Do you have an eye for interior design? If you have a love for transforming rooms with carefully chosen and placed furniture and décor pieces, starting a home staging business may be a great way to turn your passion for design into a profitable business. Home staging has become a popular trend in real estate sales, so why not capitalize on your skills and start a new career while being your own boss?
Don’t worry if you don’t know where to start; this guide is here to help. We will go over the business, walk you through the steps of getting started, and answer some common questions..
Home staging is a way to maximize a home’s sales price and sell it faster by arranging existing furniture and décor or adding new décor to a home to make it more attractive and appealing. Home stagers work with the homeowner or the realtor and stage the home in an appealing way based on the client’s budget and prospective buyers’ anticipated needs and wants.
Some key services can include:
- Consultation: Evaluate the property and recommend changes to maximize the home’s sales appeal. This may include decluttering, renovations, paint colors, furniture arrangements, etc.
- Staging: Strategically furnish and decorate the home with rental furniture, accessories, and other decorative elements to highlight the home’s best features.
- Project management: Oversee any small renovations, repairs, painting, or cleaning.
- Marketing: Advise on photography, listings, and open houses to showcase the staged home.
As the home stager, you bring your expertise in interior design, real estate staging principles, and project management to elevate a home’s perceived value. Home sellers will pay for home staging because their homes will sell faster and for more money, so they get a return on their home staging investment. This is one reason why home staging can be a lucrative business. The other is that it does not take a large investment to get started. You may, over time, need to build up an inventory of staging items to use, but you can get started with very little out-of-pocket expense.
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Home Staging Industry Summary
The home staging industry has grown considerably over the past decade, driven by a competitive housing market. According to Ruby Home, over 38% of realtors believe staging increases the selling price of a home. On average, staged homes sell 48% faster and for 1%-5% above asking price.
Many home stagers start out as real estate agents or interior designers and then launch their own staging business. Successful home staging requires an eye for design, knowledge of real estate trends, strong project management skills, and an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s also important to develop relationships with realtors who can recommend your services to clients.
There are two potential streams of revenue for home stagers. Most home stagers do paid consultations, meaning they recommend to the home seller or realtor how to stage the house. According to the IAHSP, over 80% of those consultations lead to the second staging revenue stream – hands-on staging, where the stager comes back to perform the staging, either with the homeowner’s existing items or with items provided by the stager.
Steps To Start A Home Staging Business
Starting a successful home staging business takes more than just a good eye for design. Here is a list of steps to walk you through all the important stuff you need to know and do, from understanding your market to getting your business officially up and running.
Step 1: Assess the Market
So you think you have a great idea to start a home staging business, but are there enough people in your area to pay for this service? Before diving in head first because you think it’s a good idea, researching demand helps determine if your business idea is viable and prevents wasted time and money on a concept that may not pan out.
Although this initial research won’t definitively predict your business’s success, it can provide valuable insights that can either affirm your business idea or prompt you to adjust your plans. Home staging is still an emerging industry in many regions, so you need to gauge interest before assuming customers exist.
Here are some cost-effective ways to research the market for a home staging business:
- Web search trends: Use Google Trends to analyze local search volume for terms like “home staging” over time. Rising interest indicates opportunity.
- Realtor survey: Connect with realtors via email or in person to assess if they see value in staging services for clients. They have a pulse on the housing market and can give you insights on whether home staging services are in demand.
- Local real estate data: Analyzing local real estate data can give you an idea of the volume of houses being sold in your area, which can indicate the potential demand for home staging services.
- Open houses: Attend open houses to observe which homes stand out as well-staged. Talk to realtors about demand.
- Homeowner interviews: Reach out to recent home sellers to learn what services they utilized when listing their home.
- Competitor analysis: Research other home staging businesses in your market to analyze services, marketing, and pricing. Looking at the existing home staging businesses in your area can give you an idea of the current market saturation. If there are already numerous well-established home staging businesses operating in your area, it might be more difficult to break into the market.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
After validating the market and feeling a positive pulse for your home staging business, it’s time to put together a business plan. This blueprint will not only guide your business but also help in convincing lenders to back your idea if you need funding.
