The following information is provided by award-winning home staging expert Shauna Lynn Simon. It’s backed up by thousands of clients, up-to-date and independent research, and 14 years of real-world experience in the home staging industry.
There are many paths to becoming a professional home stager and, yes, a career in home staging can provide you with a good stable income.
With the right tools in your pocket, you can start (and grow) your business quickly and efficiently. I’ve personally helped thousands of home stagers from all kinds of backgrounds and economic circumstances to become successful home stagers in their local area.
Here’s what you need to know about how much home stagers make, and how you can kickstart (or rejuvenate) a career as one!
What does a home stager do?
Home staging is the art of furnishing and decorating a home to make it aesthetically appealing to anyone walking through the front door. A professional stager typically works with real estate agents or home sellers to prepare and stage owner-occupied and vacant homes prior to listing their property for sale in their local real estate market.
Professional staging is not the same as interior design. Interior designers work with clients and create an environment based on their personal likes, dislikes, personal functional needs and preferred home look.
A home stager, in contrast, is trained to turn open houses into future homes that potential buyers find universally attractive. Selling a home is about marketing to today’s home buyers.
The day-to-day life of a home stager involves:
- Doing consultations with new clients.
- Planning room layouts and furnishings.
- Physically managing the movement and placement of ALL decor and furniture into vacant show houses.
- Advising clients on how to arrange their existing furniture and decor
- Helping clients clear clutter, clean surfaces and repair cosmetic defects
- And much, much more!
Home stagers often work to make small spaces appear bigger and more attractive to prospective buyers.
Why do people hire home stagers?
Home stagers position homes against their competition so that they stand out to and attract buyers. With more buyers interested in a home, the property will sell at a higher price — often 5-10% above the asking price. In most cases, it also helps the home sell after spending very little time on the market (1-2 weeks). If you think about a $500,000 home, a mere 5% increase in sale price net’s the seller an extra $25k! Considering the cost of staging, their return on investment is five times more than the cost of staging.
Three types of home stagers
While estate agents have governing bodies like the National Association of Realtors ® as well as state/provincial licensing boards, there’s no formal roadmap to becoming a home stager. In a self-regulated industry, the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) provides standards and professional guidelines for members, however, membership is not mandatory to be a home stager.
As a home stager, your revenue is based on referrals from happy customers, partnerships with real estate agents, and the success of your marketing efforts within your area.
Here are the different ways you can run a home staging business.
You help homeowners develop a DIY plan of action in your initial consultation. This business model doesn’t require much capital to start, but you will spend less time doing actual staging, and more time advising, planning, and building resources.
In-house stagers work for real estate agencies or home staging businesses. To find a full-time job in home staging, you need a portfolio of work, training, and experience. You may also start out as a staging assistant while learning the ropes.
A full-service home stager manages home staging projects from start to finish. They hold consultations, plan staging designs, arrange for furniture and decor to be moved or replaced, and physically set the stage of the house for prospective buyers. This type of business requires an inventory of furnishings that you rent to your clients or an agreement with a third-party furniture rental service.
Real estate agents are known to exclusively engage the services of a full-service home staging business.
A professional home stager makes spaces aesthetically pleasing and creates a blank slate for the new owners.
How much money can you make staging homes?
Data supplied by ZipRecruiter indicates that most people working as a home stager will earn between $26,000 and $42,000 per year. The top 15% of home stagers earn between $48,000 and $81,000. (Note: The average salary of a home stager works out to be around $48,000, thanks to these outliers.)
If you are running your own home staging business, you will likely bill a rate of anywhere from $100-$200 per billable hour. Alternatively, if you opt to own inventory, you would also make a rental fee on items you use in a staged home. If you choose to work for a home staging company, your pay rate will depend greatly on your role and responsibilities within their company, however, you can expect to make an hourly rate between $15-$50.
But stats without context don’t really give you the full picture.
Let’s dive into what your monthly income might look like as a solo business owner.
Consultation fees on average cost +/- $300. This covers a couple of hours in which you assess the current state of the house, the number of rooms you need to stage, what the future home will look like, and the amount of work required. This consultation usually includes an upsell tailored to the client with one of the following solutions:
- Complete staging in each room with your inventory.
- Affordable staging with their EXISTING household items.
- A hybrid solution, such as staging key rooms only like the living room and master bedroom only, or providing a mix of your inventory with their existing items.
