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Staging Diva Dispatch, written by home staging expert Debra Gould, is a monthly newsletter filled with real estate staging business tips and articles for aspiring and established home stagers. The Staging Diva shares practical solutions and ideas to help you decorate homes to sell quickly, and make lots of money doing it.

Staging Diva Dispatch

Quote of the Month!

Can you think of anything more permanently elating than to know that you are on the right road at last?" (Vernon Howard)

Staging Diva
Staging Tip

Too much clutter?

It's not enough to tell a client that they need to get all the clutter out of their closets. You have to give them specific instructions for how to achieve that.

For example, if the linen closet is filled with junk that belongs in the bathroom, suggest steps for the client to follow.

1. Dispose of all expired medications.
2. Toss old toothbrushes.
3. Sort and discard cosmetics and shampoos no longer in use.
4. Get covered baskets for each family member to store their own personal care items.

Staging Diva
Network Members
Chat It Up

The Staging Diva Network Online Discussion Group has a new Live Chat feature. This add-on service is included in the monthly membership fee of only $20. 

I'm hosting a live chat June 20, which is f'ree to all Staging Diva Network Members.

Learn now to join the Network and get one month f'ree

Staging Diva

Peggy, our Manager of Operations is absolutely fabulous. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to email her.

Sandy is my Executive Assistant who does a great job getting Graduation Certificates out to you in a timely fashion, keeping the Staging Diva Network humming and many other behind the scenes details.

Peggy and Sandy will quickly handle your questions about registrations, certificates, course downloads, memberships and more.

Don't worry, I'm still accessible but with over 200 emails a day, I need help!

Great Book

If you're staying put in your own home or looking for an approach to take with your interior redesign clients, you might enjoy this book, "Your Home as a Sanctuary: A practical guide to creating the perfect space for body and soul." 

Unlike many decorating books, this one acknowledges that you and the other people you live with are the most important elements in your home. With beautiful photos and accompanying text, author Josephine Collins offers practical steps and exercises to help you create a "home sanctuary" that is "a place for your spirit to rest as well as your taste to be expressed."

Your Home As a Sanctuary

Choosing training

Don't take home staging training just because you want "credentials" since there are none (not official ones at least). 

Anyone can call themselves a professional home stager, there are no requirements or licenses to do so.

The only real reason to take a course is if you feel the content will improve your chance of success.

Consider your own strengths and weaknesses. 

Decide exactly what you need to get out of a program and then find training that offers that.

Look for a trainer that has a proven track record of success in whatever they're going to teach you.

Otherwise, what proof is there that their methods work in the real world?

Look for evidence that there's a genuine interest in sharing real information with you and providing ongoing support for your growth. 

If it's all about "selling a course" then don't expect anything else once you're a paying student.

I also recommend you check out comments from real people who have taken the program

If student testimonials have no names, no photos and no way to locate them, how do you know their comments are real?

No single training program will be right for everyone! You owe it to yourself to research your options and choose wisely, based on your specific needs.

Read the rest of this story

Read student comments about the Staging Diva Program

  Issue 12: June 2007

You are receiving this newsletter because you expressed interest in learning about the business of Home Staging. If you don't want to continue, use the "Preferences" link at the very bottom of this email.

Hi ,

Thanks to all who sent hotel recommendations for my San Diego trip to work with the world's leading small business guru and best selling author, Michael E. Gerber!

I have to delay my trip as the most surprising thing happened to me on Mother's Day. I fell in love with a house and bought it the next day. This will be my 7th house but it's the first one I bought, not because it was the ugliest house in the best location (and ready for staging), but because I actually love it!

Now that I get my decorating and real estate fix from staging clients' homes, I don't have to keep moving myself. In fact this will be my first move in the 5 years since I started my staging company Six Elements Inc.

More on the new house later...and my exploits selling my current home. 

I hope you find the content of this issue of Staging Diva Dispatch helpful. I welcome your feedback and/or new story ideas!

