Your first home staging contract may have been close to cave-man sophistication -- Something like, "I stage. You pay." Maybe you even did it on a handshake. With each transaction, we all learn a little more and that wording gets more precise. Your contract becomes a living document, growing and changing with experience.
Through 11 years in the business and $2 Billion worth of real estate staged and sold, we have refined our process and want to save you from learning some of those lessons the hard way.
By the way, instead of calling it a contract, which has such negative connotations, it just sounds more friendly to refer to it as an AGREEMENT....Don't you agree?
1. Always get a signed agreement and down payment before beginning any work. This is first because it is the most important. We can't possibly stress this one enough!! We do not even put it on our schedule until we have those 2 things. This means not only do you not stage without seeing the $...you do not plan...you do not purchase...you do not pull...you do not pack...without at least a credit card on file.
(Ok, fine, yes, there are exceptions like large volume builders where you have an ongoing account with repeat business. Those typically pay a month late, but they do pay. But your neighbor or cousin is not the exception - They are the worst at paying, because they do not see this as a business relationship.)
2. 72hr notification is required for de-staging or a $_____ fee will apply. Their emergency is not your emergency! If you allow your clients to believe that it is ok to let you know at 4:30pm that the house is closing tomorrow morning, then guess when they are going to let you know each time? Set clear boundaries, and then you have the flexibility to extend grace if you want to. Remember that furnishings must be removed prior to closing, or they become the property of the new homeowner.
3. Home must be clean prior to staging. NO construction workers in home day of stage and while staged. A $_____ fee will apply if home does not meet these requirements. We are in the business of staging, not janitorial services (unless you choose to add that service). It is not our job to clean the dust off the fan blades, or wipe down the counters before adding accessories. We can't tell you how many times we have been told that the painter 'just needs to do a few touch-ups' -- not around my white sofa! Or my personal fav was when the builder wanted to refinish the floors and said they could just move our things out of the way and back again. Um...no! If the home is not completely ready, wait until it is before bringing in your inventory. Which brings us to the next item:
4. Only (insert your company name here) staff is allowed in the property during staging/de-staging. Working around other contractors will slow you down, and having the homeowner or agent there will triple the time it takes you to stage. Here is how we kindly explain it to clients: "For insurance reasons, we cannot allow anyone else in the home during the staging process. If anyone were to trip over a ladder or a bin, we would be liable. Also, it is so much more fun to walk in for the reveal!"
5. Electricity, plumbing, and air-conditioning/heating need to be turned on and working or a $____ fee will apply. We have had to stage in 107-degree weather with the windows painted shut, and pee in a paint can behind a bush. Therefore the hefty fee, which we distribute to our stagers who had to do hardship duty. Pro Tip: Always make sure the water is running before using the facilities and always carry a roll of toilet paper. Don't ask me how I know. I just know.
One of the themes you may have noticed in most of the above clauses is a fee for non-compliance. This is important to note because without that fee, it is just a request. There has to be a painful consequence. In fact, legally speaking, a contract is not a contract without some sort of 'valuable consideration'.
Bonus Clause: Client agrees to allow (insert your company name here) to photograph the property before and after the work is completed, and to use all such photographs for reference and marketing purposes. Get that signed permission up front. Those pics are going to help you get the next job.
What clauses have you added to your staging agreement? Share your story in the comments below about how that one got added. We could use a good laugh...or a good cry...
Our complete contract, plus all of the forms, agreements, checklists, etc that we use in our own business are included in the Staging Design Professional™ Expert Course.
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