Home staging, also known as property styling, real estate staging and even house fluffing, is a growing field driven by many factors including the ups and downs in the real estate market.
The popularity of decorating, real estate and staging TV shows also drive up buyers’ expectations, creating an ever higher standard for “move in ready.
Another factor that makes home staging more important than ever is that up to 90% of home buyers search online before ever contacting a Realtor to see a home. This explains the popularity of sites like: Zillow, Realtor, Redfin, Trulia, etc. where potential buyers decide within seconds of looking at listing photos whether they are interested in a property.
As more people enter the field of home staging, aspiring home stager wonder what home staging courses to take.
The first thing to know is that ANYONE can call themselves a home stager and ANYONE can offer a training program and hand out any “credential” they want to create.
How are fake home staging credentials possible?
There is no independent organization or association that monitors the quality of home staging programs or the work of home stagers.
It’s a completely unregulated field which means that anyone can call themselves whatever they like or create any “credentials” they want to award to others.
The bottom line is that there is NO OFFICIAL TRAINING TO BECOME A HOME STAGER.
It completely lacks integrity to deliberately confuse the market place with fake credentials. There is no such thing as “certification” or “accreditation” so putting initials after your name means nothing.
In my opinion, it’s a deliberate attempt to mislead potential students into thinking one program is better than another because it’s “official”.
There are no official programs. ANYONE can call themselves a stager today and ANYONE can offer training.
Fake credentials also mislead the general public, though less so, because if you stopped 10 people on the street, I doubt you’d find one that has even heard of any of the acronyms floating around out there.
It’s also interesting to note that at least one of the leading programs asks you to pay an annual fee to maintain the privilege of using their initials after your name. If that’s not proof that it’s not an actual credential, I don’t know what is.
I have a hard-earned MBA from a leading university and I can put M.B.A. (and B.A. for that matter) after my name. I don’t choose to, but the point is I don’t lose these real credentials because I don’t contribute to my university’s alumni fund!
Fake home staging credentials do not give you credibility or build your business
While some beginners may feel putting initials after their name offers them a “security blanket” when they’re new in the business, it doesn’t!
If you haven’t learned how to build your credibility without hiding behind fake credentials, then you’ll never grow your business. That’s why I deliberately don’t give my Graduates letters to put after their names.
I don’t want the sort of students who will hide behind a “designation” I give them to build a business.
I want students who will take the tools, techniques and strategies I teach them to feel confident in their own right. And I place a lot of emphasis on what they’ll need to go forward confidently.
Home staging is a very profitable business IF you learn how to market yourself properly and the right pricing strategies to use, which is why I cover these so carefully in the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program.
Obviously, it also helps to have some talent or your staging portfolio won’t do much to win you new clients.
There are tons of surgeons out there with real Phd’s. It doesn’t mean you’d allow any of them to operate on you, unless you also felt confident in their abilities. So it’s not just about the “credentials” and in home staging it mustn’t be about the “credentials”, since there aren’t any!
I also strongly disagree with some programs practice of handing out fake portfolios to their students. If you go out there and present before and after photos of staging projects that aren’t your own, and your potential clients realize this, forget about any credibility. Where will the “security blanket” of those three little initials get you when you’ve been found out?
By the way, I added a “Graduation Certificate” as something students get when they complete the Staging Diva Program about 18 months after I started teaching courses, because so many students wanted something to frame and hang on their walls.
For many I guess it’s a symbolic representation of their decision to change their lives by pursuing a career in something they feel passionate about. I do state clearly on my website however, that this is not an “official credential” since there is no such thing in the home staging field.
More on this topic at The Debate over Fake Home Staging Credentials Continues and 5 Money Wasting Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing Home Staging Courses.
Sandra Hughes says
I agree – all the “accreditations and certifications” are done so by the organizations giving the training. When I called a particular group about training I was told there could be up to 40 people in one class and at the end of the class I would be certified.
Laurie A. Mahoney says
I’m wondering why the need for “fake credentials”. Why does someone who runs a Home Staging business feel the need to deceive their students and clients into thinking they are legally accredited when they are not? I would venture to say it is some type of insecurity.
Although I am a fairly new graduate of The Staging Diva Certificate Program I have not run into problems in this area.
If we feel as a group that we need to do this I like Kelly’s idea of using a anacronym such as SDCG (Staging Diva Certified Graduate). At least we are being honest and saying we have taken a staging course and graduated. I would only vote a yes to do this if we feel it has become a problem.
Hopefully, we will all be able to stand tall with our own merits, talents and the fact we made a great choice of signing up with Debra Gould who is the best there is without the need for “credentials”.
Jody Thulin, Sharp Dressed Homes says
I understand that some people unfamiliar with the industry may questions us regarding our “credentials”. I believe that we are the professionals and, as such, should simply explain that the current industry has no educational requirements and that anyone who attaches a credential to their name is not being honest. I have explained this to several of my clients and once they understand this it becomes a non-issue. I also think that our portfolios are a more powerful tool for demonostrating our abilities than any fake credentials that other staging programs may utilize.
