When Stagers give bad advice

Home Builder with The Flooring Girl

Gray interior for the entrywayAs many of you know, I have great respect for Stagers.  I know many of them, and most provide great advice for when you are selling your house.  I have learned a lot from Stagers, too.  But every once in a while, you come across one who provides bad advice and can over spend a client's money.


Staging is very important.  It can help you sell your house faster, and often it will lead to a higher price.  But, you also need to look at the return on investment...because that's the whole idea behind investing in staging and taking action of the Stager's recommendation.  It's often challenging to find the balance on where you will get the best return on investment, especially if your funds are limited.


And, while Stagers often do provide good advice, some really step out of their area of expertise and/or need to keep up with the times.  And, some just need to really treat their client as if they are an actual client and treat their money as if it was their own.


living room with light blue paintI'm currently helping a customer with her painting, so she can sell her house (they are already in contract to buy their new house).  We are starting the job today, and she is a super nice customer.


Time and time again, the customer kept telling me, "The Stager said this, the Stager said that."  It's good that she listens to professionals, but sometimes some so called professionals don't really give the best advice.  This Stager was recommended by her realtor and the realtor told her "Do everything the Stager tells you to do."


I also kept hearing my customer say, "The Stager says this, but it's not her money."  (Now bear in mind my customer is spending money on many things and it's not like the customer is being cheap.)  I'm guessing on all the stuff she needs to do/fix, she is probably spending at least $15,000 - $20,000. 


Also bear in mind that my customer's house is not in bad condition nor does it have a dated look.  It just needs some "clean up" including decluttering, painting, repairs.  With the exception of the attic, all of her paint colors are tasteful and neutral (and non of them are white).


As I've worked with tons of sellers and tons of new home buyers, I know what people in my area are looking for when it comes to floors and paint (as they do both together).  I see the before and afters on tons of houses.  I see what new home buyers actually do, not just what some Stagers think they will do.


I found myself in a position where I was advising my customer to do less rather than more.  I can't help it...I want to counsel my customer to make smart decisions.  (And, yes, it would be in my financial better interest if she did more).  It almost seemed that the Stager and I had switched roles.


So, let me tell you about the mistakes the mistakes this Stager made.

dining room with gray paint1.  The Stager recommend that she paint the Dining room a different color...a "dining room" color (e.g. burgundy.)  Why?  To show that it's a dining room, rather than a playroom (which is how the room is being used...with kids' toys all over.  Hmmm.  There's something wrong here.

  • First, the customer already has a neutral color - it's a light gray - which is the MOST POPULAR color for our area.  It's neutral and light, and it matches the color of the living room and hallway. 


  • Second, this house is on the smaller side and the dining room is small, so a dark color will make the space look even smaller.  If she kept the gray, she'd be more stylish and lighter and the consistency in color in the front of the house will make the area look larger.  It also seems that a simpler solution would be to remove the toys, but I digress.


2.  The stager has no regard, nor knowledge of paint pricing/painting process works and how it impacts the customer's bottom line.

  • exterior house painting - white with black shuttersWhen you paint, if you change the color, you need to do 2 coats of paint; if you stay with the same color, you only need one.  While there were a few areas that would be better if the color was changed and/or made more consistent with the colors in other rooms, the Stager was advising her to change the color in many places where it wasn't needed (because it had a neutral and consistent color).  So, for example, the hallway on the 1st and 2nd floor was a neutral gray, the stager wanted to change the color and break up the area.  The exterior which is white with black shutters (and looks clean and stylish for her area), the Stager recommended that she do an off-white or cream (which in my opinion would actually make the house look dirty).  But, regardless, it was a completely unneeded expense.


  • The Stager recommended that she not paint the exterior back of the house (which wasn't as bad as the other sides) and instead recommended that she just power wash it.  Ummm...NO!  I guess she is clueless on how things work.  You always power wash before you paint the exterior.  But, when you power wash (as most of you might imagine), some of the paint comes off...so then you need to paint the area.  So, I advised her that power washing without painting is her WORST option.  Either leave it or power wash + paint.  (The customer chose the latter, both to make the house look consistent and it wasn't that much of a difference in price).  As I said, the customer isn't cheap; rather, she is trying to spend wisely.


3.  The Stager seems to have some dated taste and hasn't kept up with the times.

  • gray beigeFirst, she seems to be recommending some dated and even taste specific color choices (e.g. burgundy for dining room, colorful colors for the bonus room in the attic) and straying away from grays and other neutrals.


  • Second, she recommended that she use a matte finish for the paint, rather than flat.  Flat is by far the most popular, especially in our area, and especially for people selling their homes.  Flat also hides imperfections in the walls more (and yes, this home is old (I think early 1900s) and has many character flaws and we are doing some repair work in a few places so those will show more.


So, we are helping this customer the best we can, despite the bad advice she's been getting from her Stager.  The Stager might be better at her job if she did a bit more research, was a bit more hands on, and tried to open her mind.  There I said it. I got it off my chest.


But, we all need to remember that our goal is to appeal to most buyers in our area, help the customer sell their house faster and help them invest wisely.


