Why do some Home Stagers close their businesses?
I’m in several Home Stager Facebook groups and I notice posts from other stagers who announce that they’re closing their business and they ask if anyone in their area would be interested in purchasing their inventory. I find this interesting because I know how intense the process is to get a Home Staging business off the ground. I’m not someone who came into the business with $40k-$50k to invest upfront. I, like many stagers, came into the business with access to funds that were no where near $40k. The less money someone has to invest in the business upfront, the more legwork has to be completed in order to purchase everything needed to stage a home.
Not to mention, every aspect of Home Staging is a learning process and things like tools and supplies have to be purchased in order to support the logistics of the business. I never thought I would have so many moving blankets and shrink wrap! Go figure! Based on my experience so far, along with the feedback some stagers are willing to share, here are some of the reasons a Home Stager may choose to close their business:
1) Not understanding the business model. This particularly goes for staging vacant homes. If a person doesn’t have $40k-$50k to invest upfront, they typically will find themselves going into debt to get the business off the ground. Some people use credit cards, some take out a loan, some rely on their husband’s income. It is true that you may be able to find another Home Stager who is closing their business and purchase inventory from them at a discounted price. From there, you have to pay to store the furnishings. Stagers commonly use their home garages, spare bedroom or any additional room in their home. Home staging furnishings can truly invade your personal life and space if you’re not careful.
2) Not charging enough. I get it, a lot of us want to be "nice" and we overlook charging what we’re worth. It’s no big deal and I tell stagers that “You’re the only one who cares if you succeed!” That’s the truth. No one cares if you can’t pay your bills or purchase more supplies and inventory. The faster you get that, the more likely you’ll be to charge what your worth.
3) Lack of business sense. Like the book the E-Myth points out, just because someone starts a business doesn’t mean they have the business sense to make it work. I’ve read posts from stagers saying they changed business models because their “numbers didn’t look right”. Wait a second. I have a degree in Finance and have spent many years working in Finance and Accounting. Not once when year-end Financials were released did the CEO of any particular company come out and say we’re not disclosing financials because our “numbers don’t look right”. People who have that excuse don’t have business sense and they’re definitely not numbers people. I’m smart enough to have one of my CPA friends review and give feedback on whether or not I’m accounting for revenue and expenses correctly so that I know what my numbers look like.
4) Lack of knowledge regarding logistics. Home Staging is very close to blue collar work, no matter what the result looks like. You have to figure out what inventory you want to buy, how it will get to your home (or storage unit), who will transport it and how they transport it, what to do when a home is being flipped, furniture maintenance and repair, tracking mileage, storing inventory in a storage unit vs warehouse, shelving units to purchase, dealing with pests in the warehouse etc. All of these things (and more) have to be learned so that one can operate the business effectively.
5) Not having movers. I see this all-too-often. Wife starts a home staging business and charges low prices, which means she’s not making enough money to hire movers. Lo and behold, the husband now finds himself in the business of Home Staging, where he’s now a mover and he’s using his truck to move furniture. No Bueno. At some point, the husband is going to get fed up with this because this moving furniture back-and-forth is now starting to cause back problems for him. On the other hand, some stagers attempt to move their own furniture and risk hurting themselves. Moving furniture is a skill, period.
6) Not having contracts. This should go without saying; not having contracts that protect you and your assets can/will destroy your business. I very recently read about a Home Stager who died during the pandemic. Because he had an amazing amount of inventory, his family could have received tens of thousands of dollars from the sale of inventory and instead they received . . . NOTHING! He didn’t have 1 single contract in place for himself. Because of that, the buyers were entitled to keep the inventory that was placed in the home for staging.
7) Starting a business for the wrong reasons. Staging is not something you do to escape a bad marriage or to enhance your life as a soccer mom. It’s a business. Ninety percent is business and logistics and maybe 10% is the actual staging. If you’re interested in vendor management, business development, contracts, Excel spreadsheets, inventory management, project management, bookkeeping, taxes, moving blankets, shrink wrap, having challenging conversations, dealing with difficult clients, staging in extreme heat or cold (depending on where you live), dealing with pests, furniture maintenance and assembly, then Home Staging is for you!!!!
8) Physical health issues. You have to have the physical health and stamina to be able to walk back and forth for hours at a time arranging décor pieces, hanging artwork, making beds etc. to be able to stage vacant homes. That means, having a good back and good knees are necessary to do the job. Bending through the knees to remove décor pieces from plastic bins can take a toll on a person’s body.
9) Having unrealistic expectations. I can’t tell you the number of new stagers who start a business and expect their businesses to take off in 2-3 months. HA! People have to know you, like you and feel like they can trust you. It can take up to 15 interactions with a potential client before they hire you. Unless you know someone or are married to a realtor or investor, it can take years for people to be comfortable enough to hire you. Wanna know how I know?! Because it happened to ME. I hate to say it but networking is for the long haul. You won’t get immediate results for the most part. It’s also important to know what potential clients deal with; that way, you’re not behaving as though they should be concerned about you. They have their own vendor, client and financial issues to deal with and you’re the last thing that’s on their minds.
Whew child! I’m outta breath on that one and I did provide valuable insight about why some stagers close their business. Let’s face it, it takes real commitment to own a business for many years and most people aren’t that committed. Once the novelty wears off for most of us, we’re on to the next thing. I’ve been fortunate enough to build my business slowly so that I can constantly ask myself “Is this what you really want?” and so far, the answer has been YES! Whatever the cause, no matter what you choose to do, just make sure you’re having fun and please know that all businesses involve just that – business.