St Augustine, St Johns County Real Estate & Home Staging


Home Staging & HomeGain Survey: 2012 Top 10 DIY Home Improvements

Yesterday we got a sneak peek at the HomeGain Top 10 DIY Home Improvement list for 2012. What followed behind the scenes was a rather heated discussion among many of the  nation's top professional home stagers. As noted in the article, "In past surveys, Home Staging and Lightening and Brightening were battling it out for the number two spot on the top 10 list. In the 2011 survey,  Lightening and Brightening reclaimed the number two position and held on to it in 2012. Home Staging, however, fell to the number five position." Home staging, for the purposes of this survey was presented to Real Estate Professionals as, "Home staging: Add fresh flowers; removing personal items; reduce clutter; rearrange furniture; add new props or furniture to enhance room/s; play soft music; hang artwork in walls. See complete staging checklist." To get a really good appreciation of what is characterized as home staging, check out the staging checklist linked above. It's no wonder that Professional Home Stagers are in an uproar over this survey. HomeGain, while we love you - I keep your little orange monkey, received after writing a really great article about you, visible in my office for anyone who comes here - can you please jump into the year 2012 and catch a reality as to what home staging really is?! Let me sum it up two sentences, just to be clear:
Home Staging helps to control a buyer's eye, with careful placement of furniture, art & accessories, so as to minimize the flaws of a home while enhancing the positive aspects. We help any home, regardless of age or occupancy status look and feel like a model home so that buyers will emotionally connect with it, increasing the odds of a quick sale at the highest possible price."
The commentary of your participants has also left us somewhat baffled. “I don’t believe that staging adds any value except that it gets a property sold when others just sit and sit. To go in spending money and expecting it to improve the dollars in your pocket (whether you spend $100 or $10,000) is just unrealistic. I personally sold my home after upgrading to the tune of $15,000 to an already updated home, and I didn’t get more money but I got it sold.” - Uh yea-ah. That's the point. The fact that home staging helps the home sell more quickly, thus reducing carrying costs, price reductions and perceived value by potential buyers IS value.  We all know that the longer a home sits on the market, the lower the offer will be.  What is the cost of the FIRST price reduction? It is usually at least 1/2 - 1% of list price. That means an average family home (approx $180K based on national NAR stats) is $9,000-$18,000. Having been one of the nation's top home stagers since 2005, I can tell you that I've never seen $10,000 in staging recommendations on a $180K home. The average is usually under $2000 for that price point.  Let me address another favorite one: “We’ve found that we do our own home-staging vs. hiring a professional stager. The professionals we’ve hired in the past cost a lot and the home still sat on the market for over 6 months.” I would LOVE to know if the agent who provided this quote actually picked the best stager or the cheapest. We are not all created equally. I would strongly recommend home sellers or agents considering DIY vs Professional Home Staging read Juliet Johnson's blog about it. Watching a firestorm of comments in a private facebook chat last night after we viewed this blogs, here were some comments from uber successful home stagers about this phenom of poorly trained (and often cheap) stagers.
  • "got one of those pro stagers here who gives them a staging kit. oh if you watch the staging shows that automatically qualifies you to be a stager. I actually went to a networking event, met a Realtor who had her young hairdresser with her who stages because she has a flair for decorating. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?"
  • "I just got some photos from a photographer I know, he was shocked at the junk in this $800K property he photographed & he wanted to share his horror- the Realtor said she got the job "cheap" and it showed, I just don't understand what they don't get in this price point of home or think that "towels and fruit" work."
  • "I am turning away any vacant jobs that cannot afford to do it right. They're turning to "budget" staging companies and comparing prices - I told them you will get what you pay for and I would not be able to comfortably stand by a product I don't believe in or will work in their price point."
  • "I will tell prospects to go to websites and check portfolios when they tell me that my competitors are only charging X - if they want stick furniture & random pieces in their homes then by all means shop "XYZ co." I am not them and have a brand to uphold."
  • "This issue is hot right now for me because I've gotten push back lately about pricing - which I am not budging on, I can't because the furniture rental companies charge what they charge and I'm not working for free. Until we all start to value our selves and our businesses I continue to say this industry will remain small and not totally accepted by the RE community."
For years Real Estate Professionals have complained about the hobbyist REP that thinks real estate is just putting a sign in the yard and a listing in the MLS. They complain that homeowners think they do nothing to earn their commission because what they see are bad agents. Hello... McFly. That's us now. As long as Real Estate Agents decide to tell their clients that they just need to lower the sale price of the home to get a buyer, the market will erode. There are homes, all across the country, that are selling at the top of the market bands. Within every neighborhood there is a top and bottom that the market will allow for a given home of a given size. Guess who gets the top of that and who gets the bottom. It's not random. The top of the band are homes that are well maintained and attractive. The bottom ones aren't. They are the majority of homes on MLS. Agents who want to earn more commission and spend less marketing dollar, who want clients whose homes sell quickly, at higher sale prices turn to staging. The rest are the typical agents who don't make any money in this business. Sure, they might sell, but their profit margins are eaten alive with listings that cost them money. It isn't always about having the most listings, sometimes it is about having the right listings - you know, the ones that sell.