Let’s take a closer look at the important components that can strengthen your business plan:
- Why it’s important: Here, you will present the reasons your business stands a good chance of success. Showcase the demand for home staging services and how your business intends to meet this demand effectively. Highlight your understanding of the market and why your services will be sought after.
- Why it’s important: The management team section is an opportunity to showcase the people behind the business. This includes the owners and key team members, and even if you are the “team,” lenders often attribute the success of a business to its management. They want to know that the team has the necessary skills, experience, and dedication to execute the business plan effectively. Clearly outline each member’s role, qualifications, and previous successes in this section.
- Why it’s important: Lenders will pay close attention to the financial projections section. This part of your business plan should include income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements for the next three years. Ensure your projections are reasonable and based on solid assumptions. Lenders need to see that the business can repay the loan and the business has the potential to be profitable.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Source Funding
Before embarking on other steps, such as obtaining licenses and buying inventory, it is essential to have the finances in place. Without having the funds to fuel your dreams, you may find yourself putting plans on hold until you can acquire the money.
Personal savings are often the first source of funding for small businesses. This method has the advantage of not requiring any interest payments or giving up equity. However, if personal savings aren’t sufficient to cover startup costs, outside funding sources may be necessary.
Bank loans: Banks are traditional sources of funding for small businesses. They typically require the borrower to invest 15% – 25%of their personal funds towards the total cost of the project, have a good credit score, and have sufficient collateral to secure the loan. If a bank views a loan as too risky, they might consider offering the loan under an SBA guarantee, which can provide the bank with a level of assurance against the loan default.
Friends and family: Drawing from friends and family is another feasible option. However, borrowing from friends and family can potentially strain relationships, especially if the business encounters financial difficulties. Treating these arrangements formally by documenting everything in writing is important to avoid misunderstandings.
Microloans: In cases where the funding needs are on the lower end, or perhaps credit isn’t readily available through standard lenders, microloans emerge as a viable solution. Besides offering financial assistance, some microloan programs also offer business training, which can be an added advantage for new entrepreneurs.
Local investors: Some local individuals may be interested in investing in businesses within their community. These individuals typically have a higher net worth and an interest in your industry. Securing investment can be challenging as investors typically seek businesses with high growth potential and scalability. This might not be the most likely source of funding for a home staging business, which is typically not a high-growth, high-scale enterprise.
Step 4: Register the Business
Starting a home staging business involves several steps to ensure it’s legally registered and compliant with local, state, and federal regulations. The process varies by state but generally involves choosing a business structure, registering the business name, and obtaining necessary licenses and permits.
Choosing a business structure: The first step is to decide on a business structure. The four primary types of business structures are:
- Sole proprietorship: This is a common choice for individuals starting out on their own due to its simplicity and low startup costs. However, it offers no personal liability protection, meaning your personal assets can be at risk in the event of business debts or liabilities.
- General partnership: This involves two or more individuals running the business together. It shares many of the characteristics of a sole proprietorship, including the ease of setup and a more direct method of reporting income, but partners share the business liabilities.
- Corporation: Setting up a corporation involves more complexities and administrative fees but offers protection for the owner’s personal assets by separating them from the business liabilities. It’s often chosen by larger businesses or those with significant assets to protect.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): Combining elements of both the corporation and sole proprietorship/partnership structures, an LLC offers a balance between liability protection and simplicity. Many small businesses opt for this due to its flexibility.
Related: Comparison of business structures
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Obtain business licenses and permits: Most states require businesses to obtain certain licenses and permits before they can operate. The specific requirements for a home staging business can vary by state. Some of the more common business registrations a home staging business may need are a business license, sales tax permit, and an Employer Identification Number.
Step 5: Invest in Training
Investing in training before starting a home staging business can be incredibly beneficial, even though it’s not a mandatory step. Here are a few reasons why:
- Industry knowledge: Home staging is more than just making a house look attractive. It requires knowledge of real estate trends, an understanding of buyer psychology, and familiarity with different architectural styles and interior design elements. Training can provide this comprehensive industry knowledge, setting you up for success.
