Real Estate has changed in the last 10 years and Staging is becoming a MUST DO when getting your house ready for sale. But what is staging really? And how have the public and real estate agents been confused about it?

Most Agents today will tell their clients to “stage” their property by cleaning it, removing magnets off the fridge and taking down family photos. They offer advice on packing up the clutter and taking it off the property. This is good advice, as a preparation point, but it’s NOT STAGING.

Let me say that again. De-cluttering is NOT STAGING. De-cluttering is part of a 3-step process to Staging.

Part one is the consultation process to determine what needs to be done at the property, this is a paid-for consultation because intellectual property is being shared from the Stager to the home sellers. The Stager is giving advice, making a property specific checklist and offering solutions for the sellers to help them create a more marketable property.

Part two is the actual work to get the first step completed. This part involves renting a pod or storage space, packing up all the stuff listed on the checklist, doing all repairs that have been neglected, cleaning the home really really well and also doing updates that are going to give your home an advantage over other listed competitors. This part can take a few days or a few weeks, depending on how much needs to be done.

After doing all this, your home is still not staged. It is only PREPARED for STAGING. This is where many agents and home owners miss out. They think that doing these first 2 steps is Staging. It is not.

Part three is the Staging. The Staging involves hiring a professional Stager (at least 5 years’ experience, talent and skills and a proven track record would be KEY). The Stager will come in and take photos, measurements and make notes about the plan for the Staging and then proceed to implement that plan, possibly using Rental Props and Rented Furniture as part of the Staging. The Stager should be well versed in the following concepts to successfully create a Staged home for you.

Staging is about:

  1. Creating correct traffic flow patterns for the buyers tour
  2. Highlighting the property’s features such as large windows, fireplaces, new cabinetry, new flooring
  3. Directing the buyers’ eyes to see these features through use of proven Staging techniques
  4. Designing visually and technically correct furniture placement in each room
  5. Building layers of interest in each room, without being distracting to the eye
  6. Tying room colour and styles together in a cohesive way
  7. Using proper scale and proportion in furniture and accessories, including how to hang artwork properly
  8. Creating wow factor first impressions in every room that draw the buyer deeper into your home
  9. Showing the buyers how they can “live” in the home using “lifestyle selling techniques”
  10. Generating interest in the property through speaking to the “emotion” of the buyer

This is Staging. This is the icing on the cake, the most important grand finale to the first 2 parts. This is also the part that sometimes gets missed by owners who think that when they have de-cluttered, they have staged. They have spent all that effort and time for what?

Just to end up looking like every other de-cluttered house on the block. And that is not a winning formula.

Complete all 3 parts to a Staging Project and hire a professional Stager… be the stand out house in a crowd of many.

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  • I completely agree . Decluttering is to help people have control over their environment and use the space in their homes effectively. Staging is about creating an illusion for the purpose of selling a space not living in it, decluttering is only a part of that.

  • Great article! I do think, however, that it’s not fair to suggest you need five years experience to be good. Rather, I would suggest that you look for a stager who has been trained or certified by a reputable organization that has expertise in staging, and that the person you consider has a strong portfolio and testimonials demonstrating their expertise. My other comment is that the reverse of the staging process is also not true staging, i.e. doing showcasing without doing part 1 and part 2 is equally not staging.

  • Wonderful article – Exceptionally to the point and clear. However, I agree with Catherine regarding the years of experience in the business. Being certified, reputable and doing continuing education in our profession is most important.

  • Good article covering a range of points. Too many agents think if they tell clients to ‘clean and tidy’ they have provided staging advice. No!!

  • I too, think this is a great article. I also agree about the time or experience in the business. After all, it is about talent in staging. I also think this article might be an eye opener to some realtors that don’t think staging is necessary!

  • I agree 100% with this article, save for one point — the five years’ experience thing. I agree with Corinne and Catherine. A good eye and certification are more important.

  • “Decluttering is not Staging” is exactly right. It’s merely preparing the foundation, just like spackling and priming before painting.

    The rest of the article explains the process leading up to the actual staging well. It’s not always necessary to rent a storage space or POD. Sometimes it’s a matter of paring down furnishings. It can be the perfect time to place things in family member’s home, sell on Craig’s list or at a yard sale.

    Staging is not decorating either. Someone who has good taste can make a room look lovely, but that doesn’t always mean that it is designed to appeal to the targeted buying market or to highlight the attributes of the home. Staging is marketing, just like a store display is marketing.

    I agree that the 5 years of staging experience may be a bit arbitrary, but it is important to work with someone who has proven experience, references and qualifications.

    Great article!

  • Excellent! SO on the mark!!!! I agree with the 5+ year experience factor. You can take training and have a good eye – but experience is key & sets you apart. I’ve worked in the business for over 10 years and I am still learning everyday.
    In the biz I keep hearing my colleagues complain about REAs that ‘don’t get it’ – I think they do get it & don’t care. They are making money either way and they are too chicken (lazy?) to sell their client on the process.
    We know it works, sellers that have used us know it works – but REAs… well, I’m at a loss for a nice & clean adjective.

  • Hi Jill – An excellent article. My only comment concerns the 5+ years of experience. As a professional home stager who has been honoured to have received 2 RESA awards in consecutive years (one of 2013 Top Ten Rising Home Stagers ~ North America, one of 2014 Top Ten Occupied Home Stagings ~ North America), I have been registered as a business since May 2011. My level of experience and skills have been acknowledged by our same peers. There are many very successful home stagers with less than 5 years of experience that provide an excellent service for their clientele, including real estate professionals that should not be excluded by home stagers. What I feel is most important in the selection of a home stager is their credentials, their level of experience and ‘a good fit’ to work towards the same result.

  • Thank you everyone for your feedback. Regarding the point of hiring someone in Staging for 5 years or more- this is because of the experience they gather over that time. It is one thing to be able to stage a home, and granted some newer stagers are talented, but there is much more to staging than just creating a pretty room. The first 3 years is usually spent experimenting with different concepts and looks, as well as getting comfortable with the large variety of floor plans, home styles and client personalities. The learning curve is severe in the first 3-5 years. Everything under the sun is asked of us, such as
    Which tile should I use?
    Which carpet is better?
    Who do you recommend for -blank-?
    What can I get away with doing?
    What do I do about this? (Usually a kind of oddity in the home)

    The variety of questions and challenges we face is quite extreme, and not to mention we are overall largely unprepared for those questions in our training. Add to this going through the growing pains of working with contractors! It took me 11 years and 5 painters to finally find “the one”. Then there is the famous question “What do I really need to charge to value my services?” And the daily stress of running a real business.

    After 5 years or so, I looked back in my career and realized I still knew very little despite everything I had done. This business is so diverse and we are expected to have answers for everything. The truth is that the first 5 years is a training ground that we are being paid for. Our clients homes are our “lessons”.

    I stand behind my belief about 5 years or more, as I am now in year 11 and finally feel that I have seen it all now and can confidently handle whatever comes my way. I have established Contractor relationships and the experience to back up my advice to clients.

    I do not disregard that newer stagers are talented, as many are. It’s the fact that time teaches everyda and newer stagers still don’t know what they don’t know!