December 2, 2023

The real estate market in Canada continues to break records and some studies show a professionally staged home with modern furniture and artwork could sell for up to ten per cent more.

While professional stagers own or rent the items they place in homes, there is concern some stagers could be taking advantage of return policies at home improvement stores.

“It’s happening a lot. We see it all the time,” Sylvia Ioannou of Scarborough, who works for a home improvement store, said.

Many sellers will use the services of a stager in preparing their home for market to make it look its best and to increase its asking price. A professional who brings in furniture, art and lamps could charge thousands of dollars.

Ioannou said some stagers are constantly buying items only to return them weeks later and she is concerned because the items have to be cleaned and repackaged and her employer doesn’t make any money.

“They have admitted to me they are stagers and they do what they have to do. Sure enough within a week or two they are back returning things and buying something else,” Ioannou said.

Ioannou said some real estate listings show lamps, tables and other items that still have the price tags attached to them.

The practice may not be illegal, but some in the home staging industry say it’s unethical.

“We consider it unethical and it’s a form of theft when you think about it,” Nicole Schenk, the president of Ontario’s Real Estate Staging Association, told CTV News Toronto.

Schenk said she’s aware the practice is happening, but says professional stagers don’t often abuse store return policies.

“Any professional stagers that I know, none of us do this and quite frankly we are too busy to be doing that. We either carry our own inventory or rent from other sources,” she said.

Retailers say the practice is known as “wardrobing.” 

The staging association says its industry is not regulated, but that stores dealing with repeated returns may want to review their return policies.

The Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) North American CEO Shell Brodnax issued a statement to CTV News that said, “RESA is the trade association for professional real estate stagers. RESA does not condone real estate stagers buying inventory, using it and returning it.”

“In reality, if this happens it is likely happening with new people who may be operating as a hobby, rather than a professional business. Professional businesses would not source inventory, use it, then return it. They purchase inventory and keep it for years, using it over and over.” 


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