How to Start a Home Staging Business

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Quick Reference

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?

Business Overview

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 potential 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.

 

 

Industry Summary

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.

Industry Trends

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.

Target Market

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 business, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Costs 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. Here are the startup expenses you should plan for.

  • 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

 

Steps to Starting a Home Staging Business

Step 1: Write your 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
Free sample business plans

Step 2: 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 3: Form a Business Entity

A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities 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.

Related: Comparison of Business Entities

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. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located. Some common local, state, and federal registrations a home staging business may need include a sales tax permit and an Employer Identification Number if you plan to hire employees.

Related: Common business licenses, permits, and registrations by state

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 business 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.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account

Keeping your business and personal finances in separate business bank and credit card accounts makes it easier to track the income and expenses of the 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. Developing a website can be a significant expense, but it can also give your home staging business greater visibility online. Marketing costs will depend on the activity performed and its volume.

You will also want to create a portfolio of homes 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.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Step 9: Get Insurance

A home staging business needs several types of insurance for full coverage:

  • 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.

Insurance policies will vary. 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.

Related: Common types of insurance a business may need

Step 10: Hiring 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.

Related: Setting up accounting for your business

How Much Can You Potentially Make Owning a Home Staging Business?

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.

Things to consider before starting a Home Staging Business

Running your own home staging business or any business will have its challenges. You need to be prepared and make sure that you know what you’re getting into.

The first thing to consider is if you really have the design skills to do it. 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.

Second, remember that you will have competition. 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.

Third, you will have to continuously market yourself, which will cost money, depending on how much you decide to do. Online marketing is important; however, it doesn’t need to be expensive if you utilize social media. It is still not going to be as effective, though, as developing a network of realtors for referrals.

Finally, there is a certain amount of seasonality to the business. Most people sell their homes in the Spring and Summer, so you’ll need to be prepared for fluctuations in your income.

Talk to other business owners for tips on starting a business, and check out online resources such as the IAHSP for helpful information.  You can also speak with realtors before you start to find out what they look for and how they utilize home stagers.