How to Start a Home Staging Business
Do you have an eye for interior design? If you have a love for transforming rooms with carefully chosen and placed furniture and décor pieces, starting a home staging business may be a great way to turn your passion for design into a profitable business. Home staging has become a popular trend in real estate sales, so why not take advantage of the opportunity to capitalize on your skills and start a new career while being your own boss?
Home staging is a way to maximize a home’s sales price and sell it faster by arranging existing furniture and décor or adding new décor to a home to make it more attractive and appealing and emphasize its space and features. Home stagers work with the homeowner or the realtor and stage the home in an appealing way based on the client’s budget and prosective buyers’ anticipated needs and wants.
Home sellers will pay for home staging because their homes will sell faster and for more money, so they get a return on their home staging investment. This is why home staging can be a lucrative business. It also does not take a large investment to start the business. You may, over time, need to build up an inventory of staging items to use, but you can get started with very little out-of-pocket expense.
According to The International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP), in 2019, an estimated 5 million properties were bought and sold in the U.S., and approximately 1 million of those properties involved using a stager. The industry is growing because statistics show that homes that are staged sell as much as 30x faster and for up to 20% more, according to the IAHSP. Numbers like these are driving more and more home sellers and realtors to seek out home stagers, so your services will be in high demand.
There are two potential streams of revenue for home stagers. Most home stagers do paid consultations, meaning they make recommendations to the home seller or realtor about how to stage the house. According to the IAHSP, over 80% of those consultations lead to the second staging revenue stream – hands-on staging, where the stager comes back to actually perform the staging, either with the homeowner’s existing items or with items provided by the stager.
The housing market is currently very active, and with many homes on the market and a large pool of buyers, realtors know that the homes they sell need to stand out. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 47% of buyers’ agents stated that home staging had an effect on the majority of buyers’ view of the home, and 82% of buyer’s agents said staging a home made it easier for buyers to visualize the property as a future home.
Even if the real estate market slows down, sellers will still need to differentiate their homes from the competition, so the home staging industry should not be impacted.
The living room, master bedroom, and kitchen were ranked as the most important rooms to stage according to the NAR. Over 60% of stagers also make recommendations about flooring, counters, and paint, which could be an additional design revenue stream.
The largest target market for home stagers is real estate agents, particularly those who deal with higher-end properties. Networking with realtors is relatively simple and inexpensive and can have a very large return on investment. For sale by owner, home sellers are another target market and can be marketed to with direct mail or direct sales phone calls.
Skills, Experience, and Education Useful in Running a Home Staging Business
You don’t need a degree or certifications in interior design or business to run a home staging service, but there are specific skills that can help.
- Design experience. Even if you only have experience designing your own home, as long as you have a good eye for design for home decor and interior spaces, you’ll have an advantage.
You may think you have an eye but ask other people what they think of your decorating skills in your home or something else you’ve designed. You won’t get very far with your business if your clients don’t like your results.
- Knowledge of trends. It’s good to be able to keep up with design trends like colors and textures, and it’s easy to do by keeping an eye on design publications and sites like Pinterest.
- Business knowledge and experience. While a home staging business is not complicated to run, it’s good to have some knowledge of marketing, contracts, and finance/accounting. Taking a home staging course will provide professional development to excel in this industry.
- Customer service. You’ll need to be able to build rapport with your customers and provide timely, reliable, and professional service to keep them engaged and satisfied.
- Networking. One of the most valuable things that you will do for your business is reaching out to realtors and network with them at events. Previous networking experience in any field is an asset.rs.
Checklist for Starting a Home Staging Business
If you’re thinking about starting your own home staging business, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here is a checklist of the essentials to get started.
Step 1: Write a Business Plan
After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your home staging business should be to write a business plan. The business plan will make you focus on some important aspects of the business, such as who your customers are, how you plan to reach them, projecting sales and expenses, your value proposition to use for marketing, and more.
Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan if you need financing, but multiple studies have shown that having a good business plan increases the odds of starting a successful business. Writing the plan helps you to think through all the aspects of the business and then serves as a guide as you begin.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 2: Choose a Business Entity
A business entity (also referred to as a business structure) refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business structures to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.
When deciding on which business entity is best for a home staging business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.
A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay.
The corporation can be a good choice to minimize liability risk because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.
That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.
The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.
Related: Guide to forming your LLC
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!
ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
Step 3: Name the Business
Finding the perfect home staging business name can be challenging. Not only does the name have to reflect what you do and be appealing to customers, but it also has to be available to use. You can check your state’s website to see if the name is available and register your name.
Step 4: Select your Location
If you choose to set up an office, rental costs will depend on the square foot size, location, and amenities. A shop in a high-traffic area will cost more to rent, but it can also generate walk-in business and general public awareness. Most home stagers, however, work out of their home.
Storage space will be a necessity to store your furnishings when they aren’t being used for staging.
Related: Choosing a business location
Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
You may need to obtain certain business licenses and permits to legally operate as a professional home stager. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located.
Some of the more common business registrations a home staging business may need are a business license, sales tax permit, and an Employer Identification Number.
Step 6: Find Financing
Coming up with a good small business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a home staging company is another. In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs. Your start-up costs for a home staging business, however, will be relatively low.
Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account
Keeping your small business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.
Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place
A home staging business will need to set aside a budget to cover marketing costs on a continuous basis. Common marketing techniques for home staging businesses include social media marketing, online advertising, print advertising, direct mail advertising, and networking with realtors.
There are no doubt other home stagers in your area, so when you network with realtors, you will probably not be the only stager they have talked to. You need to make yourself stand out and be prepared with pictures of your work and a sales pitch. Networking is a special skill, and without it, you won’t be successful.
You will also want to create a portfolio of homes for potential customers that you have staged. If you haven’t worked on any yet, start with your own home, a friend’s home, or provide free staging in a few homes for a real estate agent. As you begin building the portfolio, collect testimonials and include them on your website and marketing materials.
One important task while working on the marketing is developing an online presence. A website developer may be out of the budget, but Wix makes it easy for non-technical people to get a website running quickly and affordably.
Step 9: Get Business Insurance
There are several types of insurance to consider when starting a home staging business. A few of these include:
– General liability insurance can help protect you from third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage.
– Professional liability insurance protects you from claims of professional errors or negligence that result in a financial loss.
– Worker’s compensation insurance covers expenses like medical bills and legal fees that a business might face if an employee were ever hurt while working.
The cost to insure a home staging business will vary depending on several factors. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, consider not only the premiums but also how the plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.
Step 10: Hire Employees
You may or may not decide to hire employees to assist you with hands-on staging and moving items, or even someone to help you with marketing. Salaries vary for various jobs and the skills required.
In addition to salary costs, your budget will also need to include other employee-related expenses. Workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off are common expenses that a business will need to cover when hiring staff.
Related: Hiring your first employee
Step 11: Set up an Accounting System
Setting up an accounting system for your home staging business is critical to the long-term success of your business.
Staying on top of taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.
The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:
- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.
Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.
How much does it cost to start a home staging business?
The costs to start a home staging business are relatively minimal unless you want to start with an inventory of décor items. You don’t necessarily need to do this, though, because often, staging is done with items the homeowner already has.
Some of the common startup expenses you should plan for include:
– Setting up a business name and corporation costs approximately $200
– Business cards, brochures, postcards for marketing $200 – $300
– Website setup $100 – $200
– Camera to take professional-looking pictures of your work for marketing $200 – $1,000
– Liability insurance $100 – $200
– Initial marketing such as Facebook ads or search engine optimization for your website $200 – $500
– Initial decorating supplies and inventory $200 – ? depending on how much you want to have in stock. Look for auctions or discount outlets to find good prices, and look into furniture rental services so that you don’t need to invest in large items.
– Yard signs for display after you’ve completed a job $200 – $300
How much can a home staging business owner make?
Staging jobs can range from $100-250 for consulting only and $500-5000 for hands-on staging, depending on the size of the house, the extent of the staging, and the items required. According to Zip Recruiter, home stagers make as little as $20,500 and as high as $81,000 per year, with an average of $44,530. The beauty of owning your own home staging business is that you can work as much or little as you want and control your income if you’re willing to pound the pavement to get clients. The more experience you have with results you can show, the easier it will be to get more business and charge higher rates.
There is a certain amount of seasonality to this business. Most people sell their homes in the Spring and Summer, so you’ll need to be prepared for fluctuations in your income.
Are there grants to start a home staging business?
It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a home staging business. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.
Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov, and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.
What is the NAICS code for a home staging business?
The NAICS code for a home staging business is 541410, which is categorized under Interior Design Services.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.
Related: What is a NAICS code?
Real Estate Staging Association