I published a home staging business dilemma recently that had many of you thinking!
The question was, “What if your home staging clients hate what you’ve done?”
The dilemma I presented involved a home stager leaving a staging consultation with excited clients. But post-staging, while the stager and the real estate agent loved the transformation, the homeowners were devastated and seemed to hate everything.
(If you haven’t already done so, please click here to read the original post and to see all of the great comments that were left. A special thanks to all of you who participated and shared such great information for everyone to learn from.)
As you read through the comments that were left on that post, you’ll notice some readers were shocked that the clients could be upset assuming that everything was properly outlined during the initial consultation.
That is a valid point, but sometimes, even though everything has been discussed in advance, homeowners still have a strong emotional attachment to their home.
Even if they know ahead of time what’s going to happen, that doesn’t mean they won’t freak out once the changes have been implemented.
I have been in this situation before. The most extreme case happened with an overseas client. She found my staging company Six Elements on the Internet and wanted me to stage a home that she had left behind tenanted when she was transferred to Hong Kong.
After various emails back and forth explaining my services and how the process would work, we spoke by phone, and agreed to meet at the house for the initial consultation when she was next in town on business.
The consultation was a long one. The tenant had left her house in terrible shape with lots of painting, cleaning and repairs to be done. We reviewed all the changes and I took my measurements of the vacant rooms and developed a plan for her with a budget to stage her house with rental furniture and accessories. She was in agreement with the whole thing, but I ignored an important red flag.
She asked me if she would have final approval to the items that were brought into her now vacant home.
It was ironic that the only client I’ve ever had ask me that was actually not living in the country and wouldn’t be there when I actually staged her house! Surprised, I explained that it doesn’t work that way and that the only way to see the items would be to come to the furniture warehouse and view the inventory I had set aside for her house before the delivery.
I also explained that in doing that she would be looking at a pile of stuff, not seeing everything arranged in her space so it would be hard to evaluate anyway.
I reminded her that she was hiring me based on my expertise in decorating a house to sell, and explained that it would be completely impractical and very costly to have her approve (and potentially replace) individual items after the delivery truck was gone and the staging was complete.
I also explained that this especially wouldn’t work when she was all the way in Hong Kong and would only be looking at photos, rather than feeling what it was like to be walking through the rooms and seeing them through a buyer’s eyes.
She seemed to be in agreement before she left town and the next steps were for me to source everything, have her sign the rental contract, and then I would be back there to stage her house prior to the agent’s caravan.
Her agent was there as scheduled on staging day to let me into the property. Then I spent about 10 hours there getting the whole place showing-ready. I also took all my “after” shots for my home staging portfolio.
Compared to my “before” shots from when I first met the client there, the transformation was amazing!
The Realtor returned at the end of my staging day to lock up. Proud of my work and anxious for his feedback, I gave him the grand tour and he loved it and said the transformation was fabulous.
Had there been any issues at this point, I certainly would have tried to address them.
At the client’s request, the real estate agent subsequently made multiple visits to show the home to the owner’s various family members and friends; they loved the home staging too and told her so.
Knowing all this, and as a courtesy, I emailed the client a selection of my after photos to show her the transformation. That was my big mistake. If I’d remembered that red flag from our initial meeting, I wouldn’t have sent her the photos and just let her see her agent’s feature sheet.
I was caught completely off guard by what happened next.
After all, there she was on the other side of the planet and everyone who had seen her house loved it. I got an angry email back from her saying some rooms looked too bare, that she wanted certain pieces of furniture swapped out for others, and that overall she was not impressed.
I explained that the house had been staged for potential buyers to appreciate the space and that it would be different had I decorated it for her to live in it. I reminded her that “less is more in staging” and that she shouldn’t expect the rooms to be filled with props and accessories the way you’d see them in a decorating magazine; that too much stuff is actually distracting to buyers. I also reminded her that looking at a few photos was not the same as walking through the rooms and that people she trusted had done so and thought it was fine.
We went back and forth over multiple emails, she just couldn’t let it go. She wanted to maintain control over it all even at such a long distance.
With time ticking away and my stress level mounting, finally I had to tell her that I considered the project complete, and that if she wanted to change the rental pieces, she would need to do so directly with the furniture rental company. (An excellent reason to ensure your client is the one signing the rental contracts!)
She actually did that and promptly listed her home at $100,000 over what her home was worth and above the asking price suggested by her real estate agent.
Months later it was still on the market unsold because she knew better than all the experts she’d hired. At least I continued to earn passive income on her furniture rental (something I teach you how to do in the Staging Diva Home Staging Training Program).
Home stagers, how would you have handled this situation?
Debra Gould, The Staging Diva®
President, Six Elements Home Staging
Debra Gould knows how to make money as a home stager and she developed the Staging Diva Home Staging Training Program to teach others how to earn a living doing something they love. To learn the process she uses during home staging consultations, check out course 3 of the program.