Staging Success: How To Start, Run, and Maintain a Home Staging Business

How to Start, Run, and Maintain a Home Staging Business

If you enjoy transforming living areas into attractive and marketable spaces, a home staging business could be the right venture for you. However, there’s more to it than staging and interior styling. Expect the majority of your time to be spent on practical tasks like logistics, inventory, project coordination, marketing, invoicing, etc.

In this guide, we help you tackle the first steps in establishing your home staging business. If you lack experience but are ready to put in the hard work and discipline, we’ll help you set your business up for success!

 

What Is a Home Staging Business?

To make sure that we’re on the same page, let’s review the basics. A home staging business involves staging real estate properties to make them more saleable. These properties include residential homes, office spaces, commercial listings, apartment buildings, etc.

The purpose of home staging is to make a space more appealing to prospective buyers so they can visualize the possibilities of a space. However, its main purpose is to sell the property faster at a higher profit.

Figures from the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP) show that staging works, and there is a healthy demand for it. Staged properties sell up to 30 times faster than non-staged listings and for 20% more. Meanwhile, a million homes out of five million were staged in 2019. The same article claims that there are less than 10,000 professional home staging businesses in the world.

 

14 Steps for Starting a Home Staging Business

While anyone can start a home staging business, it takes a lot of work to turn the venture into a success. We’ve outlined all the important steps to make setting up your home staging business easier.
 

1. Research and Plan

The first step to starting your home staging business is researching the market and preparing a business plan.

Researching the market involves understanding demand and the different types of neighborhoods, potential customers, competitors, etc. For example, home staging in an affluent neighborhood will naturally require you to invest in more costly furniture.

Since home staging is not a regulated industry, you’ll often find real estate agents, brokers, homeowners, and independent home stagers competing with you. You’ll want to understand how many home stagers work in your area and study their business structure, pricing, services offered, etc.

You also want to get started on the planning by brainstorming things like your business name, business structure, etc. The US Small Business Administration has a simple business plan template that you can use as guidance for writing your own.
 

2. Get Certificates and Credentials

The home staging industry isn’t regulated, so there’s no official certification. But getting a certificate can set you apart from the competition. What’s more, you’ll also be able to learn a few things about the industry, the work involved, the latest trends, and the business side of things.

The IAHSP is a good place to start. You can keep up with the global community, search for events, find educational resources, and more. You can also enroll in numerous home staging courses online from the New York Art & Design’s Online Home Staging Course to the Real Estate Staging Association’s Roadmap to Starting a Home Staging Business. Look for quality instructors and institutions that offer ongoing support to their alumni. This may include online resources and digital communities where former students can ask questions, exchange ideas, and more. Join social media groups like IAHSP’s Home Staging Professionals Group on Facebook.
 

3. Calculate Startup Costs and Pricing Structure

It’s necessary to have clarity on your pricing structure so you can negotiate the right price for your services. Of course, setting your rates too high or low can be a huge blow to your home staging business so this step is quite important.

How do you determine pricing?

Getting a rough estimate of your startup costs will help you develop a pricing structure. Then again, the costs of home staging can differ widely based on your niche, property condition, location, experience, expertise, etc. You also have to decide whether you’re going to charge clients on a per-project or hourly basis.

Apart from local market research of competitor prices, you should also take a look at online prices for home staging services. Make sure to note the charges for initial consultation, per-room staging, monthly furniture rentals, etc.

Your total costs will vary widely depending on your business structure. Homeowners selling their own property will often have a lean team and thus pay lower wages. Meanwhile, agent-run businesses relying on their agent network will often have to share a substantial percentage of their profits. On the other hand, business owners with marketing or interior design expertise can take on more roles to improve their earnings.

In addition, here are some costs that you should factor into your pricing calculations:

  • Operating costs
  • Inventory carrying costs
  • Maintenance and repair
  • Transportation
  • Salaries and wages
  • Insurance coverage
  • Utility bills
  • Professional membership fees and licensing costs
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Advertising and marketing

Reading up on budgeting and pricing guides can help immensely.
 

4. Acquire Furniture

The next task is investing in furniture and home decor pieces to stage your property. While there are multiple ways to go about this, we suggest you get started by purchasing a couple of accessories like coffee tables, artwork, accent chairs, rug runners, throw pillows, etc.

