It’s common worry for a new home stager that they’ll be blamed if a house they stage doesn’t sell.
The first thing to remember is the person the client will be upset with is their real estate agent.
Your job as a home stager is to visually present the home in the best possible way (given time and budget constraints which you don’t control).
It’s the Realtor who is responsible for the marketing and selling of the property.
The Home Stager Doesn’t Have Total Control
As a home stager, you’re decorating the house to sell. You’re Not in control of:
- Pricing the property correctly for the location and current market conditions
- Preparing the listing as it appears online and in databases (including description and photography)
- Running ads
- Hosting open houses
- Ensuring the house is easy-to-show
- Booking showings
- Marketing the property to potential buyers and to other real estate agents
- Negotiating with potential buyers
These things are all the job of the real estate agent not the home stager.
A home stager packages a product for the real estate agent to sell, but after that, it’s up to them.
I never tell a client that if they spend a certain amount of money in staging that I guarantee their home will sell in x amount of time for tens of thousands of dollars more than without staging.
That would be crazy and irresponsible for me to do because of the factors involved in how quickly a house will sell.
What Can Happen After Your Staging Project is Done
You can do an awesome staging job, but you have no idea what shape the home remains in after you leave when people come for showings, especially if they have young kids or pets.
It’s also possible that the client will make it difficult for agents to book showings. For example, by blocking out large chunks of the day because of nap schedules. Or not allowing evening showings because they don’t want to interrupt family meals, etc.
The listing agent might be ineffective in the way they’re marketing the property. Perhaps the listing is incomplete, or they’ve taken terrible photos with their cell phone rather than bringing in a real estate photographer.
The sellers might be stuck on an asking price and impossible to negotiate with. There might be six offers and they’re all rejected.
You really have no idea what happens when your home staging job is complete!
I once staged a 4-bedroom family home that looked great for what it was. But I couldn’t change the fact that the kitchen was 30 years out of date. There was no getting around the fact that it was located on a busy corner, dangerous for children.
No amount of artful staging would change the fact that it was a 1970s house on a street where everything else had been torn down and replaced with modern homes.
I had repairs done. Repainted in appealing colors, furnished it, added accessories, artwork and bedding.
But, the inherent drawbacks of the location and age of the house (relative to its neighbors), needed to be factored into the asking price to create an appealing package for potential buyers.
The homeowner believed that since all the other houses on her street sold for millions of dollars, hers should be priced $100,000 over what it was worth.
It didn’t sell because no amount of staging could fix the fundamental problems with this overpriced home.
Home stagers are an important piece of the real estate puzzle. We ensure the property is decorated to appeal to potential buyers.
We are only ONE piece of a large puzzle.
I doubt that you would ever get the blame from a home owner if their home does not sell. If that should happen, I hope this article will give you some confidence that the fault does not lie with you.
Home Stagers Share Your Experience with This
Any established home stagers reading this post, I’d love it if you would comment on this by sharing your stories of staged homes that didn’t sell, and why you thought that was the case.
pat mcarthur says
Great article Debra. I have been through this. I was hired to stage a large heritage home that had been converted into three units. The owners lived in the building and had updated their space beautifully. I recommended calmer paint colours, decluttered & staged this space. The other two units were vacant & were unfurnished. All the necessary work I recommended was done, everything looked great and I had rented funiture & accessories in the vacant units. The real estate agent, who was the home owner, marketed the property to potential buyers to return the home to a one family property. There were two issues that I saw, the street would not attract that buyer & market timing. The house did not sell over 6 months despite very positive feedback from prospects, the owners lost their down payment on a new condominium, and they have now rented the two apartments.
Kay Keeton says
I have my computer set to notify me of every listing in a certain price range in my postal zip code. I received one that is a house in the next block from me. The listing had two photos and one was the front of the house, and the other was a playhouse. Have you ever heard of a house selling because of a child’s playhouse? What kind of realtor do they have? Listings allow 10 photos in my area. I happen to know that is a beautiful home inside. You taught us that realtors choose what homes to show, and prospective homebuyers look on the Internet to choose what houses to see. I want to knock on their door and offer my help, but have to walk a tight rope to not offend realtors. My heart aches for the people who have realtors that don’t care. I can stand on my corner and see four houses for sale.
My sign is at that four-way stop sign intersection. How can I help these neighbors without offending their realtors?
Debra Gould, The Staging Diva says
Kay, Giving the realtor the benefit of the doubt for a moment, it’s possible that the house was a mess when the agent turned up to take the interior photos (I have seen that happen).
