- While I have learned much from fellow members here on Active Rain and in Stage It Forward... I have to admit there are some member's posts I follow more regularly. What they have to say about Home Staging and the Home Staging Industry time and again captures my attention.
So recently when Jennie Norris, a Vice President at stagedhomes.com, connected one of the critical and troublesome industry "dots" that other home stagers in others markets have experienced... I was intrigued.
Jennie wrote a bit of an expose' on home staging and what she felt were wrongful pricing strategies in her post entitled Get off your back and on your feet - and walk out of the red-light district! I have to say THIS POST really got my attention. If you have NOT read her post, Jennie describes her frustrations with what she felt were low ball fees other stagers are charging for their services. Jennie writes "When are we going to stop giving it away - and realize the VALUE of what we bring to the table? And if you are out there undercharging because you think it's the only way you can get business - for shame! Take another look at what your market will bear - and don't leave money on the table!"
While low ball pricing may be a new issue for Jennie in Sacramento, it is NOT new to other stagers in other markets... including myself. It is good to see that Jennie finally connected one of the problematic issues (dots) that I and others have written of in the past. But you might be surprised to know that I believe the fact that lowball pricing is occurring, it is NOT that big of an issue. WHY lowball pricing IS occurring is a bigger issue that I want to address.
Let me paint a bigger BIG picture why the industry is experiencing some of the difficulties it is right now. While this is NOT going to be a pretty picture, this also is NOT a post trying to point fingers and BLAME ANYONE for where the industry is at. To be honest blaming doesn't change these facts. What I hope to do is show and propose solutions that benefit all. BUT here is where we are within this industry NOW:
- FACT: It is very EASY and FAST for someone to become a home stager. NO formal training is required. (This happens to be the category I fall under).
- FACT: Because foundation training programs have made it SO easy and fast (from 1 day to 1 month) to become a trained certified/accredited stager, there is NOW and continues to be a glut of people freshily graduated and empowered as a "professional" stagers entering the market place. In some markets there are more then it can bare. Of course the larger the market the greater the probability a stager WILL compete with some fellow graduates from the same foundation course they took, as well as graduates of other foundation training courses.
- FACT: The home seller/consumer has NO idea what good staging is or is NOT. The home staging industry has created NO way do differentiate or compare common types of service or FEES for those services we provide our clients. (For example the auto indsutry has common TYPES of cars: Compact, Economy, Midsize, SUV etc...)
- FACT: When starting and operating a staging business new stagers who are hungry for business WILL undercut the "going" rates in order to get some work under their belts. Sometimes a new stager's "pay" could be the opportunity to capture amazing after photos for their portfolio, for services they have actually provided. (I did this when I started.)
- FACT: The home seller/consumer market has NO idea what staging costs. What a homeseller believes staging costs is is often based on a distorted understanding... which often comes directly from TV shows like Designed to Sell. This show NEVER takes into account the LABOR fees to pay for Lisa LaPorte (a VERY talented staging host) or her team of laborers.
- FACT: The real estate market is extremely slow... and in some markets totally stalled. Because it is so slow, less people are trying to sell their homes and those that are, are VERY cautious about spending their hard earned money on staging... for MANY home-sellers, staging is an unproven risky venture. So if they are interested in staging, price is the ONLY way to differentiate so the cheaper they can get staged... the better.
Again where the Home Staging industry is is the result of MANY players and MANY circumstances working in tandem and unfolding over time. If you see this as an attack on any one person, company or orgainzation you are mistaken. Again... blaming is ugly and useless. What I hope is that WE can create a masterpiece of a solution. However, I will say this, there are those individuals, companies, and organizations that must step up and work together and do their parts to create solutions... instead of trying to breakdown any attempt at building this industry up. Also, standing on sidelines doing nothing is equally harmful. One fine example of a company working to improve the home staging industry is Brook Furniture Rental. Brook's sponsorship of 2 SIF RoundTables and their formation of a staging advisory panel is a HUGE step and huge commitment that will benefit ALL.
Getting back to what can be done... First, all members of the home staging industry must realize this industry is no longer made up of 1,2 or 3 players... it is made up of 1000's... stagers, vendors, and trainers. The Stage It Forward Group on AR and now SIF RoundTables are a START in the breaking down of the barriers between those individuals and companies that for whatever reason try/wanted to operate in a protectionist bubble.
- RESA has been trying, (with some success) to get foundation training programs to work together. What RESA is undertaking is NOT to get foundation training companies to share proprietary information and methodology, but to set some guidelines and define some standards that can be communicated to the general public as to what constitutes good training. The public needs a way to KNOW what a TRAINED STAGER is and how the consumer can differentiate a formally trained stager from a "yesterday I arn't one today I is one" stager.
- SIF RoundTables are NOT about fellow members trying to to gain access to a companies proprietary information and "have ideas given to them for free"... as was recently communicated to a group of stagers. The issues we are tackling are bigger and touch all stagers regardless of where they were trained, what market they are in, who there competition is, or how big/little old/new their staging company is. Banning, thwarting or scaring people away from opportunities such as this keeps us stuck.
- The SIF Quartley Qwick Staging Stats (QSTAT's) WILL help to begin to address some of the issues above. In fact, SIF QSTAT's will directly address the pricing issues Jennie spoke of. The stager who got the job will know what average rate for staging is for a DEFINED type of staging in that market. Currently, how a stager ultimately chooses to PRICE their services is totally up to them. BUT with QSTAT's bench mark price ranges could be communicated. The competing stager's who presented THEIR solutions would have NATIONAL, STATE and LOCAL data that can be presented to the consumer to EDUCATE them to make an informed decision. You might say the playing field would be leveled... NOW individual stagers can compete.
There is so much more I can write about that will help begin to paint the masterpiece of a industry so many of us see and believe in. But for now... this seems to be enough.
Sorry this was so lengthy...