There are numerous groups on social media where idea sharing takes place to help provide guidance or tips to industry colleagues. One of the more common questions or posts I see are from newer Stagers posting pics of properties they are going to Stage or have Staged, asking if what they did is “right.” The answer to what all stagers need in order to stage a house in the best way is at the end of this article. This leads me to the question, is there one “right” way to Stage® a room? Are there a lot of rules that if you violate them, your staging is “wrong” and the house now will not sell?
In short. No.
Staging is subjective. It always has been and always will be. We need to be careful about boxing in our creativity and assigning one set of rules to every staging. Not only is that restrictive, it is unrealistic. Things like budget, timeframe, and resources are all factors in how a property is Staged. It is important we do not compare our staging to someone else’s or judge a staging that may not be as embellished as others because what is not being openly shared is how much of a budget the stager had to carry out the staging. Of course, someone who has a large budget can provide more than one that has a tighter budget, and the question we SHOULD be asking is, “Did the house sell?” When that answer is, “Yes,” the staging worked, the stager did a great job, and the client got the results they wanted. Of course, please never stage a house with too few things as it cheapens not only the buyer experience, the house, but our industry. Better to walk away from a client with too small a budget than diminish your reputation and staging integrity.
If a house is occupied and being Staged using what the homeowner has that is very different than a vacant property where the Stager gets to select all the furnishing and décor to create a look that fits the property and the budget provided. And when the homeowner is still living in the house, there is the added challenge of maintaining the look of the staging with an owner who is less-than-attentive to detail.
How often does PRICE factor into a Staging? Every time. It’s pretty rare that a Stager gets carte blanche for a Staging to charge whatever they want to for their services. I never have. Eighteen years and 5,400 properties and counting and I have never had a client tell me to spend whatever I wanted to get their house ready for sale. There is always a budget to consider, and more generous budgets allow for more items and more profit to the stager. The tighter the budget, the fewer options there are for Staging. And there is a point where all Stagers need to walk-away from a Staging project when they will be losing money. None of us got into this as a charity to pay our clients for the privilege of getting their house ready for sale.
The rules I see being shared have to do with things like area rug sizes, whether-or-not to karate chop a pillow, how to make a bed, how to dress a table, and how to position furniture. These are all subjective opinions, and not a reason a house will or will not sell. And I will share my thoughts and guidelines regarding each one.
Area Rugs: If you want to use a 5’x7’ rug because it fits in your inventory space better, or you don’t have access to 8’x10’ rugs from your inventory provider (most of the rental companies do not provide larger rugs), then use the 5’x7’. Staging colleagues who share a smaller rug is “wrong” used to use those same sizes when they were newer. When a wood floor is the selling feature in a room, I would not cover up the majority of it with a rug. This deviates from design principles where you want to have the furniture grouping on the rug and a larger size is preferred.
Logistically, the larger rugs are difficult to store, they weigh a lot, and one person cannot carry them because if they are good quality, they are like a bag of wet sand. Aesthetically the larger rugs may be preferred by some, however, until I hear the words, “We did not purchase the house because the area rug was not an 8’x10’size,” we will continue to use them in properties for Staging, along with our larger rugs for houses that do need a bigger size. And a TIP from experienced Stagers is use two 5’x7’ rugs that are the same and put them side by side, to create a larger rug.
Pillows: The only rule for pillows would be use them on sofas, accent chairs and beds as way to add layers of texture and color. Ideally you want matching pillows in pairs however the eclectic look is acceptable. Karate chop the middle of pillows with feather inserts or don’t do it. Either way is fine. One benefit of karate chopping is if you go to the house and the pillows no longer have that look, you know someone used your pillows, moved them, or sat on the sofa. Buyers do not run screaming for the door when they see a karate chop pillow.