The client should be looking at their own listing on MLS (I always build into my own contracts with realtors that I have approval to the listing and feature sheets when I’m selling my own home), but not all do.
You really only have two choices:
a) Contact the realtor and say you found his listing on MLS and you know it’s a great house since you’re a neighbor, offer your services as a stager so that the interior will be photo ready for MLS.
b) Contact the homeowner directly and say that as a neighbor and a home stager who knows the importance of interior shots to attract buyers on MLS, you’d be happy to do a consultation with them to ensure their home is photo ready since you noticed their MLS listing only had an exterior shot.
Let me know what happens!
I am awaiting my Diva course in the mail, so I don’t know if you cover this there, but so many times I look at homes for sale in my area that have had sudden 10-15,000 price drops after it’s been on the market a while. I look at the pictures and CRINGE because they have what could be a STUNNING home, but the way it is painted and decorated (or the lack thereof) makes potential buyers run. Do you see value in contacting these sellers? Or, even sellers who haven’t had a big price drop yet, but are not showing well due to this lack of appeal? Thanks!
Donna Dazzo says
Yes I have had plenty of instances where homes that I staged didn’t sell, mostly due to overpricing. Debra, as you pointed out, the price of that house had to reflect the fact that the house was outdated and on a busy corner. But at some price, a buyer would be willing to overlook these drawbacks. I believe every house has a buyer, it just has to be priced correctly.
I hate it when prospective clients ask me for my track record of how long a house took to sell after I staged it. Because of the dual factors of the down real estate market coupled with the unrealistic prices that sellers want to get, many of my stagings have been on the market for 6 months or more. So when they ask this question, I always point out that selling a home is like a 3 legged stool: staging is one leg, pricing is another and marketing is the 3rd, and I have no control over the other 2 legs. I then also tell them what clients have told me, which is that the staging definitely helped even if it did take 6 or more months.
Jill Monczunski says
I have had clients ask me if I will guarantee the sale of their home after staging. My answer is absolutely not. I like Donna Dazzo’s “tri – pod” analogy above. We, as professional home stagers, are only a piece of the pie to getting a sellers home sold. I stage a lot of homes that I feel are priced too high, don’t have the ideal location, and think their homes are worth more than the market will bear, especially in todays market. I staged a $370,000 condo on the water that is about 15 years old. I could not … I mean I could not … convince the seller to replace the kitchen cabinet hardware. The hardware currently is brass and oak handles, perhaps popular “back in the ‘day”. I completely furnished the condo (it was vacant) and the sellers leased the furnishings for 90 days, and not one day more. Now it sits vacant … in need of many upgrades and updates … and probably won’t sell. All the walls are white and the sellers would not entertain the cost of adding some color. At the very least, the furnishings and art counteracted all the white walls! They have one of the highest producing agents in this area. She is marketing this property well. This is also the second time it has been on the market. The agent and I both agree that allowing me to really stage this condo would probably get this condo sold – and sold quickly. These sellers are missing the market and will probably lose out again. Guarantee? I don’t think so.
Staging To Sell
Jill R. Monczunski
Jodi Whalen says
I too staged a beautiful home that still has not sold almost one year later. It was a beautiful home, great location, but their price was too high. They refused to drop it even at the realtor’s suggestion. I’ve noticed it’s no longer listed with the original agent. There’s only so much you can do!
When I was selling my home, my realtor gave me great advice, she said, “your home is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.” Of course you need to price it competitively and put your best foot forward, however if someone doesn’t see the value and like it enough…their is no deal!
I am currently in a dilemma of what to do. I staged a house and it’s been three months now and it’s not selling . Being a small start up business, I only have 4 sets of furniture and all the other houses I stage they sell / rent quickly . I am getting so many clients and I am turning them down because I don’t have furniture or accessories for a nother full house . I made a mistake of making my monthly fee very low . Now I am not sure what to do, the rent for the 4th month is coming in two days and I am concidering asking the home owner if I can take my stuff out and he doesn’t have to pay the rent for this month.
I am not sure if this is ethical but I am really getting frustrated . Their asking price is very high , they have unfinished basement , the house is very old , the layout is very bad etc. These are factors that I assume are making the house not to sell . I am dealing with an investor who fixes old homes , but they didn’t do a good job changing the house layout .
I have two clients this month , and I don’t want to buy another set of furniture. I staged the house very beautifully, I should say to the best of my ability but it’s slowing my business . I need advise from home stagers who have had to deal with this .