Debra Signature

Debra Gould, President Six Elements Inc.
Creator of The Staging Diva Program

In this issue:

Main Section

Spending Money on a House You're Selling

Building a Business Takes Patience

Clearing up Confusion about Referrals

Student/Graduate Success Corner

Staging Diva in the Media

Left column

Quote of the Month

Staging Diva Staging Tip

Network Members Chat it Up

The Staging Diva Team

Great Book

Choosing Training

Spending Money on a House You're Selling

The nature of home staging requires that we convince homeowners to spend money on the house they're selling. That's not always an attractive proposition for them, especially if funds are tight.

The key is to demonstrate how their spending is actually an INVESTMENT in a greater potential profit when they sell.

When I suddenly found myself winning a bidding war for my dream home the day after Mother's Day, the reality of it all from the home owner's perspective really hit me.

I had less than a week to get my own house on the market. And being the Staging Diva, I knew it had to look perfect! After all, how would it look if I couldn't have a staging success story with my own home?

While I didn't have to pay for my own advice, I did have to hire a painter, junk removal service, handyman, gardener and buy/install a new kitchen floor. I opted for cork because it could be installed quickly right over the old vinyl and fit with the retro chic look I'd already created.

The costs added up quickly and I found myself saying, "why would I spend close to a $1000 on a new floor for a house I'm selling?" 

The reality is that kitchens are key with home buyers. Mine was a 1920s kitchen that had never been renovated. Instead, I'd painted over the old laminate counter tops, backsplash and cabinets, and added new hardware and lighting. 

But, I had never got around to redoing the floor, falling into the common trap of being too busy and learning to ignore it. I knew that prospective buyers would notice the old floor immediately and it would get them thinking about how it really was an old kitchen under all that primping. I needed to complete the look if I had any hopes of seeing the selling price I was hoping for.

It was a whirlwind of activity with only 5 days to complete all the work and have my home photo-ready. I also wrote the ads and the script for the video tour my agent produced. By the way, I sold after 9 days on the market at well above the asking price, and got the same closing date as my new home-- less than 60 days away!

Building a Business Takes Patience

It seems my "Do You Think Like An Entrepreneur?" quiz in the May issue of Staging Diva Dispatch failed to make the points I hoped it would. I'm still getting emails from new stagers who:

  • want to give up staging after only four months and take what they've learned from me and apply it to yet another new business, as if starting over would get them there sooner (have you ever watched what happens to people who keep switching lines at the supermarket?)
  • have received perfectly good home staging project leads yet feel it is somehow my fault if the homeowners or agents don't contact them right away. It doesn't even occur to many of them that it's THEIR job to follow up on a prospect.
  • tell me they don't want any more new projects because staging is getting in the way of dating and then complain six months later that they don't have enough work.

I am committed to giving you the knowledge and tools you need to start and grow a successful staging business. But, you've got to be willing to put in the time and commitment to using what I share with you, and to giving all those little new business "seeds" you'll plant along the way, time to take root and grow.

Being an entrepreneur isn't easy; that's why most people work for others. Steering your own ship is scary; that's why most people spend their whole lives letting other people dictate what they do everyday.

I almost gave up staging every month during my first year. 

If I had given up, I never would have realized what lay just around the next corner. I wouldn't have realized that when it seemed like nothing was happening, people were actually starting to talk to each other about my company. I couldn't see it because many of them were people I didn't even know who heard about me from others, read about me or saw my website.

How could I know the agent I'd met 4 months earlier was about to give me a $5,000 project that would also later lead to a TV news feature story?

How could I know the color consulting client would call me back to choose all the finishes for her new kitchen, send me shopping for a new dining room set, or a year later call me back to renovate two bathrooms?

How could I know that exactly two years from starting my staging business, I'd have the incredibly surreal experience of being interviewed by The Wall Street Journal and CNNMoney on the very same day, and that they'd both come to me?

How could I know that in a single month I'd be making over $10,000 just staging houses?

My point is, you plant the seeds and you keep planting the seeds, even when you can't see anything happening.

Don't sit home waiting for the phone to ring. Don't spend two or three hours a day hanging around with others who aren't getting anywhere in their own businesses. All you'll end up doing is reinforcing each other's lack of success.

We're all addicted to instant gratification which is completely unrealistic.

Make a commitment to your own success and ask yourself every night: 
What 5 things did I do today to build my business?

