So What Exactly Do You Say When Sellers Ask You THIS Question???

Reblogger Lenn Harley
Real Estate Agent with Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate 303829;0225082372

FACT:  The real estate industry has structured statistical databases to track the sales of homes by price, feature, location, etc. 

FACT:  The staging industry makes claims of value to the owner/seller and provides a good supply of "Smoke and Mirrors"

WHAT ABOUT THIS:    If stagers are want to take credit for staged properties that sell, are they willing to take the responsibility when one doesn't sell????  We've seen a lot of those. 

I'd answer the question with another question.  "How many staged homes in your market place sit and sit and sit on the market until the price gets down to market??????"   That question can be answered by taking the seller on a tour of staged homes that have been on the market so long the appliances are out of style. 

"95% of the real estate, staging and decorating programming on HGTV, the DIY Network, The Learning Channel, The Style Network, and The Discovery Channel" THESE ARE DECORATING SHOWS, NOT REAL ESTATE SHOWS, NONE OF WHICH SELL REAL ESTATE.

Where do the statistics about "sell faster and for more money" come from??  From stagers, of course.

Why is there no empirical evidence that staged homes sell better and for more money??  Because that claim is an advertising slogan of the staging industry, that's why.

If someone asked me the question, "So, do you think we should stage our house?"my answer would clearly be  - -

If you wish to pay someone to remove clutter, hire someone to deep clean, remove excess furniture, place remaining furniture at angles, arrange the dining room table ready for dinner, put some plastic flowers on the kitchen counter, create focal points that avert attention from negative structural features, hang new drapes, etc. then the answer is yes.

Then on the other hand, if you wish to put your home in the best position to sell, price it competitively, give easy access and let the real estate system work in your favor and to your advantage.

It's a free country and if the seller has money to burn and the real estate agent isn't strong enough or experienced enough to recommend the same things a stager will do, go for it. 

Staging is a respectible business model that has little to no relationship to real estate sales, except in the imagination of the stagers and agents and consumers who don't know the market. 


Original content by Michelle Molinari

There you are: Pitching yourself as only you can...


and the potential clients are hitting you with a volley of questions. You are not just holding your own - you are darned near poetry in motion!

The answers to every question rolls off your tongue with complete confidence. You are feeling the love - you know you will get this listing, you can practically taste their eagerness to work with you and you alone.

And then it comes. That one question that has been popping up with far to much frequency lately. The one that gives you a queasy feeling because you know your answer on this one thing seems to consistently fall short.

"So, do you think we should stage our house?"



What do you say to that?



First of all, it's a trick question, without a doubt. Say NO, and you are in direct opposition to 95% of the real estate, staging and decorating programming on HGTV, the DIY Network, The Learning Channel, The Style Network, and The Discovery Channel that your clients are absolutely watching, whether they admit it or not.


Dismiss the notion of bringing in a stager at your own risk, because the message they are likely to internalize is that you don't care about getting the most money possible for their property. And if you think this answer will stop them from pursuing a stager outside of your recommendation, you couldn't be more wrong. They will Google stagers, they will see before and after pics in their town, and they will call them to inquire about pricing, and most of all, they will say "The agent we are thinking about working with doesn't know I am calling...." The stager will ask who the agent is, and when it is all said and done, the stager may very well drop the name of an agent who is more proactive regarding equity preservation.

Saying YES is also fraught with peril. YES means they have issues that are clearly apparent to you. It means they have been weighed, measured, and found wanting. This message NOT what you want to be delivering, that you are not liking what you see, which is tantamount to saying there is something wrong with their lifestyle, taste, and them as people. This is a deal-kill without a doubt. You could very well be percieved as looking down upon them.





So what the heck are you supposed to do? 




  • You could ignore the question entirely, and change the subject.
  • You could say that the house is beautiful as is. You could say you yourself are not only a Real Estate Agent but that you also stage your listings yourself, and start spewing out advice on the spot.
  • You could hand them a flyer talking about  de-cluttering and pre-packing, and call that your "Staging Checklist."
  • You could give them a DVD with some generalized staging tips and decide that is more than enough to keep them from noticing you don't actually offer any services in this area.
  • You could even say that staging is not a factor in  your locale (which might be true if your listings are in Antarctica).

But none of these answers correspond with what they are hearing, seeing, and digesting from the available media they are devouring as sellers. They will doubt your commitment to market their listing aggressively and effectively, and doubt your ability to sell their house quickly and do everythingit takes to prevent the unnecessary loss of their hard earned equity.