Each room staged with your inventory can be charged at an industry cost of roughly $500 per month. (It’s possible to charge much higher prices and furniture rental fees to clients if you work with luxury homes.)
Based on these numbers, the following monthly scenario could be what a 1-person business brings in every month:
- 6 x Consultations: $2,400.
- 2 x medium-sized staged homes for one month: $4,000.
- 2 x service-only stagings to stage the house with existing items: $1,000.
And that works out to a monthly gross revenue of $7,400. Next, you need to factor in your expenses to know how much you actually take home.
Understanding your local market
Different locations will allow you to charge varying fees. For example, stagers in New York and Los Angeles will charge a premium for their services due to increased expenses, cost of living, and luxury expectations. On the other end of the spectrum, stagers in a small town an hour outside of Ohio may find that their market won’t bare the same prices and may need to price their service fees far lower.
Factoring in your expenses
While most people will be happy to throw big salary numbers at you, they neglect to mention the costs of securing that revenue. I’ve noticed many people feel overwhelmed by the idea of expenses and operating costs, but it’s all part of running a business. And once you understand your expenses, setting goals and following budgets is as easy as pie.
When creating your business plan, think about the additional cost to do the following:
- The purchase or rental costs of your inventory.
- Training and certification in home staging and business skills.
- Your finance and administration costs (e.g., a bookkeeper).
- Movers, trucks, and storage fees.
- Mobile phone and internet costs.
- Marketing costs (such as a website developer, social media manager, and even Google ads).
- General office supplies.
There are some clever ways to manage and curb your expenses while you’re growing your home staging business. Here are a few great options:
Option 1: Go all-in at the start
This is the method I personally chose. Because I purchased the bulk of Beyond the Stage’s furniture and decor upfront, I expected to run at a loss for a whole five years (home staging was an extremely new concept in my market at the time). In reality, that panned out slightly better, and it took just a little more than three years for us to become a profitable business. And boy was it worth it! I have enough inventory to stage several houses at any one time, and I was quickly becoming the go-to in my area.
This option is entirely possible, but it will take some upfront investment — so you need to go in with a clear plan for not only operating the business but paying your personal expenses (i.e. do you have savings, spousal support, or a second job that could assist in covering costs while you build the business?).
Option 2: Start slow with consults and furniture rentals
Instead of purchasing your large inventory off the bat, keep costs low and rent them from furniture rental companies. Running a consults-only business avoids the expense of moving furniture in and out of houses entirely. Recently, virtual consults have helped stagers reach an even larger market while keeping their running costs at an all-time low. If you wish to provide inventory to clients, invest in the small goods only and leave the big stuff to a furniture rental company to provide. Alternatively, you can assist your clients with shopping for the staging items they need, and since they purchase the items themselves, they get to keep them in the next house!
Option 3: Become a home staging assistant
This has a little less of the glory, but provides a close-up look at the ins and outs of a home staging business, without the upfront investment. You will help a home stager assemble furniture, clean surfaces, make and steam beds, arrange movers, and more. If you feel nervous about entering the industry, it’s a great foot in the door. I’ve trained many assistants over the years and have found it’s crucial to have some training before you start.
Get started with your career in home staging. Click here to check out our free resources.
Home staging tips for people looking to enter the industry
- Passion for home decor is a must!
On those days where you need to put yourself out there and give that little push to get yourself on the right trajectory… it’s passion that will keep you going.
- Build systems from day one.
It all comes down to the systems you create. If you have a strategy for virtual staging consults, traditional homes, and empty homes, you can free yourself from repetitive admin work and focus on getting new clients.
- Get clear on your target clients from the start.
Home staging is still a people game. Understanding where your clients will come from, and how best to interact with them, will be your secret to success.
- Invest in professional photography.
This is your biggest sales tool and poor quality photos (no matter how great your smartphone camera is) could turn off clients before they’ve even contacted you.
Resources to help you get started
Styled, Listed, and Sold (SLS) Academy has all the resources you need to start a career in home staging. Unlike other training programs and academies, we also focus on business skills — our comprehensive training has helped many of our students grow a profitable business from scratch.