Beds: Some stagers like comforter sets with bed skirts and shams, some like coverlets draped over the bed to the floor. Some like to layer up the bed and others are more streamlined and minimalist. Do you use a throw or a blanket folded neatly across the end of the bed? Do you have to make the bed with sheets? Do you put a tray on the bed? The answer to the questions is yes or no. It all depends on what you prefer. For higher end houses, you do want to take the time to make the bed with sheets and layers. These are the beds that would be rolled back tastefully to show off the layers. In other houses, a bed could be made without sheets and layers. One of the reasons we choose not to dress beds with sheets for all houses is we do not want people “in” the beds and when the mattress has plastic covering on it (for sanitary purposes) and not sheets there is less likely to be fooling around in the bed. Yes, that does happen. Stay in the industry long enough and you too will have the pleasure of discovering unmentionables in your beds.
Should you use real mattresses, box springs and frames? Stagers who share only real beds should be used must have forgotten when they were new(er) and had to make beds out of air mattresses, platforms that were camping cots or boxes or bins. Yes, our industry has progressed, and we do not want to promote cheap-looking staging. Much like the issue with the large area rugs, for stagers without a warehouse, carrying mattresses and box springs becomes a logistical impossibility. Good news is third party rental companies provide mattresses and box springs that are reasonably priced. And a TIP from experienced stagers is use two sets of box springs instead of a mattress to save budget. You can always put a topper on the box spring to create a softer layer before the comforter or coverlet is placed on top.
What about Headboards? They provide a nice, complete look to a bed and dress up a bedroom for a professional finish. There are headboards that fold up but most of them are going to be too large for even a large SUV. Stagers have created headboards out of foam, fencing, and other creative methods that create the “look” of a headboard without the storage needs. Sometimes a large piece of art is hung over the bed and shams bolstered up against the wall. It is all about the budget for the Staging and type of property.
Placement: When arranging a room, a stager needs to consider focal points and function. An architectural focal point would be a fireplace or a view window. A living room could have two focal points while a bedroom may not have any and it has to be created with the furniture arrangement. In general, you want to feature what the room is from the entry way of the room, so placing the main furniture piece across from the entry or in that zone is usually the best option. Should you angle furniture? Angling furniture helps soften the corners of the room and provides an interesting alternative to having everything squared off. This may not work for smaller rooms as angling the furniture does create a “dead zone” behind the item and cuts the square footage. It is a subjective choice and harkens back to the notion that there is not one “right” way to stage a room, however there may be a better way. A Stager learns this with experience and/or moving things around to see various options.
In my opinion, the word “rule” needs to be changed to “guidelines” and then to “preference,” and when asking for feedback on social media, at some point you need to learn the answer to the question posed at the beginning: Gut Instinct and experience. Those two elements will provide you the confidence you need to successfully stage any property and trust your choices.
The International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP) is monitoring the current health pandemic with great concern for all our members around the world. We are hopeful none of our family is impacted personally with this virus and pray for all those who are to date as we continue to see the spread globally. As the home staging industry association leader, we wanted to share guidelines specific to how you can remain viable and earn income during this time while not risking your health and safety.
VIDEO-Consultations or E-Consultations: These are a great way to provide necessary information, guidance and support to homeowners who want to prepare their homes for sale now. The steps to accomplish this are fairly simple given today’s technology.
Start with having them send you photos of each room in the house from the doorway, and from all corners (if possible). This will allow you to assess the room as a whole versus from just one vantage point. It allows you to see what is on the walls, in the corners, and see how the room and furniture is positioned relative to other parts of the house.
You would analyze the photos and provide a typed summary for the clients to follow.
Email the summary to the client and agent (if one is involved).
Call the client or do a face-time chat on your phone, use Zoom or Skype or WhatsApp to do a video call. This is recommended so you can see their reaction to the guidelines you shared. If you are not able to see them or them see you the important part of “rapport” is lost and they may not agree to do all you recommend.
Note: We are doing our best NOT to use the word “VIRTUAL” as we are opposed to Virtual Staging as a cheap alternative to real Staging, and as such we do not want to be using that word in conjunction with our services. Alternatives are “E-Consult” or “Tele-Consult” or “Video-Consult” – which all indicate the type of services being provided.