So what is the best way to handle this question that will make you seem non-judgmental about their home, and therefore, them as people, and meet their media-induced expectations diplomatically and head on?

All you simply have to say is:

"We will send our professional stager to meet with you."

That's it. If they ask about draperies, furniture arrangement, carpet condition, etc., you just state that the stager who will be sent will answer all their questions about any improvements or changes that may be necessary.

You talk business, you sell yourself, you land the listing. All questions on condition or presentation get deferred to "your" professional stager.

It doesn't get any easier. Professional, experienced stagers are highly skilled at being diplomatic, garnering cooperation, and getting things done on a tight budget. Their cost for consultation varies, and can be negotiable when an entire real estate office is concerned.

It isn't about getting in there and charging a small fortune for "all new everything." It's about creating as an inviting space that possible under the circumstances, and stagers know circumstances vary. One 2-hour consultation is usually extremely reasonable in price and bears a bountiful harvest of changes that are all carefully justified and explained, and make a tremendous difference in the way the listing will show, both in marketing materials and when viewed in person. Your listing will shine brighter when you enlist the assistance of a professional stager.

Can't find any stagers in your area? You are probably not looking very hard. Google stagers  in the nearest large city and see if they will service your area for consults.

Had or heard about bad experiences with stagers? Betcha dollars to donuts they were not experienced professionals. The staging  industry has standards and ethics, and a quick visit to the Real Estate Staging Association's website will explain those standards and ethics and how they are enforced with members, and can help you find somene qualified, capable, and charismatic.

So call an experienced stager, secure a lunch date, and get to know one another. You might be surprised what you don't know about these amazing resourceful business people who take their commitments seriously, want your repeat business, know their stuff, and know exactly how to motivate your sellers to make the right moves to make your job much, much easier.


~Michelle Molinari

Certified Staging Professional, Feature This... Real Estate Staging,

CSP Elite Instructor, Certified Staging Professionals

Lead Virtual Designer,

President of Acadiana Chapter of the Real Estate Staging Association






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Comments 41 New Comment

Connie Tebyani
Platinum Home Staging, Los Angeles and Ventura County
Platinum Home Staging, Inc. : RESA-Pro

One perception that seems to be missed here is that the original blog is not saying that you MUST hire a Home Stager.  It is simply asking, "How would you answer this question?" and giving each side of the scenario if you do or don't have a Home Stager in your portfolio.

I have OFTEN times told the Realtor or Seller up-front, "Staging won't help this house." and then proceed to inform the Seller as to WHY Staging won't help until they address other, more pertinent issues (such as backing up the LREA to the home being overpriced when the Seller refuses to lower it, or repairing the buckled carpeting, peeling paint, etc.) and that if they only have $1,000 to spend, spend it on THOSE things instead of the my fees for Staging the house.  (Perusing my blogs over the years will prove my point exactly)

This post also doesn't say you HAVE to hire a Home Stager, just have one in your portfolio to have on hand "just in case" your Seller asks; and eventually they WILL ask.  So yes, Google a few Home Stagers in your area, invite them to coffee and see which one (or two) you might be most comfortable with to refer to your clients.  Then leave it up to THEM (the Seller) as to whether or not they would like to hire that Stager. It's no time or money out of your pocket as the LREA, you're just responding to the request of your Client.

Lastly, you responded: "95% of the real estate, staging and decorating programming on HGTV, the DIY Network, The Learning Channel, The Style Network, and The Discovery Channel" THESE ARE DECORATING SHOWS, NOT REAL ESTATE SHOWS, NONE OF WHICH SELL REAL ESTATE.

Actually no, the shows that many Sellers are seeing and this is referring to actually ARE Real Estate Shows: Sell This House, Property Intervention, Designed to Sell, House HuntersProperty Virgins, etc ALL incorporate not only STAGING but correct PRICING as well - they are not "decorating" shows.

November 25, 2009 09:28 AM
Connie Tebyani
Platinum Home Staging, Los Angeles and Ventura County
Platinum Home Staging, Inc. : RESA-Pro

One last thing, Jeff said, "A clean home in good condition that is priced at market value will sell faster." and he's right. 

However, In my experience I have Agents who have litterally BEGGED sellers to "de-clutter", remove excess furniture or make certain repairs such as painting REALLY dirty walls, or who explain that their house smells like dog and the Seller dismisses them or flat out refuses to consider their suggestions.  These Agents have brought me in to help back THEM up on the suggestions they have already made, and then the Seller usually acts.

