“Why did this staging job take so long?” ask the home seller?

I recently took a ‘quick’ staging job for a seller whose property had been on the market for about 5 months. She had already reduced the price from $2.788 million to $2.488 million. She asked me to come and take a look at it which I did do but before I went to her home I looked on the MLS listing to see what it looked like from the photos. Not bad really…lacked some personality but a bit of tweaking should do the trick.

After the consultation I went shopping for her at $150/hour (I don’t change my rate for shopping). Her biggest weak area was the master bedroom so we purchased some new bedding, faux fur throws, 2 slipper chairs, a gorgeous area rug from Country Furniture, table lamps from Villa Beau, cushions, towels, shower curtain and florals for her. She was ecstatic with all of my choices and we set a date to do the ‘tweaking staging’.

I brought my team in, Tamara MacDonald of Tweak Designs and Lesley Arnould of Embellished Interiors to assist me as I had another client I had to go and see right after this staging. If we didn’t finish then Lesley and Tamara could finish up.

The seller left for the afternoon and came back about 3 hours later. I thought we would be finished by then but there were a few things that held us up. We had to assemble a table, some lamps and iron all the bedding. The bedskirt didn’t quite fit so we had to fiddle with pinning it to make it look right. Thankfully this was not an IKEA table because as soon as I see an IKEA box, I groan. It’s never simple and I end up feeling incompetent because it takes way, way longer than I expect!

Putting together bedside table takes time…

We also had to get rid of more of her belongings that we were not using by putting it into the garage. No small feat since the garage was packed floor-to-ceiling already. This is quite typical of sellers and it’s best to recommend they have an off-site storage locker. It didn’t turn out to the ‘quick’ staging job as I thought but it was interesting!

The work we did vastly improved the look of the home and her master bedroom is gorgeous. The chairs hadn’t arrived from Jordan’s Furniture yet, so I didn’t take any photos. I will once they arrive so stay tuned. She has an offer as I type this post!

Meetup City Stagers December 11 Holiday Event with Ellie Hanson

One of the things I love about being in the real estate industry is all the different Meetup groups that are available. As a home stager we meet up regularly in the Greater Vancouver Area and call ourselves the ‘City Stagers Meetup’. We also have real estate investment meetups, builders and contractors meetups, women in business meetups and many others. I know you are likely to find many Meetups in your area that work for you. You can make great connections, rant and rave (if you need to), listen to industry-related speakers to know more about what they do so you can refer them, and overall feel that you are part of something bigger than your own small business!

On December 11th,, Ellie Hanson of NexTrendDesign is hosting the City Stagers event -with a twist! Ellie is offering a staging tour and some appies back at her home. You can tour 2 of her staged homes featuring her own original art.

Ellie Hanson florals

Ellie Hanson staged property

We’ll meet at 7 pm at the first staged home in Langley and then on to Morgan Creek/Surrey. Then we’ll gather at her home (Surrey) to enjoy the lights from our 5 Christmas trees and indulge in hot mulled cider and yummy appies and desserts. If everyone brings a plate of goodies to share, we’ll have a delectable variety of foods to sample.

For more information contact Ellie Hanson of NexTrend Design to RSVP.

Creating Your FANTASTIC Elevator Speech!

As a business owner you will be introducing yourself to other people on a regular basis. You need to have a quick 30 second infomercial ready about yourself when you meet someone for the first time. This is also known as your ‘elevator speech’. You will use this most often when you are networking and you have heard me say this a million times “Networking is one of your 3 ‘Must Do’ marketing strategies if you really want to grow your business”.

Here are a few key Networking Tips:

  • The way to make the most of attending a networking event is to come well prepared. Most networking events expect at the least, that you will introduce yourself through your ‘elevator speech’ and give others your business card. If you are a member of a networking group you may also be able to create a table display which gives you more visibility.
  • Before I go to any networking event I always like to set my intention so I know what results I expect to ‘get and give’ at a particular event. Networking does take work and it takes time. You need to attend often and follow up with people you meet. People need to KNOW YOU, LIKE YOU & TRUST YOU before they will buy from you. And they can’t do this from just one quick introduction!
  • To make the most of your time, it is best to have your website up and running even if it is not 100% completed. Most networkers will go directly to your website to learn more about you. Just like home staging you only get 1 chance to make a great first impression – so make the most of it!
  • Typically you have anywhere from a few seconds to give your elevator speech to several minutes. You might use it quite literally when you are in an elevator and someone asks you what you do. In some more structured groups like BNIs (Business Networking International) you may have 60 seconds to talk about yourself and let the other members know what type of ideal client/referral you are looking for.
  • If you are new to the world of networking and nervous, there is nothing that says you can’t type it up and have it on a piece of paper to read from. Or try writing just your few key points on index cards or in your phone to refer to if you need to. Most experienced networkers realize that we all started just like you! Go with a friend if you are really nervous or join a Toastmaster’s group to gain your confidence.