Ps: this investor , is not being cooperative, he takes two weeks to pay rent, he never allows me to go into the property to look how things are going , in the contract , I am supposed to have access to the property but he took the keys and never gave me the code .
Please advice how to approach this , should I suggest to him that I take out my staging and he doesn’t pay rent for this month ? Thank you for your feed back
Debra Gould says
Really glad you shared this story because it’s a great example of why I don’t recommend home stagers buy and use their own inventory. Or if they do, that they know what they’re getting themselves into. There are so many factors beyond your control (like they asking price they set for the property), and here you are with inventory tied up and not making you money.
That you’re turning down other jobs because of it only compounds the problem. Not sure why you’ve assumed every home you do has to be with inventory you’ve purchased on their behalf.
Solving all the issues that you’ve raised here are beyond the scope of what I can solve in a blog comment. I encourage you to take a look at the many resources I offer for home stagers. Frankly, I think you would gain a tremendous amount from my Home Staging Business Training Program which will give you a proper business model to follow so we can get you back on the road to actually making a living at this. The way you’re doing it now, you won’t.
If you’re not prepared to invest in the training program, then I recommend an hour of one on one coaching with me. I have saved hundreds of home stagers from bankruptcy with a single hour conversation.
You can learn about both at https://www.stagingdiva.com/store and if you check it out today, you may still be able to take advantage of my current sale.
Thanks for writing and I’m sorry you’ve run into these really serious problems, I would love to get you back on the right track!
Melissa Ross says
Praise, I’m unsure how long ago you posted with this dilemma, but I want to assure you that Debra Gould, “The Staging Diva”, is absolutely right. I encourage you to invest in this course.
I took this course because while I was confident in my design talent, I had absolutely no business sense. None. Zero. And that had kept me from starting any business my entire adult life. Now, at 45 years of age, I finally feel like I can make this happen, and if I have any questions, big or small, Debra is always there to answer them- and she has done this plenty. There is also a huge, supportive network of stagers/soon-to-be stagers who are at the ready to guide, assist, and empathize along with you.
I wish you so much success!
Modest Muse Home Staging & Interior Redesign
Debra Gould says
Wow Melissa, thanks so much for that feedback and for posting it here. I really appreciate you doing that! So excited to write about your staging business and delighted that you’ve taken action to turn that passion and talent of yours into a new career. You are going to LOVE making money from your creativity and helping others at the same time!
Jackie Nordeman says
Thank you, thank you for such a timely post!! I was contacted, mid-June 2016, by a gentleman who wanted to sell his seasonal cottage. He and his brother owned the property and cottage and wanted it listed by the July 1st long weekend. I met with them and went over the particulars. It was their intention to list the cottage themselves through Comfree. I have no issues with listing through Comfree but in this case, there is no one to blame when the property doesn’t sell EXCEPT the stager! They were on a “strict” budget (since they had over spent on improvements) Their intentions were to sell the tiny, 3-season, 800 sq ft. cottage fully furnished for $289,900. Extremely over priced in my opion. They wanted to get a minimum of $285,000 to cover their costs. Long-story-short, the cottage looked great when we were done with it and then I saw the listing….They had listed it for $299,900!! Needless to say, the cottage has not sold. Sadly, after my assistant and I had done our thing, the owners added a few items to the decor and did not implement some of the pertinent suggestions (like replacing the mold-stained, brown fridge with a white one that they had), before the Comfree photographer came in. I looked at the pictures online and did not want to put my company name on the job! It definitely is not my fault that the cottage has not sold but sadly, the owner seems to think so. You can’t and won’t win them all.
Debra Gould says
Great story to share Jackie. All you can do in this case (if they’re blaming you), is point out to them what wasn’t done and that the home still has to be priced according to what that market will bear.
I know what you mean about having a project you don’t want to put your name to. I’ve had more than a few of those over the years when clients decided to put their own “flare” on things! I noticed that the higher my rates got, the less this happened and the more often clients were happy to implement ALL of my suggestions and not think they knew better.
