The home staging industry was birthed in 1972 and it was not until 1999 that any sort of organized entity was formed to help guide the industry. The first industry association, The International Association of Home Staging Professionals® (IAHSP®), was started by the Founder of the industry as an entity to help guide the industry relative to education, ethics and excellence. IAHSP® helped set standards for the industry, hosted the first educational conferences, and launched the first regional chapters to serve members.
From the start, IAHSP® has been all about serving its members and advancing the professionalism of Home Staging around the world. Jennie Norris, Chairwoman, IAHSP® InternationalIt was not until 2007 that a second association, RESA®, was formed by people who used to work at IAHSP®. At that time, IAHSP® remained the only association requiring education as a standard of membership. In 2008, HSRA™ was formed in answer to a need for a more focused business building resources and support. In 2016, IAHSP® came under new ownership and opened its doors for the first time to approved credentialed industry members. The requirements for membership in IAHSP® remain rooted in education as the leadership team and members believe education is the key to promoting the professionalism of our industry to not only help all those entering the industry understand how to be successful, but also to not diminish or dilute the professionalism of those who have invested in their business from the start. Now with several associations operating within the industry, how does an industry member know which group is right for them? Will there ever be just ONE association for the industry? Let’s examine some terminology that is being shared and what it really means and then look at ten things to expect from your home staging association.
What is a Trade Association?
DEFINITION: noun. an association of people or companies in a particular business or trade, organized to promote their common interests. A Trade Association, also known as an industry trade group, business association, sector association or industry body, is an organization founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry. An industry trade association participates in public relations activities such as advertising, education, publishing, lobbying, but its focus is collaboration between companies. Associations may offer other services, such as producing conferences, holding networking or charitable events, or offering classes or educational materials.
Is IAHSP® a Trade Association?Yes, it is. When you look at the definition above, IAHSP® clearly is a Trade Association for the Home Staging industry. So is HSRA™.
Does a Trade Association have to be a not-for-profit entity?No, it does not. The key for any association to remember is that “not-for-profit” is a tax status, not a business strategy. Setting up a tax-exempt entity is a tax strategy to avoid paying taxes. It is not a business strategy that somehow makes this entity more legitimate than others who are not set up as a not-for-profit. To share otherwise creates fear and confusion as a strategy to build membership.
Why isn’t IAHSP® set up as a not-profit entity?When IAHSP® was founded, it was set up as a part of an overall corporation and currently is a DBA under an S-Corp. That was the choice of the founder.
There is no legal requirement that an industry association must be a not-for profit nor does it mean it is any less reputable than an entity who opted to set up as a not-for-profit for tax purposes.IAHSP® is not a profit maker for the corporation. The funds paid to the association through memberships and events, are used to support IAHSP®’s mission, outreach, and events. A not-for-profit is required by the IRS to file annually and returns are public record (if they are missing this legal requirement by the IRS ask why they are not posted) and you can see the revenue that is left at the end of the year.
The question members need to be asking is, “Where are the funds I pay being used by this association?”IAHSP® uses the funds to support our events throughout the year that we host such as our Conference & EXPO, Market Tours, European Conference, Affiliate memberships with industry entities and pay for staff that help run our association. The annual IAHSP Conference & EXPO is not a fund-raiser for the association, unlike other groups who use ticket sales to fund their association’s operation and pay salaries.
Our Conference & EXPO is a celebration of our industry and we use all event funds to pay for venue, speakers, audio visual, technical support, food and more to provide a top-notch, memorable experience for attendees. IAHSP® staff are paid modestly for their roles in supporting the associations activities.
Ten Things to You Should Require of Your Home Staging Association:
1. SOLID STRUCTURE AND LONGEVITYConsider the structure of the association you are considering joining. How many years have they been in operation? Is their membership growing? Do they have a mission and vision statement that is congruent with how they treat their members and other industry professionals? IAHSP® has been in existence since 1999. It has always had a mission of serving its members to provide ways for continued growth and education. Our association has doubled in size in the past two years, due to the varied resources we provide and the warmth of our membership community. We are attracting members who are seeking true community and family, as well as business support. The Founder of IAHSP® ran a successful business and then began the first home staging training company. The current leadership team and owners all own and operate Staging companies and have a vested interest in the longevity of the association that serves the industry in which they work. That is a big differentiator from other associations whose executive leadership have never been successful as a home stager.
