Stagers: Is your Mama Proud? by Jennie Norris, ASPM, IAHSP President, Owner of Sensational Home Staging I was thinking early this morning – as my mind wandered and settled on different thoughts and conversations – that as a professional Home Stager – there seem to be those that expect us to do work for FREE to “prove ourselves” with the promise of lots of business to be had. I know of many Stagers that have fallen into that trap – “Gosh – when they see how wonderful my work is – they will then give me all their business. I just have to prove myself to them.” Remember what Mama used to say? “Don’t give the milk away for FREE or else they won’t buy the Cow.” Mama was right – even though she was talking about something else – it applies to business as well. And our Staging Mama – Barb has said this umpteen times . . . Free is not a good strategy. Let me ask you something. When was the last time you heard a REALTOR® offering to sell a house for free? (and those that waive the commission fee if the Seller buys a house through them are still MAKING MONEY off that client). Do you think they have established their business, paid for education, memberships, and insurance – only to work for FREE? “Gosh – if I just list this house for FREE then these Sellers will refer me to all their friends and the neighbors will see how great I am and the next time someone needs to sell they’ll call me.” That’s not how it works! When you give it away for FREE people want that the next time too! They don’t see the VALUE in working with you and therefore diminish your worth. Realtors would not list a house for free unless they are – well – foolish. I know of NO successful agents that would do this as a strategy for getting business. Instead they focus on their value, their expertise, and their relationships. So why are Home Stagers expected to “give it up” in order to gain business. I think we have only ourselves to blame. And it’s – well – foolish. When we don’t let our prospective clients know that we run a COMPANY – a BUSINESS – and there are business expenses inherent in that – education, memberships, licenses, insurance, marketing – AKA – OVERHEAD. . . when we don’t let people know we have set up a professional business, maybe they think that we really don’t have anything to lose by working for free. • Do Agents or Sellers ask pest inspectors or home inspectors to do their reports for free? NO. • How about Appraisers? Do Agents or Sellers expect them to come and do an appraisal for free? NO. • What about a Title Rep or a Lender – do Agents or Sellers expect them to provide their services for FREE? NO. These other affiliates of the Real Estate Industry don’t work for FREE – so why should Home Stagers? We don’t have to give it away for FREE in order to gain business and “Show our Stuff.” So STOP using FREE as a marketing strategy. If you are a professional Home Stager, you have value – you BRING VALUE to the table. You can quantify your VALUE to the Realtor and Seller. And if you are an Agent reading this – please realize that your Home Stager can be a key part of your team – to help you get your listings SOLD, and help you get future business. They have taken the time to set up a Business, and have expenses related to that business, just like you do. Please don’t expect FREE with the promise of “lots of future business” – I have heard that speech so many times, and it never seems to quite pan out the way it is painted in the beginning. So my recommendation is to establish a partnership with a trusted and TRAINED professional Stager that can really help YOU gain more business. They can help add to your marketing, and can even provide things to help you in your business. This will make them a valued asset to your team, not just someone that can do things for “cheap or free.” We honor our Realtor clients and I know how much WORK goes into what an agent does for a Seller and Buyer. I would not dream of asking a Realtor to discount their fees or Sell my house for FREE (or my friend’s or family member’s house) . . . as I know it is not smart Business to do that – and the same is true for a professional Home Stager. We don’t just dabble in Staging. This is not a hobby. This is a business that we have established to support our lifestyle, just like you – as a Realtor®. And how do we help you and your Seller? When a house is Staged professionally it will Sell faster – as much as 3-5x faster based on National Statistics tracked at www.Stagedhomes.com), and sell for more – as much as 5-20% more according to the National Association of Realtors. This mean they keep their equity and you make more commission $$. I’d say that’s bringing a LOT of value to the Seller and Realtor. I am not opposed to giving “Promotional Incentives” to clients – but I don’t do that until we have an established working relationship, it’s a once in a while thing, and it’s never 100% free. It’s a way I can honor my working relationship with my Realtor partners – and still pay my business expenses – and make a living. And I can still hold my head high versus feeling cheap because I gave it away for free – and then the next call never came. Mama would be proud.