I hope that at least this will help all of you, regardless of your trade, with a few painting tips.



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Shannon Milligan, Richmond VA Real Estate Agent/Associate Broker
RVA Home Team - Richmond, VA
RVA Home Team - Winning with Integrity.

I recently hired a stager for the very first time and I was sure to interview him to make sure of his style, taste, and pricing! Your client is lucky to have you looking after their best interests. 

May 18, 2017 10:18 AM #14
Dick Greenberg
New Paradigm Partners LLC - Fort Collins, CO
Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate

Hi Debbie - There are a couple of stagers working here that consistently give bad advice. One specializes in basically sterilizing a home by removing all of the decorative touches that make homes charming and comfortable - we know about her because we have picked up listings that didn't sell after she did her work, and undoing most of what she did resulted in quick sales every time. But the good ones can make a huge difference in market time and settlement price.

May 18, 2017 12:12 PM #15
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Jay - Me, too.  Hard to say if the stager or agent recommended they change and homeowner didn't follow their reco.

Shannon - Yes, I'm curious how this person is compensated.  Thx for your kind words.

Dick - that is so funny.  yes, I bet you can tell.  The interesting thing here is that their home is neutral w/ GOOD neutral colors.  Plain white is blah.  I agree.  There were a couple of places where I would have done a different color if they had it in the budget, but her color choices were fine and had style and personality.


May 18, 2017 06:10 PM #16
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good Morning Debbie - the advice just seem like it is over the top.  The stager lacks a sense of perspective.

May 19, 2017 03:10 AM #17
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Debbie- I couldn't agree more!!!  I want to save my client as much money as I can and not have them spend on things that aren't necessary.  And, if it's not my area of expertise, I call an expert, just as I did once with you and my client with scratches on their wood stairs. You were great because you got back with me within minutes!  

May 20, 2017 08:28 PM #18
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

                       Thank you Debbie Gartner 

May 20, 2017 09:06 PM #19
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy


Like with every profession, there are those who make up stuff, and there are those who really understand what is needed.  I have seen them all.  This is a wonderful discusssion on the subject, and i am so glad that Kathy Streib featured your post. A

May 21, 2017 07:05 AM #20
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

I can see why Kathy chose to high light your post this week...well done!

May 21, 2017 07:42 AM #21
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

I'm so glad that Kathy shared this post in her weekly favorites.

I agree with you on each point. This "stager" is not serving the client's best interests. The advice she gave is ridiculous and obviously she has no real clue what she is doing. What a shame!

I don't understand why the agent uses her.

May 21, 2017 05:20 PM #22
Beth Bromund
Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel - Rochester, MI
REALTOR (248) 651-3500

Best wishes on your new path!  Your clients are fortunate to have you.


May 22, 2017 03:00 AM #23
Joanna Cohlan
Fresh Eyes For Your Home - Chappaqua, NY
Designing, Decorating & Staging Westchester Homes

Good for you Debbie-sounds like you have learned a lot and you are really value added for these sellers!

May 25, 2017 04:27 PM #24
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Kathy - Oh gosh, I've been so busy, that I totally missed this.  Thanks so much.

Alexandra - Yes, that is so true.

Grant - Oh yes, it was as if the stager was trying to show her worth and her supposed "expertise."

May 25, 2017 05:33 PM #25
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Kristin - thx so much.

Sharon - So glad you agree.

Beth - Thank you.  I appreciate it.

Joanna - Thx a ton.  That means a lot.

May 25, 2017 06:55 PM #26
Alan May
Jameson Sotheby's International Realty - Evanston, IL
Helping you find your way home.

Go figure... I didn't even know there was a difference between flat and matte?

Jun 17, 2017 06:55 AM #27
Richard Bazinet /MBA, CRS, ABR
West USA Realty - Scottsdale, AZ
Phoenix Scottsdale. Sellers, Buyers & Relocations

Great post Debbie. I have seen some terrible staging/remodeling, even as of late yesterday. Makes you wonder how some came up with those ideas and finishes.

Jun 17, 2017 07:32 AM #28
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

People are so spoiled to the point even homes in the bad neighborhoods are staged these days. Sellers want top price.

Jun 17, 2017 07:43 AM #30
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

Every industry has their good and their bad, Debbie Gartner ... and your post highlights that perfectly.  As always, it's best to do your homework regarding the choice of professionals working on your behalf.  Bad choices typically provide bad results ...

Kudos to you for providing such timely and vital assistance, despite the "hit" to your own pocketbook.  Very commendable, Debbie ... 


Jun 17, 2017 10:31 AM #31
Stephen Turner
Burkentine Realty Group (Burkentien Builders) - York, PA

Staging is usually best when the agent and stager are working together. They need to mutually agree on a plan and stick to the plan. Everyone needs to be rowing in the same direction.

Jun 17, 2017 11:52 AM #32
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Stephen - that is good advice.  But, in this situation, it sounds like the stager didn't know what she was doing.

Jun 17, 2017 05:08 PM #33
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

I have brought in a stager numerous times and always had a good experience.

Jun 17, 2017 08:10 PM #34
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Debbie Gartner

The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers
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