Many real estate experts believe that the secret to selling your home fast and for top dollar is to hire an experienced professional to rearrange your existing furniture or to bring in furniture, accessories and art that will make your house look its best. Of course, staging a home requires an upfront investment, with most professionals charging $300 to $600 for an initial design consultation, and then $500 to $600 per month, per room. However, staged homes sell on average 88 percent faster and for 20 percent more than non-staged homes, according to industry data. If you’re considering hiring a home stager, start by asking your real estate agent for recommendations. Then meet with each one. Here, suggests 10 questions to ask to help you determine the best home stager for the job.


1. What training have you received?

You certainly don’t need formal training to have a great eye for interior design, but being accredited by the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) means that a practitioner is held to certain standards. To become a RESA member, stagers must pass an ethics exam, have home staging business insurance, and have at least one year of staging experience.


2. How many average days were your staged homes on the market last year?

Finding an experienced stager is important, but finding a successful one is paramount. Try to find a stager whose homes sell within 30 days, since that’s usually the point at which listing agents advise clients to make a price reduction.


3. What’s the typical price range of the homes you stage?

You want someone who specializes in staging homes that are similar to yours. For example, you wouldn’t want to hire a stager who specializes in luxury homes if you’re selling a starter home.


4. How do you stay on top of interior design trends?

The stager you hire should be able to explain how he or she keeps up with the furnishings and decor trends that attract buyers. Do they attend conferences? Do they actively preview new listings? Do they network regularly with other stagers and decorators to learn about the latest and the greatest design trends?


5. Can I see photos from your three most recently staged homes?

Asking a stager to see their portfolio might not yield an accurate representation of their work, as they likely will only show you their best work. Looking at stagers’ most recently designed homes will give you a better idea of the quality of their work.


6. What are your rates?

Most stagers charge a monthly fee, but some charge a flat fee per room for the duration of the listing. Obtain quotes so that you can budget appropriately. If you’re tight on cash, consider only staging a few rooms, especially the living room, kitchen and master bedroom—which make the greatest impression on home buyers, according to a recent National Association of Realtors survey.

Be aware that staging costs can vary depending on where you live. If your home is vacant, and you want the entire house staged, prices can range from as little as $975 a month (Indiana) to $5,500 a month (California), according to RESA. If the home has some furniture, you’re looking at between $700 (Iowa) and $4,800 (California) a month for a two-month staging contract.


7. How much time will it take you to stage my home?

Availability may end up being a determining factor in who you hire. If a stager says it’s going to take a week or longer, find out why.


8. Is your business covered by insurance?

There’s a chance your home could get damaged when the stager moves furniture in and out, so make sure the business has insurance to ensure you’re protected. For due diligence, ask to see proof of coverage.


9. What can I tackle myself?

A reliable stager will be honest with you about what projects you can do yourself to save money. For example, if only one room needs a fresh coat of paint, that’s something you can take on. Once hired, a good stager also will offer tips on small things that you can purchase to make your home more inviting, such as candles and fluffy towels for the bathrooms.


10. What style would you recommend for my home?


This is a bit of a trick question, but it’s worth asking. You don’t want to hire someone who has an overly narrow design aesthetic because you’re trying to cast the widest net possible.