Many home stagers believe they need to carry an inventory of furniture to rent to their home staging clients who have vacant properties, or need new pieces to supplement existing furniture for a resale home on the real estate market.
Sadly, many of these stagers end up broke and out of business with nothing but a warehouse full of furniture and a pile of debt.
These unfortunate home stagers get so caught up in what they think other home stagers are doing, they forget to look at home staging as a business and consider where and how they will make a profit.
They buy truck loads of furniture on credit believing that’s what home stagers need to do. Then, to add insult to injury, they don’t mark up the price properly and never recover their costs.
Their inventory sits in a warehouse racking up storage fees. And often when it’s not in their warehouse, it’s sitting in a client’s house on the real estate market, that may not be selling as fast as they hoped.
When I’m asked why I don’t recommend stagers carry their own furniture inventory, I think of a Boston stager I know. She made the classic mistake of renting out her furniture for an indefinite period without even making sure that she would collect rental fees along the way.
With each new assignment to stage a vacant house, she’d go out and buy more furniture, lured in by those “don’t pay a cent events” where you can buy furniture now on credit and pay for it in a year or two.
Before she knew it, she owned enough furniture to fully furnish 10 vacant homes and that inevitable day when she’d have to pay for it all was fast approaching!
For more on this topic, check out Home Staging Inventory Problems Make Home Stagers Think Twice.
Ana Hitzel says
Once again great business topic for those of us starting out. It seems that some Stagers measure their success by the size of their inventory. I have never had an inventory and do not plan to other than smaller accessories and art pieces. I have always viewed it as something that would hinder the flexibility of my small company and would also be an unnecessary and expensive drain on my budget and ultimately the budget of my clients through pricing. I have lost quite a few vacant jobs because the client was not comfortable that I did not have my own furnishings. I just always explain that I do not stage with a cookie cutter approach, each home is different and so should be the furninshings! Rentals are a great option and there is so much more to choose from small to large.
It’s difficult for me to even wrap my head around WHY anyone would plunge into the expense of purchasing furniture and warehousing it. I live in a small town where rental companies certainly are not plentiful. I have Rent-A-Center available to me – not a company I personally can envision using anyway! Ugh! I worked out an agreement with a local furniture rRETAIL store to source my furniture, accessories and art! – and they deliver and pick-up the furniture. It’s new, clean and trendy! For those stagers who purchase and warehouse their own furniture, etc., do you also have to pay someone to deliver and pick the items up? – or do YOU provide this service? If so, that’s added liability on your part! My source takes on that liability if items are damaged to and from my client’s home.
Debra Gould, The Staging Diva says
Jill and Ana, Thanks so much for adding your thoughts here. Great contributions to the discussion!
Ana, you’re so right “some Stagers measure their success by the size of their inventory,” which would be a lot like measuring your success by the size of your debt! How ironic is that?
Jill, I’m really glad you thought outside the box and looked at the renting from retailers option. I’ve been recommending this in the Staging Diva Training Program for years, yet many are too skeptical to try it. Good for you!
Darla Rowley says
I transitioned my business last year with making investment in furniture only as I needed it. I made sure that everything was paid for by the end of a 2 month term. This investment was very good for my business last year.
If you do invest, you have to be very careful, to not over invest. Classic shaped used sofas are great with slipcovers and look better than many of the rental options available. You also need to make sure that you only buy items you can easily move with the assistance of one other person.
The “lugging” of stuff around is not very glamerous and does open you up to some liability, but i have a pod which is delivered to the site which makes the task much easier and efficient.
Agree with every comment and just want to add my pennies worth!
If you use the same rental company try to mix it up a bit.
We realized at the end of our 1st year in business that all our portfolio pictures were looking so similar because we always had the “oak” range from the rental company and used the same colors because we didn’t want to buy too much.
We learnt our lesson and now specify different looks and have quite a large inventory of pictures, cushions and lamps that we usually manage to sell with the house when it’s bought.
We have also learnt to choose plainer items that we can embellish to make then unique, one off pieces, not found elsewhere.
When we stage for renting we have had great feedback from the Landlord/Developer/Investor that the potential rentee will not sign unless they allow them to have the contents of the apartments also. We love it when that happens!
Another great blog, Thanks Debra.
