Staging a home is no longer just the purview of the elite. Eighty-three percent of buyers find that staging makes it easier to view themselves in a prospective home. As a result, buyers today expect homes at every price point to be staged.
Unsurprisingly, demand for home stagers is through the roof and projected to keep climbing. But for many would-be stagers, the prospect of getting started in the business can be intimidating. The costs of buying and storing inventory can be especially worrisome.
But how expensive is it to become a home stager really? Here are the facts.
Is Inventory Essential for a Home Stager?
Inventory can be a double-edged sword. As home stagers, we can get endless use out of the perfect piece. Having a collection of versatile pieces on hand can also make it quick and easy to add some style and texture to common spaces like seating areas and foyers.
On the other hand, inventory is an investment. It takes time and money to acquire it in the first place, and then more time and money to transport, store, maintain, and manage it over time.
Inventory can be especially difficult for new home stagers. No new small business owner wants to spend a chunk of their salary buying up and managing inventory. Many new stagers also need time to dial in their target market, the demands of their region, and other details before they can commit to investing in a storage facility and the staging items to fill it.
What too many of us forget is that we don’t need inventory to be a great home stager.
In fact, non-inventory business models can be more than just a thrifty way to get started in staging without breaking the bank. Done well, they can be powerful marketing and growth tools!
If you are interested in how to become a home stager, there are three great models you can use that do not require an investment in inventory.
In a consulting-only staging model, we as stagers help clients present their homes at their best using only items the clients already own. This model can hold tremendous appeal for both us and our clients.
A chance to show our creativity in unique ways with each client
An excellent marketing pitch
For our clients, this method often appeals because:
They do not have to worry about or work their lives and schedules around rented items during the selling process
They do not have to put as much of their stuff in storage as they otherwise might
It keeps their costs to a minimum
It shows them new, creative, and attractive ways to use or display their belongings that they can carry with them to their new homes
This method may also strongly appeal to clients’ personal beliefs in minimalism, simplicity, frugality, or eco-friendly living because it gets the job done with minimum “stuff” and fuss.
For those among us in the staging community who like to shop, client-funded staging can be a delight. We evaluate how to stage a home for sale, buy the perfect items using clients’ money, and then allow the clients to keep the items at the time of sale.
For us, this:
Prevents the accumulation of inventory
Ensures we can select the perfect pieces every time
Keeps business costs low
For our clients, this:
Provides personalized staging results
Makes it easy to see exactly where every dime of their investment goes
Results in beautiful spaces that they can pick up and take with them to their next homes
Under this model, clients often feel like they get home staging and interior design services all in one. This creates value that rolls forward and gives them the feeling of getting extra bang for their bucks.
The Magic of Rental Companies
Another option for how to stage a home with little or no inventory and minimal costs is to become a master of using rental companies for your large staging furnishings. Essentially, this gives stagers access to fantastic inventory without the costs and hassles of buying and maintaining that inventory themselves.
It may take a little more legwork to arrange delivery and pickup of items between the client and rental company, but the benefits often more than outweigh that minor inconvenience.
Supplementing With Small Items
Some stagers supplement the “use a rental company” model with a small personal inventory of favorite items or pieces that fit the hottest new trends. This allows us to keep versatile odds and ends that we always seem to need on hand without a huge investment on our part.
One of the most ideal things about low inventory and hybrid staging models is how flexible they are. If we as stagers find that these models are a perfect fit for our businesses and markets, we can use them indefinitely.
Or, if we prefer, we can use them as jumping-off points until we are more established and have a clearer idea of what inventory pieces will serve us best. Then we can transition to other inventory models that serve us better as our businesses grow and expand.
Did you know that my business almost failed before it ever really got off the ground? It’s easy to see a business that has been around for years, and assume that it has always been successful, but the truth is that many new businesses struggle, and mine was no exception. In fact, most small businesses fail in the first 5 years!
#1: Identify Your Ideal Client
In the spring of 2010, my dad was experiencing some health issues and found himself in the hospital for about a month. I drove the 3 hours to be with him and my mom and helped out any way that I could. I was back and forth for approximately a month while he was hospitalized, and my business took a back seat.