E-Previews: These are a great way to provide a proposal for Staging a vacant property without you having to go in person.
Follow the steps above with someone sending you photos of the property.
You prepare the proposal for recommended areas and send to the client.
Follow up on the phone or via a video call.
The Staging can be scheduled and installed as long as your state/region allows you to be out OR you get things set when bans will be lifted.
Tips for BUYERS: Buyers are still out looking for properties and have to purchase for work or lifestyle decisions. A property that is Staged shows great online and in person showings can be done taking these precautions:
No open houses are being done to protect the public and homeowners. Tips to share with buyers:
Keep hand-sanitizer by the front door for all buyers to use.
If you are an agent bringing buyers, make sure you all use the sanitizer before anyone enters the home.
Do not touch door knobs, cabinets knobs and light switches. Do not use the restroom in the house. If there is an urgent need, please make sure the homeowner knows this was done so they can take disinfectant measures.
If anyone in the buying group is not feeling well, do NOT go to a home to look in person. Stay home. Let someone else be your eyes.
Tips for SELLERS: Your house is for sale and Buyers need to see it in person to make an important decision to purchase. If you are in an area where showings are allowed, take these precautions to ensure your home is protected from potential exposure.
Keep hand santizer in a basket outside the front door. Make it mandatory that any agents and buyers use the sanitizer before entering your home.
You can provide disposable gloves for buyers and agents to wear as an added precaution. Keep a small trash can outside your front door (or in other discreet area out front) for buyers and agents to throw their used gloves away once they exit your home.
Keep all doors open throughout the house. This will minimize the chances of other people touching your door knobs where germs can be present.
Wipe down all switch plates for lights and turn on all the lights in the house so agents and buyers do not have to do this. Instruct agents NOT to turn off any of the lights.
Fold your toilet paper end into a point in every bathroom. If you return home and the end is not folded anymore, you know someone used the bathroom and you will want to sanitize it.
Keep plenty of lysol and disinfectant wipes on hand to wipe down doorknobs, cabinet knobs, and light switches.
SYMPTOMS and TIPS to help minimize the exposure and impact of this virus.
If you suspect you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor. Do not immediately go to the ER as the hospitals are overwhelmed with patients. To find a location for testing in your area, GOOGLE your city and state/province/country as there is not one site that has the information pulled together by state or country.
If you or someone you know is struggling due to this pandemic please let us know how we can support you through this challenging time. Email Jennie@iahsp.com
Have you ever gotten in your car and just started driving along with no destination? Have you ever gone to the airport and taken a random flight to somewhere?
For most people, the answers would be, “No,” unless they were on some random adventure quest. We don’t want our businesses to be a random adventure quest. We want our business success to be strategic and predictable based on our efforts.
VISION – SUCCESS – FOCUS – CLARITY – FUTURE
All of these words have a common thread – being able to see clearly and know where we are headed. And these are the words for 2020 for IAHSP® – and the theme of our conferences in Lisbon, Portugal and Denver, Colorado. Our theme and these words were chosen in October 2019 as we started thinking about 2020 and what our goals were as an industry, an association, a business owner and person. These are great words and we hope you take the time to think about what they mean to you.
VISION. We are already into our second month of 2020 – do you have your vision for the year mapped out? Vision is not only what drives your effort every day, it is also about having goals that support your overall vision and mission. What is the vision for your company – what is the message you want prospective clients to know and understand about what you do? Why do you do what you do? Do you have your marketing strategic monthly plan to support your goals? Do you know what your revenue goals are for 2020? Do you need to increase sales or reduce costs and if so, how are you planning to accomplish that?
SUCCESS. What does Success mean to you?The general definition is the achievement of a goal.
What were those goals for you in 2019? Was it to increase in the number of clients you serve regularly or to maintain your same level of business and revenue? Was it to focus on increasing the number of houses you Stage or types of properties you stage – vacant, occupied, consultations, etc.? Did you have unexpected success? That is a great type of success – however if it was unexpected, why was it not planned as part of your strategy? This could be recognition or awards you received or something else that added to your revenue or client base. We need to think about all aspects of our business and there is nothing wrong with planning for recognition or added revenue.