MISSION: “The International Association of Home Staging Professionals IAHSP® is dedicated to advancing the education of the professional Home Stager and real estate agent as they prepare homes for sale. IAHSP® members strive to serve the public to the best of their ability built upon the principles, practices, and education of approved Home Staging courses and designations.”IAHSP® serves not only its members, but the public as well who are looking for qualified professionals who can help them get their properties sold. IAHSP® provides recourse for clients who may be unhappy with a service provider and can act as an intermediary between our member and the customer when necessary. IAHSP® has a traditional corporate structure with a business advisory and leadership board in place. IAHSP® uses a third-party CPA to prepare tax returns, has attorneys review important documents, and has a business plan in place for measurable growth initiatives. None of the Leadership Board is paid a salary for their roles except for the Chairwoman, who is paid a very low 5 figure income annually to run the association. The association has members who volunteer to serve in leadership positions for the association at the regional, state and local levels. In our social media platforms, IAHSP® has a standard policy of not allowing unkind, snarky, or negative remarks. Information shared needs to be helpful and positive, and those who want to engage in negativity are unwelcome on our platforms. It is not that we don’t have challenges, there is a way to share that does not entail tearing another person down in order to boost ourselves up. We have a policy of speaking kindly about other colleagues and using “the Golden Rule,” when topics are brought up publicly and on social media. Learning lessons from the past and understanding life is too short to engage in negativity, IAHSP® chooses to set a positive example for current and future members.
2. EXPERIENCEAn association should be run by people who have actual success and experience in the Home Staging industry running a company. An association leader should love the process of Staging. Ask your association leaders, the ones who run the daily operations, “How many years have you owned a staging business? What is your favorite part about the Staging industry?” Association leaders need to understand first-hand what their members need as their businesses grow. You cannot teach what you do not know and cannot truly understand the issues a staging business owner faces unless you have personally experienced it. Association leaders need to have a passion and love for the industry they serve.
Do you want to be part of an Association whose leaders cannot relate first-hand to what you do?When you ask that question of IAHSP® leaders, we will share we have been at this for years – some of our leaders are going on 18 years actively owning a staging business – and we love helping our clients and seeing the transformations that take place with the properties we stage. We are committed to this industry. We are leaders in the industry, setting standards for excellence with our work. Because our board members own and operate successful staging companies, we understand what our members need to succeed. We also have a vested interest in the longevity of the industry and will do what is needed to ensure our industry is protected and preserved. ASK the leaders of association what they LIKE MOST about the process of Staging and then ask yourself, “Do I want to be part of this group?”
3. RESOURCESWhat types of resources are provided as part of your membership? Do you have an opportunity to network and learn from colleagues? Do you have business support materials provided and included in your membership?
IAHSP® was the first association to start industry member chapters. In 2003, our current Chairwoman launched the first chapter to help collaborate and pool resources in order to better brand the service of Staging in her market.Since that time, many member chapters have been launched by IAHSP® and other associations. Providing a place where colleagues can meet and discuss areas of interest, challenges and learn is vital for longevity. In 2008, IAHSP® created the first “Remote Chapter,” for association members who lived a distance away from any physical chapter. This meant no matter where a member lived in the world, they could attend a chapter meeting using technology such as conference call or go-to-meeting. IAHSP® has business resources from marketing materials, business support documents, staging agreements, and added education provided to our members at no added cost. Members need to log in to the IAHSP member portal and they have access to many resources to help them grow and thrive.
