Story Time: We had a part time staging assistant who was suspected of stealing inventory from our warehouse. She decided to start her own staging business after she was fired. We let her go because we couldn't risk having her in our client's homes. After letting her go, she set up shop and quickly began staging homes across Peel Region. We started seeing our missing inventory in her IG posts which confirmed our suspicions. But there was nothing we could do legally to stop her.
I bet her clients have no clue who they are working with (ahem criminal), she has no staging experience or a staging certification (just copying the talk she overheard), no liability insurance, no WSIB for her employees, hiring students to do her moves - essentially underselling staging to make a quick buck. She works with many agents who give her easy access to their clients homes, property, and personal belongings. How scary is that? It's extremely frustrating for legitimate staging businesses to have to explain that this is the biggest difference in pricing. Cheap staging doesn't exist in the staging industry, either you pay a small fee upfront for peace of mind or pay through the nose when mistakes happen.
Many agents make the mistake of hiring a stager without verifying important details like insurance and liability. You'd be surprised how often these details are overlooked and become costly nightmares for Agents should things head south.
Home staging is not a regulated industry like real estate & home inspection. Most stagers are not certified by an accredited staging program, which means they are misguided/self-taught and likely unaware of the requirements to protect agents and sellers.
Here's a list of questions we urge you to ask when hiring a stager:
1. Are you a certified stager? Where did you get certified?
Why is this important? Because staging isn't just decorating and fluffing pillows. An accredited staging program will teach how to stage and what it takes to run a successful staging business. Being certified means proper training on staging operations, industry protocol, safety around installations, and much more. Not only are you trained on how to transform a house, work with design elements, and colours, but you're also taught how to do it safely without damaging property or injuring others. There are guidelines we follow, ethical business practices, professional code of conduct, strict rules and industry expectations. If an uninsured stager falls on your property, they can sue you for loss.
Here is a list of RESA Accredited training providers. The Real Estate Staging Association, RESA, is the trade association for stagers.
2. Can you share your most recent successful project with me?
Our most successful project was $250k over asking in a sellers market, but this accomplishment is completely useless (to solely hire based on) in a buyer's market. A buyers market demands experience, know-how, and more hard work! Last year, houses were selling over asking within hours of listing, with almost no marketing effort (agents got away with cell phone photos with properties in pigsty conditions).
3. Are you insured? Is everyone you're bringing insured? Tell me more about your insurance.
Many staging companies subcontract movers and part-time stagers. Reputable and established companies conduct mandatory background checks, provide WSIB, and liability coverage. The people they bring with them should all be insured as well (your staging contract should have this spelled out). There was a stager in a Facebook group that hired a moving company who answered "yes" to the screening question, "are you insured", but didn't have the correct insurance to operate in this line of work. They had WSIB but were not bonded and had ZERO Liability coverage. They banged up the walls and caused a lot of damage to the property and staging inventory. The stager offered to cover some costs but this ultimately cost the Agent the client and his reputation.
4. Will you be sending the contract out to the seller to sign or is it just between you and I?
If you're paying for the staging, and the staging is going into a clients home (occupied home or vacant), you must have something signed between you and your client that protects you against property loss/damage (to the staging furniture). When you're signing the staging contract, you're taking responsibility for the inventory. You should have something in place that protects you against damages.