One day, while I was sitting with my dad, he said something to me that took me by surprise. He said, “You know what honey? You gave it a really good shot, no one can say that you didn’t try.”. I was confused! My dad had always been my biggest supporter, and here he was acting as though I was closing the business and giving up. The truth was though that for the month that I had been helping out him and my mom, there wasn’t exactly anyone missing me and my business. That certainly gave me pause, and I decided to do a little reflecting. I knew that I wanted to be a home stager, and I knew that I was good at it, so when my dad was released I headed home and went back to the business plan to see what I could be doing to grow my business. When I had initially created my business plan, I had identified my ideal clients as homeowners and real estate agents. While that was technically correct, it was not nearly specific enough.
This was where my marketing was failing. When you market to everyone, you market to no one. You need to dive deep and determine specifically who your homeowners and real estate agents are – only then can you identify what they will value, and how to craft your marketing message for them.
What characteristics do they have? And what in turn do they want from you?
Let’s take real estate agents for example:
Do they work for a large brokerage or a small one?
Are they an individual agent, or a part of a team?
How long have they been in business?
What is their personality?
What other characteristics do they convey?
You may not have specific answers to all of these questions, but this should give you a guideline of the types of criteria that you w
ill want to examine in determining your target homeowners. This is probably one of the hardest things to do in your business, but it is also the most critical, or everything else that follows is challenging. By identifying who your ideal client is, you will be better equipped to find them. This is not to say that you will not provide services for other clients as requested, but it will allow you to better focus your marketing plan.
Once you understand who your client is, and what their needs are, you can position yourself and your company accordingly. This will
affect everything from how you brand your company, to the events that you attend, where you spend your marketing dollars, and of course, how you set your pricing.
#2 Evaluate Your Value
Now it’s time to do some evaluating. Take some time to reflect on your value, and identify what makes you and your company awesome. This is probably one of the greatest challenges when it comes to building your business – you’ve been taught all your life to be humble and modest, and now you need to be confident and boastful!
Your value is EVERYTHING that you do that enhances the overall experience for your client. Brainstorm, and write down EVERYTHING that comes to mind. Some examples may include:
Formal training, including continuing education (i.e. events, market research, etc.)
RESA member (are you a RESA-Pro, or a member of leadership?)
Do not limit yourself to the above list. Even if other home stagers are offering these same value-points, it does not take away from the value that it provides to YOUR clients, and it helps to define your company’s overall brand. Remember, what makes you valuable is not just the services that you provide every day, but it also includes how you got to your level of expertise. Reflect on the path that you took to get to where you are today, and make that a part of your story.
Value doesn’t need to cost you a ton of money – if you feel that you are coming up short for where you want to be in your market, look at what may be added to your services for little to no cost, such as the SRM policy, a Client Care Package, or a unique upsell/upgrade service option.
#3 Create Your Value Proposition
A value proposition is a statement that summarizes why a client should buy from you. This is your foundation for creating your marketing material and will help you to establish your unique selling position (USP). Ask yourself these two important questions:
Why am I here?
What do I bring to the table that no one else does?
Identify how you solve your client’s problems. Be as specific and concise as possible for this. What makes you different and unique?
#4 Communicate your value
Now that you have identified what makes you valuable, and what makes you unique, you need to communicate this effectively to your clients and prospects.
Start with your mission statement – if you don’t have one yet, create one, and share it on your website and other promotional materials.
Review your logo – does it portray the image and brand that you want it to?
Your value points should be noted on your website, on printed promotional materials, and in your communications. Create bite-sized videos answering questions about your company’s processes, about your training, and more. Update your internal intake forms to list your value points so that you remember to note these items as a part of your initial call with clients. And most importantly, LIVE YOUR VALUE. The best and easiest way to communicate what your company stands for is to live it every day.
Ready to take your business to the next level? SLS Academy’s Business of Staging course provides you with the business strategies that you need to operate a successful and thriving home staging business. From setting your pricing and policies to sales techniques, understanding today’s buyers, and what motivates them. We will walk you through the steps that you need to take to create your business plan, plus we will help you to identify your mission statement, understand your value proposition, and run the day-to-day business. PLUS, you will get the tools and templates that you need to make running your business easier, allowing you to spend your days assisting your clients. We will even teach you proven sales techniques and strategies to help you to close more deals, and keep your cash flow…well…flowing. Learn more and get started today by clicking here.