 Author Bio: Melissa Marro, Home Staging Industry leader, Realtor, and entrepreneur offers a unique perspective on New Home Construction, Resale Residential Real Estate, and Home Staging

For more information on buying or selling in the Fleming Island, Orange Park, or Jacksonville, area, visit or call Melissa Marro (marro.melissa at, Keller Williams First Coast Realty, for more information (904-466-2093).


Comment balloon 12 commentsMelissa Marro • April 27 2012 02:15PM


Yes I think that home staging is growing profession not learned from the most recent 'Ladies Home Journal'. A good home stager can work with a real estate agent to sell the house faster for a higher price to a satisfied buyer. I wish there was a stager here in this part of Michigan so we could use the service.


Posted by Mike Warfel, Associate Broker (Bauer-Reno & Assoc.) almost 7 years ago

Hi Mike. Actually.... My sister is planning on starting in the next few months. I also have a couple of students from Clinton Township. When they have finished the course, I'll point them in your direction. 

Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) almost 7 years ago

You have echoed my thoughts here perfectly Melissa, it's unfortunate for those who have had a bad experience with a home stager however the mass majority of those successful home stagers who STAY in business have quite a different result and story to tell as do the Realtors they work with.

The Home Gain blog just reminds us of the misinformation that still prevails in the RE industry about home staging and home stagers in general and truly it's up to the industry and those of us representing it to share the truth and educate the masses as well as step up our game and our business practices. Fruit and towels do NOT work in and of themselves.

STAGING DONE RIGHT is an INVESTMENT in EQUITY PRESERVATION - (as you yourself said so eloquently in another blog!) and price reductions are indeed money out of pocket! As I've said before....when a company like COKE can spend billions of dollars marketing a .50 cent can of soda pop, why is there so much push back when it comes to marketing a home?

We are not doing a good enough job as an industry if we are still being seen as an unnecesssary expense in the home selling equation and Home Gain needs to also survey more Realtors who understand the value and service that home staging is providing to their own businesses.  The Realtors I work with all get it and see the improvement in their bottom line as well as their clients, these agents won't list a home without consulting a home stager - me!

Posted by Karen Otto, Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging, (Home Star Staging) almost 7 years ago

Melissa- I am so glad you wrote this because I doubt if I would have been able to after reading the recent Homegain Survey.   We need to continue to educate the public about what our industry does.  It is not and never has been about moving a chair here or there, or putting a vase of fresh flowers in the room.  June Cleaver did that.  

If you look at the survey, while we may not personally do the electrical or plumbing we clearly will include all of the items mentioned when we provide our consultation.  

Thank you, Melissa, for taking the time to write this. 


Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) almost 7 years ago

Melissa very well said.  I don't think the comments by the agents interviewed are any different than what we hear everyday, that said when I follow up with their concerns I find they haven't had a listing yet this year, or they have three or they are a dabbler.  The pros if you will all agree that stagig works.