If you follow this simple proven 7 Steps to Creating Your FANTASTIC Elevator Speech Formula you can adjust it like an accordion. Write up 2 versions so that you have your ‘short version’ and your ‘expanded version’.

I’ll share mine with you here as if I was introducing myself as a Home Staging Expert and Instructor to a networking group. Script it so it is fairly conversational.

  1. Longer Version Elevator Speech
    1. Your NAME & Your BUSINESS NAME - Hello my name is Dana Smithers. I am a Home Staging Expert, founder and instructor of the PRES Staging Training programs.
    2. Who your IDEAL CLIENTS are - I teach and coach aspiring home stagers how to become successful and confident business owners.
    3. What your ideal clients STRUGGLE with - Many students are new entrepreneurs and have no idea even where to start to build their business. They struggle with lack of confidence in getting clients and with charging what they are really worth.
    4. What OUTCOMES you can help your clients with – I give them the tools and knowledge they need to create their marketing materials to attract their ideal clients.  With coaching they gain their confidence and understand the value of their services.
    5. What MAKES YOU DIFFERENT (your USP) – In the 5 day PRES staging course students gain in-depth business knowledge and actually go into real clients’ homes to apply what they learned in the classroom. Ours is the only course that is taught in one of the most successful staging rental companies so students get firsthand experience working with vacant homes. Because of the classroom training and practicum they gain their confidence quickly and they know what they need to do next!
    6. What is your CALL TO ACTION - If you would like to know more, I am offering $200 off for my next course but only until … (put a date in here) and if you know of anyone I offer a $100 referral fee. Class sizes are limited so act NOW!
    7. Use a MEMORABLE TAG LINE - We do more than just transform homes; we turn your passion into profit!


  1. Shorter Version Elevator SpeechI’m Dana Smithers a Home Staging Expert and Instructor of the PRES Home Staging Training programs. I teach and coach aspiring home stagers how to become successful and confident home staging business owners.

    As new entrepreneurs my students can struggle with lack of basic business knowledge and confidence. Our 5 day course provides them with both practical business knowledge and hands-on training in real client’s homes.

    Contact us before …(put the date here) you can save $200 on the next course. We don’t just transform homes; we turn your passion into profit!

Home Stagers Love to Work with Amazing Professional Organizers!

All home stagers benefit from having reliable, professional strategic alliances that they can refer to their clients when they cannot provide a required service, or do not want to do. One of my favourite alliances is with professional organizers. In Canada you can find them in the Professional Organizers of Canada (POC) Directory and in the United States you can find them in the National Association of Organizers (NAPO) Directory. Personally I really dislike doing professional organizing so I always refer my clients to people who love to do this.

At a recent Meetup City Stagers in Vancouver BC Heather Knittel and Susan Borax of Good Riddance shared their expertise with the group. Most of us in this Meetup are home stagers, decorators, designers and stylists. We occasionally have photographers or painters join us which makes it easy to meet other alliances.

A few days after that meeting a realtor called me from a home staging talk I had done with his firm. He needed someone to work with a senior couple who were downsizing and needed to get organized in a big way. Not me! So, I could proudly refer him to Heather and Susan with confidence since I had met them first hand and knew they would be a perfect fit for the realtor and his client! How great is that! We all come away looking professional and WIN-WIN all around. And I know that when Susan and Heather need a home stager they will think of me, or other stagers in the Meetup City Stagers group!

Make sure you highlight the best architectural features when selling…

‘The way you live in your home, is not the way you sell your house’ has been a PRES staging mantra for over 10 years now. We were staging this gorgeous heritage home in Vancouver and wanted to highlight the best architectural features. Currently you don’t really notice them.

The home seller was using this room as their family room. The furniture is not well placed and quite frankly it just doesn’t work as a family room. After trying a few different furniture configurations we decided that this room was not going to be a family room after all

As home stagers we often ‘think outside the box’ and see what we can do to enhance the look of each room making each room’s beauty stand on its own. So…

The wrong furniture in the wrong room in this Vancouver heritage home.

We took the existing dining room furniture from another room where it did not work either, and positioned it so that the architectural features of this gorgeous fireplace and baseboards were highlighted.

This room is an absolute delight now – sophisticated and gorgeous.