So you’ve accumulated a great selection of home staging inventory, but now you have fallen out of love with many of the pieces and you feel like it might be time to move on. Hosting an inventory sale will help you to free up cash (which means more money to buy new stuff), and help to freshen up your inventory stock! It also helps to create awareness for your company. You know what they say? All publicity is good publicity! Marketing for your sale will help to draw interest and awareness in a big way!
Big or small, you can have a successful inventory sale if you follow a few simple tips. We’ve put together some from our own experience with these – if you see anything that we have missed, please be sure to share with us!
Start planning early! Begin by selecting a date for the sale – once the decision to host a sale has been made, you will find yourself looking much more objectively at your inventory, and you will be surprised at the number of items that quickly get added to your “sell” list.
Start putting items aside approximately 1 month prior to the sale – this can be done by starting an “order” within your inventory database system and adding “sell” items to it, or simply designate an area of your warehouse to move items to (if you are short on space, consider renting a temporary storage facility). As you find new items to retire, take them out of use immediately to ensure that they are not used prior to a sale.
Choose a location to host the sale – will this be at your warehouse, or will you need to move the items off-site to accommodate? If your warehouse does not provide adequate parking, or is in a remote area, you may wish to consider renting a space for the event (my first sale, I rented a banquet hall – this allowed us to move the items in the day prior to the sale, and proved to be a perfect solution in a high-traffic area).
Notify your neighbors (if you feel that it may affect them). If they run a business that can benefit from foot traffic, they may want to offer a special promotion that day as well! If your neighbors are residential, encourage them to host yard sales on the same day to capitalize on the traffic that you will be bringing to the area.
DO NOT allow for early bird sales, and be sure to note this on all marketing – early bird sales will not only cause you unnecessary stress, but it could also cause you to have a less successful sale if those that arrive on time for the sale cannot find the items that they were expecting. This goes for both the day of the sale (open the doors when you say you’re going to open the doors) as well as the days leading up to the sale. We all have that friend, cousin, or colleague that will say that they just can’t make it to the sale, or that they HAVE to have a specific item, and beg you to guarantee them the sale. The communication time back and forth, making arrangements outside of the sale time for them to pick the items up (all while planning and organizing the big sale), collecting payment, etc. is not worth it – trust me!
Market your payment methods ahead of time – I recommend a Cash & Carry policy, but with this you will need to ensure that you have advised the public prior to the date of the sale (it is also useful on the day of the sale to have a list of 2-3 bank machines close by that people may go to if they are running short on cash).
Advise in your marketing to bring boxes, bins, blankets, large vehicles, etc. – anything that they will need to be able to take their items with them safely that day!
While you don’t need to put together a full price list catalog, you should provide some images of actual items that will be for sale.
Create lawn signs for the day of the sale to help people to easily navigate to the location.
Sale Day Policies
Be sure to have clearly outlined policies, and communicate these both before, and at the sale. Here are a few that I recommend considering:
Cash and Carry – this means that they pay cash, and they take the items with them. Make mention on all sale advertising, and post signs throughout the sale indicating this so that no one is taken by surprise when it’s time to check out.
Holds – I swore that I would not do holds for anyone, but admittedly that rule was quickly thrown out. We did however put some stipulations on this. Designate an area at the sale for temporary holds. This will somewhat tame the chaos. Be sure that someone from YOUR sale staff marks these products as “still shopping”, along with the customer’s name Here are some examples of what we allowed as a “hold” situation:
Customer is still shopping and just need a place to temporarily to put the items (think of what you look like when you go to Home Goods!).
Customer didn’t bring enough money and needs to run to the closest bank machine. For these situations, I recommend having them pay whatever amount they can, then putting a very tight and very strict time limit on the hold.