As the old adage says: Fail to Plan then Plan to Fail. We need to set goals for where we what we want to achieve, make sure they are measurable, assess our success quarterly and make any adjustments, and be open to adding to the plans where it makes sense.
If someone were to ask you the following questions, could you answer them?
What is your ratio of consultations to vacant staging?
How much revenue did you generate?
How did that compare to 2018?
Did you have goals for growth, or did you want to maintain status-quo and refine your process?
What was your net profit?
Do you have a clear understanding of costs to run your company?
In order to assess and quantify success – and measure it – you need to know the data from your business. As a business owner you cannot use the excuse that you are not a details person. You may have had measurable goals and did not hit all of them – and that is OK as long as you know why you did not achieve the goals and put measures in place to get back on track.
Our past can give us keys to our future. So many people are afraid to look at their business and analyze the good and the bad as they are afraid of feeling like a failure. Or they don’t really want to know what is going on and go through each day with business blinders on – not really seeing the impact of their actions or attitude and are on the proverbial hamster wheel of work.
Embrace the past as a learning experience or example of what you are capable of and be sure to not let it confine or restrict your potential.
FOCUS.When our Focus is blurred, our path it not clear. Have you ever tried on glasses that were dirty so you could not see through the lens or put on a pair of glasses that were the wrong prescription? In both cases, you cannot focus or see through the blurry lens and if you do wear the wrong prescription, you can get a headache. Things that can blur our vision and focus are distractions in both action and attitude. When we encounter something that begins to blur our focus, we may have to take time to handle the circumstance, and then get our focus back on track.
CLARITY. Clarity is about having Clear purpose behind our actions and attitude. Our WHY is the biggest motivator for getting us up every day to continue to work in our businesses. What is your WHY? Clarity is about removing anything that might cloud our vision or distract us from our goals. When we have clarity about our intent, our focus, and our goals, our actions and attitude will be alignment. Focus and Clarity go hand in hand.
It is not a coincidence that CLARIFY and CLARITY are spelled almost exactly alike – one leads to the other.
FUTURE.We live in the present and plan for our futures. None of us are guaranteed a future but we do need to plan for it and put actions in place that have a positive impact for us and our businesses, for our families, friends, and colleagues. Every action we take has a reach and impact on others. Things we do today whether Staging a house, running a business, being part of industry leadership and planning for standards – the impacts are far reaching as what we do impacts others. Our goal is to be an Impact Player for the betterment of life experiences for all we have the pleasure and opportunity to have in our lives.
As opportunities present themselves, we need to assess whether they are in alignment with our overall vision for our lives, and our goals for our business. We must remain open to adding things that support our vision and adjusting our path for success as needed and taking risks in order to experience the rewards. It is important not to put blinders on as then we miss opportunities to add to our path for success. Rewards are not monetary – they are intangibles. The relationships we receive, the opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life, the ability to guide an industry for the future, these are responsibilities we need to take seriously.
To be part of the Vision for Success: Focus, Clarity, Future that IAHSP® is providing to the industry and our members, go to www.IAHSP.com. IAHSP® is your Business Support Association® and Your HOME in the Home Staging Industry®. We have FAST-LEAD Workshops being held live in major cities, our two conferences that bring you high level education and the largest Vendor EXPO for our industry, and the opportunity to meet colleagues from around the world.
‘Tis the Season for Giving and IAHSP has some SPECIAL GIFTS for you! Whether or not you are a member, you can take advantage of these gifts and Save $$! Click on this link to take advantage of your gifts! https://iahsp.com/holiday-promo
GIFT 1: Save $35 OFF the Luxury Home Specialist and/or $35 OFF the Buyer Trends Specialist Courses – Dec 16-17 only!
