Your front row view of the Home Staging Industry – check out our interview with Shauna Lynn Simon from Beyond The Stage Homes, and see what advice she has for new or soon-to-be home stagers.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges that you face as a home stager?

A: It’s hard to pinpoint one as the biggest, there are many challenges to be faced in this industry every day, but I would say that the biggest probably relates to the education of others as to what Home Staging is (and what it isn’t). We spend a great deal of time educating homeowners, real estate agents, and suppliers not only to what our process and services include, but what it is that we are working to achieve. What we do is take style, function, and flow of each room into consideration to create a unique staging plan. We don’t just furnish a room, we bring it to life and create a memorable experience for the buyer.

Q: Is home staging just another form of decorating?

A: You certainly need to have an eye for home styling, however home staging and home decorating are very different. In decorating, you take the homeowners’ tastes and style into consideration, you personalize the space, and you ensure that you make practical decisions for the lifestyle of the people that are living in the home. In home staging, you are not only depersonalizing the space, but you are creating a design that will appeal to how the buyer will utilize each space. There is an element of behavioral profiling that goes into each home staging project. You need to identify whom your potential buyers are, and the lifestyle that they may live, and ensure that you create a plan to provide them with the solutions that they will need for their everyday life. In addition, you are responsible for identifying and addressing all possible distractions that buyers might find in order to assist the homeowners to eliminate these prior to listing. Realistically I would say that decorating probably accounts for only about 15% of what we do day-to-day.

Another important distinction between home staging and decorating is in creating the proper flow of a space – while it is certainly something that is taken into consideration in decorating, this is critically important in home staging as buyers will be walking through the home, and a room that is not properly laid out can disrupt their flow, and in turn, their experience.

Q: What is the #1 misconception that new stagers have in your mind?

A: I think that many new stagers think that if you’re good at, and enjoy decorating, then you can easily become a home stager, and the business will come flooding in as soon as you are open for business. This is a business, and like any business, it requires proper training, management, marketing, and relationships in order to be successful. On top of that, Real Estate can be a ruthless industry, and takes a strong person to be successful. If you enjoy decorating, that’s great, but further to my previous point, there is much more that goes into home staging than decorating, and if that’s your main motivation for getting into this industry, then you might find yourself disappointed. Being a home stager means being an entrepreneur and a small business owner, and everything that comes with that responsibility.

Q: Is home staging a low-cost investment start-up?

A: I go into further detail about this in my book, outlining the specific costs that can be expected when you start a home staging business, but it is certainly NOT a low-cost start-up. Even if you choose not to own a single accessory or piece artwork or furniture (which you will find pretty much impossible), you will still have your course costs, plus business registration and insurance, just like any other business. You’ll then need to spend money on marketing, lawyers, computers and mobile devices, software programs, website development, mileage, wear and tear on your vehicle, office supplies, etc. Before you have ever stepped foot in the door of a client’s home you can safely expect to spend around $8000-$9000, and in your first year, an additional $3000+.

Q: Advice for new stagers and those thinking of becoming a stager

A: These are actually two different answers, so I will try to address each point:

–    For new stagers, look for guidance from other stagers. There are a number of great resources available now and opportunities to connect with stagers across the globe! Keep in mind that different regions will have different markets, so you may need to adjust some ideas to suit your particular geographical area, but these can be very helpful. Keep in mind as well that most of these groups are private, to allow for free discussion of questions and concerns brought forth by fellow stagers, so you will need to have a registered business and website before you can join in. Some courses also offer networking opportunities with their other stagers, and of course, there is also the Real Estate Staging Association, which offers many benefits to stagers, including the opportunity to talk with and work with home stagers in your region. Bottom line is, ask questions wherever you can, it’s amazing what you can learn from others that have lived it.

–    For those thinking of a career, start by reading my book! Then, if you are still interested, the next step would be to research and determine the best course for your needs (I caution that selecting based on price might mean missing out on important tools that you’ll need down the road, so be sure to determine what your needs are). You’ll then want to research your own local market – is it a well-recognized part of the home selling process, or is it still an uphill battle gaining recognition and respect? I recommend doing this BEFORE you register for your course, so that you know what you are getting yourself into and can be prepared to build your business accordingly. Next, create your business plan. Remember, this is a business, and even if your first business plan doesn’t have all of the answers, it is an important stepping stone to get your business running. You can update your business plan as often as you like, so as you learn more about the industry, your clientele, and your market, you can adjust your plan accordingly.

Q: What does a typical day look like?

A: Well, I can’t given away everything from my book, but the short answer to this is that there is no such thing as a “typical” day in the world of home staging. That said, most days tend to include a lot of driving, phone calls, emails, and overall communication with clients and real estate agents, in addition to the numerous home staging consultations, preparing estimates and bids, keeping up with social media, and of course, selecting, packing, delivering, and placing the fun stuff, like artwork, accessories, and other furnishings.

Q: How many hours do you work in a week?

A: Pretty much all of the ones that I am awake for, but that’s not to say that you would have to! There are certainly some long days, but there can also be a great deal of flexibility, as long as you are willing to work around your clients’ schedules. Make no mistake though, this is a career that is intended to be a full-time one, and so I do not recommend it if you are looking for something as a part-time hobby.

Q: What inspired your upcoming book?

A: Questions like these, to be honest. If I had a dime for every time someone told me how “fun” they thought my job was, I would be retired! The truth is, I love what I do, and I really do think it is a lot of fun, but there are numerous not-so-fun aspects of it that many don’t see. Sadly I have seen too many new stagers perish in this industry because either it did not live up to their expectations of what they had hoped that it would be, or simply because they entered the staging world unprepared. Either way, my book will help you to make an informed decision about this industry, and whether or not it is right for you, hopefully before you have invested in the courses and business start-up.

Q: When do you anticipate that your new book will hit the shelves?

A: We are aiming for Fall of 2017, but we’ll be giving lots of notice when we have a specific release date.

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Shauna Lynn Simon is a Real Estate Staging Professional. She founded her company, Beyond The Stage Homes, in the Spring of 2008 and has been working closely with homeowners and Real Estate Agents ever since. In September of 2015, she founded SLS Academy, and has continued her passion for guiding aspiring home stagers.

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