4. RECOGNITION – UNBIASED AND COMPLIMENTARYA trade association needs to provide recognition opportunities for its members. One of the best ways an industry professional can share their expertise with their client base is through recognition. Recognition should not be monetized. We submit to win and receive awards to be appreciated by our colleagues and show our current and future clients we are outstanding in our industry. As a marketing tool, it helps us gain added business and expand our reach. An association needs to provide ways for its members to receive recognition and create ways that allow any member to be considered, and not recognize the same companies and/or individuals each year.
Charging for submissions for awards means only those who want to “pay to play,” will win awards. With funds being raised by memberships, and the cost of an average nice quality cut glass award between $20-$35, an association should provide these as part of their overall annual business plan, not charge members even more money to participate. Whether on principle or affordability, members who are not able/willing to pay the fees are not considered for awards therefore the awards are not representative of the association let alone the industry.In 2003, IAHSP® gave the first awards to deserving individuals who were making a difference. IAHSP® recognizes individuals in various categories with the “Staging Industry Awards,” given at our annual Conference & EXPO. Winners are awarded in various categories from vacant and occupied staging, individual and team recognition and specialty awards. The awards are open to anyone in the industry, regardless of affiliation and are without bias. IAHSP® does not charge its members to submit or nominate a colleague and absorbs the cost of producing the awards and paying staff to facilitate the process. In 2017, IAHSP® launched “Best of Home Staging” to offer recognition to industry members for Leadership, Customer Care, and Staging Excellence. The awards were created in direct response to Best of Houzz, which is a design site, to provide a focus for the Home Staging industry members who deserve recognition. The awards are without bias, and individuals have been recognized regardless of affiliation with an association.
5. VENDOR PARTNER AND WHOLESALE BUYING PROGRAMA Trade Association needs to cultivate relationships with companies who support the association members. As part of their mission, expanding programs that help members operate businesses more successfully and strategically is key.
IAHSP® has established the largest Vendor Partner Program in the industry. We have targeted companies who provide resources and services our members need in order to thrive and provide discounts and incentives to our members unavailable to the general public.
IAHSP® has a robust Wholesale Buying Program (www.iahspwbp.com) and because of our large membership numbers, we have been able to negotiate discounts and incentives usually reserved for large retail stores or other large order entities. We attend the wholesale furniture markets and provide tours for our members to learn how to shop wholesale, and easily set up accounts with our partner Vendor Companies. (www.ShopWholesaleMarket.com) These are paid to help support the efforts of the staff who are present to conduct the tours and support transportation. It is not a money maker for the facilitators, and we do not charge extra for access to the Wholesale Buying Program.Our EXPO at our conference is the largest industry expo in the world. Our vendor partners are excited to work with our association as they see the value in having access to our active membership through our focused marketing program and follow-through.
6. EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
Do you have added educational offerings that are included? Can you earn added industry credentials to help advance your business success? Are there resources for all business levels? Is your association looking for ways to incorporate education beyond their capabilities?IAHSP® provides added education included with membership. There are 12 FAST Track Sessions (13 hours) any members can watch and learn to help them with both business building and marketing. We have over 65 hours of added education through the weekly Home Staging Talk Show found on our YouTube channel and at www.HomeStagingTalk.com. Industry Designations such as Buyer Trends Specialist, Color Specialist, Luxury Home Specialist, and Investor Staging Consultant are some recent educational advancement offerings provided by IAHSP®.
IAHSP® is the only industry association that provides NEW credentials each year at our Conference.These designations are taught by industry professionals and experts and are targeted to an industry niche service in which our members have indicated they would like to earn specific credentials. IAHSP® has paid to provide outside speakers at its conferences, recognizing the need for external and unrelated experts to share on topics outside the realm of membership expertise.
Is the Association working with other leaders and reaching out to build bridges of cooperation and collaboration?If a trade association is unwilling to participate or its leadership is not able to contribute due to lack of personal experience, that would be a cause to pause. You want to be part of an association with leaders who are paving the way for industry growth, recognition and success. The leadership of the association you choose as a member needs to value and incorporate other educators and influencers and be able to work with them for the betterment of the entire industry. Industry leaders need to build-up and edify others in the industry and be an example of bringing our industry together.
