Requiem for a Home Stager ~ What went wrong?

By
Home Stager with Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR

Have you seen this happen in your city? 

Someone sees those HGTV shows on home staging & design and "knows" they'd be great at staging homes for sale!  Excited and full of optimism, they eagerly take a course on home staging (where they may be told that making money is easy and that very little investment is required).  They figure out a name for their business, obtain liability & inventory insurance, start buying inventory (sometimes just accessories at first until they get a feel for what they might need) and figure out storage options.

home staging contract in portland oregon

Next they order business cards, have an attorney review their home staging contract, register with their city & county, and start thinking about how they'll market their home staging business.  There are so many small details to take care of! 

Soon they'll need to set up a website, learn about search engine optimization so that consumers can find them online, and join one of the professional home staging organizations to network with their home staging colleagues, working to educate the local market about the benefits of home staging.  It seems like an uphill battle at times since many people - both Realtors and Homeowners -- don't yet fully realize the value that home staging has in reducing market time & bringing better offers.

beaverton oregon home staging company

Things seem to be going well!  The first year is a learning experience ... but once they get their first paid job they find that it leads to another .... and to the next one.   Soon, local Realtors recognize their company name & logo and more phone calls come in for home staging proposals for vacant properties and/or occupied homes.

They're hoping that all of their hard work will pay off before long!

Now they're wondering ... should they hire some help?  portland oregon home stagers Moving furniture from storage facilities in & out of a home isn't that much fun -- it's hard physical work!  Should they hire general labor -- and where can you find someone reliable?  Also they soon find that staging all day and often past dinner time isn't much fun either.  So they need to consider hiring someone with design sense to help with the staging.  But is there enough profit in the business yet to hire anyone?  Better look into whether hiring employees or independent contractors is better for your particular situation.  Time to consult with that attorney again -- and also a good CPA to advise on the nuances of accounting for a home staging business.

home staging in tigard oregon

 

Sometimes home stagers grow their business too quickly and don't plan for the long term; they may buy a lot of furniture "just in case" more model home jobs come along ... then they'll need a larger warehouse space for when that inventory is picked up again.  Now is about the time they think they'd be better off if they buy a delivery truck -- and of course have it painted with their company name & logo (add insurance costs & maintenance for the truck into your business expenses).

By now with things going well it's easy to think this home staging business is going great!  However they may be shocked to hear from their CPA that expenses still equal (or even exceed) income ... oops!  Trying to trim costs is a real challenge.  What's the best way to balance the need to keep buying inventory for particular staging projects and hiring more help -- and still keep expenses in check? And how can one properly plan for the "slower months" when the real estate market is traditionally much quieter?

Even though they've been recognized as a talented home stager ....  eventually they find that they cannot make money in the home staging business.  In the end, we see another "home staging inventory liquidation sale" advertised on Craigslist.  Here in Portland, there are more than a dozen home staging companies who met this fate in the past year or two ~ and some of them were once large and thriving.  This doesn't even include the number of stagers who have taken part-time jobs to help make ends meet.

What went wrong?  What can we (as an industry) do differently to make sure it doesn't happen to more "newbie"  stagers? How do we help educate them to see the "real world" of establishing and managing a home staging business?

home staging portland oregon

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Room Solutions Staging offers expert home staging services in Portland, Oregon to homeowners, real estate agents, builders, banks, and investors. Our proven home staging techniques will help reduce your property's market time and maximize your equity. We'll prepare your property or listing to look appealing to your target buyer for the online photos as well as for in-person viewings. Our owner and principal stager Maureen Bray is a nationally-recognized home staging expert who enjoys sharing her passion for staging with others.  For a free home staging proposal contact us @ 503-246-1800.

Room Solutions Staging

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2014 Top Ten Professional Stager of the Year - U.S.

