Behind a beautiful, marketable real estate listing is a home staging business. While realtors do everything from setting prices to communicating with potential buyers, it is a home stager’s job to turn a house into a home. According to the National Association of Realtors, a staged home often spends less time on the market and is considered more valuable.
A home staging company sounds like an essential business venture, but how do you even get started? Keep reading for your step-by-step guide to launching your home staging business.
Step One: Assess the Financials
Let’s be honest: Launching a business is an expensive endeavor—and the home staging industry is no exception. Before you put the time, effort, and, yes, money into launching your home staging business, calculate your start-up costs. Jot down a list of one-time and ongoing expenses you’ll incur, including the following:
- Business license
- Business insurance
- Domain name
- Website design
- Marketing materials (i.e. logos, business cards, flyers, brochures)
- Home decor and furniture
- Warehouse to store home decor and furniture
- Online courses and certifications
Prices for most of your business expenses will vary, so it’s a good idea to shop around for the best rate. From there, you’ll be able to determine if you can afford to launch your own home staging business and how much you’ll need to make to break even.
Step Two: Make it Official
As the old adage goes, the early bird gets the worm—and your home staging business is no exception. Once you’ve decided to launch your home staging company, it’s time to take the leap of faith and make it official. But before you start sprucing up real estate properties, you’ll need to fill out some paperwork:
Name Your Home Staging Business: First things first: You need to come up with a business name. Not only will your company’s name be included on all your taxes, business banking applications, and LLC., but it will also encourage you to start thinking about your brand as a whole. In order to choose a company name that will hold up over time, think about your business goals. What will your home staging business offer? Who is your target market? What type of properties do you want to stage?
Create an LLC: Establishing a legal entity will help draw a line between your personal bank account and your company’s finances. For example, setting up a legal liability company (or LLC) will protect you from any setbacks your business might experience such as debt or lawsuits. Err on the side of caution by setting up your LLC sooner rather than later, and your personal assets will be protected should your company experience a rough patch.
Sign Up for Taxes: Speaking of taxes: As a business owner, you are responsible for filing state and federal taxes for your company. Instead of filing your taxes under your social security number, you will file your company’s taxes with an employer identification number (or EIN). Fortunately, many business formation companies will automatically give you an EIN.
Apply for a Business Banking Account: When it comes to building a home staging business, you’ll have to spend money to make money—literally. A home stager should have access to furniture they can readily use at a client’s home; however, you shouldn’t have to buy all your home staging essentials with your personal credit card. Not only will setting up a business banking account monitor your spending, but it will also help you keep track of the expenses you can write off once tax season rolls around.
Research Business Insurance Policies: When you’re just getting your home staging business off the ground, there’s a good chance you’ll be your own assistant, accountant, and, yes, your own moving team. While you may not need to sign up for a business insurance policy right away, it’s something to think about as you scale your home staging business.
Step Three: Become a Master Home Stager
Real estate agents might be required to get their licenses before they can sell homes, but the home staging industry is surprisingly underregulated. While you don’t need any special certifications or credentials to become a successful home stager, it’s a good idea to enroll in a few online courses for interior design and home staging. Not only will they help sharpen your eye for design, but these certifications will also legitimize your business when you’re just starting out.
Step Four: Create Your Marketing Materials
Before you start networking and reaching out to potential clients, you need to have your marketing materials designed, printed, and ready to be distributed. But while business cards and pamphlets are important, your website is arguably the most important tool of your marketing arsenal. For starters, a website is a convenient place for potential clients to view your rates, check out your social media profiles, and find your contact information. But since the home staging industry places a heavy emphasis on interior design, your website should show off your personal style. Most website builders have beautiful templates to choose from but if you want to create a one-of-a-kind site, you can hire a graphic designer or web developer.
Step Five: Set Your Rates
Negotiating rates with a potential client can be uncomfortable—especially when you have a new business. On the one hand, you want to get paid for the hard work you put into a client’s home. However, as a small business owner, you also want to build experience and simply get paid. To avoid any awkward conversations, set your rates ahead of time.
So, how much are you supposed to charge for a home staging job? According to Realtor.com, most home staging services charge between $300 and $600 for an initial consultation, and $500 to $600 per room per month. Oftentimes, a home stager will rent out furniture—and charge their clients an additional monthly fee.
If you want to cater to different types of properties, you can always create different pricing tiers. For example, you could charge less for a small, studio apartment, or partial staging. That way, you and your potential clients can find a package that works with their budgets.
Step Six: Pick Up Home Decor
Now that you’ve done all the paperwork, it’s time to have a little fun with your home staging business. Since interior design is a huge part of any home staging business, it’s important to invest in a few pieces of home decor that you can use in a variety of projects. Since no two homes are the same, you might want to refrain from buying large sofas or bed frames until you really need them. Instead, focus on smaller accessories like the following:
- Coffee table
- Accent chairs
- Side tables
- Rug runner for hallways
- Throw blankets
- Throw pillows
Once you’ve racked up a few home staging projects, you might want to consider renting a storage unit or a small warehouse where you can place and maintain your furniture.
Step Seven: Build a Portfolio
Want to become your area’s go-to home staging company? Well, you’ll need to create a portfolio to show off your design chops. For many small business owners, building a portfolio can feel like a Catch-22. You’ll need a portfolio to score new projects and clients, but how are you supposed to create a portfolio when you’ve yet to have your first client?
To start, show off your style by taking pictures of your home. If you want to add some more projects to your portfolio, ask a friend or family member if you can practice your home staging skills with their places.
Step Eight: Find Business—and Collect Testimonials
Now that you’ve set up your business, created a beautiful website, and built a portfolio, it’s time to go out and find your first client. Sure, putting yourself and your brand-new business out there is a little intimidating. To help, check out these savvy ways to strike up new business.
Analyze the Market
According to the National Association of Realtors, staged properties often spend less time on the market than their non-staged counterparts. If you want to help homeowners who are struggling to sell their place, take a look at your local real estate listings. If you see a property that’s been on the market for a few weeks (if not, months), reach out to the seller or listing agent. From there, you can schedule a meeting and share how your services can help them sell their property faster.
Network with Local Realtors
Chances are, a small group of realtors and real estate firms represents the bulk of your neighborhood’s listings. If you want to be the go-to home staging business, it’s a good idea to become friendly with your area’s real estate circuit. Ask a few realtors out for coffee so you can learn about their businesses and share what you can bring to the table. That way, you’ll be top of mind if a realtor is ever looking for a home staging business.
Spread the Word
When it comes to launching your own home staging business, self-promotion is key. After all, how else will potential clients know you’re open for business? Whether you share on your neighborhood’s social media page, ask friends and family to tell their communities, or post a flyer at your co-working space, spreading the news will go a long way.