Customer needs a bigger vehicle to take the items with them. In this instance, be sure to have them pay in full first, and enforce a strict pickup time. If they are unable to make the pickup time, charge a “holding fee” at your discretion. If they do not return before the end of the sale, and you need to make arrangements for pickup another day, charge a storage fee as well.
Do not offer delivery of items unless you are well equipped to do so, and even then, ensure that you are charging a fee for this.
Sale Day Logistics
I recommend providing some shopping bags, baskets, or bins. We stock a large number of baskets with handles that we use in staging projects, and provide these as a shopping tool (clearly stating that they are not for sale, and are for use only). This allowed many shoppers to pick up more small items than they might have otherwise.
Plan for the expenses associated with hosting a sale:
Wages – you will need to pay your staff for their time (and potentially hire additional help) for the day – factor this into account when you are determining your pricing
Location – if you are unable to host at your own warehouse or storage, there may be additional fees charged by the location that you choose, as well as moving expenses
Signage – a worthwhile investment, be sure that you have clear signage throughout the sale, as well as on the streets surrounding to direct people to the event.
Marketing – you shouldn’t need to spend much (if anything) on marketing, but if you do choose to do some form of advertising, be sure to calculate this in with your expenses
If you choose to disregard my cash and carry policy recommendation and opt to accept credit cards, don’t forget to factor in the merchant fees associated with this. As well, you may need to purchase or rent a point-of-sale device for processing if you don’t have one already.
Post “Policy” signs throughout the venue – this refers to payment methods (as previously noted), as well as any other rules/guidelines/restrictions for the day, such as “no holds”, “items sold as-is”, and “all sales final”.
If you are selling an item that has multiple pieces (i.e. dining table), ensure that all pieces are fully accounted for, or noted if any items are missing.
Make your staff easy to find – we use pink bandanas and have our staff wear these wherever is most comfortable for them (provided it’s displayed from the waste up). If you have staff shirts, hats, or another identifier, then you’re already set!
Label items with the dimensions when possible, and have measuring tapes on hand for people that need to take measurements (sometimes they need to borrow the tape measure to measure the space available in their vehicle to see if an item will fit)
If an item has significant damage, especially if it affects the stability or potential safety of use of the item, be sure that this is clearly identified.
Ensure that ALL items are assigned a price. Be fair, but don’t base the price on what you paid for the item, think of what the item is worth. Make your judgment based on style, condition, and perhaps how badly you want to offload the item.
If you are unsure about whether or not you want to sell a piece, set the price based on what would make it worthwhile for you sell, and mark a heart <3 on the price tag. This will tell you, and anyone else that might be negotiating pricing, that this item is non-negotiable, as you will happily return it to your inventory following the sale if necessary.
Short answer: just don’t. At least not to start. Gauge this based on the traffic that you receive at the start of the sale, but do not offer any negotiation on pricing until the initial frenzy dies down.
Here are a few tips to keep your sanity, and manage the negotiations:
Designate ONE negotiator (ideally, you). If anyone wants to haggle on the price, they MUST speak directly with you. By limiting the authority of this, most will simply pay the stated price.
Once the initial frenzy has died down, use your discretion with negotiating. I recommend encouraging a “bundled” price as opposed to discounts on specific items. This will make the sale more worthwhile for you, and allow you to get rid of more inventory!
Have a specific colored marker to be used for price slashes or negotiated mark-downs – this will keep your customers honest, and help your staff to easily identify a valid mark-down
Have people that you trust – these may be existing employees, or life-long friends, but since they will be handling a lot of cash, be sure that you are comfortable with them managing this.
Have a system for tracking what items have been sold (scanning a bar code, taking a photo, writing it down, etc.)
Have a plan for these ahead of time, whether you will return them to inventory, donate to a thrift store, or drop at a consignment store to sell for you. You may choose all 3, depending on the items that are remaining at the end of the sale.
Create a checklist of the items that you need to have on-hand for the day of the event. If the sale is taking place at your warehouse, you will have easy access to anything that you forget, but if it’s taking place off-site, take extra care in packing. Most of these supplies are likely already a part of your standard staging kit!
