The Truth About the Best Home Staging Certification

There is a lot of talk about home staging certification from students wanting to pursue the best path toward a new career. Questions aren’t always being answered completely truthfully because most of the parties providing information are trying to sell their own program. Even an organization that claims to be some kind of industry regulator is really just trying to sell.

During my time in this industry, it has turned into a confusing and misleading tangle of marketing messages. Let’s unravel this and get to the actual truth about what the best home staging certification is and whether you need it.

Unlike some of the other sources of information out there, you can believe what I say because as a semi-retired home staging instructor, I have more of an interest in setting the record straight about the industry than I do in selling anything. Yes, there are affiliate links in this article and elsewhere on the site. This simply means that I make a small commission for telling you my opinion. It’s a small percentage compared to what I would make selling you my own program, so I hope you realize that must mean I’m being perfectly honest here.

Also, if you’re not into reading the blunt, honest truth about all of this, you should stop now. I hope you keep reading though.

The Best Home Staging Certification, Is It Even Necessary?

Before we get into the details of all of this with certification and accreditation, let me address my position in all of this.

School of Home Staging Background & Certification Philosophy

In the past, I owned a school that was one of the first home staging training programs. Students wanted certification because the idea was already out there that it was necessary (we’ll discuss that in a moment). My program began offering certification eventually, because after careful consideration it seemed like something that would help people feel confident in the new career that they were starting.

How SHS Certification Works

It was not something we charged an exorbitant price for. That’s why we still offer certification to this day here at SHS. People like having it as an option. With SHS, the certification doesn’t represent the fact that someone simply paid a course fee and became certified. It’s based on an evaluation process. After a portfolio review and some final exam questions, a stager can receive our CHS certification.

We don’t overcharge and we don’t require any recurring membership fees. Our certification means the stager’s work is high-quality and worthy of having clients pay for this work.

New home stagers like being able to start off a career with the knowledge that their work is professional-level. With our program, a home stager can either follow our course or be self-taught and then come to us for certification. Our free staging course material is available on the site for anyone who wants to learn.

Transparency in Staging Education

Throughout our site you will see that we are consistent and transparent about certification and the fact that it is not an industry requirement. We offer it as a way for new stagers to know that their work is where it needs to be.

So in this way, it may not be an industry-wide standard but it is an institutional standard that we have here. We don’t “rubber stamp” anyone. We go over the final exam carefully and whenever necessary, we provide additional direction to students if the work is not quite there yet. We allow exam re-takes at no charge.

History of Home Staging Courses

I’ve been involved in home staging and training since about 2004-2005. Back then there was Barb Schwartz and the Staged Homes program, which was an expensive, in-person seminar that you could attend. This is I believe where the whole certification thing started. You could become an “accredited” staging professional with their program.

The Internet Marketers Discover Home Staging

By the time my previous school began offering certification, the notion had spread that it was necessary. A couple of the earliest programs were started by people who were really just internet marketers who stumbled into a profitable niche, what they call a “starving crowd”.

Who was the starving crowd? People, mostly women, who wanted to pursue a new career in this newly-named thing called home staging. (We can save the debate about whether someone “invented” the concept of home staging for another time.)

There was no established criteria or method for gaining this education and the market was wide open for people to start selling expensive training. One of those is a huge school right now, that also morphed into this other entity that purports to be an industry authority. But we’ll talk about that whole thing in a minute.

Anyway, I know all of this because I was involved myself, setting up a training program in 2005, although in my case I had staged homes beforehand ? I wasn’t a professional internet marketer looking for a money-making niche. Secondly, I made it my mission to provide an affordable training program, charging about 1/4 of what others did. I wasn’t looking to swoop in and prey on people’s dreams of changing their life with home staging. I was trying to help people who were very much like myself. In fact, I was concerned early on about the way the training industry was taking shape. (You can see my story here.)?

Staging Diva

Another program that began around the time I did was the . This program took a firm stance at the time about certification. They would not offer it because they were honestly stating that certification isn’t really a thing, it’s all basically made up by the schools selling it. The Staging Diva, Debra Gould, has stuck to this position all this time even as I’m sure they’ve had people ask for it just as they asked me.

Why Certification Exists

Certification exists because it helped programs early on in adding credibility and justifying the high prices they wanted to charge.