We recommend signing up to our FREE 1-hour training webinar to learn more. Sign up 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:
- Glass cleaner
- Rags and dusting cloths
- Touch-up markers
- Tape – painters / electrical / packing
- Labels (for pricing)
- Cardboard boxes – keep extra cardboard boxes leading up to the event to provide to customers
- Miscellaneous tools (hammer, screwdriver, pliers, etc.)
- Cash box (with lock)
- Extra safe (depending on the size of the sale, you may wish to have money removed from the cash box periodically and stored in a safe)
- Blank paper
- Packing paper / bubble wrap (no need to purchase this, but if you have extra that can be provided, your customers will appreciate it)
- Baskets (for shopping – not for sale – pack a sign to note this)
- Display tables
- Storage bins
- Moving blankets
- Lawn signs
- Staff shirts, bandanas, or other identifier
- Safety vests (for staff that may help loading items for customers)
- Tarps / tents if any part of the sale is outdoor
- Colour coded dots – these are great for marking small items
- Aprons – for cash and carry sales on the floor, if you wish to allow this
- Marketing material – be sure to have postcards, brochures, and/or business cards handy!
- Sold signs (for items that are paid for – these should identify whom purchased the item, the time it was purchased, and when they are returning to pick up)
- User manuals – if any of your items have a user manual
- Candy/chocolate – it might sound silly, but having bowls of candy or chocolates makes the chaos of those waiting in line just a little more bearable!
- Calculators – technology fails and phones die – be prepared!
- Bank machine listing
- Permanent coloured markers
- Sign in/out sheet for staffing
- Measuring tapes – have LOTS of these on-hand
- Clear garbage bags (for large sales of pillows, etc)
- Pencil cases for money drops
- Light bulbs – you may choose to sell these, but regardless these should be available to allow customers to test lamps
- Batteries – same reasoning as the light bulbs – if you are selling anything that would require batteries, have some available to show that the item is functional
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
David Peterson, Synergy Staging
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.
2. Create a Company Language
Bobbie McGrath, Successful Staging/Occupied Consultation Specialist™
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!
3. Create a Quoting System
Yvonne Laanstra-Rooth, Staging Calgary
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.
4. How to Close a Sale for What You are Worth
Tracy Molendi, Simply Organized & Staged
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.
5. Invest in a Solid Home Staging Contract
Michelle Minch, CEO Moving Mountains Design
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.
6. Manage Your Inventory, Don’t Let it Manage You
Todd McAllister, OnStage
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.
7. Versatility is Key
Johnathan Miller, Jsquared Interior Staging & Design
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.
8. Be Consistent
Tori Toth, Founder of The Stage to Sell Strategy and The Video Visibility Course
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.
9. Marketing is a Part of Life
Marianne Cherico, Coaching by Marianne Cherico
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.
10. Leave Your Mark
Ginny Truyens, Feels Like Home 2 Me
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!
If you are considering home staging as a career, you might be underwhelmed by the amount of information about how to get started. While some colleges offer some basic courses on home staging, it can be difficult to figure out where to get your training, and whether or not it’s even something that you need.
If you are planning to offer home staging services, it is recommended that you enroll in a reputable home staging certification training program. Here’s the skinny on this – home staging is NOT a regulated industry, therefore, you are not required to receive any licensing, diploma, or certificate in order to call yourself a home stager. In fact, you can wake up tomorrow, call yourself a home stager, and *poof*, you’re a home stager.
Now that you’re calling yourself a home stager, what exactly makes you a home-selling expert? Why should people hire you? Why should your clients take your advice?
Sure, there are some great online resources available today that will provide you with some general information about staging a property for sale, but to become a qualified and successful home stager, you want to be sure to arm yourself with the best resources. Who do you trust with your money? Do you have a financial advisor, or an accountant? I’m sure that they have likely received some pretty extensive training; after all, you are trusting them with your money. What about your doctor, they received some training as well, didn’t they? I mean, you are trusting them with your life. When working with homeowners to sell their home, you are working with their largest asset, and they are trusting you to do great work – this means selling their home in the shortest timeframe possible, for the most amount of money.
You might be thinking that you have “staged” and sold many of your own homes already, and your friends have probably told you that you should pursue a creative career because of your natural eye for design, and this is certainly a valuable skill when it comes to becoming a home stager, but it isn’t the only skill needed.
Did you know?
Home staging is just as much about marketing, as it is about decorating.
