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Intro to Home Staging: A Q&A with Nairn Friemann, MBA

By Jared Bernacchia (Class of 2017)

Are you in the middle of a career that you find yourself bored in? Looking to spice things up by tapping into your artistic and marketing abilities? Start your home staging business today!

Here at Purchase College, we offer professional certificate programs in an array of fields, including home staging. On March 12, I attended an intro to home staging course, taught by professional Nairn Friemann (president of her own home staging business, Ingenuity & Pizzazz, Inc., and the 2012 winner of RESA’s Professional Stager of the Year). The intro course, offered twice a year, serves as an “appetizer” of sorts for those who are intrigued by the possibility of getting into home staging, but not quite sure where to begin. While not a prerequisite, the course gives students a preview for what is to come in the three day program.

According to the our website, “Purchase College is proud to partner with the Certified Staging Professionals® to offer an intensive, comprehensive program taught through hands-on interaction, group exercises, role play, and in-depth practical application of work samples geared to prepare the participants to enter the staging industry with the confidence and experience necessary to succeed.” Before the class started, I sat down with Friemann to get her take on what home staging is all about, and what somebody who attends gets out of the program.

JB: Hey Nairn! Thank you for having me.

NF: Thanks for taking time to come down!

JB: Let’s get right down to business. What’s your take on these professional certificate programs that Purchase has to offer?

NF: I think it’s great to have these programs where people can test the waters with a couple of courses here and there. It’s a good way to feel things out, rather than sign up for three year programs.

JB: Today you’ll be teaching an Intro to Home Staging course. What’s today’s class all about?

NF: Today is, obviously, an introduction class to home staging. Basically, it’s an overview of the profession right now: the kinds of opportunities that any of these students might have if they choose to get into the world of home staging. Whether they choose to work with somebody, or they already have businesses and want to add, you’ll find with most of these classes that we have professionals coming in that are looking at home staging as an additional service that they can add to an existing business. We have other students that come in that watch HGTV and they say, ‘Oh! That looks like something interesting for me to do.’  A lot of people come in with a love for decorating and think that might be something they can actually turn into a paying job. I can’t teach them everything there is to know about home staging in three hours, but we do a pretty good job of providing them with an overview of what it’s all about, the opportunities, and the challenges as well. This is a good introduction to our three-day program, which is a certification course.

JB: Speaking of the certification course, what does it consist of?

NF: Two full days of classroom study, with homework and tests. On day three we go out and stage a house within this area. The students get a full day of hands-on staging practice on a real house that’s going on the market. They last few houses we’ve done have been homes that were already getting prepared. The homeowners just love that we were able to come in. It’s free for them, they get a staging day for no charge, and the homeowners are usually pretty thrilled with the results.

JB: So does this intro class have exercises, or is it strictly a lecture?

NF: No exercises, it’s me and a PowerPoint. I provide photos of some “befores and afters” and we’ll be talking about the kinds of challenges that home stagers have to deal with when they help home-sellers repair their properties for sale. But, it’s interactive, and we’ll definitely have some discussion. I could talk about home staging endlessly for weeks on end (chuckles), so this is strictly an overview. I have a lot of experience in this business, I’ve done a lot of staging, so it gives students an opportunity to ask questions they may have about actually working here in the tristate area. Although the general principles of great staging are very universal, how we do things here is very different than how it might be done in the Midwest or Florida. How the business is done here is very different, and I can answer questions for them about sourcing, rental furnishings, and that sort of thing.”

JB: Is this intro course a prerequisite for the certification program?

NF: Not at all, it’s simply meant to provide an overview of what we offer in the certification program. We offer these intro sessions twice a year: once in the fall semester, and once in the spring. We offer the CSP program three times a year: once in September, one in February, another in May. While this intro course is not a prerequisite, I think it does give people a taste for what’s going to be involved. It gives them an introduction to me, and they get to meet other people in the class. I’ve had groups in these intro classes where people in the class have come together and taken the three-day program, and sometimes  meet someone in these class that they’re actually going to be able to collaborate with on a professional level. It gives them a buddy system. They’re able to meet colleagues that they can stay in touch with and network with, and even call on if they need an assistant for a job.”

JB: When it comes to home staging, would you say that students benefit most from the in-person, on-campus training you offer? (As opposed to online courses in home staging)

NF: Certainly. The benefits of this in-person, exercise intensive training I believe is far more beneficial than doing an online training program. I really do not know how you can learn how to be a stager staring at a computer. I believe you need hands-on experience to get a real grasp of what home staging is. The classroom itself gives the student such an enriched learning experience because they have other people in the class asking questions, and they have the ability to ask me anything they want to ask. Purchase College really provides students in the area with this opportunity to come in and get some real, hands-on experience.

JB: I’ve heard/seen a lot of people compare home staging to interior design. Would you say the two are the same? If not, how do they differ?

NF: Home staging is very different from interior design. We always say, ‘staging isn’t decorating, it’s marketing’, so that’s one of the things we really get across in the intro class. A lot of people come with preconceived notions about what staging is, and we can really demonstrate to them that there’s a lot more to it than bringing it pillows and lights and flowers. There’s a far more strategic aspect to it. We really are merchandisers of real estate. It’s not just about making rooms look pretty, it’s about making them appeal to targeted buyers, showcasing the strengths of the property and eliminating weaknesses. It’s a serious business. Previously, there were three criteria to selling real estate: location, size and price. But now, there are five: you have to add presentation and condition. The factor that has changed the sale of real estate so much is the Internet, because it’s the website photos that draw traffic to your property for buyers to look at. If they’ve got bad pictures on the website, people just don’t come. So, our job is to come in as the presentation expert and do a lot of the condition work. We have trades people, painters, floor guys, cleaners, window washers, whatever may be needed, we do a lot of that. You also have to be aware of the curb appeal, what people see on the outside of the house. If people don’t like that first impression, they don’t even come.

JB: Thank you for taking time to speak with me, Nairn!

NF: You’re welcome, and thank you again Jared!

After I spoke with Nairn I asked a few students about why they were taking the Intro to Home Staging course, and what they hoped to get out of it. Here’s what they had to say:

“I’m looking to make a career change. I’ve been a corporate executive for many years, and I have a very good eye and a very strong artistic sense. I’ve gutted and renovated several homes on my own and it’s probably one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. At this point in my life, I’m looking to do something fun, because the corporate world isn’t fun anymore. Home staging looks like a great path for me to go down.” – Loretta Berardi

“I’ve worked in the corporate world for a long time, and just like Loretta I’m looking to make a career change. I’m looking for a career with more flexibility, a little more independent in nature so I can spend more time with my family. Home staging can provide me with more opportunity to have a career where I can spend more time with my loved ones.” - Karen McCathron

“In June I’m retiring after teaching for 34 years in North Salem. I’m ready to do something different; I’m not really sure that home staging is the way for me to go, but I know it’s an area that I’m interested in and I’ve told by family and friends that I have good eye for. I’ve never done anything professionally or renovated any houses yet. I mean I’ve decorated my house over and over again, but that’s as far as it goes. I’m ready to do something different in my life, and I think home staging is something that I’d like to explore.” - Dawn Schmidt

I’d like to give a special thank you to the talented Nairn Freeman for taking time to speak with me. Registration is now open for the next Home Staging Certification program, which starts May 3 and runs to May 5. For more information on the certification program and other programs we offer, check out our website!

Happy home staging! :)