The home sellers loved the PRES home staging ‘new look’ throughout the home so much that they decided not to put ‘their home’ on the market until the following year. It had never looked so good and flowed so well as it did when we were finished. High praise for us… not so good for the realtor (although he did make the sale the next year)

Have you ever made a bed out of shower doors? PRES stagers have!

Stagers always need to ‘think outside the box’ to create new ways of using furnishings that help us create the right look. For example during one of the PRES staging training classes we needed to create a guest bedroom downstairs. During my consultation I had recommended to the seller that they purchase 2 blow up beds – she felt she could use the beds for company when she moved. Like many home sellers, she had good intentions but ran out of time, money and energy. In this case she ran out of shopping time and so, we only had one blow up bed.

One of the things I love most about going into a seller’s home is to find what creative ways we can repurpose something to make it work for us. So my thinking was ‘okay we need to make this room into a bedroom – do we have any bins we can use to create a base? and something to put on top? I eventually ended up going into her garage a voila – 2 shower doors. Crazy idea but it worked!

Guest Bedroom not happening here…

A guest bedroom that needs to be staged.

A little creativity…

Hmm let’s try these shower doors!

And a great guest bedroom for showing!

Voila a nice looking guest bedroom!

Now a little ‘Please do not sit on the bed sign and this room is staged!’

How To Select Rental Furnishings For Vacant Home Staging

During the 5 day PRES signature Home Staging Training course, we train in one of the largest rental showrooms in Vancouver, Fluff Rentals. One of the advantages is that students get real hands-on experience and learn the process involved with selecting rental furnishings.

I’m happy to share the PRES Vacant Home Staging process that we use when renting from Fluff Designs. Of course there are variations on this method and your rental supplier may work differently with you and your clients!


1. Take photos of each room or area
2. If there is a floor plan work with this as well – if not, hand sketch a floor plan- *For computer software space planning you can try “Better Homes and Gardens Home Designer Suite” by Chief Architect for about $100. Another program is ‘Dream Draper” – www.dreamdraper.com . For more sophisticated software try what the design industry uses such as Autocad, Vectorworks and Sketch-up.
3. Print your photos ( 4x 6 or 5 x 7) in mat finish and put them on paper 8 /12 by 11
4. Determine by looking at the photos what you need in each room/area – start making a list room by room of everything you need in it e.g. living room needs a sofa, 2 chairs, coffee table, 2 end tables, 2 lamps or 1 table lamp and 1 floor lamp, area rug 5 x7, tall plant, 3 small vases with twigs accessories, 1 large piece of art, 2 small pieces of art,
5. Once you have your room list make an Item List indicating which room/area it is for e.g. Furniture – sofa – living room, 2 chairs, living room; Lamps – ,
6. Source the furniture using your ‘colour story’ as your basis – sometimes a piece of art can be a good starting point and/or your colour scheme – big pieces first eg. Sofa, chairs, dining room table and chairs, then plants/florals/trees then smaller accessories. Accessories can take a long time so give yourself lots of time to do all of the sourcing.

Fluff Tour Students Looking at Accessories & Art

Students’ tour looking at accessories and art.

Fluff Sofas and Casegoods – such a great selection

Students’ tour looking at sofas and casegoods.

7. The Fluff team will give you sticky notes to designate your selection and a trolley/cart. Tag the bigger pieces of furniture and the rest goes on the trolley/cart.
8. Once you have selected your items let the Fluffians know and they will make up a quote for you. If all looks good with the quote (within the budget you were working with) go ahead and have them send it to your client. (It is best not to send them the itemized list as they won’t know what it means)
9. The client signs the rental agreement and pays for the first month rentals. You can decide if you want to bill the client directly for the rentals and perhaps mark up the rentals, OR you can have your client deal directly with Fluff.
10. You request Fluff to set up the movers for the delivery. Let them know what day and find out what time they will arrive. Let your client know this.
11. When the movers arrive on the delivery day they will start to bring in your order – have them put the furniture where you want it and start unpacking the bins.
12. You will sign for the delivery and your installation work is finished once you have everything set up.
13. Make sure you have determined a place for storage for all the bins, etc. and not in a spare bedroom – check closets or the garage.
14. Keep in touch with your client to find out when the property is sold. You then need to arrange for the movers to come and pick everything up and you put the smaller items back into the bins.

Fluff Art Selection for Color Story

It’s a good idea to select art from the same family.

The Power of ‘Giving’ in Business

We all know the importance and role that we as business owners can play in giving to charities that need our support. For years now the PRES Staging Resource Centre requests that all training home clients make a donation to their charity of choice, instead of paying us for the home makeover. This has amounted to thousands of dollars and is win-win for all concerned.

This article isn’t about giving to charities though. It’s about giving gifts that you as a home stager can offer your prospects, your clients, your strategic alliances and anyone who knows about your business.