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~ President of the Real Estate Staging Association National Board ~

 

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Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Debby Dutilh 08/21/2009 01:01 AM
Topic:
Real Estate Sales and Marketing
Groups:
Home Staging Business Sense - marketing, money & more
Stager's Coffee Clutch
Stage It Forward...
Home Staging
Tags:
home staging business advice
hgtv
oregon home stagers
home staging companies portland oregon
running a home staging business

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Rainmaker
679,021
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging that Sells Portland Homes"

Debby ~ It sounds like you're making very sound decisions to take it one step at a time.  I'm sure with your networking and open attitude you'll be successful.  The ones I'm worried about are those that don't know any better than to just jump in and then find it's overwhelming.  Thanks for sharing your experience ... it will benefit others here.

Aug 17, 2009 04:48 PM #24
Rainmaker
636,526
Cindy Bryant
Redesign Etc. Home Staging - Houston, TX
"Houston Home Staging Pro's"

I've had 3 people email and call me today alone about wanting to start a "career" in Home Staging.  And last week I had 2 ladies contact me that had taken courses and wanted to know what to do now.  After giving an example of the weekend I'd had pulling two all nighters, etc., they both were dismayed and said they hadn't thought of some of the areas where they may have to do physical work.  One admittedly said she couldn't be moving furniture, and I said, well, that's what you do, unless you hire someone to move it for you.  She seemed appalled. 

Aug 17, 2009 07:32 PM #25
Rainmaker
679,021
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging that Sells Portland Homes"

Cindy ~ Wow, someone thinking of getting into staging was "appalled" they'd have to move furniture?  HELLO!

This really supports the idea that newbie stagers just aren't being told the "whole truth" or they're just not doing enough research.  It's very sad.

Aug 17, 2009 08:03 PM #26
Rainmaker
420,201
Melissa Marro
Watson Realty Corp - Saint Augustine, FL
St Augustine, St Johns, Ponte Vedra

Locally our company has decided to open our inventory to select stagers (if you are in the greater Charleston area and reading this, shoot me an email for more info).  Hopefully this will help make more stagers in our area successful with quality merchandise and competitive prices while providing our company an additional revenue source.  (there are no good rental companies around here)

Aug 17, 2009 09:13 PM #27
Rainmaker
43,935
Michele Kurelich
Triangle Home Staging & Design/Lasting Impressions - Raleigh, NC
Raleigh Home Staging and Design

Thanks so much Maureen....now instead of spending some much of my time of the phone with inquires of new stagers who want to start a staging business in Raleigh and how I did it...I can just refer then to your blog, so they can see what it's really like!

Aug 17, 2009 11:24 PM #28
Rainmaker
679,021
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging that Sells Portland Homes"

Melissa ~ Renting out excess staging inventory sounds like it could be a profitable endeavor.  Let us know how it works out!

Michele ~ please feel free to point anyone inquiring about home staging as a career to this post.  I plan to do the same thing!

Aug 17, 2009 11:32 PM #29
Rainmaker
139,969
Michele Rose
Rose-Colored Staging - Moorestown, NJ
Moorestown Home Staging & Redesign

What a great post Maureen!  Having only been staging for a little over 2 years, I fully understand why so many become disillusioned and give up.  Fortunately, I am also a realtor and have that income as well or else I would not have made it either.  Without another income or a healthy savings, many just cannot survive a new business.

I also think it's especially hard for "creative people" who may not also have a good business sense.  Not everyone has both, and whatever our weakness is, we need to find a way to overcome it.  My business partner is very organized and careful with money but I'm not.  I'm better at marketing than she is.  It's important either to learn the skills needed or team up with someone who adds that balance.  

Aug 18, 2009 12:01 PM #30
Rainmaker
679,021
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging that Sells Portland Homes"

Michele ~ how lucky (and smart) you are that you and your business partner have complementary skills.  Glad to hear that staging and listing your properties has worked out so well for you.  For so many trying to run a home staging business, it's a struggle to use both sides of the brain!

Aug 18, 2009 02:12 PM #31
Anonymous
Anonymous

I think people getting into any home business should realize, you have to market yourself and your company constantly.  Also they must be willing to take the ups and downs just like any business.  I am doing staging full time and new to having my own company.  I think you get out of it, what you put into it.  The more effort the better the pay off.  And I do think TV is misleading to new stagers.  Business plans are very important.

 

I will not give up!

Great post...