Certification Is Crucial In Some Careers

Think about what home staging is ? it’s a very specific form of decorating. That’s all it is, really.

Now think about other careers that come to mind when you use the word certified or certification: financial planner, accountant, veterinary technician, pharmacy technician… these are things that have serious consequences if someone is operating without a very specific education and level of competence! These are careers that should most definitely require a certification. And there are industry-wide standards.

Standards for Staging?

Despite what any home staging schools or organizations want to tell you, there are no industry-wide standards in the business. I mean they let you know that somewhere in the fine print but the message they’re selling is that “they” represent the industry standards.

They don’t though. Nobody does. One organization or school is not “the industry”.

Home staging certification became popular because the audience, the customer base, was receptive to the idea of needing approval by a third party. I mean it is understandable, with people changing careers and wanting to feel like they’re really ready to go out and start charging clients.

I’m OK with certification being an optional tool, a way of establishing that one’s skill level meets or exceeds what you’d expect for professional-quality work. But I’m not OK with making it seem like the only way to be “allowed” into the business is via a certain school and their high-priced credential.

That Time When a Supposed Industry “Accreditor” Appeared

This part is where it goes really awry. Everything was going along smoothly and the training industry was developing. Then one day in 2007, an organization appeared and it seemed to proclaim that it was somehow an industry authority. This was made up of staging trainers and again, internet marketers. Some of the schools and trainers who are not part of this certain group of gals did not and have not ever gotten involved with this.

There Is Not An Industry Authority

All of this is just to try to correct some of the misguided statements and confusing information. As a home staging instructor with experience dating back to years before this organization was even registered as a domain name… I have not sought out any approval or accrediting for my prior school or this one. Why would I? I don’t need my training signed-off by anyone. I certainly don’t need to pay about $800 (last time I looked) for an organization to comb through my materials and bestow some meaningless approval upon me. And then be locked into the organizations bylaws, membership fees, and whatnot. I certainly don’t want my students to think that in addition to training, they also need to pay for expensive membership dues anywhere.

Home Stagers Should Network Locally

I mean networking is fine, memberships are sometimes useful, but as a home stager you don’t really need to be concerned with joining a national organization and meeting up in Nashville or somewhere once a year. I do love Nashville, but home staging is local. Network locally. Meet agents and make connections in your community. Unless you’re running a national business or an online business, you don’t need to be concerned with seeking customers or connections outside of your area. Oh wait, that’s what they’re doing ? remember, these are internet marketers. Of course they want stagers from every corner of the world to think that this membership (fee) is crucial to success… it isn’t.

If you think that there’s a scenario where someone from another city that you met at a meetup or event in yet another city is going to somehow end up getting you a client in your city as a result… well, it’s not impossible, but it’s very unlikely. Your time would be better spent making local connections!

It’s All About the Recurring Fees

In marketing, recurring fees are the ultimate goal. The Holy Grail. Once you have gotten the customer, you can just keep charging them for the same thing again and again. This is the real reason why such organizations and entities exist. Networking and education is part of it, but the point is really the membership fees. Otherwise, if someone was so concerned about the industry and its professionals, why not make it a one-time fee? Or less expensive? Or free? $190-250 per year is a lot for this type of membership, in my opinion. They can also sell you a website based on their templates. How convenient.

Certification is Not Required

The takeaway here is that there is no requirement for any specific certification in this industry. And you do not have to be a member of any organizations.

Certification can be useful.

Certification can be a marketing tool.

Certification can give you the boost of confidence that comes from knowing that you’re working at a professional level. (That is, IF the school actually evaluates your individual portfolio.)

Just take all of the marketing messaging that’s out there in this field with a grain of salt. There are some very savvy people behind a lot of it, with extensive internet marketing backgrounds. It can take a lot of close reading and critical thinking to sort through all of it and determine what’s really going to be the best home staging certification for you, and the answer may be that you don’t even want one. Some schools and organizations exist in cooperation with each other in a partnership that helps them both sell more by perpetuating perceptions about made up accreditations and designations.

I hope this helps you and I hope you find the right program. Programs that I recommend include the Staging Diva program (no certification, like we discussed earlier) as well as the QC Design School double certification in home staging and redesign. QC is good if you decide that you do want the double cert. If not, . Another option is to go through our free course material right here on our site. The course menu is located in the right sidebar. And if desired, you can take our exam to become a CHS.