You can opt for new or old furniture based on your budget and needs. Some of the places you can look at when sourcing inventory include Facebook Marketplace, Target, IKEA, thrift stores, Etsy, etc.

Renting is another option for those who don’t want to invest a huge chunk of money in their inventory. You can check local rental companies or talk to retailers if you can use their showroom furniture for staging.

If there are pieces you haven’t used in a while and don’t see the need for in the near future, it may be time to dispose of them instead of allowing them to incur monthly storage costs. The good news is there are people who specifically look for furniture from home staging businesses like yours. This is because the pieces you sell haven’t been used that much but are still sold at a discount. Sell them online or display the piece you no longer want in a staged home.
 

5. Find a Storage and Transport Solution

You’ll need to find a storage unit for all your furniture when it’s not in use. There are two options for this, look for a storage unit in the area or build one on your property. Depending on your needs and priorities, both are viable choices.

Having all your inventory on the property makes every staging easier and is cost-efficient in the long run. However, building one from scratch can take some time and requires additional expense. Meanwhile, renting a storage unit requires no setup cost or work but it will entail a recurring monthly expense. If you choose to rent a warehouse or a part of it, you’ll get a better deal. But a lot of the work and expenses like handling utilities, insurance, maintenance, etc. will fall on your shoulders.

Another aspect to consider is how to move furniture from site to storage. While hiring a moving company is the best choice, you can try looking for a company that provides both storage and moving services. It is also not unheard of for beginners to take on the task of moving/transporting their furniture by renting a truck or a mini-truck.

Of course, you can skip most of the hard work by renting furniture or working with a furniture showroom and a moving company.
 

6. Set up an Inventory Management Solution

When it comes to a home staging business, inventory may not seem like your key priority. However, it entails a large investment and related losses can eat up your profits and turn into a deficit.

According to a BBB report, 57% of complaints that movers receive involve the breakage or loss of at least one item of furniture. While you can’t completely prevent such incidents, you can get transit insurance to help soften the blow.

An inventory management solution also can help you manage any size of inventory singlehandedly. From labeling items to tracking them with QR codes, these solutions make it a breeze to keep an eye on your assets. Even better, you can track items as they’re moved across multiple locations.

An inventory management solution will also allow you to record details about your assets like purchases, receipts, insurance paperwork, photos, etc., helping you claim damages more easily should the need arise.
 

7. Register Your Business

After going through the steps mentioned, you want to start making your home staging business official. So, your next priority is registering your business.

Figure out how you want to structure your company. Study the differences between various options like a limited liability company (LLC), sole proprietorship, general partnership, C Corp, and S Corp. All of them come with different liability conditions, tax requirements, setup processes and costs, operation costs, and paperwork requirements. Most business owners opt for an LLC simply because they’re easier to establish and offer owners liability protection. However, make sure to do your research before deciding. Go to sites like Nolo and ContractsCounsel for legal advice.
 

8. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

Applying for business licenses and permits is your next step. Some of these, like the employee identification number (EIN), are mandatory for registering and filing for taxes and such. So, make sure to apply for them now.

Of course, which licenses and permits you’ll need is largely based on your business location. For example, California doesn’t have specific permit requirements for a home staging business but you will need a seller’s permit. However, in some cities of Florida such as Fort Lauderdale, you’ll need to obtain a City Business Tax Receipt.
 

9. Register for Taxes

You can register for federal and state taxes once you have your EIN, or social security number if you’re registering as a sole proprietorship. Your business structure must also be considered when deciding on the taxes you have to pay.

There are other tax-related tasks. It’s best to consult an accountant for advice that’s specific to your business. Accountants can help you understand important matters like tax cycles, deductible expenses, tax obligations, cash flow management, maintaining records and receipts, etc.

Another important matter to discuss is the method of depreciation you’ll use for your inventory. Unlike other types of inventory, home staging inventory includes fixed assets. It is necessary that the value of these assets be adjusted for depreciation so that you can have an accurate valuation of your business.
 

10. Sign up for a Business Bank Account

You’ll need a separate business bank account if you’re planning on getting a business loan. A bank account for your business will also help with accounting and taxation later on. Plus, it can help you separate your business expenses from your personal expenses.
 

11. Get Funding and Insurance

A home staging business requires a substantial upfront investment. So, you may need to secure funding. There’s also a lot of scope for losses and damages so you’ll want to protect your business assets with insurance.

