeal to a broad range of buyers, but the home stager should keep in mind your home’s style, location and the demographics for your area.
Most home stagers will have their own inventory of accessories for you to rent from. Many will also use furniture rental companies to fill vacant spaces.
Are you familiar with the market in my area? Are you familiar with the expectations of buyers in my price range?
The most effective home stager is someone who’s familiar with the various buyers who will be looking for properties in the area. Staging an apartment in the city versus a 2,500-square-foot home in the suburbs requires a varied skill set.
Look for a professional who can market your property to each niche, not just one type of buyer. A home stager should know the buyer profile and what is expected in various price ranges, so staging is based on priorities on a buyer’s wish list.
Testimonials and Referrals
Do you have any testimonials you can share with me?
Professional stagers should have testimonials on their website and marketing materials from homeowners and real estate agents, but ask if you can contact those past clients to find out how the stager worked. Were they pleased with the results? Satisfied? What should you watch out for when working with the stager?
Do you recommend any professionals to help me complete certain home projects?
Home stagers not only have great shopping discounts, but they have vendors they work with and rely on to complete their projects. Especially if you have an older home that needs updating, ask a home stager for recommendations for a good handyman, house painter or electrician. They should be able to supply you with this information.
Are the resources you work with insured? Is your business covered by insurance? Are you insured to act as a contractor/project manager?
The home stager you work with should at the very least have business liability insurance. Those companies that have employees should have worker’s compensation insurance. Ask for proof of insurance.
[See: 10 Tips to Sell Your Home Fast.]
Costs & Contracts
What are your rates and availability? Do you have a contract?
There is no set cost for staging a home, so it’s important to get estimates, proposals and bids from a few home stagers before making your choice. Don’t choose a home stager just because he’s the cheapest or the most expensive. Make sure to find out exactly what you will be getting for your money.
See what the stager’s schedule is like to get a time frame for the staging, and don’t forget to get it all in writing. Stagers who provide a contract or agreement take pride in their work. Take into consideration all of these qualifications listed before making a decision.