What to pack:
Rags and dusting cloths
Tape – painters / electrical / packing
Labels (for pricing)
Cardboard boxes – keep extra cardboard boxes leading up to the event to provide to customers
Hindsight is 20/20 – we’ve all heard this, but it’s never more true than immediately following a terrible mistake that you have made in your business, that often can be costly. Have you ever had that moment of clarity following a disaster where you thought “I wish someone had told me that!”? Trust me when I say that every home stager and every entrepreneur, regardless of what level they are at in their business, has had that moment.
Well I polled the industry’s best, and I asked for their best tip for home stagers, whether it’s a business tip, a staging hack, or just something that they wish they knew sooner. I have compiled them here for you in this Top 10 List (in no particular order) to help you to grow, learn, and above all else, hopefully avoid some mistakes that we have made!! Check out what they have to say:
1. Transform Old Books and a Simple Option for Staging Built-Ins
Stagers have a love / hate relationship with built-ins. Some love them and some want to avoid them at all costs. With this simple solution you’ll be able to update your old (or newly acquired) books while also giving a slick and time saving look to mix into your stagings.
For years we wrapped our books with wrapping paper so they all had a uniform and neutral look. However, after many trips to and from various staged homes, the wrapping would wear down, rip, and we’d have re-wrap them. We are now spray painting all of our hard cover books to give them a consistent look that is cost effective and durable.
The best paint we found is pictured below and can be purchased at Home Depot. Feel free to try other colors, but this Satin finish of Heirloom White has proven to give us the best and most versatile look.
You can see a close up as well as a photo from one of our stagings.
The painting is quite easy and requires no taping. Simply open the book in the center, turn it face up on a paintable surface (we use large sheets of cardboard and paint outside on the rear driveway of our warehouse) and spray both front and back covers simultaneously. Once it is dry you are ready to go. No need to do anything with the pages.
If you need a good source for hardcover books I recommend searching Craigslist for “Free Law Books”. There are many times when law offices are getting rid of their large collections of legal books and generally will give them away for free or a very nominal cost. We’ve gotten hundreds of free hardcover books this way.
As you grow your business you will find yourself hiring people. I recommend you take the time to meet with your ENTIRE staff (delivery people, packers, consultants, administrative support, installers, etc.) to instill a common vocabulary across your company. This will help reduce misunderstandings and also provides an opportunity to elevate and brand your business. (Think Starbucks…Short, Tall, Vente, Grande…see what I mean?) Remember, what you have in common UNITES you. Let the words you choose not only brand your business but also unite your team!
The number 1 tip I like to give to stagers: Create your quoting system, working with packaged pricing per room. Yes, all homes are different but if you look closely, 90% of the time, a living room or bedroom needs the same amount of staging items. Estimate and calculate what you need per room for furniture, artwork and accessories as well as your staging time and destaging time. In case a room needs one extra piece of art or an extra chair, it is easy to add to your price. By quoting with set prices per room, you save yourself so much time in calculations, inventing the wheel over and over. In my first years, I calculated every vase, flower and piece of art, generating quotes that were more or less the same. Now working with set prices per room, there is no more guessing. You can make a quote in 5-10 minutes. A huge time saver.
Realize your value, and what you are bringing to the table. Don’t sell yourself short or get talked into discounting your pricing. Remember, someone else’s financial issues are not your financial issues, unless, of course, you discount you’re pricing for them!
You are increasing the value of the home, shortening the time on market, reducing the need for price reductions and lowering your Realtors marketing cost. Know with full assurance you bring a great deal of value to the process of selling a home. If you always have the clients best interest at heart, stand tall and tell them what needs to be done to get the house to stand out in the market and what it will cost to make it happen. When you talk to your clients with confidence and show them you have their best interest at heart, explaining why these things need to be done and how it will help them sell, they will trust in you and in the process.
It is always best to deal directly with the client, the person who owns the property, so you can explain why you are recommending what you are recommending and show them you are knowledgeable, that you care and that you want to help them sell their house. They need to trust you and believe in you! That won’t happen though email or their Realtor® relaying the information. Make a point to “Sell” face to face when you can! Use marketing terms instead of design hot phrases, they will see you as a professional who understand the Real Estate Industry.
When you appreciate your value, talk with confidence and always have your clients best interest at heart you will be able to close most deals face to face with the decision makers.