GIFT 2: DEC 18-19 ONLY! Save $50 OFF your Las Vegas Market Tour – Jan 27th, 2020! Learn how to shop with the pros as part of the IAHSP Wholesale Buying Program that saves the MOST $$ of any industry program!
GIFT 3: DEC 20-21 ONLY! Save 25% OFF VCON – Virtual IAHSP Conference 2019! You can watch ALL the Speakers at your leisure and learn! Don’t let your lack of attendance make you miss out on key education!
7 Reasons Why Real Estate Agents Should NOT Stage Their Listings – by Jennie Norris, IAHSP Chairwoman and Professional Home Stager
Did this title capture your attention? In truth, we want all properties Staged before hitting the market. However, if you are a Real Estate Agent, it is important that YOU PERSONALLY are not Staging properties for the following reasons:
You need to use your time wisely.
We all have 24 hours in the day. Taking any productive time away from making calls and connections to bring you a listing or a buyer, is unwise. Talk to any Business Coach and they will never say, “Suck up all your time doing all the work yourself and do not involve qualified pros in your business.” What IS being taught is, “Find qualified people to add to your overall team and process so your time is leveraged.”
Your income comes from closing a sale, not Staging.
As a real estate agent, you are paid at closing for selling a house not staging it. You make FAR MORE when you sell a house and earn your commission than a stager ever will Staging a property. Are you going to do the home inspection, fix the plumbing and landscaping too? Understanding you are the Director in the process and bringing in qualified professionals to do the other work will maximize your earnings and your reputation.
Your clients don’t want to hear you criticize their house.
Why risk the relationship? Do you relish the role of telling a client their house is cluttered, dirty, dated, or smelly? Do you like telling them their pets are too hairy or their housekeeping skills need help? Do you want to manage the angry teens or divorcing couple when it comes to getting the work done? When you are the one sharing with a homeowner all the things they need to do to get their house ready, they hear, “My house is WRONG,” and then think, “This agent does not even like my house – why do I want them to sell it?” Say goodbye to any referrals.
Objective Recommendations are motivating to a Seller.
A Stager is not tied to the sale of the property and is seen as truly objective. When agents recommend sellers spend money the seller may believe it is self-serving and the agent is just trying to get them to spend money so the agent can make more commission. When a Stager makes recommendations, they are perceived as necessary investments to help the seller.
Staging is not just removing personal photos and cleaning up messes or adding décor.
Many agents become “Stagents” when dealing with sellers. Staging involves far more than simply telling a seller to clean, remove photos and pick up the messes or bringing in some décor to highlight surfaces. Room arrangements, flow, updating, adding elements that appeal to the target Buyer – those are all things a Stager provides. Stagers stay on top of trends for paint colors, materials, furnishings, etc. That is part of the value they provide to clients and sharing that information with sellers helps add value to your process as an agent.
Your insurance does NOT protect you and you are at risk.
Think about this – you move a piece of furniture in your client’s house and scratch the floor, you damage their furniture, or you bring an item in that damages their house. Your E&O Insurance does not cover you for liability Staging a house. That activity is on you – and now you are coming out of pocket to pay for repairs and/or replacement of damaged property. Professional Stagers have liability insurance and coverage of their own staging items. They protect the property owner, their business, and ultimately you from liability.
If you cannot delegate your business will never grow beyond you.
When you are not able to delegate or involve others that are skilled in an area, you are LIMITING your growth. Having a 3rd party work with your clients does not mean you are not smart or capable. It means you understand your value and where your time needs to be invested. Trying to control everything and believing only you are qualitied to provide certain services, is limiting your growth. Bottom line, working with a professional Stager makes you:
Look Larger as a company
Appear and act more professional
Smarter in how you run your business
And allows your client to work with an objective entity
The bottom line for most agents is control. Trusting someone else to handle your clients is an understandable concern. You need to find the right people you can trust to put in front of your clients.
