Increasing Your Selling Potential Part 2: the Enigma of Home Staging

Jesse in Lifestyle

In my last post, I provided an overview of options designed to aid Home Sellers when they decide to sell and list their home. I compared hiring professional photographers and home stagers against a more do-it-yourself approach. I had dubbed the combination of photography and home staging as ‘House Porn,’ a title that, sadly, I cannot take credit for as it was previously featured in the Globe and Mail.  My own analysis encouraged Home Sellers to carefully weigh the necessity of incurring the expense of hiring stagers or other professionals in considering their own situation.

I received a great, but not necessarily positive, response from home stagers across North America. One in particular, Vice President of the Real Estate Staging Association, Sheron Cardin, suggested that I utilize the real estate website Active Rain to provide better advice to MoveSmartly readers instead of the “false impression” that I was apparently contriving. After stumbling upon a colourfully-worded and very active blog dedicated to my last post, I decided to go one step further and contact home stagers myself to seek out answers to my questions about the Home Staging industry.  On what basis could professionals in an unregulated industry such as staging confidently claim their services to be a 'must-have' for each and every Home Seller?  Was I missing something?

I initiated contact with stagers and real estate agents across North America to get better insight on the staging industry. From Vancouver to Fredericton, Minnesota to Arizona, I sought out stagers via the Active Rain network. I failed to make contact - perhaps the professionals that regularly visit the site had already formulated an opinion of me?

I did come across the website of a Kingston-based home stager who seemed to have some views to share: “Home staging is a completely unregulated field with no official credentials. Beware of anyone who claims to have official "certification" or "accreditation."  This peaked my interest. Why would this stager post these words when so many of her counterparts lobbed a list of accreditations in response to my  equally frank observations about the industry? I found this upfront approach refreshing. As I was unable to reach her for comment and was getting a poor response from others I had contacted, I decided to turn my attention to one of the most popular social forums available for the expression of views - I turned to Facebook.

“A Piece of a Piece: Accredited Home Staging is NOT Decorating” was the title of one of the more active pages available. On it, a London (ON)-based stager had been presented with an interesting question from a starry-eyed staging hopeful about credentials, a question very similar to one I had myself: “there is legally and technically no accreditation for staging yet...and I find the ones claiming it are so high priced it just doesn't seem feasible.” The response was telling: “I have seen 'staging courses' online, and most of them, like in many areas of business/advertising, make claims against the competition to try to make themselves look better, or discredit the others. Unfortunately, this makes it hard for the public, and potential stagers to know what is true and what is not. It is true that Home Staging is an unregulated industry at this point."   

All of this leaves me, as a consumer, unable to make sense of the industry.  There are numerous online, one-day and three-day courses intended to teach the tricks of the staging trade - some of which offer licensing, certifications and accreditations, and others that do not.  As a potential Home Seller, how do I ensure that I interact with the right professional?  Are training courses where, upon graduation, new home stagers gain a myriad of acronyms considered the Ivy League of home staging?  This being said, are the smaller training courses that offer nothing but education in the field inferior? The industry does not currently demand any standard of training; therefore, the amount of official recognition one displays seems inconsequential since the industry clearly lacks uniformity in this regard.  The bottom line is that pricey accreditation is available but unnecessary.

There is no disputing that home staging works when effectively done - but this may be done by a Home Seller, real estate agent or hired professional home stager.  The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation offers a detailed checklist to Home Sellers who choose the do-it-yourself route.  John Linders, a Halifax NS real estate agent gives a similar to-do list in "Planning on Selling Your Home? A Little Sprucing Goes a Long Way," an article featured in Reader's Digest Canada.  When you consider whether you should engage a professional home stager, I stand by my previous post in saying that Home Sellers should shop around and consider their options before their spending money to make more money.  Look for an updated portfolio, testimonials and ask every professional you meet the hard questions - what will you do, how will you do it and what financial results can I expect to achieve?  And don't forget the most important question of all - will you put that guarantee in writing?

Happy Home Selling!

Jesse is a Toronto freelance writer. Email Jesse

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