The first thing you should invest in when starting your home staging company is a good home staging contract (assuming you’ve already taken a comprehensive home staging course). Do this before you have a website or business cards. It will be the backbone of your company and it will give you confidence knowing you have this very important piece of your business puzzle in place. Your contract should lay out the terms of how your business will operate. It should set your boundaries so it is clear what you will and will not do. It should help eliminate any questions your client may have and provide them with a road map for working with you. You should consider your contract a “living” document that will change over the years to incorporate different guidance to cover you for events you never imagined encountering. A well-written contract will help you to sleep at night, knowing you and your business are covered.
Have some type of inventory system – it doesn’t matter how big you are or if you only have accessories. If you are renting items, you need to know how much money these items are generating for you. If you have something that is just sitting on the shelf taking up space, get rid of it, every square inch of your storage space should make you money! An inventory system is also good if you have theft or disaster. Your insurance company will want to know what you paid for things if you want a payout. An inventory system doesn’t have to be complex, a simple spreadsheet will do. Get into the habit of entering your purchases as they come in. Also spend money on racking your storage space to store as much as you can: go as high as you legally can.
Starting a Home Staging company was exponentially harder than any other job that I have had. Evaluate your time and commitment. You will not instantly have success and you will be wearing many hats as you grow. Operating well across a variety of areas: sales, marketing, finance, operations, HR, etc. Your first order of business is to create a product that showcases value and is an irresistible solution to the target agent.
Whether starting a home staging business or being an established veteran the key to success is consistency. You need to be consistently upholding your company’s systems, marketing platforms and relationships to make your business more visible and viable for that matter. Aristotle says:
So my question to you is, what do YOU do daily in your business and is it directing a positive narrative for your brand and your clients? If it’s not, make a conscious decision to remain consistent by having a plan and knowing your objective.
My biggest tip for home stagers is that, like it or not, marketing will always be an important part of growing your business so you might as well embrace it. If you want to attract your ideal clients and create a lucrative business that makes you happy, you need to become a savvy marketer or pay handsomely for someone else to do it for you. Either way you need to be clear about who you are marketing to and have a solid strategy to attract clients.
Have a signature accessory that identifies your company for realtors who view the jobs frequently. I have silver birds – they’ve been in every home we have staged for past 8 years and have made their rounds to every room!
Regardless of whether or not you intend to invest in owning your own home staging inventory, you are still a business, and your business takes place in other people’s homes. Not only will the insurance protect you from any liability (such as mistakenly leaving a light on that later bursts and starts a fire, or accidentally knocking over a precious heirloom), but it will also establish you as a professional and genuine company.
Over-decorating or not enough
Less really is more when it comes to staging, but you still need to ensure that you are meeting the main principles and goals of your service – to clearly define the space, showcase the features, and sell the experience of living in the home. Every item used in home staging should serve a purpose – use the goldilocks method – not too much, not too little, but just enough! Keep things neutral, but not sparse. You want to create an experience, and sell a lifestyle, while maintaining effective flow and marketing the home.
Improperly scaled furniture
Effective home staging will showcase a home. One of the most important tasks that home staging intends to accomplish is to properly define each room, and that means defining the size of the room as well. This means selecting the proper scale of furniture to best showcase the space. Staging a room can help buyers to better visualize the space, and show them the optimal furniture selection and placement for the room. A common mistake made by new home stagers is the use of furniture that is either too large, or too small, for a room. This can adversely affect the flow and perception of the space, and overall creates an unappealing room.
Decorating instead of merchandising
Home staging is an effective marketing technique that integrates decorating with marketing to create an experience for homebuyers. It is about more than just furnishing a room – it’s about selling a lifestyle. Just because something is pretty, does not mean that it should be used to stage a room for sale. Staging items should not overpower the features of a space, but should accentuate them.
Marketing to the masses and not understanding your niche and position in the market place
If you are trying to market to everyone, you are often reaching no one. Take the time to understand who your ideal client would be, and create your marketing messages to resonate with them. Be deliberate with your marketing. Identify where your ideal client hangs out, and connect with them on their turf. Do you want to work with large real estate teams, or smaller, independent real estate agents? Do you want to work in luxury homes, starter, or mid-level homes? It’s not to say that you won’t work with a client just because they don’t fit your avatar, but having a clear marketing plan with a specific target will help you to create a stronger relationship with those that you do wish to work with.