Home staging is about properly merchandizing and marketing a property for sale. Even if you have received formal training to become an interior designer or interior decorator, you will find great value in taking a home stager certification course. While many concepts of the two industries overlap and inspire each other, home staging is a part of the real estate industry, and operates with very different guidelines, processes, and “rules” (whether official or not) – your home staging certification will teach you which design elements to use and when. Setting up a home for sale takes a lot more than a little cleaning and decluttering. Here are just a few things that your certification training program should outline and teach you:
- The ins and outs of the Real Estate Market, the key players and how home staging fits in
- The various business structures, creating your business plan, and registering your new home staging business
- Creating your staging plan by addressing buyer perceptions, decluttering, and eliminating distractions
- Furniture selection and placement for optimal flow and buyer appeal
- Step by step review of the home staging evaluation – what to look for, and what to address with your home sellers
- Accessorizing techniques for selling
- What role textures and fabrics play in home staging and design
- Organizing spaces for selling and living
- Repairs and updates – what to address and how to understand the value and impact of each recommendation
- Creating curb appeal and lasting first impressions
- Identifying design styles and working within them
- Creating and preparing accurate floor plans
- Colour theory – using the colour wheel as a tool in colour palette selection; understanding the components and significance of colours
- Preparing your home sellers for the process of selling their home, including managing seller expectations and resistance
- The home staging consultation, from start to finish
- The people factor – the importance of working with the homeowner throughout the process, and understanding their needs
- Managing your owner-occupied and vacant home staging projects, start to finish
- Building your portfolio (especially when you are first starting out)
- How to set up your office to run efficiently and effectively to keep you out meeting with clients and building the business
- Contracts – what clauses to include, policies to consider, and how to create these to ensure that they are ironclad
- How to work with subcontractors
- Health & Safety, and how it applies to your home staging business
- Insurance – what you need, to ensure that you are properly covered
- How to set your policies and procedures for smooth operating practices
- Inventory management and best practices (applies regardless of whether or not you choose to own large furniture pieces)
- How to outline your services and set your pricing (including identifying the various services that you can offer to help your clients, such as color consultations, shopping, decluttering, organizing, project management, and more)
In addition to teaching you how to run your home staging projects, a quality home staging certification program will provide you with the tools and templates that you need to be successful – this is invaluable! I can’t even begin to explain the amount of time that this alone will save you when you are first starting your business. Why re-invent the wheel? From outlining what your services will include, how to provide each service, pricing your services (to get paid your value as an expert in your field), plus contracts, insurance, and SO MUCH MORE! Mistakes can be very costly, so arm yourself with the tools and the information to safeguard yourself, and your business.
Becoming certified as a home stager will also add to your credibility. Keep in mind that the very real estate agents that you will be working with are required to take an intensive training course before working in the industry, and they are also required to earn additional credits through continuing education courses throughout the year, in order to maintain their license. They expect that the people that they work with as a part of their home-selling team are just as qualified, and have invested a similar amount of time, money, and energy.
Above all else, in taking a home staging certification course, you receive the thrill of learning something new, and I promise, you will learn something new. For more about how to choose the right home stager certification training program for you, check out our blog 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.
Need more help with outlining your service and pricing? Check out SLS Academy’s Business of Staging course, designed with all things business in mind.
- Hire a home stager as early as possible in the process
- Homeowners will often try to tackle renovations and decluttering before calling a home stager, but it is actually better to call them in first. As soon as you have made the decision to sell your home, contact a qualified home stager to consult with you on what needs to be done to get top dollar. You may be planning for a renovation that will not yield a high return, and a home stager can help you to maximize your budget.
- Detach yourself emotionally from the home
- We all know how many memories you can create while living in a home, but when it comes time to sell, it is important to think of the house as a product, and just like all products, it needs to be marketable in order to find the right buyer. This can be challenging, especially if your reason for selling is not a positive one, but focusing on the process will help. By packing up your items, you will find the moving process much less stressful, and you can keep all of your private memories…well…private.
- Your research
- Be sure to select the right home stager for you. Who understands your market best? Who offers the type of service that is right for your home? What does their portfolio look like? Do they have what it takes to properly showcase your home? Be sure to check out reviews and testimonials, ask for referrals from your friends and family, and review their home staging portfolio.
