If you’re a successful home stager, you’ve probably already noticed that you can make more money during a home staging consultation than many people earn in an entire week.
These have certainly been the backbone of my home staging business which I started in 2002.
I’ve done many hundreds of home staging consultations and I’ve found there are 5 words or phrases that will get you into trouble when speaking with a client.
Here are 5 word or phrase traps to avoid:
1. Free Home Staging Estimate
When you’re talking about a home staging consultation, the words “free estimate” should never cross your lips!
This is an absolute trap and one that has put hundreds of home stagers out of business because they get totally burned out running around giving out free home staging advice thinking that’s what’s necessary.
I never go to a client’s house unless they’ve already agreed to pay my home staging consultation fee. I’m able to do this by following a script I use over the phone when a prospective client calls me.
2. Home Staging Guarantee
It is common sense that a well-staged home will sell more quickly and for more money than a home with similar features, location and asking price that shows badly.
However, do not fall into the trap of saying something like, “I guarantee your home will sell faster and for $50,000 more after I’ve staged it.”
Read more about how offering a guaranteed sale can sink your home staging business.
There are simply too many reasons that the sale might not happen quickly or at a higher price, and these are beyond your control.
For example, who knows whether they’ll set a realistic asking price in the first place? And what if after you’ve done a beautiful staging job the client doesn’t keep it up for house showings?
But, don’t let this worry you about what will happen if a home you stage doesn’t sell.
3. Real Estate Listing Price
Don’t fall into the trap of stating what you think a home should be priced at, even if your home staging client asks.
That’s the job of their real estate agent and any estimate you give could come back to bite you later.
You can say something like:
“I was in a home around the corner recently that had the same number of rooms as yours and it was priced at $699,000. But really pricing strategy is a question for your real estate agent since she has access to all the information about what homes similar to yours have sold for recently.”
You can also mention previous projects you’ve done or that you know of.
For example, I recently wrote about how home staging boosted the selling price of a home by $35,000 in Texas.
It’s perfectly acceptable to ask your client at the start of the consultation what their house is listed at if it’s already on the market, or if not, ask, “Do you have any idea what price your home will be listed at?”
Knowing the approximate list price will put you in a way better position when making your home staging recommendations.
For example, you might suggest replacing obviously inexpensive light fixtures in a $500,000 home yet ignore them in a home that’s $150,000.
4. Junk and Clutter
At least 90% of the homes you visit to do a home staging consultation will have one or more rooms cluttered with junk.
But you’ll never hear me use either of these words while I’m in front of a client in reference to their possessions.
What you and I might see as junk might be treasures to your client. The clutter you and I would happily throw in the garbage, or recycle, might be drenched in emotional attachments and sentimentality that you don’t see.
Instead, you might say something like:
“I can see that this room is very important to you and that you use it a lot. Now that you’re putting your home on the real estate market, it’s important that all the floors and furniture be clear so that people can appreciate how large this space is. Besides, you wouldn’t want any of your wonderful collection of figurines to disappear during a showing. Here’s what I recommend we do . . . “
Here are 7 clutter busting tips for home stagers.
5. My Team Will Do That
If you’ve been watching the way home staging is portrayed on TV, you’d think we all show up with a team that includes a:
- Seamstress to create custom cushions and window treatments
- Painter who can paint an entire house in a day
- Carpenter who can whip up a wall unit in 2 hours
- Electrician to change all the light fixtures
- Plumber to replace all the bathroom fixtures in an afternoon.
Home staging in the real world is absolutely not what you see on TV!
It’s fairly common to recommend services like painting and repairs during a home staging consultation.
However, you don’t want to fall into the trap of becoming a General Contractor which carries potential liability and requires special licensing that you don’t have.
Furthermore, why would you want to pay for all these services and then hope that your client will pay you?
One of the joys of running a home staging and interior redesign business (if you structure it right) is that you have no accounts receivables (people who owe you money) because you get paid in advance or at the time of service.
There are plenty of ways to make money on outside services without employing painters, handymen, etc., or having them be your subcontractors. I cover these in detail in Course 5 of the Staging Diva Program, called “Over 30 More Ways to Make Money in Home Staging.”
What home staging consultation traps have you found?
I hope you’ve found this list of 5 home staging consultation traps to avoid helpful.
I’d love for you to comment below on whether you’ve run into any of these or others that would help our community of both new and established home stagers. Plus, your comments let me know if I’m writing about topics you’re interested in!
Donna Dazzo says
Debra, just yesterday I received an inquiry from a real estate agent who said that his client had an appointment with a stager that evening and the stager cancelled last minute and could I come and “take her place”. After he mentioned that the client had lots of “clutter” and 3 cats and a gerbal and poor lighting, I explained to him my home staging consultation process and fee for occupied apartments. He then tells me the other stager was going to come and not charge. I told him that I am providing professional advice and a written report and that I get compensated for it. He understood but I guess his clients didn’t because I never heard from him. I don’t know what this other stager was going to do when she/he got there. Give out free advice? Give an estimate for what it would cost to stage the occupied apartment without telling the homeowner what the cost involves because that would be free advice? These kinds of stagers are doing a disservice to the industry.
