Real Estate Staging / Home Staging Blog


Not All Bananas in the Bunch are Ripe and Ready

 So my home selling pets, would you like to pick a home stager to regularly work with, but are not sure which in the bunch to hire? Plus does it seem as if daily there are more and more staging bananas out there to pick from?

Well, you are right; it can be a tough to know which stager you should bring to your seller, especially since staging is still a relatively new service offered in most parts of the USA. You are also right if you noticed that there are many new bananas rapidly joining the staging bunch.

To make a wise and informed choice, that best serves you and your sellers, you need to understand that a "professional stager" may just be an average green Jane or Joe who just fell out of a training tree. Many stagers are newly transformed into "professionals" merely due to the fact that they sat through a one, two or three day foundation training course. That's it, in as little as one day... a newly credentialed staging banana is thrown into the bunch.

So be wise and discerning, staging credentials that hype "trained," "certified" or "accredited" can be a bit deceiving... especially considering onyone can be trained and graduated from some foundation staging training programs in as little as one day. This is not to say that there are plenty of well qualified stagers who have been trained through these courses. But remember, above everything, the ripeness of EXPERIENCE trumps all else... even "credentials."

Unfortunately, unlike Realtors in the real estate industy, Stagers in the home staging industry are an unregulated wild bunch. Because this so... your sellers are at risk, especially in this tough selling market! Picking a green stager could cost them some green and a sale. So while staging looks mighty tasty, to those of you who are looking for some hope and help, don't blindly accept the fact that a stager, with a horde of initials after their name, has the experience needed and fully yet knows what they are doing.

So how can you pick out a green novice stager from the ripe experienced stager? Well, it is not the difficult, if you keep in mind that home staging is an "image" industry.

Considering it is a stager's job is to create a good first visual impression of home seller's property, then a good stager needs to do the same for themselves. A good stager knows the importance of and how to present a good visual first impression of their company and their work.

To start to weed out amateurs from the experienced, first look closely at the stager's portfolio, for examples of their work. Also, make sure that you ask the stager if they ACTUALLY staged the properties they show in their portfolio... believe it or not there are some foundation training programs that give green stagers a set of "starter" portfolio photos. Finally if you have any doubts, of course you can always ask the stager for testimonials from past clients and/or references.

So that's it, pretty easy actually. That is all you need to know and do to be a good home selling monkey and pick the ripest stager that will best help you and your sellers.

Ripening It Forward...

Monkey Me


Comment balloon 36 commentsCraig Schiller • May 01 2008 07:07AM


I would think samples of work and references would be key here. You are right about the nregulation. That's not a bad thing as look as folks are honest 
Posted by Charlie Ragonesi, Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros ( over 12 years ago

Great post, Craig.  There's one training institute that actually provides the same level of accreditation for the agents that attend.  In other words, an individual looking to enter into the staging industry can literally be sitting next to an agent in the same class.  There are two exceptions to the level of training:  1) the agent spends 1/5 of the amount and the individual looking to become a full fledge stager gets one additional day of training.  Again, their accreditation, at the end of the course, is no different.  The result; a bunch of agents with a staging accreditation.  The moral of the story:  Titles behind names are not what's important.  As you point out - pay close attention to the stager's portfolio.


Posted by Kathy Nielsen, Atlanta Georgia Home Stager ( over 12 years ago
Craig, I think this same thing is true of Agents! 
Posted by Jeremy Blanton, Myrtle Beach REALTOR®- (Myrtle Beach Homes Blog) over 12 years ago
Great Post, I think this is an important aspect to selling!  I usually do a "barter" with my stagers, they are interier designers, I offer them to stage a house, then hopefully sell their wares.  IF not I give my buyer's a gift certificate to the "stagers" store........ everything works and nothing doesn't!  Good Job
Posted by Sandy Bliven, e-PRO, Westerly RI Real Estate (Re/Max South County) over 12 years ago

Good morning Craig, as I'm sure you know by now, I believe that there are many things that anyone in the service industry, including Stager must have to successfully run a business and satisfy a clients needs. 

  1. They must have the intuition to fully understand and perform what staging really is and as an added extra, experience only strengthens that intuition. 
  2. They must have training, experience or the intuition to perform the interworking of a business. 
  3. They must have the resources to take their business to a level that serves the needs of the clients and themselves.  You can not lower the requirements just becasue you do not have the resources.
  4. And last, but just as important, they have to have the training, experience and personality to deal effectively with people.  We are ultimately all in the people business.