If you can't come up with five, resolve to do better tomorrow. Make a plan and stick to it, no matter how many more pleasant distractions come your way or how tempting it is to come up with excuses for why you aren't getting the results you want. 

This may sound harsh, call it 'tough love'. I sincerely want you to go out there and be successful at whatever you choose to do. But you have to REALLY choose it! You have to stand in your power and make things happen. When you're ready to do that, I've got the tools you need to make it happen. If you don't act on them, they won't work!

Learn more about the Staging Diva Training Program.

If you're already a Graduate and feeling "stuck", take a look at the Survival Strategies for being an entrepreneur that I gave you in Course 1, the low cost business building ideas in course 2, how to turn a prospect into a buyer from Course 3 and all the marketing ideas in Course 4.

Clearing Up Confusion About Staging Project Referrals

How the Referral System works

A homeowner or agent contacts me because they want a stager. 

We direct them first to The Staging Diva Directory of Home Stagers and if they can't find someone there, they're invited to complete a form at the Staging Diva Home Stager Locator Service.

If the client finds a stager on their own through a listing in the Staging Diva Directory of Home Stagers, there's NO referral fee charged to the stager.

If the client fills out the form using the Locator service, I post an article on The Business of Home Staging advertising the project.

If a stager wants to apply, they use the link in the story that takes them to the Home Stager Project Referral Service.

Stagers who apply and complete all the information requested are recommended to the client after I've seen their website/portfolio.

It's then up to the client and stager to follow up with each other. 

If the stager gets work, I collect a referral fee. 

If they don't get work, I've invested considerable time and effort and the stager has gained experience dealing with a potential client at no cost to themselves.

Who can participate in the Staging Project Referral Service?

To participate in the Referral Service stagers must:

Please don't apply for projects unless you meet the criteria indicated above. We will not accept emails of brochures or portfolio photos as a replacement for having a professional looking website or profile page on the Staging Diva Directory of Home Stagers.

If I've sent projects your way and you haven't let Sandy know what happened, you won't continue to receive referrals.

Reasons not all project leads turn into paying work

Even though I've been staging homes for a long time and I'm well known, not everyone who calls me to discuss their project actually hires me. This is a reality of the business and one that you can't take personally (though this is sometimes hard, especially when the prospect sounds so interested at first).

I've heard from a few stagers who have had project referrals through the Staging Diva Project Referral Service and then are frustrated that some leads don't seem to go anywhere right away. The reality is that not all leads will turn into projects, regardless of their source. Some of the reasons for this are: 

  • homeowners are talked out of hiring a stager by their agent
  • the house sells before we find them a stager
  • the homeowner decides to take the house off the market instead of staging (which means they might still contact the stager when they sell later)
  • some agents lose the listing they were hoping to have staged
  • like any industry, there will always be "tire kickers" who ask for information but never follow through
  • some people hire someone else before I've managed to find someone appropriate for them
  • some stagers do inadequate follow-up preferring to wait passively for the client to contact them. Meanwhile the client assumes the stager isn't really interested or available.
  • some aspiring stagers make up bogus projects to find out who is in their area (when I catch them doing this, I keep their names on file)
  • not everyone is impressed with the people I recommend either because of their portfolios, their demeanor on the phone, their follow up, or they just simply don't emotionally connect (that's human nature and happens to everyone including me)
  • some "urgent" projects get delayed because the client's priorities change, they may fail to tell you this and suddenly you hear from them three months from now

Graduates who have been hired for staging projects that I recommended them for include: 

Ann Counard, Linda Schleihauf, Janet Belbeck, Queena Murdock, Nancy Philippsen, Lisa Allen, Sveta Melchuk, Retta Schick, Tracey Philip Jones, Nancy Dart and Andi Atteberry.

I hope this clears up some of the misconceptions about this program. If anyone has suggestions for how it can be improved, I'd love to hear from you. 

Learn more about joining the Staging Diva Directory so clients can find you on their own and you avoid referral fees!

Student/Graduate Success Corner

Congratulations to Graduate Peggy Depalma of Sanctuary Solutions who has received media coverage and is writing articles for local Food & Home Magazines. 

