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.
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.
Our home staging clients often tell us how much they wish that they had brought us in sooner, before they decided to sell the house, so that they could have enjoyed some of the changes that we made! They especially love seeing some of our home staging tricks and hacks first hand, so we’ve decided to share some of our favourites with you! You can put these low-cost ideas to use in your home, regardless of whether or not you are selling.
1. Use baskets to hide cables
It’s not a fancy trick, but it can be incredibly effective. Hide routers, cables, and other messes using baskets. NOTE: some items (such as routers) need room to vent, so be sure to account for and allow for this.
Consider adding a shelf under your desk to get the cords and cables off of the floor.
2. Zip tie your lamp cords (and other electronics)
In staging, there is nothing worse than seeing a long dangling cord behind a table. By zip-tying these, they can be cleaned up and out of site. Wind up extra slack in the cable or cord not needed and tie. You can bundle the cord close to the table top and tie, or tie the cord to the table leg at the top and bottom, and bundle the cord at the base. It’s easy for cables and chargers to become a bit of a mess as well. Group your office or tv cables together and zip tie in a few spots to keep them from getting tangled. It’s also a great idea to label your cords (close to the plug) so that you can easily unplug one when you need to without needing to do serious detective work to find the right one to disconnect. There are a variety of cord labelling systems available for sale, but it doesn’t need to be fancy – you can these create with any labels or tape that you have in your household already. 3. Use painters tape or masking tape to hang art on plaster walls
This will prevent the wall from splitting when you puncture it with the nail. Simply place a small piece of tape (approximately ½”) where you want to hang the nail before hammering.
4. Disguise your everyday products
Hat boxes are an attractive way to hide your everyday toiletries, and come in sizes large enough to fit your lotions and sprays easily!
5. Freshen your furniture with touch-up markers
While it’s not the most glamorous fix, this is a trick that is often used in home staging, and works great for giving furniture a quick touch-up from nicks and scratches. When you’re selling your home, even though you are not likely selling your furnishings, showing care of these items will help to show pride of ownership in your home. 6. Get rid of your fireplace’s brass trim
One of the biggest things that can show a fireplace’s age is a brass trim! Pick up some black barbeque paint and cover the brass for an instant update! 7. Fix outdated backsplashes
Have an out-dated backsplash but can’t afford to replace it? Painting it will give it a fresh new look! This is intended as a temporary solution, but with the right paint, it can last for a few years. Not recommended for floor tiles.
8. Yes, you can paint brick!
Paint brick to give an instant update, whether on the interior or exterior of your house. Again, you’ll want to ensure that you are using a paint designed for this type of surface; you’ll be amazed by the finish.
9. Need a table runner?
Create a “make-shift” table runner from an old drape with a few tucks and folds (if you don’t intend to use the drape again, you may wish to cut it and add some hem tape to create a proper seam).
10. Get a custom closet for less!
Hang all similar colours together with matching hangers and add baskets to your shelves. Use space saving hangers for best results – your closet will look and feel much more organized and spacious!
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!
What exactly is home staging? Which houses should be staged? How do you know if it’s the right move for a house? If you’ve seen home staging featured on all of the great real estate television shows, you’re probably thinking that all home staging projects are expensive, and intended only for high-end homes, or homes that are in a serious need of decluttering. But you would be WRONG! Home Staging actually refers to the entire process of preparing a home for sale, ANY home for sale, and professional home stagers are working with every type of homeowner every day. Here we dispel the top 10 myths about Home Staging:
1. Home Staging is Expensive Absolutely not! A trained professional stager is skilled at maximizing their client’s budget, whatever it is. When preparing a home for sale, it’s likely that the homeowners will need to plan to spend some money to get it to move-in ready, but with the recommendations of a professional home stager, often the largest investment is their time. Accessory packages and other staging packages vary by stager, but all home staging projects will generally start with a full-home evaluation, providing a list of recommendations for preparing the home. Did you know? Buyers are actively looking for a move-in ready home, and 63% of home buyers are willing to pay more for this! 2. A home stagers job is to remove everything in a home and replace with new stuff A professional home stager will not recommend adding or removing anything unless they believe that it will contribute positively towards the sale of the house, and they will do their best to work with a homeowner’s items, wherever possible, to achieve the desired results. Often, a little re-arranging of what they already have can work wonders for improving the flow, and overall appeal of a house to potential buyers! The truth is, sometimes it’s just not in the budget to invest in a large staging package.
3. All rooms should be painted builder’s beige When selling a home, neutrals tones are best for showing off the space, but your typical “builder’s beige” is not recommended. In fact, today’s buyers are drawn to grey tones more than browns, giving the home a more modern look and feel. Whatever you choose, ensure that you select a neutral shade, and avoid colours that are too light. By choosing a colour a little further down the colour chip you’ll add warmth and a cozy, welcoming feel to a room.
4. Home staging is only for vacant homes or homes with ugly carpet and wallpaper Certainly some homes can use updating more than others, but the truth is that every home can benefit from home staging, and often a few subtle changes can make a significant difference, whether it’s simply re-arranging some furniture, or more dramatic updates and repairs, every home is unique and requires a unique home staging plan. Vacant homes can tend to sit on the market longer than occupied and furnished homes, since with these properties buyers will struggle to make the necessary emotional connection to the home, and the same can be true for occupied homes that are not styled to suit the target buyer market. Home staging will help to improve the overall flow of the home, and provide the final touches that buyers will be drawn to. 5. Home staging is a way to fool buyers Absolutely not! In fact, it’s the complete opposite! Our goal is to provide buyers with the home that they are looking for. Homeowners are still required to disclose any major flaws of the home that they are aware of, however home staging will help to minimize minor flaws by drawing the focus to the features of the home. 6. Home Staging is just removing personal photos and de-cluttering We all know that we need to declutter and remove personal items from a home before listing, but home staging helps to address so much more. A professional home stager will help to create a style plan for your home, and address where to invest your money in repairs and updates. Home staging focuses on maximizing a home’s space, lighting, flow, design and best features, not just decorating the space. 7. It’s best to list a property first, and address home staging when it doesn’t sell Home staging should always, always, always be considered BEFORE listing the home for sale! Cliché as it may sound, you really do only get one chance to make a first impression. When a home is listed, it should be ready to show at it’s best, both in pictures and for showings. Any Realtor® will tell you that you get the most attention for a property listing during the first couple of weeks that it is listed – these are key buyers! Home Staging is an investment with proven results for selling a home in less time, and for the most amount of money possible. 8. Staging is just the latest real estate trend Home Staging has actually been around since the 1970s, and is a real estate service that is as common today as home inspections! Showing buyers that the home offers good value is always in style. 9. Buyers should be able to see past the updates that are needed and the homeowner’s “stuff” Here’s a fun fact for you – only 10% of buyers have the ability to visualize a space! This means that only 1 in every 10 people that view a home will be able to look past things, and see the home’s true potential. If you’re considering a career in home staging, you clearly fall within the 10%, which means that you can help 90% of potential buyers to see a home’s true value! Show them the best way to live in the home by showing optimal furniture placement, and eliminating anything that might distract them from seeing the features of the home. 10. Home Staging means living in a show home, and that’s just not realistic to expect clients to do A professional home stager provides options and solutions to allow their clients to maintain the function that they need while the home is listed. It’s not easy to live in a show home, but by providing the right recommendations for preparing their home, they won’t have to do so for long! As their home stager, you will help to provide them with tips and creative solutions for the things they need every day.
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!