An absence of any of these skill and abilities will spell failure.  Failure for the stager, failure for their clients.  I know it would make everyone happy to simply say that anyone can do this work.  But that is far from the truth.  Because there are many people that do not have the ability to self evaluate their own skills and intuitions, it is important to arm the consumer with tools to choose wisely.  Thanks for doing your part in this education.  Your voice is a strong one.

Posted by Gary Barnett, Home Matters Property Stylist Group, Indianapolis (Home Matters) over 12 years ago
Hi, Craig.  You're right on the mark as always.  Could you post this in some of the Real Estate forums as well?  WE here on SIF know these facts to be true, but many REAs out there need to read this.
Posted by Connie Tebyani, Platinum Home Staging, Los Angeles and Ventura County (Platinum Home Staging, Inc. : RESA-Pro) over 12 years ago

Awesome post Craig!

I agree with you 100% there are good, there are bad stagers. Realtors & Homeowners should always ask for references, speak to someone who has worked with the stager, find out if they are/were satisfied.

I have run into Realtors who were so unhappy with the process and outcome of other stagers work or lack there of. Luckily enough, they did NOT to give up on staging completely, but they tried someone new and are now extremely happy.


Posted by Heather Chotard (In Style) over 12 years ago
Craig ~ You've managed once again to take a very important subject and cleverly get the right information to consumers and agents.  Anyone can hang out a shingle and say they can "stage" but the proof lies in their experience and in their statistics.  Thanks for being the Voice of Home Staging!
Posted by Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging, "Staging Consultations that Sell Portland Homes" (Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR) over 12 years ago
Very nice analogy.  We've seen quite of few "stagers" enter our local market.  And when your explore their experience, training, references there isn't much to it.  Thanks for a great post.
Posted by Tina Howell, Little Elm & Frisco Area Real Estate (RE/MAX DFW Associates VI) over 12 years ago
"...home selling monkey."  Hilarious!
Posted by Andrew Magliochetti CCIM (Helios Realty and Development) over 12 years ago

Craig~Once again I found your writing very A-Peel-Ing.  I know...bad pun.  As always you find just the right way to " paint a picture " with words that really drives home the point. 


Posted by Gina McNew, Host of Diva in the House - The Voice of Real Estate Staging Radio (diva la difference interiors) over 12 years ago
Too true - some start in this business possibly thinking "well, how hard can it be?". It's not about difficulty - it's about propriety. Do what's proper for the seller. I've seen some stagers approach every house the same way whether it's a $300,000 home or $1.5 million home and we know from experience they are not the same and cannot be treated the same. The buying market for each is VERY DIFFERENT. Do you think the price they charge is relevant to differentiating between the inexperienced and experienced?
Posted by Gabriele Campbell, ASP, CID (D F Campbell Ventures Group Inc.) over 12 years ago
Craig - how did you get your first customer without a portfolio?  Everyone has to start somewhere.  I have one, but how does someone with talent and training get their first pictures for a portfolio and references?  How did you do it?
Posted by Amy Prouty (Home Staging) over 12 years ago

AMY that is an EXCELLENT question.

AND... it is the age old question. "How do you get exprience if no one will give you the "break" you need?"

But I actually think it is easier for a stager, than it is for someone trying to break into a mainstream job/gig.

For me personally, it was a different time. 4 years ago staging was NOT popular at all in Chicago. A realtor pushed me into staging. BUT... even though I was pushed I was smart enough to make sure I took GREAT before and after shots.

Then one staging became 2. And again I INVESTED the TIME to know my camera and get the BEST shots of the project as possible. You will note that ALL my before and after pictures are taken from the EXACT SAME POINT IN THE ROOM. That takes time... and time is money. But it was worth it.

But now... I know it is a differ time. So I tell stagers, who often ask me this question, that if they need to... stage their freind's and neighbor's houses. And take GREAT befores and great afters photos. GOOD photos of your work is your GATEWAY to the next job. AND KEEP taking pictures of all you jobs. Keep documenting your work... and then as you begin to have a body of work, you can select the pictures that a potential client would relate to the best.

