“You Charge How Much?” Behind the Scenes of a Home Staging Job

I frequently get calls asking how much it costs to stage a vacant house. Many times, there is a pause, and then a reply of “Thank you….I’ll be in touch.”

Though the fees to stage a house do add up to be a fairly costly investment, it will always be far less than a price reduction.

So how does the home stager justify the staging fee he or she charges?

Before a single piece of furniture is moved, the home stager already has many hours logged in the process. The organization, coordination and implementation of a staging action plan is no easy feat. It requires concentration, vision, a strong back and lots of Ibuprofen to turn a house into a property that visitors will buy. But good home stagers have a passion for making magic happen in a house. Second only to motherhood, it’s the hardest job I’ve ever loved.

What follows is the tale of a vacant home staging, albeit not a typical one. Normally, things run smoothly and everyone is thrilled with the completed project. This story not only illustrates how time-consuming and frustrating staging can be, but how a good stager will do whatever it takes to make the client happy…..and will do it with a smile!

I receive a call from a Realtor who is listing a vacant house owned by a relocation company. This Royal Oak house has been on the market for 6+ months with no offers, and has had at least one price reduction. The Relo company needs a couple of bids ASAP to stage the property. The Realtor gives me basic info about the house—the square footage, layout and which rooms they would like staged with rental furniture and accessories. I inform the Realtor that I can send her a rough estimate that evening, but that it may need to be adjusted once I actually see the property. It may not be exact, but it will be close. I normally tour the house first before giving a bid, but this was an exception.

Friday evening:
I research furniture options online with the knowledge of the house’s location and price, and prepare a quote based on my past experience with staging homes. The quote includes furniture rental (with set-up and delivery), accessory rental (from my inventory) and the staging fee.

The Realtor informs me that the relocation company has approved my bid, and all systems are “go”. I drive to the house, review measurements, plan the furniture arrangement and take photos. Study the photos at home, research furniture options, change the family room furniture selection, adjust the bid and resubmit. I inform the Realtor that the credit application needs to be faxed to the furniture company, after which they will send the official lease agreement. The lease agreement will need to be signed and returned by fax before any furniture is ordered. The staging agreement also needs to be signed and faxed to me.

Discover the credit application has not been returned yet. Get a call later in the day from the Realtor asking how things are progressing. I reiterate that nothing can move forward until both agreements are signed and faxed.

Furniture company tells me they have the signed agreements and inquire as to which day I want the furniture delivered to the property. After a couple of emails back and forth, we agree on Thursday.

I take stock of my accessory inventory. As I already have 2 vacant houses furnished, most of my “good stuff” is already in use. I must shop. So, off I go on a shopping excursion, keeping in mind the style of the house, furniture selected and price point of property.

More shopping needed. Eureka! At store #4, I find a comforter set that will work just fine, with a little embellishment from pillows and a throw. Oops………now I realize that I need to buy some pumpkins for the front porch. Since the mums are fading and the annuals have long been pulled, the house needs some colorful curb appeal. Some silk mums will look fabulous in the window boxes. Luckily, there is a produce stand in the parking lot near Michael’s.

Time to pack. I transfer tables, patio furniture, towels, a shower curtain, linens, plants, candle holders, vases, pitchers, lamps, pillows, throws, statues, curtains, valances, plates, bowls, glasses, napkins, trees, cordless drill, tool box, etc. from their holding bins and bags to empty storage bins for travel. It occurs to me that it looks like Home Goods exploded in my basement! One by one, the bins and larger items are carried up the stairs and out to my Durango, lovingly named “Big Red”. After much pushing, pulling, cramming, rearranging, and the occasional curse, the car is loaded. I’m ready to stage!

