St Augustine, St Johns County Real Estate & Home Staging


Who are you? Why are you in my house? Why are you touching my things?

Who are you? Why are you in my house? Why are you touching my things?

This is my story of the most difficult customer that I've ever worked for and what I learned from it. I was working with an agent that I had worked with a few times before. Inevitably every time we had worked together there had been some hiccup. This situation, however, was beyond hiccup. It was done all wrong. Due to lack of planning and a true understanding of the situation, her two hours with a professional home stager was completely wasted. 
dementia blogIt wasn't unusual that I had home staging jobs that included downsizing a home for a parent, who would be moving into a nursing home, or one of their children's homes it was unusual that the parent still lived in the home at the time. A homeowner with dementia had been something I had never encountered. 
When I accepted the job, a two hour hands-on staging job, I had been told about the homeowner's situation. I was also told that the agent would be there, and so would the homeowner's daughter. I would have the ability to do what I needed to do to get the job done, they would handle the seller. 
When I arrived, the agent greeted me at the door. The seller was in the kitchen. The daughter was running late. I gave my brief overview of what I would be doing, and asked, with limited time, where they wanted me to begin. Almost immediately the seller became confrontational. I wanted to be sure that she understood why I was doing what I was doing. This was going to help her sell her home more quickly and maximize the equity in the home. 
Suddenly the homeowner became very upset. She didn't even know that they were selling her home. More accurately, she probably didn't remember. The daughter was called, and the seller was settled. I went back to work. 
Fast forward about 10 minutes and the seller starts yelling at me, "Who are you? Why are you in my house? Why are you touching my things?" It seems that she had forgotten the entire conversation from just a few minutes prior. She literally didn't remember me. 
This process continued for the two hours that I was in the home. Nothing ever was accomplished. The seller's daughter never showed up, though she was called multiple times. When I left, everyone was frustrated and stressed to our limits. 
I learned that it is important to set professional boundaries. I should have left when the daughter wasn't there and the homeowner first become confrontational. Instead of doing the right thing and rescheduling the appointment to when the work could actually be completed, I wasted my time, the agent's time, and the seller's money. I also allowed an immense amount of stress on each and every person. 
I also learned that sometimes you have to let a customer go. I never worked for this agent again. When she called, I referred her to another team member. Every job I had done for her had issues. This means that we weren't clear with our communication with each other. Whether that was an issue on my part or hers could be debatable, but what wasn't is that we weren't working well together. It was the best of both of our interests to connect her with someone who could more easily handle her communication style. 


 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 21 commentsMelissa Marro • October 08 2012 08:53AM


Melissa~ What a difficult situation.  It would have been so much better if the seller had not been there.  I don't think having the daughter there would have made much difference.

Posted by Donna Foerster, Metro Denver Real Estate Agent (HomeSmart Realty Group) over 6 years ago

Donna - I agree. The seller should have been gone for the time I was supposed to be there. That would have been the ideal situation. While it would have been difficult for the seller to have come home to her space being changed, it was far more difficult having me there doing it in front of her. 

Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 6 years ago

Melissa - Oh, this sounds like a tough one!  I agree with Donna.  Too bad the daughter didn't pick up the mother and take her out for a few hours while you worked your magic.  That would have been the right thing to do.  Dimentia can be so upsetting for everyone involved.  Poor you.  No one likes to be yelled at for no good reason!

Posted by Sally Weatherley, Vancouver Home Staging, Home Stager Vancouver, B.C (EXIT STAGE RIGHT) over 6 years ago

Sally - I agree with Donna too. I think everyone was stressed. It was just a bad situation all around. 

Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 6 years ago

Melissa,  WHat an awkward situation.  You sure did the right thing by referring the agent to someone else.  Not everyone communicates in the same way and it's better to work with people that don't cause you stress.

Posted by June Piper-Brandon, Piecing Dreams One Home at a Time (Long & Foster Hampden) over 6 years ago

Melissa, I have also had to deal with clients with either dementia or alzheimers.  I was lucky in both cases the "Kids" were very hands on and had already put everything in their names.  

Posted by Andrea Curtis United Country Premier Properties Certified Military Relocation Professional, U C INTERNATIONAL DIRECTOR OF MILITARY PROPERTIES (United CountryPremier Properties) over 6 years ago

June - If this had been the only time things went wrong, then I would have chalked it up to a bad situation, but when things regularly go wrong, it's a conflict of communication. That's a problem for both of us. 

Andrea - That would have been very helpful. I think this was a case of putting the cart before the horse. 

Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 6 years ago
Geez Melissa I'm learning so much from you. I'm so glad you share your wisdom and knowledge. Tough situation but for every obstacle you find a solution. You're very talented that way!
Posted by Marie Fox, Lake Mary, Florida, Home Stager & RE Photographer (Foxy Interiors Inc. Lake Mary Florida) over 6 years ago

This past summer I did a consult for one of my favorite agents and the seller's wife had alzheimers.  My story is far more positive than yours however.  My agent had prepared me.  The husband was there and everything went really well.  It was so sad to see the poor woman all confused.  She did very well, but she would keep asking me questions that made no sense and at one point we heard running water in the bathroom and found she had left a tomato all crushed in the sink and the water running.  It's a horrible disease and my heart goes out to any family that has to deal with it.