 

 

Aug 18, 2009 06:54 PM #32
Rainmaker
44,585
Donna Dazzo
Designed to Appeal, LLC - Manhattan, NY
Home Stager in the Hamptons & New York

Yes your post was disheartening but it is ALL TRUE!  I totally agree with the following:

1.  Training companies all state this an inexpensive business to get into and this is NOT true.  I'm in my second year as well, and unfortunately due to the economy, business is down and therefore income is still not covering expenses.  Thank God for my severance pay last year and my savings this year.  Also, I have good furniture rental companies nearby so don't have to have my own furniture inventory.

2.  Yes you must have both a business AND a creative side.  I also recommend E-Myth Revisited book by Michael Gerber.

3.  Yes it is a lot of work - many hours, physical work.  Some of my friends can't understand why I say I'm busy even when I don't have staging jobs.  Well, that's because I'm spending most of my time marketing and promoting, attending networking events, and then squeezing in paperwork, paying bills, managing inventory etc.

4.  I too get lots of calls from wanna be stagers looking for employment and they all seem to think we staging companies have a staff of full time stagers.  I then tell them unless they are prepared to start their own business (after warning them about 1, 2 and 3 above), they probably won't be hired by anybody.  I have bookmarked this post and will send to them when they contact me.

Aug 18, 2009 09:11 PM #33
Rainmaker
679,021
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging that Sells Portland Homes"

Shawna ~ Your point about having a business plan is excellent.  Without one, a stager is like a small ship without a compass  floating out to sea.

Donna ~ I think we've all found some degree of truth in the points you listed above.  Funny you should mention about friends  wondering what you're "doing" all the time even when not staging -- so true!  Thanks for your well-thought out comment.

Aug 18, 2009 10:13 PM #34
Rainer
107,859
Heather Cook
Rooms in Bloom Staging & Design Inc. - Kitchener, ON
Quality Home Staging

Wow - this post has hit all the frustrations my partner and I have been dealing with over the past year and a half since we started our own business!

We are consistently getting busier and busier (a great thing) but it stresses us out especially  thinking about the possibility of having to hire part time help with some of our staging jobs. We have deliberately tried to limit our inventory to only accessories - we don't want the headaches of owning furniture, housing furniture, shipping furniture and moving it into houses. Unless we become super famous and rich (haha) this is not likely to ever happen. Sure I have dreams of a great warehouse with furniture we can pull off shelves and "stage" like in the show the Stagers but the reality is, we would never make a profit if we did that!

Every few days we are contacted by newbie stagers, wannabie stagers or stagers who want to be mentored. It seems that they are either considering becoming stagers and could we please advise them on a staging course or they want a job. One lady begged me on the phone to hire her, almost in tears and I had to very gently, but firmly, tell her no.

I hate all the media blitzing on home staging. It makes staging seem like some cute hobby and not the sometimes back breaking, sweaty, HARD work that it is. One recent student recently commented that she'd finished her course and now it was all about the fun! Don't get me wrong - I do think our job is fun - but I take it very seriously because its my business and not a hobby.

My partner and I often say we don't know how we would do it without each other. We are both incredibly different and handle different aspects of the business. Our vision however, is consistently, the same for our staging projects. Many people have expressed concern about splitting profits two ways however so far, what profits we have had have gone right back into our business. We have "renovated" our website and logo - costly but essential - and its paid off already! Could I have done this all on my own. Probably. Would I want to. Most definitely not! Its also nice when money worries happen we can cheer each other up - or do some shopping therapy together!

I hope we'll make it - we're working hard to make smart, business decisions which will help our business grow in steps which we can handle. Nothing is ever for sure, all you can ever do is give it your best shot!

Aug 18, 2009 11:04 PM #35
Rainmaker
206,940
Barbara Heil-Sonneck
Design2Sell - Atlanta, GA
Home Staging Atlanta

This is great advice and good information to share, I am growing my business/invenotry per job and teaming up with an other stager on projects is a great way as well.

Aug 19, 2009 08:50 AM #36
Rainmaker
679,021
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging that Sells Portland Homes"

Heather ~ Good to hear your experience and how you and your partner are making it work.  You mentioned The Stagers?  Keep in mind that Dekora is the "rental facility" for those guys!  I rent the main furniture pieces as well and have a large inventory of accessories and for me, that business model works best.

