Cindy Lin, Founder, Staged4more

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After a successful, 12+ years run as a home staging company in San Francisco Bay Area, STAGED4MORE is now an online school that focuses on home staging education for home stagers, home sellers and real estate agents.

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Why We Started Charging for Property Previews

Why We Started Charging for Property Previews

Recently, we made a decision to start charging new clients for property previews. It is not an easy nor a popular decision, since most stagers choose to not charge for a preview. So why did we do it?

Is it because we are greedy witches? No, we actually lose money on writing proposals either way. If we were to charge our normal consultation rate, the price of previews would triple. Not to mention we credit back half of the preview fee at booking. At the end of the day, when you do the math, we make less than minimum wage on proposals.


It seems very counter-intuitive. Why would we need to charge for a preview? Something seems so straight forward and simple. But the process actually takes awhile. Before we go out to visit the client, we speak with the potential clients on the phone. Then our Project Coordinator Anita sends out an email to confirm and see if there are any more questions that we can answer prior to the actual appointment. On average, before we head out of the door and get into the car, we’ve already invested 30-60 minutes in the process.

For the actual appointment, me & Yi Hsuen visit most of sites together, discuss the project design, and then draft the proposal. So by the time we sent out the proposal, we’ve invested another 4-5 hours.

We run a small shop, so we have to be efficient and conscious about the workload we take on. Because each project on average takes between 70-80 hours to complete, over time, we learned to be a little smarter about our time. After we started tracking our time, we realized that we were going on a lot of preview appointments to people who are just price shopping or not that serious about staging to begin with. They just want to “see how much it will cost” even after we already communicated our minimum and our normal project range.

That’s heartbreaking because that means we are sacrificing valuable time where we could’ve been working on the business to benefit our clients. Every time we go on a preview appointment takes time away from our existing projects: we can’t prep for existing projects in the pipeline, we can’t go shop for new props, we can’t meet with vendors or catch up on paperwork.

Before we rolled out this policy, we had a lot of back and forth discussions about this. After all, we had been in the business for 9 years and always offered free estimates. However, after a string of appointments that went nowhere, we realized that the appointments started putting stress on our workdays, especially when the housing market started to heat up. Several times, in the middle of prepping for jobs, we had to drop everything and leave to preview properties. That ate 2 hours out of the prep day. The potential clients were usually wishy-washy and wanted free information, even when we had prefaced that it was just for an estimate. Then we were back in the studio, racing, trying to finish the prep on time. It was not a good feeling.

After speaking with a few other stagers in my mastermind group who had implemented this policy with success, we decided to follow suit. Additionally, I remember back in my realtor days, the trainer always advised us to get buyers qualified financially before started working with them. Why? Because if they can’t afford to buy a house, there is no point to show them any houses. It is the same idea. In a way, by charging for previews, we are qualifying the new clients who had never worked with us before.

It’s been a month since we had rolled out this new policy, our booking rate increased and the workflow actually improved as well. We can now book appointments in advanced and manage our work days more efficiently.

What do you think? It was a difficult decision but in the end, we were happy with the responses. We still get the scoffs here and there, but those people are not the right customers for us.

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THIS? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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