Where do you find professional stagers? To find professional Stagers to partner with, go to www.stagedhomes.com and search the directory of stagers who have been trained and accredited in staging. One of the foundations taught to the grads of these courses are to, “Honor the Client and Their Possessions,” which means honoring you as a client, honoring the homeowner, and being kind in how messages are shared. Not all stagers have training and not all training courses teach stagers to be kind, honor the seller and their real estate agent clients.
What should you expect from your Stager? Once you have a trusted relationship in place, your stager will be loyal, should support your business events, and should provide referral opportunities for you as well so the relationship is not one-sided. If a Stager does not understand where they fall in the hierarchy of the real estate process and industry where they serve you as their client, find one who does.
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE AWARD WINNERS from the 2019 IAHSP CONFERENCE – STAGING INDUSTRY AWARDS! There were so many talented industry professionals nominated and these are the WINNERS based on the voting for each category! We are pleased to be able to share them with you – and help elevate the industry standards by encouraging and recognizing Staging excellence for all the types of properties we Stage and how we serve the industry!
JOIN US IN DENVER – SEPT 25-27 FOR OUR 2020 CONFERENCE & EXPO!
The IAHSP-LHS Designation that was issued at our IAHSP Conference & EXPO is now available to attend ONLINE! This is your opportunity to ADD this skillset and qualifications to your services as a professional Home Stager or as a Real Estate Agent.
Once you watch the entire session, you will receive your IAHSP-LHS attendance logo. You will have to email Jennie@iahsp.com to receive it. THEN you will have to turn in 3 projects that qualify as LUXURY properties in YOUR market. You will learn what those are once you take the webinar. You will submit your 3 properties for review and when they are approved, you will receive your CERTIFIED LHS Logo.
You will receive the link to the recorded webinar session on your order confirmation page. Once you attend you will be sent your LHS Logo and a PDF handout of all the slides.
For questions, please email Christa@iahsp.com or call 844-IAHSP99 (If you earned your LHS in the past and would like to take this webinar as a refresher, please email Christa@iahsp.com so we can validate your designation and send you the link for the webinar.)
Check out some of the testimonials from attendees: “I just completed the Luxury Home Specialist Designation Course. This course includes a significant amount of very useful information. I now understand what constitutes a Luxury Property and how to market my business in order to obtain these types of projects. The resources we have through our IAHSP Vendor Program are invaluable to help control costs while providing a high-quality, upscale look. I found the visuals to be very relevant and helpful. This course was well worth the investment!”
“The LHS (Luxury Home Specialist) webinar was fantastic. The presentation was extremely informative and interesting. I am a seasoned Stager and I learned so much. Well worth the money and your time to stay up with today’s market and break into the Luxury Market. You owe it to yourself and your clients to be informed on the latest market niches and income opportunities. Thank you IAHSP!”
At the close of our annual Conference & EXPO we reveal the location and dates for the NEXT year! IAHSP® is pleased to announce the locations for our 2020 IAHSP® Conferences & EXPO are LISBON, PORTUGAL – IAHSP® EUROPE Conference and DENVER, COLORADO for IAHSP® International Conference & EXPO!! We are bringing the conference to IAHSP® Headquarters and are already making plans to bring the BEST content, speakers, vendors and overall experience to attendees!
SAVE THE DATE: SEPT 25-27, 2020!
SAVE THE DATE: MAY 23, 2020
Get READY to gain a VISION FOR SUCCESS for your Business including Business FOCUS, Growth CLARITY AND Plans for your FUTURE
Advanced Stager Training will be Sept 28-29, 2020.
Certified Consultation Specialist Designation – IAHSP-EUROPE Conference – May 24th, 2020 – Register to earn this special Designation as part of your attendance at the IAHSP-Europe Conference in Lisbon, Portugal. This course will be an added half-day and will be taught by IAHSP International Chairwoman, Jennie Norris.
Get PRIORITY Seating (formerly known as VIP) and lock in the lowest price for registration! Take advantage of our Easy Payment Plan option to help spread out your dollars, and secure PRIORITY status!
Do you have a TEAM you would like to attend? This year we are providing special pricing for groups of 2 or more – helping you SAVE $$ on registrations for added team members.