Not understanding the real estate industry, and the language of real estate agents
Many that enter into the world of home staging do so for a love of home décor, and while you might know your damask from your gingham and your finials from your fascia, understanding real estate terminology and dynamics is critical to success. This is something that your home staging certification program should cover, but be sure to clarify before you register to ensure that you will get the coverage that you expect in your course material.
Under-pricing/under-valuing your work and your expertise
Just because you are a new home stager, does not make you any less qualified – don’t undervalue yourself and your expertise. Set yourself up for success from the beginning by demanding to be paid your worth. Review industry standards, evaluate your expenses, and be diligent in setting your prices. You have invested in your home stager training, you have invested in the registration and launch of your business, and you have overhead, just like any other business. You deserve to be profitable, regardless of how long you have been in business.
It’s not uncommon for clients to request a discount on the promise of future business – instead of offering a discount now, provide value and show them that you’re worth it – they’ll be knocking down your door to hire you again! If you’re so inclined, reward them on future projects as a thank you for their loyalty.
Letting your clients run the show
It’s easy for a homeowner to create a pre-conceived staging plan in their mind – they are emotionally connected to their home, and often can’t see your final vision. While it is important to select staging items that will work well with the style of home, it may not always be to your client’s personal taste. Remember – home staging is NOT interior design – take the time to understand the demographics of the buyers that will be interested in the home, and direct your marketing to them.
Not treating your home staging business as a business
One of your greatest traits as a home stager will be your ability to empathize and relate to your clients. Because of this, it can be difficult to avoid letting your emotions get in the way of running your business as a business. Abstain from doing unpaid “favors” for that real estate agent friend, or giving more than you quoted to that client in the tough situation – do what you can for them based on their budget, and focus on providing them with low-cost solutions for maximizing their home’s potential. Remember, you have bills to pay as well.
Using inventory from your own home and/or sub-standard inventory
Your clients are paying you for your expertise, and your quality home staging services, including your staging rentals – be sure that you deliver on this. If an item is marked down, there is often a good reason for it – just because it’s a good deal, doesn’t always mean that it is a good staging item. You will score some great finds – be frugal, and be creative, but don’t be shabby – provide quality home staging items and maximum value to all clients (that said, you wouldn’t be the first home stager to deplete your own home décor for the sake of a staging project – ensure the items are well-maintained, and only do so when absolutely necessary to get the job done).
As with any profession, proper certification and training is critical to success. The investment in a quality certification program is just like the one that you would make to become an accountant, a plumber, or any other skilled profession. While you may have a natural talent that will serve you very well in this industry, it’s your training that will make you an expert in your profession, one that your clients will be happy to pay for. Regardless of your natural talent or previous design training and experience, a qualified home stager training program will provide you with “techniques” for showcasing and merchandising a space, as well as an understanding of the home staging processes, buyer insights, managing your clients, and so much more. This will not only save you time and energy by providing you with essential skills, tools, and resources for home staging success, but it will also provide you with the support that you need, especially when you’re first starting out.
Interested in learning more about becoming a Real Estate Staging Professional? Check out our upcoming FREE training – REGISTER HERE!
We have all had the frustration of feeling underpaid and overworked, all while fielding requests to cut pricing – so how can we comprehend raising prices? So many of us fear even the thought of raising prices. Why? Well, in an industry where pricing and other factors are not regulated, and services are often subjective, it can be easy to under-value the services that you provide. You may have set your prices early on in your business, without fully understanding the ins and outs of each service, or the industry as a whole. You may have felt that you should be charging less than your competition, due to inexperience (which of course is NOT a great pricing strategy, but that’s for another post). You are likely afraid that by raising prices, you will stand to lose a long-standing and loyal client, or turn off potential new clients.
Here are just a few benefits to raising your prices:
Get paid your worth, and enjoy your projects more
Attract higher quality clients – someone will always look for the cheapest price – don’t compete on price, compete on value
Make more money!