IAHSP® was the first association to provide a combined collaboration with other associations, educators and influencers.The Advanced Stager Training (www.AdvancedStagerTraining.com) brings together industry educators, association leaders, and influencers to help provide six-figure and above business owners with added knowledge and resources to continue to grow their businesses. Instead of looking at other associations, educational companies and influencers as a “threat to membership,” IAHSP® has taken the approach that “more means more,” and none of us knows it all. By bringing together other people who have expertise and wisdom, it allows us to provide a more fully formed educational offering for our members.
IAHSP® recognizes the talent of many educators and leaders in the industry and has officially aligned with entities offering added education in color, photography, decorating, mentoring and coaching resources and more. We have officially partnered with HSRA™ because we have the same mind-set pertaining to the future of our industry and how we want to serve our association members. Jennie Norris, IAHSP® International ChairwomanIAHSP® is collaborating with real estate and staging industry influencers from Inman, NAR®, International Market Centers (IMC), and others for education and strategic alliances. In order to cultivate these professional partnerships, IAHSP® leaders network, speak at and attend key industry events to meet with important influencers. HSRA™ is strategically engaging with the same entities and by partnering together, IAHSP® and HSRA™ are forging key relationships that will be used to help support our industry standards initiatives.
8. VARIED MEMBER BASE
Why is it important to have a variety of members? How is the association working to attract different types of people?IAHSP® has the most diverse base of membership of any industry association. We are truly global with over 20 countries on 5 continents represented in our current membership and growing. We have members from all age groups, sexes, backgrounds, races, faiths, and family statuses. We do not discriminate based on any of these factors and encourage the exchange of ideas that helps better the industry and members. We share ideas and learn from each other’s cultures and backgrounds, making IAHSP® a global force for the home staging industry. We work to attract members with our online social media presence, events, and interaction with industry colleagues. Like attracts like, and IAHSP® is known for being warm, welcoming and inviting to members. Our slogan, “Your Home in the Home Staging Industry,” is not just words – it is a core value and motivation for our association.
9. INDUSTRY STANDARDS
Why do standards matter? Should the industry have standards and who is responsible for enforcing them?
IAHSP® values ALL industry members and does not want anyone to struggle in their business journey. A firm foundation in education is well worth the investment and that is why education remains the base requirement for membership. To allow anyone to join without any standards, puts the focus on money and numbers versus standards and quality. We need to encourage anyone interested in starting a Home Staging Business to get education FIRST. Just like the real estate industry – agents cannot sell houses without education first and passing a test and maintaining their license with continuing education.
If we are part of the real estate industry, shouldn’t we also have baseline standards for education and business practices?Encouraging those interested in being part of the industry to obtain credentialed education uplifts and enhances the industry in its entirety. To do the opposite, makes the weakest link the standard for all other business owners who are part of that association. It lowers the base standard of our industry and allows those who want to be successful but have not been taught how to run a staging business, to gain legitimacy as part of an association. It hurts this individual who may not know better and causes them to struggle needlessly in their pursuit of success. Because the industry was not established with standards at the start, it is up to associations to provide the guidelines to those desiring to enter the industry. Home Staging is not interior design, decorating, feng-shui, professional organizing, or a hobby. It is a professional real estate industry service provided by expert business owners who understand how to create a marketable product for home buyers.
When it comes to the topic of “Neutrality,” challenge any association who claims they are 100% neutral.History and common sense have shown they act in the best interest of their association, and the industry at large is secondary. The only way for an association to be completely neutral would be for all its leaders to be disassociated with the home staging industry and the board members not paid by the association they represent. A third-party entity that represented ALL associations and groups would be the only true unbiased entity directed by its members with equal voices for all influencers and leaders.
9.2 APPROVED STAGING COURSES:IAHSP® approves educational courses and providers and does not charge for this process. IAHSP® does not benefit monetarily from those requesting review and approval, and it is the only association who is truly unbiased when providing this service. The leaders in IAHSP® have more experience to evaluate an educational program than any other association because they are home staging educators and know what is needed in a quality program.