Cecily Schneider says
I did an incredible staging job I have to say on a home occupied by a recently divorced man who had let his home deteriorate. His teenage daughter lives in the home and she kept her side of the home quite messy. I tackled all the problems that were existing and made the place look great for what it was in a fancy neighborhood. But because of neglect it could not command I price of the other houses in the surrounding area . The seller after being impressed by my staging demanded a higher price from the real estate agent for the listing. The home was listed at a higher price with the caveate that it would be lowered if there were no offers in the first 30 to 60 days. The seller got three offers lower than the asking price and would not except them or budge from the listing price stating that the staging commanded the higher listing price. The agent is furious and refuses to spend anymore money on the listing. The agent is not upset with me nor is the seller. That is an example of a listing that headed south due to home staging . That is the only time that particular incident has happened to me in eight years. Beware though in tougher times strange things can happen.
Debra Gould says
Thanks for sharing your story Cecily.
I don’t agree that this “is an example of a listing that headed south due to home staging”. Quite the contrary, it’s an example of it going south due to unreasonable expectations by the client and a less than ideal relationship with his real estate agent.
To your point, neither of them is blaming you and were impressed with the work you did.
Maria DiMartino says
We staged a large dated home last summer that was on the market for about 6 months before they hired us. Unfortunately, it did not sell. As you mentioned, all the staging in the world was not going to sell this house that was priced about 20% higher than what the realtor thought was appropriate. In addition, the realtor did not invest in new photos highlighting the beautiful staging. So the photos online were still showing the house with vacant rooms. It was just a series of errors. We knew it wasn’t our fault, but it still doesn’t bode well for our industry or for our personal stats.
Debra Gould says
Shame on the agent for not bothering to put up new photos to reflect the well staged home! Since about 90% of buyers search online first, that’s terrible!~ I would leave that example out of your personal stats.
Margaret Harlos says
I have one currently that has been on far too long for the location and neighbourhood. There are some fundamental things wrong with the home for the price that it is at. The kitchen needs to be replaced and sadly it’s less than 10 years old and so is the home. The kitchen floor has a slope in it. I suspect a structural problem but I’m not an expert there. And in a family neighbourhood the back yard is a beautiful sanctuary for adults and includes a pond.
I’m sure that for the price it is at and with the work to do they will have challenges. The home is beautifully staged, painted, new flooring, etc. $30 k done already. I never want to insult anyone and as well the client is my good friend. She isn’t blaming me or anyone…just waiting.
Debra Gould says
Definitely tricky when there are indications of structural problems or a pond that most parents would view as a safety hazard.
wow!! I am loving all the info and wonderful advise you have to share .so many things I wouldn’t have thought of .I am not “officially” a paid stagger “YET” ,but have “staged” many homes for Family ,Friends etc.. with great success so far ,mine included .after “staging ” my home it sold in 6 hrs of being on the market. with great reviews from potential buyers and the Realtor. After Staging a friends home ,it sold within the week .I have “staged” other homes over the years just to make homeowners feel better in their space and to utilize what they already have .people have asked me for years to do this and I just haven’t had the right door to open for me for paying customers .I have great letters of recommendations from Friends in Antique and Realtor businesses.etc.. but nothing has really panned out for me .granted I haven’t really advertised it well ,so maybe that is where I am falling short .Thank you so much for all of your great advise,I will certainly take it and use it to my advantage. would love to hear back from you with any comments ,critiques or suggestions for me you might have .Thank you again.
Debra Gould says
Mattie, I’m glad you’ve gained so much value from all the free articles I share! Imagine what you get when you’ve actually paid to be part of my inner circle ?! 🙂
Seriously, you have the talent, what’s missing by your own admission is how to get paid for it. That’s one of the many things I will teach you when you invest in my full training program.
You can continue as you are and be in the same situation a year, or 5 years from now.
OR you can take a big giant shortcut and have your home staging business up and running and making you money within a few weeks. It’s entirely up to you.
While I do provide thousands of free tips, I only really put the whole business model together for my Staging Diva students. I’d love to help you on your journey of turning this hobby into an actual business.
While you do have to invest in my course, the reality is you can make that investment back with your first couple of clients. When you follow my business model, you won’t have to invest any money in your own inventory so this is a very low cost business to get into. I hope you’ll take a serious look at the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program, so that you can finally have all your efforts pay off!
Hi Debra loving your tips thankyou! Quick question: is there a way to ‘stage’ beds in a house without purchasing heaps of beds & mattresses that never get used just there for show? My husband is handy, wondering if he could potentially put together a heap of beds without purchasing so it only ‘looks’ like the real thing!???
Debra Gould says
You could use blow up matresses. But remember I don’t actually advise having your own inventory anyways! I’ve written numerous articles on this topic on this blog. Search for “inventory” in the sidebar or go to google and search ” “staging diva” inventory “.