Anybody can stick a bunch of letters behind their name. ASP®, RESA®, CSP® AHS, LEED AP, PhD. YADA. YADA. YADA. Do those letters mean anything? Well in the case of PhD, RN, and Esq., yes, they do. In the case of PhD only a person holding a Doctor of Philosophy degree can use these letters, RN is for Registered Nurses, MD for Medical Doctors, Esq. for a person practicing law. But what are all those other letters behind your staging professional's name and what did they do to earn them?
Designations in the Home Staging Industry
Really when it comes down to it, the letters ASP®, RESA®, CSP® AHS, mean that somebody paid a fee of somewhere between $200 and $2200, attended a class of 1-3 days, took an exam that is nearly impossible to fail, and continue to pay a yearly fee to keep that designation.
Check out the complete breakdown of requirements for each designation below.
These designations do not mean they are a better or worse stager than the next one with different letters behind their name. The staging industry is completely unregulated by any single agency. Like any other business, you must have a state issued business license to operate the business, other than that, it’s caveat emptor.
Fun fact: Caveat Emptor is a Latin phrase for "let the buyer beware." The term is primarily used in real property transactions. Essentially, it proclaims that the buyer must perform their due diligence when purchasing an item or service.
How To Find A Legit Home Stager
In order to find a home stager who is worth their salt it will, unfortunately, take research on your part. Like finding any good service provider, you will need to use your network.
Ask Your Realtor® And Network
The best place to start is with your Realtor®. He or she most likely knows all the local home stagers and has seen a vast majority of their work. If they don’t you may have another problem to deal with first. The next place to look is your friends and family network. Who sold their house recently? Who did they use? Did they do a good job?
After you have a list of names, head to the internet. Take a look at the stager’s website. Is it beautiful? I know that seems like a silly question, but you are relying on this person to make people fall in love with your most expensive investment. If they can’t build a beautiful, easy-to-use website, how in the heck are they going to make your house beautiful?
The only thing you should not pay attention to is the testimonials on their website. The stager has control over these and were able to pick and choose which ones they posted, and even more importantly, did not post. Outside reviews like those on Yelp, Google+ and Houzz are invaluable. Your home stager does not have control over these reviews. Read the good and bad reviews and see how your home stager responded to the negative ones. Did they conduct themselves in a professional manner?
Schedule A Consultation
Once you have this information, schedule a consultation. There is no standard for the price of a consultation. Many stagers charge a fee of $75 to $500 for the first consultation. (I personally think it is odd to make people pay me to sell them about my services, so our staging consultations are always free, but that’s just me.)
During the consultation, ask your home stager about their education. Spade and Archer requires all of our Design Managers to have a four year degree in interior design or a related field. That being said, a vast majority of the resumes we receive are rejected because the applicant does not have formal training. Find out how long your home stager has been working in the field and what they did before they became a home stager.
Every day I meet people who want to come work at Spade and Archer. A vast majority of them sell themselves on passion. They have no experience and no education in design and feel that I should hire them because they really, really, really like interior design. As much as I enjoy these people’s company, it is not a sound business practice to hire on passion alone. I hire based on education, experience and temperament, you should too.
Spade And Archer’s Unique Credentials
Let’s talk about the pink elephant in the room. My name is Justin M. Riordan, LEED AP. Yes, I too have a bunch of letters behind my name.
According to the US Green Building Council which regulates LEED Certification, LEED AP is a “professional credential earned by an individual person, and reflects a level of competence and education relating to green building.” LEED AP stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional. Keep in mind, completing the LEED AP exam is no easy task. There is only an estimated 30% pass rate.
Before I founded Spade and Archer Design Agency in 2009, I received my Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Hawai’i, was an architect for 7 years and a general contractor for 5 years. I spent six months preparing for my LEED exam and may well be the the only LEED AP home stager in the world. If you find another, send them my way, I’d like to shake their hand.
When it comes down to it, the letters after a home stager’s name, including LEED AP, have nothing to do with how competent a home stager is. There is no governing board who grants the right to become a home stager. Anybody who “says” they are a home stager “is” a home stager. The question is, are they a competent home stager?
The truth of the matter is, reputation is everything in this industry. Learn everything you can about your home stager and move forward from there.
Additional Resource: Requirements for ASP®, RESA®, CSP® AHS Designations
The following are the requirements for ASP®, RESA®, and CSP® AHS as of April 2016:
ASP® - Accredited Staging Professional
ASP® stands for Accredited Staging Professional®. The requirements for the ASP® designation are as follows:
• Pay $1,795.00
• Attend a three day course
• Pass an oral, open book exam. (When I called to ask what the pass fail rate was for this exam, I was told “Nobody has ever failed.”)
• Pay a yearly fee of $230
RESA® - Real Estate Staging Association®
RESA® stands for Real Estate Staging Association®. The requirements for the RESA® designation are as follows:
• Pay $235.00
• In 45 minutes or less, receive an 80% or better on an open book ethics exam with 20 questions
• Agree to follow the RESA® code of ethics
• Be in business for at least 1 year, as a professional home stager
• Have proof of home staging business insurance
• Have a business checking account
• Pay a yearly fee of $190
CSP® - Certified Staging Professional®
CSP® stands for Certified Staging Professional®. The requirements for the CSP® designation are as follows:
• Pay $2,199
• Attend a two day classroom course
• Attend a one day in-field, hands-on staging
• Pass an open book proficiency exam and practical assessment with a 75% or higher (When I call to ask about the pass fail rate, I was told if you do not pass the first time, you are welcome to come back again for free to try again.)
• Pay a yearly fee of $225
AHS Stands - Accredited Home-Staging Specialist
AHS Stands for Accredited Home-Staging Specialist. The requirements for the AHS designation are as follows:
• Pay $199
• Take a 4-5 hour on-line course or attend a half day or full day in classroom course.
• Pass an open book exam with an 80% or higher (When I called I was told that out of 10,000 attendees, one had failed.)
• Pay a yearly fee of $99