- Ask questions
- By asking the right questions, you can ensure that your home is in good hands. Your house is generally your largest investment, so why would you trust that to just anyone? Ask what professional training and certification your home stager has received. Are they associated with an accredited association or organization, such as RESA? What awards and credits have they earned? Hiring a qualified professional will help to ensure a positive outcome for your home. Keep in mind that home staging is NOT the same as decorating or designing a home, so choose your home staging professional based on their home stager training and experience. They may also provide decorating and design services, but they should have the qualifications needed of a home stager as well.
- Surrender control
- Allow your home stager to create a design plan that works for your home and your target buyer – keep in mind that this may not be to your personal taste, but trusting in their expertise will yield the greatest return on the sale of your home. Questioning their vision could lead to compromises in the design, meaning that your home will not showcase as well, and it could delay the process.
- Trust the professionals – hire a real estate agent and a professional photographer
- This is the best way to ensure that you maximize your investment in home staging. With the right marketing, and quality photography, your home can receive maximum exposure and make your home’s greatest features really shine.
- Understand what you get
- Every home stager will have a different process, different pricing, and different packages. Be sure that you fully understand what your investment will provide you with (i.e. staging report with recommendations, staging rentals, access to trades, etc.) and what it does not include (i.e. house cleaning, repairs, etc.).
- Quite possibly the biggest mistake that is made, especially when planning a house-flip, is over-renovating. Not all upgrades are created equal! Be sure to consult with your home stager before beginning any renovations on your property – they will assess the best value to allow you to maximize your budget, and invest in the updates that will produce the greatest return on your investment.
- Cheap out
- As the saying goes, you generally get what you pay for. Selecting the cheapest stager in town could cost you more in the long run if the house takes longer to sell, between additional carrying costs, price reductions, not to mention the stress of having your house available for showings regularly. If a home stager’s price is lower than the industry standards, there is likely a reason.
- Don’t get caught up in the design details – leave that to your professional home stager! The better that you follow their recommendations, the faster the home sale, and the more money you will get (we know that this is cliché, but it really is true!). You wouldn’t clean your own teeth, would you? So why would you try to stage your own home?
- Your home stager will provide you with recommendations that are specific to your home. If you are planning to live in your home for the time that it is listed for sale, your home stager will likely aim to work with most of your own furniture and decorative pieces, if they feel that these work well for your target buyer. If you are eager to get started and begin the purging and decluttering process, be sure to keep some non-personal decorative items out for your meeting with your home stager, in case they would like to work these into your staging plan. These may not fit into the final staging plan, but it is best to allow your home stager to make that decision.
- Over-decorate (i.e. under-declutter)
- This can be just as dangerous as over-decluttering. Remember, home staging is not decorating. Creating a decorating plan for a home is about infusing your own personal style and choices, whereas home staging is intended as a marketing tool, drawing the buyer’s eyes to the greatest areas of interest. When it comes to staging your home for sale, less is more. Consult with your home stager to ensure that you get the balance that is just right for your home.
- Make personal selections for any renovations/paint colours
- Review any major renovation decisions with your home stager before finalizing your plans. It is your home stager’s goal to ensure that the money that you invest in your house is spent in the best areas for increasing the overall sell-ability of the house, creating a move-in ready home, and providing you, ultimately, with the greatest return.
- If you have selected some new finishes that you feel will work well in your home, such as flooring, countertops, cabinets, light fixtures, etc, aim to have samples available at the time of your consultation for your home stager to review.
- Quality takes time, and Rome wasn’t built in a day! We get that in real estate everything needs to happen yesterday, but taking the time to complete the recommendations made by your home stager BEFORE listing your home for sale will pay off in dividends in the end. Creating a finished product, ready for sale, will provide better results than rushing to market with the “lipstick on a pig” version.
- If you are planning any renovations prior to selling, allow yourself sufficient time to create the proper plans and to execute. Also, keep in mind that it is not uncommon for renovations to fall behind schedule, due to unforeseen circumstances, so be sure to allow yourself a buffer of time between completion of the renovations and any staging that needs to take place before listing the house for sale.
Interested in a career in home staging? Find out what our Real Estate Staging Professional (RESP®) Certification program is all about!
Have questions about becoming a Home Stager, or just starting out and need an extra boost in your business? Join our Facebook group, To Be a Home Stager – our very own Shauna Lynn Simon is live online every Thursday afternoon, answering your most pressing questions!