What it's Really Like to Be a Home Stager
Whenever I tell someone I'm a home stager I usually hear, "That sounds like so much fun!" And it is. But that's only part of the story.
There is the absolute thrill you get from transforming a home from one that's drab and lifeless to a warm, inviting, beautiful space. That's the finale, the reward, the payoff in terms of personal satisfaction and the pleasure of seeing the homeowner happy.
But that's only the visible part, the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot more going on behind the scenes. If you want to succeed in this business there's a little more you need to know. The most successful home stagers I know have developed the following:
Drive and Motivation
Unless you want to become a stager as a hobby, you will need to develop skills in many areas besides decorating. To be in demand by homeowners and realtors you will have to be very good at what you do and be competitively priced.
You might consider some training in the area of home staging or decorating. But be aware that not all programs are good, no matter how expensive they are or how much press they get.
To find a training program worth your hard earned money, contact some successful home stagers in your area and ask them where they trained. To find the best stagers, ask the most successful realtors who they work with.
An example of a really top notch training program that teaches both design and how to set up your business is Sandy Dixon's Interior Arrangements in Evergreen, Colorado.
It certainly helps to have some artistic talent and I think most stagers do. But a lot of staging involves formulas and repeating things that work. Once you get some of the basics down, you find yourself doing them over and over again with minor variations to suit individual homes.
Creativity is most helpful when visualizing furniture arrangements and multiple ways to use space in a room. But I think it's equally important to have initiative and persistence.
Initiative and Persistence
This is how you get the business. At the beginning, no one calls you. You have to meet realtors and sell them on your services. This is the scary part. Some ways to meet realtors include:
"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how
- Visiting realtor offices in the neighborhoods in which you want to work and offering to give free talks about the benefits of staging (be prepared to provide the refreshments)
- Dropping in on open houses and talking with realtors (wait if they're busy showing the home to buyers)
- Joining local realtor associations and professional business groups
- Talking to everyone about what you do
- Doing just one more thing when you get discouraged
close they were to success when they gave up."
Inventor and Scientist
Most stagers buy towels, art, mirrors, bedding, lamps, pillows, dishes, placemats, glassware, greenery, and all kinds of decorator accents that they can reuse when staging homes. Usually their garage and basement are full of the stuff.
Some stagers go all out and buy sofas, chairs, tables, inflatable beds, night stands, coffee tables, area rugs, and decorator accessories to fully stage vacant homes. These stagers can have in excess of $100,000 invested in inventory and rent storage units and sometimes warehouses to store it. They also have to rent or buy trucks and frequently pay movers.
Any reputable home stager will carry a liability insurance policy to cover unintended damage or theft to both the owner's property and to their own inventory.
It's much easier to make a realtor happy than to find new realtors to work with. Knock yourself out in this area:
- Always answer emails and phone calls promptly
- Only promise what you can deliver
- Do more than is expected of you
- Be honest
- Be ethical
- Be consistent and fair in your pricing
- Do your very best, and then do a little more
- Be the home stager everyone wants to work with
Even if you've done all the other things listed above, if you neglect this one, you won't make it. If you want to make money staging, you need some basic business skills. Here are just a few of the things you will need to learn or do:
- Set up a legal business entity
- Maintain separate and accurate banking accounts, accounting processes, and tax records
- Prepare client bids and invoicing
- Follow up on bids and billing
- Set up a website for credibility
- Collect the money
Then Comes the Fun Part
Living Room Before
Living Room After
This is the most rewarding aspect of home staging. Using the skills I've learned to help someone get control of their home and move on with their life. Read the story behind the transformation of this living room in Molly's
If this sounds like something you would love to do, I wish you the best of success. Home staging is here to stay!
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