Position your company as a higher-standard or “premium” business
Before raising my own home staging consultation fees, I needed to do an evaluation.
How much did I want to raise my fees by?
To determine this, I calculated how much time I spent on each project, as well as what my expenses were (both direct and indirect). This is something that your accountant can help you with, but it’s really quite simple – all you need to do is sum up any material costs, labour fees, and your own time. Your accountant can provide you with a general overhead cost based on your annual expenses. Next, I outlined the value that I provided, in order to determine how much money I felt that I needed to make in order to feel that my time spent was valuable. I also reviewed competitors to see where our current pricing structure fell in relation.
How many consultations would I need to do to make the same amount of money?
What do I mean by this?
Ok, bear with me, we need to do a little math.
Let’s say that you charge $200 for a consultation, and want to raise your prices to $250 (please note that these prices are not intended to be guidelines of what your prices should be, and are simply intended as an example for the purposes of this exercise). At $200, in order to make $1000 in a week, you need to provide 5 consultations. At the new price of $250, you would only need to provide 4 of these. What does this mean? It means that you can afford to lose 1 consultation a week, (or 20% of your clients) and still bring in the same amount of money, while also giving you more time to spend on other aspects of your business. Play with these numbers until you get to one that you’re comfortable with.
Once I determined how much I wanted to raise my prices by, I set out to create a plan of action, including setting a timeline to implement the change, and introducing the increase to my current client base.
Every home stager works differently, and as such, they each provide variations of a standard home staging consultation. So why is it that despite what our consultation includes, we feel that we should all be priced the same? You will always have price shoppers – you know, the clients that are looking for the cheapest and quickest fix to any problem, but that doesn’t mean that they need to be your clients. By changing my pricing structure, and raising my prices, I began to attract a better quality client, and was able to provide a better quality of service to each of my clients.
What do your consultations currently include? Is there anything that is included that could be removed, while still providing a full-service consultation? Is there anything that could be added to increase the value (think of what you could add that would not significantly impact you financially)?
There were a number of aspects of my home staging consultations that were of great value, but not appreciated by some of my clients. Meanwhile other agents were asking how they could add more value to the staging services that we provided to their clients. If you have ever signed up for any sort of “plan” or “package” (cell phone company, online cloud storage, etc.), you have probably seen a tiered pricing structure. I realized that this worked well for these companies, and so I adapted it into my pricing structure. The reality is that there will always be those clients that want the cheapest, quickest, and easiest. While these may not be my ideal client, it doesn’t mean that I want to turn away a paying client, especially because these are often the real estate agents that are doing the greatest volume of business.
Here’s how my new tiered pricing structure worked
I removed some elements of my existing consultation (without compromising the quality of the service of course), and kept the pricing the same
For my existing consultation, with all of the great bells and whistles, I raised the price
I then added a third package, which included some additional home staging services
We then emailed all of our real estate agents to notify them of the new pricing structure:
Subject: BTSH Introduces 2 NEW Home Staging Consultation services!!
Over the last several years, BTSH has worked to continually improve the quality of the services that we provide and we are excited to announce two new versions of our current home staging consultation services! We appreciate your on-going support, and for making us your #1 choice in Waterloo Region, so we want to ensure that we continue to offer you both quality and value when you invest in Home Staging. You spoke, and we listened – based on feedback from our clients, including both homeowners and real estate agents, we will be rolling out our new consultations starting <date starting>. Now with 3 comprehensive home staging consultation packages available, we’re sure to have one that suits your client’s needs.
As a Real Estate Agent, when you hire BTSH for your home selling clients, you get more than just a walk-through consultation, you get our commitment to a successful home sale by offering you the following:
<insert your value here>
Notice that we didn’t say anywhere in that email that we are raising prices?
When evaluating whether or not to raise your prices, I want you to think about this – who is holding you back from raising your prices? We all have that client that makes a lot of noise any time we enforce a policy, or introduce something new to our business. Think about this – 80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients. And 80% of your stress comes from 20% of your clients. Sometimes you just have to shut out the noise and do what is best for you and your business.