STAGE the story of your services and SHOW you clients what the need to SEE to buy you.

And keep taking pictures... GOOD PICTURES.

It is that hard and that easy.


Posted by Craig Schiller over 12 years ago

I don't know I've always pictured myself as more of a pomegranate, or a lime maybe...  Something a bit more tart or sassy than a banana. 



Posted by Maureen Maureen over 12 years ago
Craig - This is why stagers that I train, especially those who are local, have the opportunity to join my team wherein they are mentored and their work is critiqued, etc.  Agents/Clients who hire someone on our team know what they are getting, even if the stager is new because we make sure the end result measures up. 
Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 12 years ago

Hi Craig,

My Staging company has been in business for almost 5 years now so our portfolio is extensive but more and more I hear from prospective Clients and Realtors that our website represents us well and often sets us apart from the newest stagers.  Of course I always carry my portfolio to show but, I prefer asking the client to get online with me, via the phone as I set the walk through appointment and we discuss the property and their needs.  This way they see what I look like, my work, my crew, and our style and professionalism.

Mona Reeder, ASP, IAHSP Amazing Staging & Redesign, LLC Sonoma County CA

Posted by Mona & Richard Reeder, ASP & IAHSP (Amazing Staging & Redesign, LLC) over 12 years ago
I promise I will only use a stager that is ripe?
Posted by Judy Greenberg, Coldwell Banker - Buffalo Grove - Long Grove Homes (Coldwell Banker Long Grove) over 12 years ago


Due diligence is just as important iwhen selecting a stager as it is when selecting a Realtor. 

Posted by Susan Peters, The Better it Looks the Better it Sells (Dove Realty Inc.) over 12 years ago

I needed a good laugh tonight & this was priceless.

No monkey business just good ole' fashioned good sense.

No wonder you're King of the staging jungle... but I'll never look at a banana the same way again Mr. Schiller.

Posted by Karen Otto, Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging, (Home Star Staging) over 12 years ago
'Just want to let you know that I highlighted this post on my outside blog, Focus On Crofton.  I love your blog, and could easily have chosen any of them. 
Posted by Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 12 years ago
Hey Craig! This post is just bananas. Or is it? Good advice, well put, once again. Way to Stage it Forward! 
Posted by Yvonne Root, Home Stager - Northern Arizona (rooms b.y. root) over 12 years ago
 Great Post!  Nothing evil about the truth!
Posted by Karen Dembsky, Atlanta Home Staging (Peachtree Home Staging LLC, Home Staging in Atlanta, GA) over 12 years ago

Interesting post, Craig.  I am not saying I agree with you 100%, but would like to chime in that I continually see people adding Home Staging to their repertoire of services.  Competition is competition, but just hanging a sign out that says you offer the services does not make a Stager.  I always say, Home Staging is 50% Creativity, 50% Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.  You either Have it, or you don't.

But the real point I would like to sound off about, in answer to Amy's question is:  I got my start by 'interning" with other Stagers while I still worked full time.  Once I went Staging Full Time, I continued to work with them, but I could tell prospective clients the truth: I recently started Home Stagign full time, have worked with several successful Home Stagers in the area, I have pictures (some Good, some OK - live and learn, right?) of some rooms I worked on, and people (stagers) I could reference.  You would be surprised at the number of people who were accepting of the "interning" as work experience.  It is Staging experience, and being able to point to another Stager who can testify to your work is a Great asset.

Plus, a busy Stager who knows your work is more likely to refer a job to you if they are in a bind or just too busy.

Michael - The Stage Coach

Posted by Michael Fontana, @ The Stage Coach (Round Rock Home Stager Austin Home Staging) over 12 years ago

Great post -

There are all types of people huddled under the staging umbrella these days.

It makes it difficult to stand apart

Posted by Home Staging (Showhomes) over 12 years ago

Craig, I described my experience trying to find a good stager in Louisville in our previous discussion.  You are right, presentation is key.  Stagers (more than any other real estate professional) must have good-looking websites as well as good-looking portfolios.  To expand on your point, if you can't make yourself and your business attractive, why should anyone think that you can make their homes look attractive. 

