If you’re a home stager thinking, “Gee, if I had my own home staging inventory I could make all these homes look so much prettier,” you need to read this cautionary tale.
Kimberly (not her real name) lives in a major US city and was staging high-end condos, using all her own home staging furniture and accessories.
She does not have a “package” from a previous career, an inheritance, or a wealthy husband.
But, she has a vision for how wonderful all her clients’ homes could look when decorated properly.
To put her creative vision into action, Kimberly bought everything she needed at stores whenever they were running those “don’t-pay-a-cent” events where you can get what you need on credit, and you don’t have to pay for it for another 2 years.
That’s how Kimberly amassed all this home staging inventory— project by project.
Every time she had a new condo to stage, she would buy all the furniture and accessories for that particular condo. Then another project would come, and she’d go out and do it again.
Kimberly believed that since she didn’t have to pay for her home staging inventory for a couple of years, she could make a small fortune in the meantime.
She assumed she was going to rent her furniture several times over the two years. By the time the payment due dates arrived, she imagined she would have made all this profit from renting and re-renting the items out to her clients.
At least that was the “logic” of it in Kimberly’s mind.
She never took the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program but hired me to help her with one-on-one business coaching after she found herself $100,000 in debt!
Catch the rest of Kimberly’s story on Thursday. In the meantime, if you’re already a home stager please share your experiences with buying and renting out your own home staging inventory by commenting below!
Melissa Marro says
Buying on these no money down deals can be troublesome at best. I’ll say like Kimberly, however I did go close to $100,000 in debt over the first 2 year of owning my home staging business. I also did over $180,000 in gross sales my first year, over $250,000 in my second and now I have a team that consistently does mid six figures in sales. We own over $750,000 in inventory and buy less than $80,000 a year in new inventory. The new inventory is either to update some dated pieces (we sell the old ones when they become dated) or to expand our ability to continue servicing homes. Like Pam, renting wasn’t much of an option. I’ll never regret the decision to purchase inventory. Coincidentally, we are the “last man standing” in Charleston, SC, where our business is located.
Owning inventory is not for everyone, and certainly going that deep into debt should be carefully thought over. Understanding profitability, having a clear business plan, and not buying too much inventory before you need it are things home stagers need to think about. Home Stagers who do own their own inventory should also make sure their inventory will be neutral enough that it can go into the majority of homes, keeping it rotated for maximum profitability.
Debra Gould says
Melissa, I love that you stopped by to share your experience and provide actual numbers! Thank you for that as I know it will be an eye-opener to my readers.
I’ve been teaching people for the past 7 years that you can earn a 6-figure income as a home stager because I proved it to myself in my own staging business first. Many of my students have done the same (I know because they share their numbers with me in private coaching calls), but few will speak publicly about their sales figures.
I didn’t personally choose to go the inventory route for a whole bunch of reasons but I certainly recognize that it’s a valid way to grow a significant staging business and have provided advice on how to do it.
How you’ve chosen to build your business is very wise and clearly you’ve approached it with the right business mind, rather than diving in with an “I love shopping” attitude and no business plan!
Thanks again for sharing your experience and advice and congratulations on all your business success in Charleston!
Amy Bly says
I have debated buying furniture for this very reason . . . unless you can reliably get lots of vacant staging jobs (I’ve only had 2 in 1.5 years), it’s very scary to have this kind of debt. I find the cost of renting furniture from CORT or Churchill in my area of Northern NJ scares off most sellers, so unfortunately I mostly do occupieds instead. I like doing occupieds, but LOVE the blank slate and pure design fun of staging a vacant property. But I could never justify the cost of having a warehouse, additional insurance, moving men, etc. and know I wouldn’t sleep at night with those kinds of expenses. I figure if people aren’t willing to spend the $$ on furniture rental, I’ll stick with occupied stagings. I do rent out my own accessories, usually from $75 – $100/month and store them in my basement and guest room for free. I firmly believe providing my own accessories really makes a big difference in how a home looks, especially in updating older houses.
Debra Gould says
Amy, thanks for commenting. I do both vacants and occupied stagings without any of my own inventory. I like having the mix of projects. There is plenty of money to be made through home staging consultations in occupied homes and there’s nothing wrong with that (especially when you consider all the logistical issues you avoid). Go in, give your advice for a couple of hours and walk out with a few hundred dollars!
Pia Lyotier says
I think this story is very interesting. i am living in Redondo Beach, CA and in comparison to Canada, other than in Vancouver, we don’t have RE space for storage, unless that is the business we are in. As a CSPI, I have learned that storage costs a lot of money, and in a few months, the price of RE space can more than pay the cost of furniture. Thank goodness we have such a huge amount of suppliers in the area. The other choice, is to use what the client has or include the cost of necessary items in the showcasing price.
Birgitte Vosper says
I started a home staging business in Denmark seven years ago, we never had the option to rent furniture and still don’t. They are simply no providers of furniture rental.
So I did what I had to do. I built up my stock one job at a time. Didn’t make any money on the first job or the next 3-4 jobs but slowly the business grew and now I have $150,000 worth of Stock and I don’t owe a penny. I have 43 properties rented out currently, and am making a great profit.
Would I have gone down this route if I had the option to rent? Probably not, but as things turned out – I’m glad I did.
I love following you Debra. It’s interesting to hear how things work across the pond.
Debra Gould says
Birgitte, I love that you shared your story!! Thanks so much and I’m really happy to hear how smartly you invested and that you took the longer view. Congratulations on all your success. I’m curious, do you also make money doing home staging consultations working with what the client already has? There is a lot of income there too as long as you live in an area where all the homes aren’t empty when they’re for sale.
Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience. By the way, I see that you were originally in my email list. Did you want to rejoin to know about new articles etc?
Amy Bly says
Just wanted to update my comment since this was originally written and posted quite a few years ago, I now stage about 16-24 vacant homes a year and about 12 occupied homes a year, and many more occupied consultations as well as some design projects. So I’ve grown my business quite a bit in the 9 years since I started it, still work part-time (my preference since I have a 28 year old disabled son), and look forward to my work and projects every day! I admire those who have huge furniture inventories and employees, but I know at 63 I don’t want that pressure and expenses or kind of work schedule. The beauty of home staging is the flexibility it provides to suit our individual situations, home life, and work preferences.
Debra Gould says
Amy thanks so much for this update and congratulations on all your home staging success over these years since you first joined our Staging Diva community!!
Patricia Krkljes says
I am just starting out. I was thinking about staging bedrooms only at first, and then build it slowly
Debra Gould says
Hi Patricia, Not sure why you’d only start with bedrooms, unless you’re afraid of how much furniture you’ll have to buy.
If you’re going to stage a house, you should stage the whole thing, read Why Home Staging Works.
When you follow the business model I outline in the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program, you do NOT have to own any of your own inventory. So why would you only give advice on bedrooms and leave the rest of the house not showing-ready?
I see you’re not on my email list. I have many free gifts that would help you get started. You can see them here.
Thanks for commenting Patricia and looking forward to helping you on your journey of building a successful home staging business!