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.
It 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, while not diminishing or diluting 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 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.
Ten Things to You Should Require of Your Home Staging Association:
1 SOLID STRUCTURE AND LONGEVITY
Consider 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.
An 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 and have publicly shared they dislike the service and process of Staging?
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.
What 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 COMPLIMENTARY
A 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 PROGRAM
A 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 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® offers business information for members as well as an Advanced Business Portal for those members who are six-figure and above income earners. Our members have access to power points and education on a variety of topics from our past conferences.
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.
IAHSP® 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.
The ONE thing our association members do NOT vary on is the foundation of education as a requirement for membership. All our association members have made an investment in their education to help further success and longevity. All IAHSP® Board Members own and operate successful businesses and have invested in their education as part of their growth.
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 often downplayed as a course by associations who get paid for review, which is hardly an even 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 they approved.
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.
IAHSP® leaders have been working with HSRA® leaders, industry educators, coaches and influencers to discuss how to establish professional standards for our industry and address the increased interest and visibility the Home Staging Industry is attracting from government entities such as the IRS and FTC.
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 providers
The 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.
To date, only IAHSP® and HRSA™ have agreed to work together on this initiative, along with industry educators, coaches and influencers who agree with the common goal. RESA® was invited and opted not to participate.
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.
Many of you are probably wondering “WHY would I want t attend a conference – I mean what am I going to learn that I don’t already know? I am successful, I have a good run rate and activity in my business, so these conferences are not really anything I need to attend, Right?”
KNOWLEDGE is POWER. Have you ever heard that saying? Do you believe ALL the info on our industry has already been learned? Do you have any struggles with your business or want to expand into other areas?
Jennie i have a very established staging company with an 8000sf warehouse, box trucks vendor relationships, team etc. I don’t currently belong to any staging organizations and have never had any specific training. I believe there is value in collaboration with other successful stagers but wonder what do you believe is the biggest value in attending the Nashville conference?
Her answer= Where do I start? 😁 We have topics that are helpful for any biz owner and sometimes we get so focused on our daily grind we forget about feeding ourselves with things that keep us motivated and inspired. I love attending and seeing colleagues – it opens up my eyes and mind when I meet others and can have discussions.
Every stager has challenge areas and struggles and I sometimes feel that we don’t share those as readily as on the outside looking in it appears that, “wow this stager has it all dialed in!” And we feel we need to keep that impression but secretly we are struggling just like others whether it is how to manage growth or deal with clients or logistics…. some days I feel like I am barely hanging on and other days I feel like, “man! I got this! Life is good and everything is happening the way it needs to be!”
There are newer stagers who struggle with getting clients so they want to learn about marketing and/or pricing. There are stagers who want to advance their biz and learn how to get to that next level and that means biz planning and adding team members or other service and there are established stagers who also news to know what to do to manage their growth and biz processes… there are topics for all levels. It is about learning – sometimes a different perspective or something that validates what you are already doing…
We provide added credentials to help stagers position themselves to develop a market niche which is important for continued growth. In the room will be stagers with 20 and 30,000 sq ft warehouses and some just starting out. The vendor EXPO piece is so valuable- saving 40-60% off retail for furnishings is huge…
The 6+ figure workshop allows us to delve deeper into the areas of challenge an established stager deals with and is very beneficial.
So it all depends on what you need for your biz… if systems and organization or biz structure…. or creative topics…. or marketing and branding (that is a biggie for any biz owner)… u will learn all of that.
Plus it is Fun! It is one time a year we get to combine learning with a celebration of our industry and get away to learn, connect and enjoy our colleagues and refresh our WHY.
GREAT ANSWER! I am proud to be profitable but know there is always room to learn, grow and share!
I appreciated this person reaching out and I provided an honest answer. I have been in this 17 years and I do NOT claim to know everything about running a business. I do know a lot about Staging, marketing, and success – and each time I attend an event where I can hear from another person who may be proficient at something I need, I am open to learning and applying the info in my business.