Giving means to ‘make a present of something’. The thing about giving is that it makes you feel good AND it makes the recipient feel good. And in business it’s another way for you to get your name out there and to be remembered – in essence it’s all part of your marketing strategy and it does work.

5 Ways You Can Give Your Gifts

You might be wondering as a home stager what you do have to offer in the way of gifts. You have lots to offer! Let’s take a look at a few ways of getting your name out there in a really ‘feel good’ way.

  1. Give the Gift of Your Free Ezine… if you haven’t started writing an ezine (enewsletter) yet now might be a good time to start thinking about that. People love to get ezines that are full of great content and high value to them as a reader. You start to build a relationship with them so that in time they get to know you, like you and trust you.
  2. Give the Gift of a Free Home Staging Job … for a fundraising event or as a door prize. I’m not suggesting you do this one a lot but doing one of these once a year can get you some great exposure. And by doing the work you may just get yourself a client from it – and maybe some referrals!
  3. Give the Gift of Referrals… there will be times as a home stager that you cannot meet the needs of your prospects or clients. By referring someone to them this is a great way of looking good even though initially you may feel that you are losing business. The person you referred may compensate you with money or by giving you a referral when they need someone with your qualifications. Networking groups are fantastic ways to find people you would refer, and to let people know who they can refer to you.
  4. Give the Gift of Speaking… many home owners love to hear talks on how they can prepare their property for selling. Having done hundreds of talks myself, the interesting thing is that every time I do a ‘free’ talk at a library, a school, a trade show or a community center – I always get clients! Many of the attendees start out thinking they can stage their own home but the reality soon sets in that they need to call in the professionals – and that means you!
  5. Give the Gift of A Thank You Card… in today’s high tech low touch world we all receive too many emails. While saying ‘thank you’ in an email is nice, it’s far better to send a real greeting card with a heartfelt message. Whether you use an automated greeting card system like Send Out Cards, or you have your own cards, take a few minutes to keep in touch with your prospect or client. If you send the right message and include your business card, people will remember this far more than an email.

Give without expectations of what will come back to you. I know that sounds like a contradiction yet I have found when I just give freely some pretty amazing gifts come back to me – some I couldn’t even have imagined!


My Heart Goes Out to the Grieving Sellers

Over my 10+ years of working with sellers I’ve seen a ‘roller coaster’ of emotions that surface from that first consultation and sometimes long into the new home. Sellers who are happy about moving usually work more quickly because they see an end goal in sight that motivates them. For sellers who really don’t want to move, they experience a lot of angst, feelings of being overwhelmed, loss, fear and even anger. It slows them down and the process can sometimes come to a halt.

I’ve been invited to work with a realtor with a seller whose wife is in a care home and he now faces the inevitable of living a life without his wife of over 30 years. The home they live in is ‘full-to-spilling over’ of their life together. It’s full of memories of children and relatives and there isn’t a wall in the home that isn’t covered in photos and mementos. Being a religious family as well several rooms are dedicated to icons and religious paintings. They have truly created their memories in this home and now, we come in to change it all.

My heart goes out to the husband and the daughter I met, but in the end the inevitable can’t be postponed. I hope as a team – the realtor and home stagers – that we help the family – step-by-slow-step to make the transition as easy for them as we can. They have already postponed the initial staging prep work once, and they may still need more time to pack up a few more mementos before we come back in.

Your blessings for them are welcomed…

Function Is Always FIRST When Staging a Property!

During the PRES 5 day course we go into real client’s homes and practice staging a home for selling using the client’s existing furnishings, or some purchases they may have made to enhance the look of the property. In the case of this 1910 heritage home we had the home seller buy a few plants and search her cupboards for some vases and other accessories that she normally didn’t have displayed in her home.

Like most busy moms with two young children a lot of the home was dedicated to making it easy and enjoyable for the family and to have the children on the main floor with all their toys. For selling the first thing we take into consideration is ‘FUNCTION’ in other words what would a prospective buyer for this home, want it to look like with that first impression….

So …while this room for living was their family room – sectional, desk, hutch but no eating area.

Original dining room is being used as the family room for living.

We turned it back into a dining room. This is what the buyer needs to see – a space that works for them to dine at. The home seller had this in storage so it was easy to set this room back up!

Very inviting and spacious dining room big enough for a family gathering!

This living room was the ‘kids room’ with the television and lots of their toys all around the room.

Living room before set up for the children.

We turned this back into a living room since it is the first room the potential buyer will see when walking into this home.

Functional living room inviting and spacious!

Seller is delighted with the results and is hoping for a quick sale…stay tuned!