For starters, you should consider how you’re going to fund your home staging business. Some of the popular options include:

Of course, self-financing through savings or the sale of assets is also an option.

When it comes to insurance, there’s a lot to think about since you’ve got asset loss, property damage, bodily injury, professional errors, and more to worry about. In general, you should get insurance coverage for professional liability, general liability, worker’s comp, property damage, slip and fall accidents, builder’s risk, and bodily injury claims.
 

12. Develop a Marketing Strategy

Use all the research, planning, and preparation you’ve done up until this point to develop your marketing strategy. You may also want to start working on your branding, website, and other marketing essentials for your home staging business.

Think about your audiences and budget. Consider which marketing channels are best for your needs. You may want to use social media marketing, print and online advertising, word-of-mouth marketing, networking events with realtors, etc.

Whichever option you choose, make sure to prepare a website and portfolio so your clients can take a closer look at your work more easily. You’ll also need to hire a web developer, graphic designer, and social media manager to design and manage your marketing channels.
 

13. Recruit Employees

Depending on the stage that your company is in and business growth, you’ll need employees to take care of some tasks for you. The roles you choose to outsource depend on your professional background and skills. For example, real estate agents offering home staging as a value-added service won’t need to work with realtors but might want to hire interior styling experts.

Based on the division of roles, the operational tasks of buying furniture, keeping inventory, moving and transporting, etc. should be assigned to different employees.

Here are some roles and responsibilities that you can outsource to others:

  • Manager for managing inventory and scheduling appointments
  • Laborers for furniture delivery
  • Accountant for managing finances
  • Marketing manager for social media, SEO, and client sourcing
  • Assistant designers for staging-related tasks

Some of these are non-negotiable while others may only require freelancers. For example, you’ll need a permanent employee to build and organize your home staging inventory unless you’re doing it yourself. Other roles, like furniture delivery, will require temporary workers.
 

14. Find Clients

While marketing your business is a crucial step, you can’t expect clients to rush through your doors in the first few weeks or even months. You’ll need to establish professional relationships with your local community of real estate agents, contractors, and brokers for word-of-mouth publicity. Try going to networking events and real estate conferences. If you’re a realtor, you can promote your services directly to your clients. You can also ask friends and family for references, post flyers, and more to win your first clients.

You can also keep an eye out for properties that have been on the market for some time. Try to schedule meetings with the sellers or the listing agents of these properties so you can pitch your services to them.

 

Do’s and Don’ts of Home Staging

Like any other business venture, experience is a valuable asset for any home staging business either. However, you should remember these do’s and don’ts during your initial years.
 

Do’s

  • Understand the target audience and their design style preferences.
  • Keep up with home staging trends.
  • Take care of the curb appeal.
  • Price your services properly.
  • Use quality inventory.
  • Get rid of clutter.
  • Remove any lingering odors.
  • Ensure that buyers can easily walk from room to room.
  • Find the right-sized furniture.
  • Develop a memorable brand.
  • Consider specializing in a niche.
  • Take professional photos of your staged homes.
  • Put together a staging kit of must-haves and add-ons.
  • Get professional help when it’s necessary.
  • Join online communities for home stagers.
  • Collect client testimonials.
  • Invest in client retention.
  • Track your business expenses.

 

Don’ts

  • Don’t give services or goods away for free.
  • Don’t let clients run the show.
  • Steer clear of bold and polarizing styles or colors.
  • Don’t neglect any area.
  • Don’t overstage/understage or add character into the space.
  • Don’t show the house if it’s still being used.
  • Spruce up a property but don’t invest in major renovations.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

For additional guidance, check out the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.
 

How Profitable Is a Home Staging Business?

According to Glassdoor, a home staging business in the United States can easily make over $50,000 in annual profits. To earn this amount, you only need to stage five homes a month.
 

How Does a Home Stager Find Clients?

Home stagers can get clients in multiple ways. Some of the best options include reaching out to realtors for referrals, attending or speaking at local conferences, leveraging online marketing, and networking with industry professionals.

 

Conclusion

A home staging business is just as challenging to set up as other businesses. The good news is it becomes easier as you become more familiar with the industry, your target market, how the business works, and how to prioritize the different aspects involved. Once you have things running smoothly, you’ll feel an extraordinary sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. After all, not everyone can have their own home staging business!

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