Q: How did you come up with the concept of Home Staging?

A: The idea of staging came to me in 1972. At the time I had a decorating business and I decided to go into real estate. I realized that home owners who planned to sell their homes were more concerned with what the house looked like on the outside rather than what the house looked like in the inside. That’s when I adopted the saying: “If you can smell it, I can’t sell it.” The concept was that home owners needed to learn how to market their homes from an interior point of view. After I came up with the concept it occurred to me that I needed a more detailed program and I needed to give it designations that could be easily followed.

Q: How many Accredited Staging Professionals (ASPs) have you trained?

A: 700,000 worldwide and still counting.

Q: How many homes have you sold through staging?

A: Personally? 3,000 homes out of 5,000 listed, mostly in California and Seattle.

Q: How many houses do you stage a month?

A: On average, 3 to 5. I suspect that number will increase shortly.

Q: How many people currently own a staging business after being trained by you?

A: I’ve set up 6,000 people in their own staging businesses. My goal is to spread home staging to as many places as I can.

Q: Where are the places you’ve staged worldwide?

A: Hungary, Ireland, Great Britain, Finland, Australia and we have an office in Ontario, Canada.

Q: Is there a place where home staging has really taken root?

A: Formerly San Francisco and Seattle. In the last two years we are starting to see this take off in New York. Now, if you don’t stage your house in New York, no one wants to show your house to potential buyers.

Q: What types of staging seems to work best?

A: We work with what we are given. We want to create a feeling and less is always more.

Q: What kind of trends are you seeing in real estate as a result of home staging?

A: People are starting to call the stager first instead of the agent, so this is a huge paradigm shift for the industry. What we have also noticed is that 22 percent of the homes on the market are staged. We are also seeing that the average home (those that cost $1 million or less) are selling for 18 percent more than those that are not staged.

Q: What is the difference between decorating and staging?

A: Decorating is not staging. Decorating is personalizing a property and staging is de-personalizing a property to sell. What appeals to a home owner that decorates a home will not appeal to a buyer.

Q: How long does it usually take to stage a home?

A: A team of 5-6 people can stage a home that is 3,200 square feet within 2 days. There are also homes we stage in an hour. It’s based on the size of the home and how much work it needs to look presentable.

Q: What are the personality traits you look for in a home stager?

A: They have to have creativity. I want you to be able to make the connection between how a fishing rod can be used for a curtain rod. They have to be resourceful, meaning you have to think out of the box and figure out how something can be used and converted to something that sets off the room. They have to be able to communicate with people. This is not about being a dictator. We have a code of ethics that honors the client and their possessions. They have to have good business sense. Since they are providing a service, they need to be responsible. They also have to have the ability to market themselves. A good attitude is also very important and you have to be positive about the outcome.

Q: What are your future goals in regard to home staging?

A: My goal is to make Chicago the staging area of the universe.

Q: What is your advice to home owners/sellers?

A: I encourage them to let go. Until a home owner says they can let go of the strings of emotional attachment and say we need to sell, they are not ready for home staging. I tell them to take their memories with them and realize that the house you are in now is a product and a stepping stone to a better future.

Other stories:

Zots and Zen: home stage your way to home selling success

Barb Schwarz’s top 10 tips for Successful Staging Your House

Barb Schwarz is the creator of the Home Staging concept, the Author of “Home Staging: The Winning Way To Sell Your House For More Money” and the best selling author of “How to List and Sell Residential Real Estate Successfully.” She is also the founder and president of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHS) and a Chicago native. Her website is www.stagedhomes.com.

April 10, 2006.