Peggy also partnered with "Make-A-Wish" Foundation and donated her services to create a dream room for a 5 year old suffering from leukemia. The project snowballed into a $10,000 makeover with neighbors donating funds for furniture, Home Depot donating floors and retailers donating a Play Station and new plasma TV. It made front page news in the local paper.

When Peggy first took the Staging Diva Program she wrote, "If my business ever grows and flourishes, I will never forget your direction and support."

As a teacher, I'm delighted to see what she's done with what she learned! Way to go Peggy!

Congratulations to April Staging Diva Graduate Mary Maestre of Rapid Staging on her first staging project. The home sold in 5 days with 10 offers at $90,000 over the asking price. What an awesome success story to launch her new business!

Congratulations to Staging Diva Graduate Jody Thulin of Sharp Dressed Homes on the fantastic profile of her company in a Redding California paper. Even better, the full story is on their website with a gallery of photos and a link back to her site! Way to go Jody! Jody's photo at right is from the article, "Dressed for success: Business cuts clutter, adds decor to help homes sell."

Congratulations to Caireen Kennedy of Red Shed Interior Solutions who writes: "I just wanted to let you know I had my first lead from the Staging Diva Directory. It was from a local realtor who has been checking the Staging Diva site regularly looking for a Calgary-based home stager."

Kind of makes you wonder how many other potential clients are doing this in other cities!

 Congratulations to January Graduate Ameenah Lutfee of Staging Sisters who has completed several staging projects and been contracted by four California adult learning centers to offer workshops for realtors and homeowners on staging tips. It's an excellent way to establish herself as the local expert while wetting their appetite for hiring a professional. Ameenah writes, "thank you for providing me the priceless glue needed to formalize my work, and for giving me the wings to grow my staging business."

Congratulations to March Graduate Julie Huml of Divine Design who cleverly used a printed copy of the profile page I created for her in the Staging Diva Directory as a brochure, and was able to use it to convince a real estate office to let her present to their group. Two agents have already expressed interest in using her staging services. Very clever 'repurposing' of your Directory content Julie!

Staging Diva Students and Graduates, send me your successes so we can celebrate your triumphs and inspire others!

Staging Diva In the Media

Watch for a feature story with my tips on how homeowners who aren't moving can maintain the "model home" look that stagers achieve in Dream Homes and Condos Magazine.

I give lots of examples of the things stagers help clients with and how having that objective eye can make life much easier. The story will also feature the Staging Diva Directory of Home Stagers so that readers can find a stager to help them whether they are moving or not.

The magazine is distributed f/ree throughout the GTA area with a distribution of 50,000. It should go out this fall, I will keep you posted on the date.

Watch for a feature story on low-cost kitchen makeovers in the Back to School issue of Together Magazine this fall.

Like many writers, this reporter realized that instead of contacting kitchen designers, she'd help readers more by talking to a home stager. In addition to several of my tips and my own before and after photos, I'm expecting links back to stagingdiva.com and sixelements.com to provide new project leads for graduates of the Staging Diva Program.

With a circulation of 350,000 this magazine is distributed through local public schools and at Canadian Wal-Mart stores.


  And for both US and Canadian Graduates, I'm really excited about the home staging story for this fall's Better Homes and Gardens.
With a circulation of over 38 million, this article will send significant traffic to the Staging Diva Directory of Home Stagers this fall! To buy a tiny ad in Better Homes and Gardens costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. The value of being part of the editorial content is even higher because readers put more faith in editorial than advertising.

For less than the cost of an evening out (or a Yellow Pages ad), you can be part of the Staging Diva Directory of Home Stagers! Once I build your profile page for you (you don't need to know anything about websites), I "host" your information on the Staging Diva Directory of Home Stagers for only $45/month. You'll be advertising your business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on a site that I work on getting visitors to, so you don't have to! If you're a Graduate of the Staging Diva Program, I don't know what you're waiting for!

More information on how it works and how to get listed in the Directory.

A growing number of reporters are grabbing their stories right off my websites without even interviewing me. If any of you see me in a local paper or magazine, I'd appreciate you letting me know! I'd be happy to send you a thank you gift in exchange for a copy of the story!








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