Enough of that rant. A frequent trap that stagers fall into is when they go to a vacant home to do a free estimate (yes I know you don’t believe in those) is they get sucked into or start providing advice as to what needs to be done prior to bringing in furniture and accessories, such as painting, flooring, updating lighting fixtures, etc. When I respond to an inquiry regarding a vacant staging I always 1) provide a rough estimate to weed out those who aren’t seriously committed to staging and 2) ask if it’s a new or older home and what condition it’s in. If old, I then explain that I will provide a complimentary list of what is needed to prepare the home once I am hired to do the staging. If they want my advice before that, I charge a fee (less than a normal staging consultation fee since the home is empty).
Debra Gould says
Donna, I really appreciate you stopping by and sharing your insights. I totally agree with you. Thanks for sharing!
Stacy Goade, Alaska Premier Home Staging says
This is a timely post, Debra. I’m getting a ton of calls from real estate teams and individual home sellers this time of the year. As one of your staging graduates, I’ve learned how important it is to give a summary of the services I provide, the added value I bring as a home stager, how the time I spend with my home sellers generally helps them to list sooner, and how my time, services, and expertise benefit both sellers and real estate professionals. When I finish pointing out the value I bring, I rarely get asked if I provide “free” estimates.” (I think they catch on quickly!) However, I have been asked by a couple of realty teams whether or not I would lower my consultation fee if they could guarantee me with a fairly consistent number of home staging jobs. (Always be suspicious of the word “guarantee”; no matter who is using it!)
Again, the answer is “no, and I explain that it would not benefit my business to work more hours and be paid less money.
Donna points out the trap that is easiest to fall into with vacant home stages. I will admit – I’ve dropped by a property to meet a real estate licensee for the 15 minute walk-through and general comments. It has brought me one staging job and wasted my precious time.
Donna’s rough estimate to weed out free loaders and the complimentary list once she is hired is wise. I don’t like emailing out my fees and services document to every real estate office that calls me; even though I do provide this list to my home sellers when I meet with them at consultation time.
And as Debra advises; I never proclaim I know that sales price of a home, I let my clients and callers know that I am a team of one with many connections for other service providers, and always use a professional, respectful approach (including my choice of words) with my sellers. This says a lot about me, and it positively reflects on the profession of home staging. Great post!
Debra Gould says
Fantastic points Stacy. Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience!
Laurel Bern says
Superb article! I’m not a stager, but an interior designer and there is some overlap in our two professions. I wrote an article about home staging ideas you won’t hear about on HGTV. I agree with you on all points and especially love the not going over to talk for FREE. It took me nearly 18 years to wake up about that one! It’s ALWAYS a CONSULTATION. And if I bother to put myself together and get in my car and drive 50 minutes round trip and then spend 2+ hours giving tons of advice… hell yeah, I’m getting paid and hopefully we all are! I’ve been doing this for the past 9 months and instead of my usual 50% of the “go sees” wanting to hire me, it’s been nearly 100%! [not vice versa, but that’s okay] So, what does that say? It says that we are respected more when we charge!
Debra Gould says
Thanks for commenting Laurel. I’ve had many long-time interior designers take my program and then tell me they learned so much to make their existing (design) business more profitable, by applying the strategies they learn from me.
Glad you already got away from free consultations, you’ll find your profits steadily increase as you finesse your process and how you talk about it ahead of a paid appointment. If you need more help in this regard, check out Course 3 of the Staging Diva Program.
Maria-Elena Gran says
When people ask why I have paid consultations when others are doing it for free, I say, “You get what you pay for”.
Debra Gould says
Marte Cliff says
This is important advice for home stagers – and probably for landscape artists, web designers, and even me! In the past I often give away valuable hours talking with people about their marketing.
Debra Gould says
So true Marte, thanks for commenting!
Angie Perry says
I just got burned, trusting because it was a friend of a friend. Now I will have a contract to hand them. No more free estimates. I am a professional organizer and I incorporated that with my work. Thank you for your article
Debra Gould says
Happy to help Angie. Having a contract to hand them won’t necessarily totally solve the problem either (if they decide to not honor it). The way I explain it in Course 3 of the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program you’ll be protected and getting money along the way in any project.
Thanks for commenting and I’m sorry that happened to you.
Richard Davis says
This is really helpful. Thanks for sharing this information!
Thanks for sharing Debra. I completely agree that “tact” is needed whenever you’re looking at a client’s home and advising on what needs to be put away or replaced with something that will add more to the presentation. Looking for that emotional attachment is key!
Veronica Teca says
Thank you so much for this information! There are some key tips which I think are essential in home staging. The most important thing is to make the client feel good like they have a great house. Happy clients mean more customers. I couldn’t agree more about the way to approach a room with clutter. Many times we see a house as a business and not as someone’s special place, a place with memories. It’s very important to always keep that in mind.
I also agree with the “general contractor” idea. It’s important to clarify up to what point a home staging consultation will be. Thanks for a great article!