Your comment could not be more true:  "I hate all the media blitzing on home staging. It makes staging seem like some cute hobby and not the sometimes back breaking, sweaty, HARD work that it is. One recent student recently commented that she'd finished her course and now it was all about the fun!"

How else would the training companies make money other than saying that?  I've heard them myself (having taken several of them).  One trainer even put up a chart showing how you could "realistically" make over $80 your first year.  Right! 

No doubt the best way to operate varies depending on your market, whether you're a partnership or sole proprietor, your past business experience, etc.  So many factors come into play.  Hopefully we can all keep working towards education on the "reality" of running a successful home staging business.

Barbara ~ Teaming up with another stager on projects can be an excellent way to manage your business.  There are probably some jobs you can do by yourself and others where help is needed.  Finding another talented stager can be a good solution to the labor issue.

Aug 19, 2009 12:07 PM #37
Rainer
26,435
Diane Concialdi
Westminster, Huntington Beach, Orange County - Westminster, CA
DC Redesign Real Estate, Staging & Conceptual Design

Great post, Maureen.  This market is not the best for home staging now.  But we all need to keep focused on the business end of things. Since I'm not busy in staging now, I've worked on my business plan, upgraded my website, interviewed a couple of assistants (found one), looked at other options for furniture - buy or rent - and have contacted Realtors. I'm also staying in the industry of real estate and helping Realtors with short sale assistance.

A business plan details a proposed existing venture, explains intended vision and status, anticipated needs, and defined target markets with projected results. A strategic plan focuses on organizational development and transition from a start-up to professionalism.  You certainly have to have persistence, stamina and you can't give up. A positive attitude doesn't hurt either.

 

Aug 21, 2009 02:05 PM #38
Rainmaker
679,021
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging that Sells Portland Homes"

Diane ~ Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic.  It's good that you've found other activities related to staging and real estate to keep you busy in a slower market.  Let's hope that business picks up soon!  As you said so well, persistence and stamina are necessary -- along with that positive attitude!

Aug 21, 2009 05:13 PM #39
Rainmaker
636,526
Cindy Bryant
Redesign Etc. Home Staging - Houston, TX
"Houston Home Staging Pro's"

Had to revisit this, what a great idea to send to newbie stagers that call, I think I'm going to find some previous posts and maybe do a blog, and say here is the information you need!  Or, I'll just use your's and not dig any deeper since I'm still on vacation.  That within itself should tell a newbie the job never stops!

Aug 26, 2009 12:10 AM #40
Rainmaker
679,021
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging that Sells Portland Homes"

Cindy ~ Enjoy your vacation -- you deserve it!  Newbie stagers need all of the help and advice they can get from experienced stagers.  There are lots of good comments here to help them.

Aug 26, 2009 01:33 AM #41
Rainer
56,633
Tori Lynn Wallitsch
Prudential Ambassador / Ross Designs, LLC - Omaha, NE

Maureen and Everyone,

Great, great comments and insight! This is a very rough industry, rough time of year, etc. Since I started Staging, two of my strongest competitors became agents and some other companies just disappeared (there are still a few out there, too). There is something to be said for staying power. In thinking about people who want to get into Staging and don't realize HOW MUCH WORK AND BUSINESS SENSE it takes to be successful, it reminds of the public perception of Interior Designers. Those that are successful in interior design work their butts off!!  It takes a lot more than picking out a color and a fabric and calling it a day. In life to be successful at anything it takes a lot of hard work and I don't know why so many people don't realize that about Staging before getting into it.  

Oct 13, 2009 01:06 PM #42
Rainmaker
679,021
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging that Sells Portland Homes"

Tori ~ Professional home staging surely is more than selecting fabric, color, etc....as you said.  SO much more hard work!   Maybe people just think they'll be the exception to the rule and jump right in and make a mint .... if so I wish them lots of luck since they'll need it.  :-)

Oct 13, 2009 05:59 PM #43
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Rainmaker
679,021

Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging

"Staging that Sells Portland Homes"
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