November 25, 2009 10:12 AM
Lenn Harley
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland
Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate

Connie. In the last case, it would be hard for the stager to make that spurious claim that their home sold faster and for more money because it was staged.  It was simply cleaned up which any agent should be able to manage with any seller. 


November 25, 2009 12:00 PM
Donna Ross
Home Decorating, House Staging, Sydney
Room Remedy Interiors, Sydney, Australia

This post has become like a religious debate. And is probably going to progress just as far.

Still, I just have a make a couple of points for my own sake. 

Firstly, to REA's; what is the difference between what Jeff and others have called "A clean home in good condition..." and a staged home? Is there one? From where I sit, many seem to think there is. I gotta admit - you've lost me now. I'm wondering if the planet has tilted and thrown me off. Did I miss something?!

I have to say Lenn, the words; "Staging is effective in steering the prospective buyer's attention to the decor and away from the property staged" is about as far away from the concept behind home staging as you can get.

I don't see how it's even possible for any buyer to separate a property's 'features' from it's overall 'condition and/or presentation'. You don't get one without the other. You don't get the walls without the paint on them, the floor without the floor coverings, or the 4 walls of a room without the space within it. These aspects are intertwined. A buyer either percieves the product as a whole is good value for their real estate dollar, or they don't. Staging addresses the product as a whole.

You know, in all this, I'm beginning to wonder if it's the term 'staging'that stirs up such negative connotations among some in the real estate community. Kind of like waiting to see a 'stage show'. 

A "Clean home in good condition" doesn't just happenby placing a few vases and coloured cushions in the right places.  Yes, I can do those little things, just the same as you can stick a for sale sign on the front lawn. There's more to it than that. To really get a property to be at it's saleable best, takes a lot of plain old hard work, not just a 'show'. And the truth is lots of home owners don't know where to start...or finish.

Secondly Lenn, with respect, it's just my observation, but it still seems that you are presenting your own case based only on (less) anecdotal evidence, and (mostly) opinion.

To prove without any doubt that what you're saying here is true, gathered, hard copy evidence is required, by way of genuine 'before and after staging' and/or 'with or without staging' sales statistics. Now many stagers do this as part of their individual business practices. And whilst that information is 'anecdotal evidence', it carries weight firstly, because it's been physically collected, and secondly because it's the same kind of data collected by a variety of unrelated stagers, agents and sellers in many different markets. It may not be absolute, but it's a very, very big coincidence.

To clearly establish your case as "FACT", we'd also need detailed surverys of not just your buyers, but those of other agents to establish their key reasons for purchasing, or not purchasing a particular property.

Put that together with surveys from a variety of professional stagers to determine exactly what tasks they either carry out themselves, or have carried out, as part of the staging process. This would address the 'it's all smoke and mirrors' claim made here.

Then, after the data is collected, it should be published (ideally in a respected journal), leaving it open to interpretation and/or rebuttal by others in the real estate community.

Simply presenting a vague term like "smoke and mirrors" in your rebuttal has no relevance or meaning. 

Otherwise, what you're claiming isn't even anecdotal, it's simply an opinion.  

Look, I'm not against REA's.Not in the slightest. I consider myself and the work I do, to be part of a team effort. I'm not an REA, I don't claim to be. But I do care about the success of your listings just as much as you do. I'd say by and large most stagers are the same.

None the less, I thank you for such an interesting post!

November 25, 2009 05:07 PM
Connie Tebyani
Platinum Home Staging, Los Angeles and Ventura County
Platinum Home Staging, Inc. : RESA-Pro

I guess my question to you, Lenn would be this:

You have a seller who does NOT hang on your every word, they refuse to get rid of all their treasured junk (or at least begin to pack it or put into storage until the next home) paint is pealing, carpet smells of dog - you get the idea.  Do you then tell them, "You're house is worth $250,000 but since it looks like a pig stye I'll only list it for $225,000."?  You say price will sell "anything" so how low do you go when you have a seller who won't budge?  I'm just curious, really, this isn't a challenge.  Just wondering how YOU approach the "price will sell anything" side of the debate with sellers who are stuborn, emotionally attached to their home and how much they think it's worth, and think their home is perfect "as is"?



November 27, 2009 10:41 AM

Lenn Harley

Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland
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