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) over 6 years ago

I was the buyer's agent for a situation like this, it's very hard to handle. But I'm sure that compassion is the key always. 

Posted by Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner, Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395 (Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395) over 6 years ago

Marie - Thanks. Unfortunately sometimes I don't find a solution until after the problem arises.

Sharon - What do you suppose the tomato was about? I agree. It is horribly sad and difficult for everyone involved. 

Karen - I do agree. In my case, I think compassion would have been me not being there while she was home, or at least not while her daughter, who was the trusted rrepresentative was there. I'm sure this was very unsettling for her. 

Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 6 years ago

Melissa- difficult for everyone concerned and you handled it the best you could.  A good friend of mine was working with a client in the very early stages of Alzheimer's  who was selling her home. When my friend arrived, the lady had not placed a thing and in fact there was "stuff" everywhere.   The furniture rental truck was coming to deliver a few needed pieces.  Everything had to be rescheduled.  Alzheimer's and dementia is such a sad disease and so many are affected. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 6 years ago

What a sad situation, Melissa. I'm sure it was terribly uncomfortable and frustrating for you and my heart goes out to the woman with dementia and her family. In the absence of the daughter, I wish the agent had been able to keep the homeowner calm or visit with her so you could focus on doing your job. Sounds like you made the best of a bad situation. It also seems that you made a wise choice to separate yourself from the agent for future projects since there was a pattern of miscommunication.

Posted by Julie Bentley, Saint Johns, FL REALTOR (Watson Realty Corp, Jacksonville, FL ) over 6 years ago

HI Melissa, we learn as we go. Every day brings a new challenge which encourages us to analyze how we do business.  Referring this agent to another person was a wise decision.   When I have this happen a second time with the same person I schedule a meeting to discuss what the process is when we work together. If the next job does not go well then I schedule another appointment to let them know that we will not be working together however, I will refer them to a person whom I think can work with them well.  They appreciate it and occasion it even works out in my favour in that they suddenly have a light bulb moment and realize how we can work together successfully.

As you say, it is not fair to the agent, the daughter who was paying or the home owner working in the situation that you found yourself in.

Posted by Michelle Finnamore, Preparing your property for sale (Toronto GTA, Alliston, Newmarket) over 6 years ago

Kathy - that's frustrating. Was anyone (like one of her children) supposed to oversee the packing? 

Julie - I think the agent did the best they could at keeping her "entertained". The problem was that she couldn't remember anything 10 minutes later. 

Michelle - Your plan for how and when to pass business off to another stager seems like a good one. Since we had other stagers within my company, it was a little bit easier process. 

Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 6 years ago

very tough situation. you are wise to simply learn the lessons and move on.

Posted by Karen Dembsky, Atlanta Home Staging (Peachtree Home Staging LLC, Home Staging in Atlanta, GA) over 6 years ago

We believe she was trying to use the bathroom sink as if it had a food disposal unit in it.

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) over 6 years ago

Karen - Thanks. It is what needs to happen sometimes.

Sharon - OK. That is just sad. I really feel for how frustrating it must be to them and their family.

Erica - I don't think the agent did it purposefully. I think this was just a situation of poor communication all around.... between the agent and the daughter, and then with me. Perhaps she thought she could handle it and didn't want to have to cancel the day with me and 'waste my time' when the daughter couldn't be there. In any regard, it just didn't work out well. 

Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 6 years ago

What a mess!  Knowing the situation as they did, the agent should've had the daughter take the mother out of the home entirely for this event.  I can't imagine what the showings were like.  

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) over 6 years ago

Melissa, I can't say that we have encountered this type of situation before but you handled it the best way you could. We have encountered difficult situations where clients - even after hiring us and approving the design plan - constantly question our decisions or style choices. That was not the case here and I agree with the other comments - the only way this situation would have gone smoothly was to have the seller out for the time you were hired to work in her home.

My grandmother who died this year had dementia and while she could be lovely at times, she did live in her own world and any small changes tended to make her terribly upset and agitated. Having a stager in her home touching her things would have stressed her out horribly so I can only feel for your seller who must have been so horrified not only to see you moving/packing her possessions but also not to understand who you were and why you were there. You are so right, that situation could have been handled SO much better if the daughter had removed her parent and kindly kept her from all that stress and confusion.

Posted by Heather Cook, Quality Home Staging (Rooms in Bloom Staging & Design Inc.) over 6 years ago

The closest situation I have had to that was working on a widower's home, which he didn't want to sell but his kids wanted him to.  He kept saying, "I'm glad my wife isn't here to see you moving that....."

Apparently after I left he moved everything back to it's original position.  It took many, many months to sell that home.

Thanks for sharing your lesson with us.

Posted by Beth Lester, Home Staging & Interior Decorating (Beth Lester Designs) over 6 years ago

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