Home staging is a way to prepare a house for sale. By using professional cleaning, repair, and decoration home staging aims to make the house appear larger, brighter, cleaner, and more inviting to potential buyers. Professional stagers use high level design skills to appeal to a buyer's senses. Any number of techniques can come into play from rearranging furniture into a larger visual concept, to paint, showcasing fine fabrics, putting drapes on windows, and adding pieces like bookcases or shelves to bring attention to particular areas. You can run this business alone or as part of a larger real estate agency. Either way the goal is to show a house in use so buyers are more encouraged than they would be seeing a vacant house.
1. Taking Preliminary Business Steps
1. Create a business name. You can come up with something unique to your concept or just use your personal name.
- If you use a concept name then keep it relevant to your industry. You want a name connected to the ideas of home and design.
- Whatever name you choose will need to be heavily publicized in real estate offices, among builders, art shops, mortgage brokers, and anyone else who might use your services.
2. Draw up a budget. This will be preliminary at best until you get a better idea of your area's real estate market and client needs.
- Start-up costs for home staging are usually low, but regardless if you ask your bank for a small business loan or not, plan on a few items from the beginning.
- Expect some costs for early marketing such as business cards, frequent travel, advertising space in local publications, and possibly web hosting.
- Canvas the area contractors for painters, plumbers, electricians, etc... for their costs. You mostly will be working with what's on site at a home, but sometimes you may need an assist. Keep in mind this will factor into what you charge the homeowner.
3. Print a business card. You probably want this done at a local print shop or office store. You can ask them about other items to get your business logo on such as pens, magnets, note pads, etc...
- The major items to have on the cards are your business name, your own name, and contact info. You should have at least a phone number you can easily be reached at, an e-mail address you check frequently, and possibly a website.
- These items can be relatively inexpensive if you cut back on extra embellishments such as fancy fonts, glosses, special paper, etc... Conversely, spending some more on the display sometimes appeals to customers. Strike a balance.
4. Create a schedule of charges. This will be what you charge clients for your services.
- You will need to decide your basis for charging including square footage of the house, hours of labor, weight of objects moved, etc...
- Some stagers can charge between $500 to $5,000 dollars per house.
- Set your rates to cover your total business costs plus a reasonable profit.
5. Contact the US Small Business Administration. You can look at the SBA for financing ideas if you think more funding will be necessary for decorating. Also this will help with registration if you want to build a larger office with more employees.
- Some staging jobs will involve you encountering an empty house or room. In these cases you will have to rent furniture and other decorations, so having some extra money on hand would help.
- Some staging jobs may involve substantial painting and/or repair work. If you're doing the work initially yourself then you may need to pay the contractor first even if you're charging the homeowner later.
6. Create a website. This is a good idea with modern technology's advantages. The website can make contact smoother between clients and you plus showcase your work with photos even video.
- You can try free website creators if you know how to use them.
- If you do not know how to program webpages, consider budgeting extra for a professional website creator to do it for you.
- Do consider if you have any friends, family, or colleagues that are good at web design that might do this in exchange for you staging a room for them or similar service.
- Make sure whoever designs the site helps keep the page high in popular search engines.
2. Managing Your Local Real Estate Market
1. Look at consumer reports for home buyers. You want to get a sense of what potential buyers are looking for in their homes. This could vary quite a bit by neighborhood.
- Check out area business commentary, surveys, reports, and talk to realtors if they are willing to discuss buyer general interests. You want to get sense of consumer tastes.
- Think about asking people close to you what they would be interested in seeing for a new home--especially if a friend or family member is actually in the market.
2. Contact local real estate offices. You can do this to either see if they want to hire you as a stager, or at least get information on potential clients.
- Offer to do a couple of free stagings for the realtor to demonstrate your abilities.
- Get permission to put your business card or a small sign with your name and contact information on an early display when you do them. This will showcase your skills for the realtor and customers in addition to perhaps getting the realtor's reports on buyer interests and referrals.
3. Join the Real Estate Staging Association. RESA is a professional organization that can help professional stagers network worldwide, and gather at conventions to exchange information on the trade.
- The organization can help network to find stagers, achieve higher levels of training, and learn more about the different elements of the industry from redesign to marketing.
- RESA has an annual trade convention called "RESACON."
4. Write for the community realty publications. Many cities have a local real estate publication or might allow a contribution on matters of decoration in the local newspaper.
- Look up the real estate publication's submission guidelines, and do the same for the newspaper regarding contributions.
- Contact the appropriate editor saying something such as: "I am a local home stager, I would like to write for your publication about my strategy for making a room look warmer." or "I would like to submit an article about home decoration." Proceed according to the editor's instructions. If they are not taking any submissions then you should move onto another venue.