My mission this year is to educate and campaign to "Hire a Pro" (we can't use that it is HBA's campagin but we could put something together, have a common logo/brand and educate.

Thanks again for coming through.  

BTW I am from Michigan-what part doesn't have a stager?  WE have several long standing RESA members thoughout the state, send him our way

Posted by Carole Morgan, RESA-PRO Certified Home Stager (StageRight Home Staging ) almost 7 years ago

"This issue is hot right now for me because I've gotten push back lately about pricing - which I am not budging on, I can't because the furniture rental companies charge what they charge and I'm not working for free. Until we all start to value our selves and our businesses I continue to say this industry will remain small and not totally accepted by the RE community."

This says it all.

Posted by Ana Hitzel, Professional Home Stager Inland Empire ( AccentPositives Home Staging ) almost 7 years ago

ditto ana's comment:  "Until we all start to value our selves and our businesses I continue to say this industry will remain small and not totally accepted by the RE community."

great post Melissa.  I hope the message reaches home gain.  BTW, Good to see you last week.

Posted by Karen Dembsky, Atlanta Home Staging (Peachtree Home Staging LLC, Home Staging in Atlanta, GA) almost 7 years ago

Melissa, Thank you for posting this.  Just had a homeowner who was not willing to pay $2000 (for much needed furniture and accessories) on a $575K listing.  They don't understand that we know the markets and what buyers expect/want to see in these listings.  Some people just get it and others don't so some days are more frustrating than others. By the way, the agent dropped this owner and walked away from the listing because the seller wouldn't listen to him on staging and pricing.  Also, love your description of staging. Would love to quote you if that's okay.

Posted by Karen Ellis, Home Stager - Howard County MD/Central MD (Refreshing Homes - Home Staging Maryland) almost 7 years ago

Sounds like HomeGain needs a new that correctly defines "Home Staging"!  REAs who know there's a problem with a listing, or want their photos to look great on MLS, or just want to outsource the grief - they know to call a professional Stager.  To get great results, time and money must be invested correctly!

Posted by Julia Maher, Connecticut Home Stager (Nestings: Connecticut Home Staging and Model Homes) almost 7 years ago

Melissa, I wholeheartedly agree that this is "2 steps backwards" survey. Those comments are ridiculous and flippant. Education, patience and success will be our virtues. Thank you for advocating for us and protesting a seemingly questionable independent survey source.  

Posted by Kim Gaston, Colorado Springs REALTOR®, CNE (719)661-6987 (RE/MAX Advantage Realty) almost 7 years ago

Karen & Kathy - it seems like we still have a lot of work educating not only real estate agents & homeowners but also other home stagers on the importance of valuing what we do and putting forth an industry that has credibility!

I've said in other blogs (though apparently time to revisit it with the new survey out) that we do all of these things on the list, to relegate us to any one of the items is redundant and a slight on what we actually do. 

Carole - sadly I have to agree with you. It is what we hear. It's why now that I'm opening a new home staging company in Jacksonville, FL, that the first thing on my list is agent education.

Ana - and isn't it funny that they always expect us to cut back our prices but not the rental companies? Is it because we are seen as the soccer moms (and dads) of real estate? ... an important part of the team, but not really anyone of value.

Karen D- I posted it in their comments on that blog.... who knows if they read it.

Karen E - Watch... in 30 days the home will have a price reduction of at least $5000 and that they will agree too without much thought. 

Yes, please feel free to use the quote me. 

Julia - maybe they can use my quote too?

Kim - I believe Shell is going to do an agent survey from RESA. It's really interesting that this survey is so different from the one recently conducted by RIS media. I discussed that in my blog at Staging & Redesign



Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) almost 7 years ago

Melissa, you make a great point about rental company pricing, by g-d what we charge for rentals all of a sudden that's "outrageous". Not only that but our stuff comes with creativity and purpose attached...I guess we are still just the body that stands at the door when the furniture truck arrives and tells John where to put the couch....sheesh

Posted by Ana Hitzel, Professional Home Stager Inland Empire ( AccentPositives Home Staging ) almost 7 years ago

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