Pat McArthur says
Debra, I agreed from day one with all your advice on furniture rental. I don’t want/need to add cost to projects when I can provide a firm quote from a rental company, that deliver and place furniture on time, and limit my liability. In cottage country I work with retailers to provide rental furniture in model & unoccupied homes. It works well for everyone
Debra Gould says
Pat thanks for commenting. Hey, you might be interested in a fabulous project I have in cottage country north of Parry Sound! Check it out, they’ve got a huge budget and it will be a real showcase for your talents. Here’s where you’ll find the details:
I couldn’t agree with you more. I worked in TV production for 25 years doing makeup, hair, set design and decoration. If you have to buy anything go to Salvation Army, Goodwill, any place that takes donations. You would be SHOCKED at what good furniture people donate because they don’t know what to do with perfectly good furniture when they redecorate. A new slip cover, or new throw pillows can do wonders. Remember – it doesn’t have to be comfortable – it just has to look that way. Take the attention off of what you don’t want them to look at and put it somewhere else. Open the door and find a focal point. A new coat of paint on the fireplace…..and no one will notice the sofa.
I guess I am one of those “unfortunate stagers” who will end up “broke and out of business”. I am in Australia and unfortunately there is only one furniture rental business in my city and their stock is really average. I considered going down that road, but at the end of the day I want to be able to stand behind my work and be proud but I couldn’t do that if I was using their pieces. I had to borrow money to start my own. Yes it’s been scary, but I wasn’t going to let that prevent me from pursuing my dream and so far I’ve been doing great! Yes I still owe money, but the way things have been going so far I foresee this happening in six months. If you are resourceful, make wise choices and have the support of great agents, family and friends who believe in you, then I think anybody can be successful. I understand advice like this is cautionary however there are folks who live in smaller towns who may not have a hire service available to them therefore they have no choice but to buy their own. We don’t want to stomp on people’s flames and put them off from pursuing their dream job. They just need to be smart 🙂
Debra Gould says
Those are all great points Megan and you’re right it is possible to be successful with your own inventory. It’s just a much more complicated business to be in, and hence the risks are higher. One of my very successful Staging Diva Graduates, Adam Luttrell in Tasmania has built an awesome business with his own inventory.
That said, I share in the Staging Diva Training Program other ways to get around the problem of there not being great furniture rental places in your area. There are still things to do that don’t require having your own inventory.
I’m so glad you commented and wish you every success in your business!
Hi Megan. We live in New Zealand. My wife is thinking of making a move across the ditch and starting her own staging company in Brisbane. Any thoughts on what the home staging market is like in Brisbane or Gold coast area? Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
Debra Gould says
I have some very successful Staging Diva Graduates in those areas! To be honest, I’ve yet to see any real estate market where sellers don’t want to make the maximum amount when they sell. It’s a matter of having the right business model and knowing how to capture the demand that exists. That’s where the Staging Diva Home Staging BUsiness Training Program comes in 🙂 You can learn more about it at https://www.stagingdiva.com/homestagingcourses.html
Lee Peters says
I run my company, Sleek Home Staging in the UK. I have an affiliation with a furniture hire company in the UK, so when a project requires furniture I can obtain and supply the client with an accurate quote immediately. I have familiarised myself with the vast inventory held by the company and create digital visuals based on their pieces which help promote this service via my website and social media pages. I not only get paid by the client but I also get a 10% referral fee from the furniture hire company! It’s a win win situation. For me, it makes no sense to hold an Inventory of Furniture.
Debra Gould says
Lee, so glad you shared your experience! A very smart way to go about it! Wishing you every success and thanks for commenting. I know you’ll inspire others.
Penny Bergstrom says
You are referring to one new stager without a great plan for purchasing furniture in this blog. I Highly recommend stagers to start off as a business model by purchasing their own inventory as we did. Investing in your own business is the way to go. There is MUCH more to this conversation, strategies, etc. than meets the surface.
Debra Gould says
Thanks for sharing your point of view Penny. Of course there is much more to this conversation. This blog post and the others I’ve written on this topic are not meant to be an exhaustive course in how to make the most money in home staging.
That said, I have coached hundreds of home stagers since 2005 and I know from this experience that the ones in the worst financial shape are the ones who have their own inventory. That’s not to say you can’t be a success with inventory. My point is, it is a much more complex business with a significantly higher financial risk attached.
Not everyone wants to take on that financial risk, especially if it’s not necessary to success.
Also, as a successful (and single) entrepreneur for 26 years, who has continued to support myself through two recessions, I’ve always enjoyed that my various businesses required no overhead. If business was slow in a given month, I could live off my savings from the previous months if necessary. And when times were slow, I never had a bunch of fixed business costs (or debt servicing for tens of thousands of dollars in inventory bought on credit) that I also had to cover.
Much easier to stay “cash positive” that way.
If you’re making close to, or above, a hundred thousand dollars a year— in profits— with your own inventory and all the costs that come with that, I salute you! It’s not an easy road!