5. Contact reliable contractors in the area. Ask the realtors you network with about cleaners, repair crews, painters, and other similar workers they recommend to homeowners when trying to improve a house for sale.
- You may want to check the contractors against the Better Business Bureau reports to see if any problems come up.
- Look for reviews online and/or from other realtors and homeowners that used the contractors to get a reasonable idea of each one's cost, speed of service, and capabilities in case you need them to help with your staging projects later on.
- For example, if you find a painter that is fast and can do large homes, but is too costly, you may not get many customers when you start-up with no established reputation. On the other hand, a handyman that has a reputation for cheap, safe, and efficient electrical work might be useful if you need to alter lighting in a room.
3. Working With Interior Design
1. Set up good resources for home decor. This means being able to pull in props, furniture, art supplies, and the like to supplement whatever you might be lacking when encountering a client's home.
- Get in touch with local renters of furniture, art shops, paint sellers, and wood crafters. These are going to be shops that will be more useful with quick turn-around items than some of the more involved repair shops.
- You might let these local shops know you plan on using them regularly. Perhaps introduce yourself to their manager or owner by saying, "I'm starting a local home staging business and would like to make use of your furniture for empty room situations." They might give you some discounts for frequent use.
- Also look into renting a storage facility to keep supplies you purchase and don't rent so you can reuse them for multiple jobs.
2. Move furniture. This is probably among the more demanding aspects of staging on a regular basis. Moving furniture can involve a lot of heavy lifting, has a major impact on the spacious feel of a room, and has a high risk of you damaging something valuable of the homeowner.
- If you can get assistance moving the furniture, with the homeowner's permission, do so.
- Different strategies can be employed to make rooms feel more open and comfortable including grouping furniture away from walls, making sofas and armchairs into more cozy units, or adding a bookcase or dresser to a room.
3. Add lighting. Generally the problem in most rooms is a lack of lighting, so adding fixtures or bulbs with more wattage is necessary. However, sometimes the lamps in place cannot handle bulbs with more wattage, so replacing them may be necessary.
- If you need to add a new light fixture or replace an existing one then you will need an electrician. In this event, if this situation was not already covered under your work contract, you will need to ask the homeowner for authorization.
- If the homeowner resists then you can simply give them the recommendations for lighting additions to different areas and let them decide how to proceed.
4. Change colors. The mood of a room can be drastically affected by dark hues paired with light colored furnishings or the reverse. Neutral colors can allow brighter ones to pop even more if you want them highlighted in specific areas.
- Moving around existing colored objects can be accomplished similar to the furniture technique. But if you plan on painting significant portions of the interior of a home then you will need the homeowner's agreement in your contract or later on.
- If the homeowner does not want you to change the paint scheme of the house then you can make some recommendations and let them choose what to do on their own.
5. Add accessories. These can be anything from flowers to wall hangings. Where they come from is up to you and the homeowner.
- Flowers can add to the beauty of any staged setting, as can pictures, and framed paintings.
- These don't have to be from expensive shops. You can use the local connections you made to get some inexpensive artwork and plants to liven up a room, but you can also move around existing framed work in the homeowner's house.
- Consider using existing potted plants and flowers from the homeowner's garden, with their permission, to accentuate a room within the home.
4. Attracting Customers
1. Advertise in the right places. Give out business cards, do lunch, show your portfolio of designs to related businesses.
- This includes realtors, office managers, painters, construction companies, mortgage brokers, and moving companies.
- Offer occasional sample stagings to the managers or executives of these companies in exchange for referrals.
- Periodically reestablish contact with these colleagues to remind them of your availability and abilities.
2. Use word of mouth. There is no substitute for customers sharing their experience with you to others. Find ways to remind clients to mention your business in their dealings with others.
- If you are working with a realtor then remind them to drop your business name to other realtors at their trade shows and meetings.
- Hand out items with your business name or logo to your clients so they pass it on. If they ask for a pen then it should be one with your business name on it.
3. Do a staging demonstration at your own home. This is not only a good way to experiment with designs, but a way to showcase your skills to anyone you wish to invite.
- Invite some real estate agents you want to network with.
- Consider doing a friend's or family member's home too.
- Take some photos of the finished product to include in your portfolio.
4. Practice with trends. Keeping up with the latest fashionable ideas in home furnishings, draperies, ambient lighting, and color schemes is important to satisfying newer buyers.
- Use the staging at home or a friend's location idea if you want to practice before doing this at a client's home.
- Take photos of your use of the latest trends, include the photos in your portfolio, and add the photos to your website. This will demonstrate to potential clients that you are with the times in your decorating skills.