You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your home staging business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a home staging business?
The startup costs for a home staging business depend on which types of services the business will offer. Potential owners who plan to only consult with homeowners can bootstrap a home staging business for less than a few thousand dollars. Full-service home staging businesses, which have goals of handling more lucrative projects, like filling empty homes with showhome-quality furnishings and accessories, are much more expensive to open. Besides the costs of acquiring, maintaining, and storing an inventory, there are other expenses like transportation and labor costs. One critical expense every home staging startup needs to consider is the cost of a website. A beautiful website is the single most important marketing tool in the industry. This requires hiring a professional web designer and photographer, which is pricey, but necessary.
What are the ongoing expenses for a home staging business?
Marketing is a big cost for all home staging businesses. This includes the cost of hosting a website and other forms of advertising. Depending on the scope of the business, monthly costs may also include rent for office and storage and labor.
Who is the target market?
The target markets for a home staging business are homeowners and real estate agents. Homeowners are more willing to hire new and less experienced home staging businesses than real estate agents.
How does a home staging business make money?
A home staging business makes money by charging clients for their services. Clients generally pay for an initial consultation when they meet with a home stager for a walk-through of the property. After the initial consultation, customers can pay for additional advice on a per hour basis. Home stagers who are responsible for decorating a completely vacant home will normally charge a set rate per room per month. Many home staging business insist on a minimum contract length.
How much can you charge customers?
According to Thumbtack, the average home staging business charges between $165 and $2195 per staging job. Of course, the fees vary widely depending on the area and the type of service the home staging company provides, and whether the home is vacant or occupied. Some home staging companies charge as much as 1% of the sales price to stage an empty home.
How much profit can a home staging business make?
It is not uncommon for experienced home stagers to earn more than $10,000 a month.
How can you make your business more profitable?
A home staging business can earn additional money decorating homes and businesses for special events. In addition, many of the same skills of home staging use every day are transferable to working in the field of interior design.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your home staging business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a home staging business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a home staging business location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a home staging business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a home staging business location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your home staging business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Home staging businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a home staging business
Often the best way to promote a home staging business in the very beginning is to get out there and start pounding the pavement. Visiting open houses in the area is a good way to meet lots of neighborhood real estate agents and home sellers. Speaking at or attending conferences for local real estate agents is good way to meet potential clients. After completing a few jobs, home staging business owners shouldn't forget to update their websites with before and after photos and testimonials from past clients.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
Getting results for clients while offering reasonable rates and friendly service is the best way to receive consistent work from real estate agents and referrals from home sellers. Some home staging businesses offer real estate agents steep discounts compared to home sellers to encourage repeat business.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Home Staging Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Owning a home staging business is an ideal full or part-time business for creative people looking for a business they can run from home or a small office. Due to the nature of the industry, owners of a home staging business need to have a flexible schedule. Late nights and working during the weekends is typical. Some of the work may involve moving heavy furniture and other physical activities.
What happens during a typical day at a home staging business?
Running a home staging business means there is always something to do. Of course, home decoration is part of the business, but that only comes after securing a contract. That means the owners of home staging businesses spend most of their time marketing to real estate agents and home sellers through direct contact or through an online presence.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful home staging business?
While potential owners of a home staging business do not need to acquire any professional certifications, those who attend workshops or enroll in a certification program will find they have a leg up in the industry. Many home staging business owners come from the field of interior design. The bare minimum to own and operate a home staging business is the ability to know how to decorate a home in a way that will appeal to a particular demographic of buyers.
What is the growth potential for a home staging business?
There is real growth potential in the home staging industry. The popularity of interior design magazines and TV shows like House Hunters continue to influence what buyers expect to see when they attend an open house. That means empty rooms and poorly presented homes are likely to put off buyers. Today's home sellers are willing to spend money to attract multiple offers on their property.
TRUiC's YouTube Channel
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One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a home staging business?
While it is possible to open a business in this industry without any training or experience, landing clients can be tough. Enrolling in a hands-on program will not only give potential owners valuable advice on the design and the business aspects of the business, but will also allow them to start building a portfolio of projects to showcase online. New owners need to understand the legal and financial aspects of this industry especially when it comes to writing and signing contracts. Access to a good lawyer is a great asset for home staging business owners when they are just starting out.
How and when to build a team
A team of movers is critical from day one for any home staging businesses that plans to stage vacant homes. All employees need to be trustworthy and dependable because they will have access to the homes of the clients.