A “pay to play” process where the association takes substantial revenue from the education provider is a profit maker. The process for review is subjective, and not necessary to take days or weeks to review course content. A qualified reviewer can tell whether a course is qualified or not, and at most a few hours is needed to review course content. Charging over $2,000 to course providers seems a steep fee to pay for a review and seal of approval that other entities are willing to provide as a courtesy.An education provider who does not want to pay money is downplayed as a course by associations who get paid for review, which is creates an uneven playing field for education providers. Many of the approved education providers funnel their membership to the association that was paid to approve them, which presents a possible conflict of interest where the association being paid to approve the course is benefiting monetarily from the course itself.
An Association should not compete against the educational courses and companies they approve.Courses that teach real estate agents about home staging, that have been developed by the association that has stagers pay a fee to the association for the ability to teach real estate agents, and who then compete against 1 and 2 day training courses offered by educational companies who paid to be approved by the association represents a conflict of interest. Taking business from the course providers who have been educating real estate agents for years is something IAHSP® will not do. Education offered through IAHSP® are courses and designations that are added education to advance the home staging professional, not baseline education provided by qualified training companies and schools.
9.4 DE-VALUATION OF OUR INDUSTRY
Courses that are offered by approved instructors that are free to the real estate agent undermines our industry value.When an agent can learn about home staging for free and even receive continuing education credits for their license renewal, it plants the impression that staging has no value, and feeds into the issue home stagers deal with regarding agents/clients who do not want to pay fairly for our services and want things for free.
There is no value in free. An association who is intent on raising the standards for professional home stagers understands this fact and does not endorse or recommend free education with continuing education credits for any agent course. Educating agents about Home Staging is important and should not be free.
10. FUTURE FOCUSED
An Association should be future-focused and anticipate changes to the industry and do what is in the best interest of their members.
The Professional Home Marketer Alliance (PHMA) is an organization that will bring the industry together and provide standards for those who want to be recognized as professional home stagers. There are four fundamental baseline qualifications professional stagers need to have in order to be seen by the clients we serve and outside regulatory agencies as professional business owners with standards.
The standards will include: • initial staging business education from one of the approved entities or qualification under “the exception rule” • adherence to a code of ethics and best practices guidelines • membership in one of the approved industry associations • and continuing education annually through conferences and online education from approved providersThe alliance will have equal representation from influential industry entities, and will be headed by a third-party, outside individual who can act without bias.
PLANNING FOR REGULATION AND STANDARDS:Leaders from three largest industry associations (IAHSP®, RESA®, and HSRA™) were invited to participate in the process of forming a “United Nations” for home staging. In order to bring us together and unify the staging industry under one common goal, PHMA is comprised of equal representation from the major associations. Because current associations are not going to walk away from what they have built, turn over leadership and revenue, the only way to accomplish this is to create a neutral organization whose focus is to create a structure for regulating who is called a professional home stager, and provide resources for petitioning, lobbying and protecting our industry from invasive regulations and scrutiny from external agencies. It is important those in the industry know all leaders from the major associations were invited to join, to participate, share ideas, and be part of this process, and RESA executives declined. On three separate occasions (once live and two times on the phone) the attempts to share the goals of the PHMA were met with disinterest and RESA executives declined to join in a discussion with the executives of IAHSP® and HSRA™, which was disappointing. Those who are part of the process will move forward for this necessary initiative.
CONCLUSION: Where do you belong?
Home Staging industry members need to align with an association who truly understands home staging businesses, has the best interests of members at heart, are doing what is necessary to bring members together and establish professional standards that will raise the level of expectation of our clients we serve.Your Association needs to protect our industry now and into the future, help protect your business, provide education and resources to advance your business success, have a mission and purpose rooted in serving others and giving back.
For more information on joining IAHSP® go to www.IAHSP.com. To learn about our partnership with HSRA™ go to www.IAHSP-HSRA-Partnership.com . To find out more about PHMA, email [email protected].