The furniture company typically delivers between 9am and noon. I get to the house early and begin unloading. This house has an unattached garage facing a major Royal Oak road, a gate which does not open wide enough to let Big Red through, as well as a “no parking” sign in front on the residential street. So the unloading process is a bit more labor-intensive, as I must carry everything up the driveway and through the backyard to the back door. On my second trip, I twist my ankle on a 6-inch deep crater in the grass. Note to self…..remember to avoid that on subsequent trips! While waiting for the furniture delivery, I install curtains in the living room and valances in the family room. I remove broken pantry doors. I stage two bathrooms, the kitchen and the porch. As the ReLo company did not approve furniture for the living room, I use a rocking chair left behind with a throw, tree, table and lamp of mine to create a vignette. I use the previous dining table and chairs to set up a game table. Looks great. I’ve done all I can do until the furniture arrives, and it is almost noon. My phone rings, and it’s the furniture company confirming my delivery for FRIDAY! “No,” I say, “it was supposed to be delivered TODAY”. “No,” she says, “it’s on the schedule for TOMORROW”. Ugh. I head home.

I drive back to the house and wait for the furniture. Luckily, I am their first delivery of the day. They arrive, unload the furniture and leave. I stage the dining room, family room and master bedroom. I take photos and post the good ones on my website.

The Realtor informs me she has not been to the property yet, and requests that I email my photos to her. She forwards them to the Relo company.

The Realtor forwards an email to me originally sent by someone at the ReLo company. I’m not sure who this person is or what her title is, but I’m pretty certain she’s not a home stager. It seems they are not satisfied with the home staging, and they would now like additional furniture ordered for the living room. So I contact the furniture company, get prices, submit the second bid to the Realtor and wait for approval

Approval received from Relo company. Furniture ordered and scheduled for delivery Tuesday.

The living room is now furnished and staged. I retake photos and email them to the Realtor, who forwards them to the Relo company.

Hours invested: 15 (spanning 3+ weeks)Marianne Sweet
Hours billed: 6
Miles driven: 135
Getting the email from the ReLo company saying “this is EXACTLY what we wanted!”………….PRICELESS!

So, I have one request: Be Kind to your Stager!!


  1. says


    It is so good to read you post and realise that we are all in the same boat in this gig of staging (even across the other side of the world in Australia).

    You are so right, we often spend more time on the job than we get back financially and it is important for people to realise the value they get in using a stager.

    Top post.


  2. says

    I’ll tell you what else is priceless…this post! From one stager to another…kudo’s! And yes, it’s definitely the hardest job I’ve ever loved!

    Have a great day,

    Susan Smith
    Rooms That Work

  3. says

    I am a interior decorator and I just got my first home staging job. Is there a contract that you are aware of that i could get on line to use as a prototype.
    Thanks for listening

    Interiors by Design

  4. Jodi Wood says

    I am an interior designer and have just been certified to do home staging….it is great to read about “a day in the life” of a home stager!! Very interesting and informative…Thank you!!


  5. says

    Just started my own redesign and staging company. I live in Coral Gables Florida and have no idea what to charge a real estate company to stage an emply home…. Can anyone help me on this….

  6. nadia says

    you can get a general cost base for staging buy looking up ‘What dose it cost to stage a house ‘…..good luck

  7. says

    Hi Marianne,
    I love your article! Do I have your permission to re-print with credit given to you?
    I happen to be searching for something regarding justifying the cost of a staging consultation, etc., as this new potential client can’t understand this cost.

  8. says

    Certainly Peggy!

    It’s funny to me that after almost 4 years a) this post still pops up and b) it still represents most vacant staging jobs!

  9. says

    How much would i charge if home owner does not want furniture just bathrooms and kitchen.I dont recommend that, but that’s what they want.

  10. says

    Hi Marianne,

    I think this is absolutely beautiful and by your permission may I post this on my new home staging/styling/shopping blog? People really need to know what we do behind the scenes. Many Blessings! Sheri Rose LeDuc

  11. Dani Nisbet says

    Omg. So true! I am having a very hard time trying to figure out how to price for my jobs. I cannot seem to get feedback from anyone in my area as I’m competition! Any advice? Thank you!

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