- Practical skills: Home staging involves practical skills such as space planning, color theory, and visual merchandising. Training programs often include hands-on exercises that allow you to practice these skills, ensuring you’re well-prepared when you start staging homes.
- Business insights: Running a home staging business involves more than just staging homes. You’ll need to market your services, manage your finances, network with real estate agents, and more. Many training programs cover these business aspects, providing valuable insights into running a successful home staging business.
- Credibility: Having a certification or completing a training program demonstrates to potential clients and partners that you’ve invested time and effort into learning your craft. This can enhance your credibility and help you stand out in a competitive market.
- Avoid common pitfalls: Training can help you learn from others’ experiences and mistakes, enabling you to avoid common pitfalls and challenges in the home staging business.
Step 6: Set Up Operations
Setting up operations for your home staging business marks the exciting transition of your plans from paper to reality. This stage involves acquiring a suitable operating space, purchasing and managing inventory, and setting up your workspace.
The first significant task is to find a suitable place to operate your business. Home staging businesses usually operate from various settings, such as home offices, commercial spaces, or even a virtual setup. However, having a physical location to store your inventory and meet clients is often recommended. When choosing a space, consider factors like proximity to your target market and the cost involved. It is essential to strike a balance between accessibility and affordability.
Next comes the step of acquiring the inventory that forms the backbone of your home staging business. This involves buying furniture, artwork, light fixtures, and other decor elements that will be used to stage homes. It’s important to select versatile items that can fit in various settings, enhancing the visual appeal of different types of homes. Once acquired, you’ll need a safe and secure place to store your inventory. A climate-controlled storage unit can be ideal if you don’t have enough space at your home or office. This space should be organized efficiently for easy access and minimal handling to prevent damage.
Step 7: Create a Marketing Plan
With the business almost ready to launch, creating a marketing plan is the next step we will cover. This step is important because people aren’t likely to find out about your service otherwise.
There are various ways to go about this, and one of the most popular methods is developing a portfolio showcasing your previous home staging projects. If you are a newcomer, you will also want to create a portfolio of homes for potential customers that you have staged. If you haven’t worked on any yet, start with your own home, a friend’s home, or provide free staging in a few homes for a real estate agent. As you begin building the portfolio, collect testimonials and include them on your website and marketing materials. This portfolio can be showcased on your business website and social media platforms, like Instagram and Pinterest, which are powerful tools for reaching a large audience. You can also create blog posts sharing home staging tips and showcasing before and after staging photos to attract potential clients.
Networking is another way to build your business presence. Establish collaborations with real estate agents, as they can recommend your services to home sellers. There are no doubt other home stagers in your area, so when you network with realtors, you will probably not be the only stager they have talked to. You need to make yourself stand out and be prepared with pictures of your work and a sales pitch. Networking is a special skill, and without it, you won’t be successful.
You will want to ensure your business is easily discoverable online. In addition to a professional looking website, claim your Google Business Profile and other platforms where potential clients may search for home staging services, such as Yelp or Houzz. This not only improves your online presence but also enhances your credibility by providing a platform for customers to leave reviews.
Offline, consider branding your vehicles with your business logo. This turns your transportation into a mobile advertisement, increasing local awareness of your business. Joining your local chamber of commerce can also be beneficial. It provides networking opportunities and can boost your business’s reputation within the community.
Step 8: Prepare to Launch
As you gear up to launch your home staging company, several more steps help that may still be needed. Each business will have different needs, but let’s go through some of the pivotal yet common loose ends you should consider tying up.
Business insurance: Protect your business from potential liabilities with suitable insurance coverage. This might include general liability insurance, property insurance for your inventory, and professional indemnity insurance if you’re offering design advice. We recommend getting at least three insurance quotes, including local insurance agents and online providers like Coverwallet or Hiscox to get the best coverage and price.
Setting Up bookkeeping: Accurate financial records are crucial for tracking income, expenses, and profitability. You can manage this yourself using software like Wave Accounting (FREE) or Quickbooks, or hire a bookkeeper or accountant.
