The Importance of Contracts

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Author: Staging Career Center-Shell Brodnax (4 Articles)

Shell Brodnax President/CEO-RESA®, Staging Career Center Staging & Design Network Home Staging Industry Leader of the Year 2011 Stevie Award Finalists Best Executive Finalist 2010 Stevie Award Finalist Best Executive 2009 Central Valley Women’s Council of REALTORS® Business Woman of the Year 2007

I couldn’t help but recall a situation I had with a stager I was working with on marketing and business consulting. She sent me all of her marketing materials, contracts, invoices, policies etc. I go over everything and I was amazed at how many “holes” their were in her contract.

I had pointed out that she was really leaving herself open to all types of havoc because she was not having her contract clear on expectations, promises, deadlines and consequences. Her answer was “I don’t want to scare off potential clients” those things have not ever happened so why worry about it.

I explained to her that a contract not only protects YOU the business owner it also protects your clients.  It is so important to have a good contract. By not having a clause in about any one of a particular issue you open yourself up for disappointment, loosing money and hind sight thinking.

It is important for a contract to include:

Description of services: EXACTLY what you are going to do. List each room to be staged.

Payment Expectations: When it is due, what it covers, renewal fees, rental fees, pick up and delivery, payment methods excepted, bounced check fees. Also have the CC On file with a signature to bill and to bill for renewals should they not cancel etc.

Cancellation Policy: How many days before staging is it ok to cancel? Keep in mind once they sign you are out “staging” in your mind already and may be purchasing items for this specific project. Do you have a deposit? Is that refundable? If they cancel X amount of days before the staging fee they pay a % of the staging fee. Work what works for you and what you feel is fair.

Client Consent: Get permission from the client for you and anyone with you to enter their property. Get permission for you to be able to move around items.  Have anything listed that you are not to move.

Occupied Properties: Consent to use items, move items, rearrange items. Closets, cupboards, pantries, etc. Client should  agree to protect their valuables and or remove them for safekeeping.  Have them acknowledge that staging may require hooks, nails etc and small holes may be left and it is up to them to touch up anything upon sale.

Vacant Properties: Have the homeowner provide keys to the property so you do not have to rely on someone to let you in. Sometimes when we stage you have to make a store run and you need to be able to get back in. In addition, the key will be returned upon de-staging for the same reason and you will have access should you feel your inventory is in danger or the deal sours you can get your things.  Have a clause that if a dispute arises that the homeowner agrees that you can enter to retrieve your items.

Hold Harmless:They should agree to release, indemnify and hold harmless you and your employees, contractors suppliers etc. against any losses, liabilities, damages, injuries and expenses for any claims including attorney fees. etc.

Absence of Warranties/Guarantees: express that you can’t “guarantee” any particular results. You use your best professional efforts and the ultimate sale of the property is contingent upon the market, exposure etc.

Artistic Impressions: Ever stage and have the homeowner move around your work? Explain in writing that the client agrees not to alter any staging. Your staging is your work product and it will be seen by buyers and real estate agents. if they alter the work the public will feel that is a reflection upon the stager and it may not reflect positively. Acknowledge that it can be difficult to live in a staged home and if there is something they can’t live with due to function then to discuss it with you and you will find a solution. If it is just they think something will look better in another spot and you know it wont don’t compromise.

Photography and Publicity release:Let them know you may use photos in your marketing materials in print or on web. Nothing that will identify them personally will be released.

Pets:Pets are important!! Make sure client agrees to remove the pet while staging so you are not liable if Fido escapes and becomes lost or a DOA at the local shelter. Explain this is to serve in your clients best interest and pets safety.

Inventory Damage or Loss: Protect your inventory with photos and document each project. Make sure they don’t remove it. They should be responsible for loss or damage.

Renewing your contract: We are now doing 8 week contracts due the corrected market. After your contract term you should state what your renewal fees are , 2 weeks, daily, another month etc.

Scheduling/Rescheduling: What happens if you show up on the scheduled date and the pre-staging instructions were not done? they didn’t paint, clean the carpet, the house is a mess etc? If its vacant you shouldn’t put your inventory inside in that condition and if its lived in you can’t work in that environment. It only took 1 time for me to show up after packing the moving truck for 2 hours and driving 50 minutes to show up and the vacant condo 1. had the wrong key under the mat and 2. was a flippen mess in side. and yes they asked me to come back the next day. I was also paying an assistant. I made them drive the hour to get the right key and made them clean up the mess while I worked on workable rooms. Now, I have a $300.00 rescheduling fee if I show up and can’t stage at all. If I have to wait like I had to wait here for 2 hours to get the key, its $75.00 every 30 minutes and after 2 hours its rescheduled. YES its harsh but if they follow directions this will never happen. The penalty MUST be stiff enough so they will avoid this. My goal is to stage not to sit around and collect re-scheduling fees. and the fee is billed to the cc on file

Ownership of Property: have them sign off that they actually own the property.

Getting a Key: Get a key, so you can get your inventory out if you feel it is in jeopardy.

Absence of Warranties/Guarantees: You can’t “guarantee” anything.

The bottom line is you are a professional business person. You have the right to contract and should not feel guilty about it. If you were contracting with anyone for anything they will have a contract. When you rent a car their contract is HUGE. It protects them and protects you because it tells you what your rights are. Think how your client would feel if you had no contract or had a very flimsy contract? they will think you are not prepared, solid, professional and new. So Protect yourself, avoid disaster a solid contract makes for a “dream staging” and avoids NIGHTMARES.

Damage: How do you want to handle issues if you cause damage?

Insurance: Do you have it? Do you have them carry it?