Posted by Erik Hitzelberger, Louisville - Middletown Real Estate (RE/MAX Alliance - Louisville REALTOR-Luxury Homes) over 12 years ago

Craig ~ you have very good insight, knowledge & wisdom with this industry for sure!  However, I guess I am a fruit of a different sort.  I don't have a web site, or a good portfolio, as yet.  I keep intending to get on board with that, but my referrals are keeping me swamped, and I am not buying out the time to make sure this is done.  I don't like the camera I have - lacking good wide angle abilities.  I was set to get a Panasonic - but then I read a post where the owner of one wasn't happy with hers.  Back on hold with that.

My business is growing solely on referrals.  Maybe I'll regret not having those ducks - oops - monkeys in a row.  :-)

At any rate - I really enjoyed and appreciated your post!


Posted by Susan Cunningham, R.E.VISION - Suwanee, GA (NE Atlanta Home Staging) over 12 years ago

Hey ~S~

NOTICE I never said HOW LONG it takes for a stager to ripen? SOME stagers do fall out of the tree ripe and ready to go... but NOT all.

Congrats on your success.


Posted by Craig Schiller over 12 years ago

Well, actually common sense when hiring anyone is to ask these sorts of questions.  Stagers come in all shapes and sizes, just like Realtors and their past clients referrals really do the speaking.  I would ask for references and then CHECK them, often the missing link. 

Posted by Terrylynn Fisher, HAFA Certified, EcoBroker, CRS, CSP Realtor, Etc. (Dudum Real Estate Group - over 12 years ago

Craig~true dat!


Posted by Susan Cunningham, R.E.VISION - Suwanee, GA (NE Atlanta Home Staging) over 12 years ago

Craig -- I LOVE IT!!!!  Can I share this with agents in Omaha?

Posted by Tori Lynn Wallitsch (Prudential Ambassador / Ross Designs, LLC) over 12 years ago

I'm quite relieved that you don't need a home staging certificate or accreditation. so, that means, my natural talents are all it takes so I can excel in my <a href="">home staging career</a> , right? I just need to hone it up a little bit. Anyway, I'm still a newbie in home staging business but I'm doing a lot of decorating before but just on my own house, you know, when the family is away at school and at work. Thanks for the blog. At least, I can have new ideas on how and where to enhance my home staging skills without much hype!

Posted by May over 12 years ago

AMY and Craig (the Staging Adonis),

Amy, I'm in your area and am a pro photographer (just less expensive than the BigBoys), and I'll help. Scope out our site to see if our quality is what you are looking for.

I saw on your website you've got a photo of half a couch. The staged breakfast area doesn't show what I believe to be the "money shot" of the room: outside the windows. In the NW it's difficult to keep windows clean, but make sure they are for photos.

If you do your own photography, Craig's got a great list of things everybody needs to make sure to do which he could probably share.

(Hey, Craig! It's been years!)

Dawn Shaffer,

Posted by Dawn Shaffer Life is good! over 12 years ago

Hey Craig
I am finding more and more that clients are asking to see my portfolio and testimonials prior to working with me which is great. I am happy to oblige. One client asked if they were all family members since they had all great things to say, another plus.

Here is what I am finding...too many beginners are getting out there and doing presentations to try to gain business and conveying false information because they don't know how to sell their services. They will either tell the realtor that it is their place to pay for staging or they will have LOW fees and say things like staging does not have to cost as much as so and so...HA, just let them do some REAL properties and walk away spending more on their accessories than they are making.

THEY WILL LEARN and so will consumers...the cream will rise to the top..HOPE YOU ARE DOING WELL and talk with you soon,

Phyllis Pafumi

Posted by Phyllis Pafumi, ReStyled to Sell Staging Homes NJ (ReStyled to Sell Home Staging New Jersey) over 12 years ago

I just came across your post.  I love it! As usual you are right on.  The stock photos, especially the headers are misleading to the consumers.  People don't think to ask for client references or other pertinent questions it seems.  Which reminds me, my portfolio is so outdated, it's pathetic, haven't had time to update...that's a good thing, but it's giving out my first impression, that's everything!

Posted by Cindy Bryant, "Houston Home Staging Pros" (Redesign Etc. Home Staging) over 12 years ago

Excellent advice, Craig. As an agent I get information from staging professionals all the time, and having some criteria to use for selection is most helpful.


Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (eXp Realty of California, Inc.) over 12 years ago