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Friday, January 29, 2010


WHO is a HOME TYPICAL STAGER? by Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP, Owner, Sensational Home Staging serving the Greater Denver Region

I am! I am! Are you?  We have many versions of "us" out there, and based on the thousands that have entered the market over the last decade, and the many hundreds if not thousands I have met, I find out in class, at conventions, at meetings, and online - what people's backgrounds are and how they got into Staging.

The results of my informal but experienced survey may surprise you!

I offer up my profile of the "typical Home Stager." And by typical - I don't mean "average."
She is a woman (although thre are plenty of male Stagers), usually married, typically in her 40's-50's (although we do have more and more younger people entering the field inthe past 3 years and we also have many older women who do a great job!). She is creative. She has had several careers or at least multiple roles within one company over the years. She has been a business owner, lawyer, nurse, teacher, corporate executive, admin, sales person, marketing guru, or even stay at home mom. She is not in physically perfect shape, and she sweats when she Stages. She works hard, likes people, and Stages for the satisfaction of helping others and because she can make good money. She is a mom, grandma, wife, comforter, business entrepreneur and even a child referee.
Let's compare that to the television version of a Stager: There are typcially two types of Stagers shown on TV.

The first typical TV Stager is a man - usually gay - that has no kids but may have pets. He is probably a decorator or designer that has forayed into Staging. He is in his 20's-30's - he Stages houses and is shown with a fabulous inventory to use for his projects. He is funny and fun to watch. He is successful and savvy and has a passion for what he does.

Does that sound like YOU?  I know, me neither.

The other television version of a Stager is a younger woman who is attractive, in nearly perfect shape, and is usually a designer who has not really run a typical Staging business. She has been successful in design and has a great eye for décor, placement. She is smart, sexy and looks good on camera. She has been seen in fashionable attire, high heels, and in some shows, actually wears "work clothes" - slacks, tennis shoes, etc.

Does that sound like YOU?  It's getting closer except for the part about being in perfect shape and being able to Stage in heels (LOL).

One other common element of the TV Home Stager is that they can be portrayed as caustic and rude to the client, which is unfortunate. This is probably for "entertainment" value but ends up giving the wrong impression to the public. Not all shows on TV with Stagers are like this, but there are enough that are that makes it a concern.

Does that sound like YOU?  Definitely NOT!

If you are reading this and like me feel like you cannot relate to who you see on TV as far as them looking like you or Staging like you, know that you are not alone.

In reality, 95% of Home Stagers are primarily women that are creative and looking for a way to have a business and/or add extra income to their family household. We are moms, wives, comforters, and business owners - and we not only run successful businesses, we run a successful household, daycare, love nest, marriage, and more! We spin many plates and manage to be productive despite all the distractions and outside responsibilities we have. We know that most of the TV versions of who we are could not last a week in our shoes.

Now, the MEN that are reading this - I know YOU may watch and feel that you need representation on TV too - for the ways YOU run your businesses and for your background.

The other issue with TV Stagers and shows is that TV has the public believing that all Stagers must have a HUGE inventory of expensive things to be successful. Or they have access to a crew that can build things with ease, and whip up a bookshelf, refinish tables, and remodel the house - all in a day's work! When I was interviewed by a television station for a show, one of their first questions was "how large is your warehouse?" and they wanted pictures. They didn't ask about my success rate as a professional Home Stager or ask to see a portfolio of photos. It's almost as if they are saying, "You cannot be successful if you don't have expensive inventory warehoused in a big place." They were thinking "visual" for the show - not what really happens in a Staging business.

I've "been there -done that" and invested a LOT of dollars into inventory that I used with my clients. However, I know we as Stagers serving the general public day in and day out - without TV crews following us around - can be successful without sinking profits into "stuff." I want to Stage, not run a furniture rental business. I do have inventory, but after having to manage and maintain a large volume of inventory, I'd rather take that time (and money) to find more clients and leave that part up to the rental experts or colleagues that partner with me.

I also don't really hear if the houses on TV sell. Did the Staging do the job? I hear plenty about how great they made the houses look but do these shows actually track statistics that prove their Staging works? If they do - I'd be interested to see them - I don't doubt the houses Sell, but so much emphasis is on how the house "looks" and the "stuff" and not the Sale and the Seller. Outside if it looking "gorgeous" because of all the wonderful stuff brought in, what else can you tell me about the process AFTER the Staging was done?

And what happens when the Seller says they cannot afford to rent or buy things? Do you just walk away because after all it's not entertainment value to have to use old or dated stuff? Or does the TV budget provided cover that aspect? I know there are shows where it just films the Home Stager and the money for the project is negotiated and collected by the Stager, and no other budget is provided by the TV show producer, but for most companies and individuals on the shows, they are getting compensated either up front or on the back end or in some other way for participating in the show.

You might say, "Jennie, What fun is it to Stage with all the old stuff in a house?" The FUN is that it challenges your and my creativity! It's not as creatively challenging to go out and rent or buy things to bring into a house and set them up to look like a magazine. It takes more time and labor to do it that way. The challenge with having to use what a seller has is having to "get out of the box" and tap into creative resources in our minds that we did not know existed! Making a house look wonderful and inviting is the magic of Staging! Making a new use for an item is great! Why is that not shown on TV?

Not everyone can do this - it takes practice and a lots of creativity. I can plan out the interior décor of a house with the best of them. I have set up multi-million dollar vacant houses down to modest small vacant bungalows. Occupied and Vacant houses. Being project manager and selecting the look, style, and placement of all the furnishings is easier from the standpoint that I am in charge and get to pick the colors, style, and placement. Running the project takes skill - and keeping things on track, setting the budget, negotiating with the client and managing the financials is a key part of business ownership.

Having to use what a Seller has in an occupied house is much tougher mentally - but easier on their pocketbook. And let's face it - in today's economy not every Seller is willing to or can afford $5,000+ to Stage their house.

Stagers can specialize and just Stage vacants or just Stage houses where they use inventory, etc. In my opinion, I think that part of the whole package is missing when we only do half of what we could do in the industry. It boils down to personal preference and there is not one "right way" to run a business or Stage. But so far, I am not seeing the other side of Staging that does not involve expensive rental furniture and a designer approach, versus working with what a Seller has with creativity and a reasonable budget.

So Who is a Home Stager?
Really, it's anyone that has a creative passion and the ability to visualize a space in a different way. It's a person that has excellent interpersonal skills, enjoys people, likes networking, knows marketing, and likes calling their own shots. It's a person that likes real estate and Realtors, and is not afraid to dig in and WORK (sweat!). It's a person that knows how to handle and hand-hold Sellers. It's someone that has a flair and individualized taste, but who also knows what the public expects to see when they walk through the door of a house. It's someone that is a good time manager, project manager, and people manager. It's a person that likes the challenge of going after business and reaps the rewards of taking that risk. It can be a man or woman, young or old, any race, any religion, sexual preference, and any educational background.

Does that sound like your resume? If so - you are in the right business!

Staging also does not discriminate. If you have the desire and fire to do something different with your life, and are ready to take on the challenge of building a business - then hang on! You are in for a great ride as you get on or stay on the Home Staging train! Get ready to go places and see things you probably thought you'd never see - big houses, small houses, cluttered houses, empty houses, and a slew of "amazing" things people have in their homes that they just don't understand why they need to pack! Get ready to meet some incredible people and experience the euphoria of a Staging project well done and done well!
I know that has been my story - and I know over time the profile I provided of a "typical" stager WILL change as the business continues to attract all sorts of people to it! How Wonderful!

I AM a Professional Home Stager and I am excited to be part of the next evolution of the Home Stager!- Jennie