I'm in conversation with other Home Stagers often and am a Top Contributor to most of the Home Staging Facebook groups that I'm a member of. I remember seeing posts where newbie Home Stagers would post photos of their work, and the seasoned stagers would reply with phrases like, “you're putting too much stuff in the house” or “I'm guilty of over decorating”. I had no idea what that meant and often noticed that the more seasoned stager's weren't including as many accessory and decor items compared to when someone is decorating their home to their personal liking.
Now I get it. The current market is one where interest rates are higher compared to COVID rates, and buyers are more hesitant to buy homes because they’ll have to take out larger mortgage loans in order to do so. That means homes (staged or not) are sitting on the market longer. Because of that, we’re de-staging homes 2+ months after staging, compared to 3 weeks when COVID rates were low. What it means financially for stagers is that because we’re not getting our inventory back as fast, we’ll have to purchase inventory, which costs money upfront due to the vacant staging business model being one that usually requires an upfront investment.
I track how much money my business is making and how much I’m spending . . . and my expenses weren’t up-to-date. In realizing that my current revenue was 50% ahead of where I was last year, I still wasn’t making a dent in my credit card debt the way I wanted to. Out of curiosity, I went through my bank statements and manually recorded my YTD expenses so that the amount would be current. I was shook because there was less than a $10k difference! WHAT?!?! What am I spending money on?! Then I browse the different expense categories and of course, movers are at the top of the list, followed by the Home Décor line. That was it.
I needed to not only reduce the amount that I’m paying for movers, I needed to manually track my expenses for each project so that my quote is more accurate, which meant increasing my prices. I did exactly that, no one pushed back at all and I continue to get more projects. I was so freaking surprised! I also realized that because I had been overdecorating, I was having to go out and purchase décor items more often and when you’re overdecorating in the first place, the money adds up faster!
I then created a “Summary of accessories” spreadsheet, so that I could count all the hard surfaces in each property that I was going to stage, including the hard surfaces of my own inventory that I brought in. With that sheet, I could account for how many items I was going to bring in and nothing more. I got inspiration from other successful Home Staging companies, including the ones that provide training programs to other Home Stagers. I studied their staging company photos to see how many décor items they were putting on coffee tables, consoles, nightstands, dining tables etc. I reached out to another stager to confirm how many (on average) pieces of artwork she includes in a staged room, so that I account for the same number when I had a project, to avoid overdoing it and having to go out and buy more items.
When lowering the amount of money I spent on movers, that’s where community connection really empowered me. Because of my relationships with other stagers, they would recommend their movers, and those movers charge less than my primary mover. My primary mover is still by far the greatest of all and I leverage his talent when I need it. What that means is for every staging project that I have, I think about each of the furniture pieces I’ll be using and whether those pieces need any repair, maintenance, tightening etc. If they don’t need attention, I hire movers with more economical pricing because I only need them to ‘move it in’ and ‘move it out’ when needed. My primary mover has carpentry skills, so I still hire him when things need attention or sorting out.
Because of the constant overdecorating and spending more than I need to on movers, my profit margin was extremely anemic. Sick! Now I’m being mindful about finances and I don’t regret the experience at all because it set me up to be financially successful.
These kinds of situations add value to me because I need to know what seasoned stagers mean when they say and do certain things. There's a reason they've been able to survive this business for so many years. Hopefully this will help any newbie stager out there who's wondering what it means to overdecorate and how it can impact them financially. The business of Home Staging is truly a journey and not for the faint of heart.