Contracts: Having well-drafted contracts is vital to protect your interests and clarify expectations with clients. These might include staging services agreements, rental agreements for your furniture and decor, and non-disclosure agreements to protect your designs. RocketLawyer and Law Depot have free and inexpensive templates that may be helpful.
Opening a business bank account: A separate business bank account helps keep your personal and business finances separate, simplifying bookkeeping and tax preparation
Setting pricing: Setting the right pricing strategy that reflects the value and quality of your service is essential. You would need to factor in your expertise, the complexity of the project, and market rates while deciding on the pricing.
Joining Industry Associations: Organizations like the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) and the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP) provide networking opportunities, industry updates, and resources that can enhance your business.
Common Questions When Starting A Home Staging Business
How much does it cost to start a home staging business?
Starting a home staging business requires an initial investment, but the costs can vary greatly depending on your location and business model.
The total costs to start a basic home staging business often range from $10,000 to $50,000. Here is an overview of typical startup costs:
Inventory: A key upfront cost is inventory and equipment. Plan on spending a minimum of $5,000 to $30,000 on furniture, decor, tools, and supplies to outfit your staging kits.
Location: Depending on your model, this doesn’t necessarily mean leasing an office space; many home stagers operate from home, especially when starting out. However, you will need a place to store your inventory of staging items. The cost of this storage space will depend on its size and location, but you should budget for the initial deposit.
Insurance: It is a good idea to secure your business with insurance right from the beginning. The initial setup for a business insurance package might cost you around $1,000 to $2,500.
Training and certification: Though optional, investing in training and certification can be a wise decision to foster professionalism and reliability. It might cost between $1,000 and $3,000.
Vehicle: Transporting items requires a reliable van or truck, which may cost $10,000 to $15,000 for a used vehicle if you don’t already have one available.
Business registration: Incorporating your business and basic insurance will likely run $1,000 to $2,000.
Initial marketing: To kickstart your business, a well-planned marketing strategy is vital. Setting up a professional website, getting business cards, and promotional materials can cost about $2,000 to $5,000.
How profitable is a home staging business?
Many home staging businesses charge between $300-500 per room staged, with an average home having 3-5 rooms staged. Starting out and staging 2-3 homes per month at $1,500 per home staged, the monthly revenue would be approximately $3,000 – $4,500.
Expenses like inventory, insurance, marketing, transportation, and other operating costs for a small home staging business typically range from 40-60% of revenue. With 50% of $4,500 allocated to expenses, that leaves around $2,250 in pre-tax profit per month or $27,000 in annual pre-tax profit.
This assumes a basic level of business based on industry averages – profits could be higher for experienced stagers taking on more clients at premium rates. Many variables affect the bottom line, but conservative estimates put potential first-year profit in the $25,000-$35,000 range.
Every market is different, but this business generally has a certain amount of seasonality. Most people sell their homes in the Spring and Summer, so you’ll need to be prepared for fluctuations in your income.
What skills are helpful in running a home staging business?
You don’t need a degree or certification in interior design or business to run a home staging service, but there are specific skills that can help.
Design experience: Even if you only have experience designing your own home, as long as you have a good eye for home decor and interior space design, you’ll have an advantage. You may think you have an eye, but ask other people what they think of your decorating skills in your home or something else you’ve designed. You won’t get very far with your business if your clients don’t like your results.
Knowledge of trends: It’s good to be able to keep up with design trends like colors and textures, and it’s easy to do by keeping an eye on design publications and sites like Pinterest.
Business knowledge and experience: While a home staging business is not complicated to run, it’s good to have some knowledge of marketing, contracts, and finance/accounting. Taking a home staging course will provide professional development to excel in this industry.
Customer service: You’ll need to be able to build rapport with your customers and provide timely, reliable, and professional service to keep them engaged and satisfied.
Networking: One of the most valuable things that you will do for your business is reaching out to realtors and network with them at events. Previous networking experience in any field is an asset.
What is the NAICS code for a home staging business?
The NAICS code for a home staging business is 541410, which is categorized under Interior Design Services.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.
Related: What is a NAICS code?