Debra Gould says
I’ve heard from so many agents who have said the same thing. They’ll hire or recommend a stager based on their portfolios and how well they present themselves and demonstrate their abilities. None of the ones I’ve spoken to care at all about credentials, especially since a growing number are catching on to what’s been happening. They don’t take these fake credentials at face value.
Kathi Howland says
I wholeheartedly agree. Well put, Debra.
Susan Wollenweber says
I am sorry, I can’t agree wholly with this logic, Debra. Maybe you forget what it was like to be in a beginner’s shoes! While I enjoyed your course immensely and would recommend it to anyone who asked me whether they should take it, it did not cover a single thing about whether the student is up to the task or not (tricks of the trade, etc). I know that I have a good eye, but I know I have a lot to learn in this business and if someone wants to hold a three-day seminar to teach me those things, I feel, after taking it, if someone wants to give me a seal of approval by allowing me to use initials after my name, then it can’t hurt. In my current profession, it is ESSENTIAL to complete at least one test to even get your foot in the door. That consists of a written knowledge test and three 15-minute tests. If you pass, you get certified. But it takes a lot of practice to be able to pass those tests. Now, to your point, it is accredited by our national association, but my point is that you have to have SOMETHING to get your foot in the door as a beginner, with no tangible proof of your talent. I certainly don’t have a plethora of before and after shots; therefore, I intend to show clients that I have taken the trouble to be educated in the field by showing them what courses I’ve taken AND my paltry set of before and afters. I see lots of presumably experienced home stagers agreeing with you on this forum — and maybe I will too once I get my foot in the door — but until then, all I have to hang my hat on are my three before and after shots and proof of my education in the field. Ok, now I’m ready to get spanked! 🙂
Debra Gould says
Susan, thanks for commenting! There are two separate issues here. What you’re talking about is feeling more comfortable with your ability. What I’m talking about are whether credentials are really “official” or not. I object to the term “accredited” and “certified” which implies some independent third party has recognized the program, when that’s not the case.
Now as for getting your foot in the door and feeling confident, that’s a challenge each and every one of us faces. Remember I have 7,000 students in 22 countries and not more than 5% of them have any prior interior design experience.
When I decided to call myself a home stager in 2002, I just did it. I didn’t wait for someone to wave a magic wand over my head and tell me that I was an “expert,” I took on that role. Like you, I had no design or staging training (I hadn’t invented my courses yet, that came 2 years later). I didn’t have a portfolio either, until I shot one in my own home. I’m not sure if you’ve read my article on how to create your portfolio in a weekend.
By my second year in home staging I was making up to $10,000 a month as a home stager. I had been featured on HGTV, Women’s Day Magazine, Reader’s Digest, CNN Money, and other newspapers and magazines. Not a single member of the media (or any client for that matter) ever asked me what my credentials were. Why? Because I knew how to present myself in a professional way. If you follow what I teach you in the Staging Diva program, you will know how to do this too.
No client will consider an association membership, or some initials they’ve never heard of, as “proof of your talent.”
They’ll look at your business card, head shot, web presence and portfolio to see if you seem talented and professional. They’ll talk to you and see if they think they’ll feel comfortable working with you and if you seem to know what you’re talking about. If you don’t pass those “tests,” no one will hire you no matter how many “credentials” you have. That’s why so many of my students come from other programs after realizing they haven’t been able to make a living for years because they don’t know how to market themselves effectively.
So Susan, my strongest advice to you is to re-listen to all your course recordings, get your portfolio and other marketing pieces together and get out there already. You already have the knowledge you need to build a successful staging business.
Deb Pulaski says
Thank you for posting this article! It has helped me to clearly define my goals in this business!
I am not going into this business to promote “Deb”. If I’m a doctor, my business is my education and experience and that’s important in that case. I am doing this because it’s perfect for me creatively, inspirationally, and financially. My true goal is to help people by showing them that an investment that fits into their budget, will maximize their profits and sell their house fast! They don’t have to be put in the position of waiting for an offer only to find themselves considering reducing their price by $10,000 to $20,000. If they see staging their home as a part of the perfect plan to meet their ultimate goal, get more for their home and sell it quickly, then we both meet our goals!
My plan is to know my business. Know the market, know the area, what sells and who buys. Good design sense and helping the client make the right design choices for their budget to achieve their goals is my business! That’s why I’m doing this. I don’t need letters after my name to show clients that my company is the one they need to choose.
If letters after your name are important to you, then that’s fine. We don’t all have the same goals in life or need for our career choices. Mine is simply to build this great business that I will thoroughly enjoy and make a lot of money to secure my future for myself.
Thank you so much for all of the wonderful wisdom and experience that you share to help others to achieve their goals! I will be taking your course as soon as possible and continue to come back often while I continue to educate myself as I embark on this great adventure! So excited!
Debra Gould says
Really appreciate your comments Deb and wishing you every success in your home staging business!~