Real Estate Staging / Home Staging Blog

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FEED ME SEYMOUR! Prop inventories can be a Shop of Horrors for Home Stagers

 With more and more stagers entering the industry... I think it is important that they get a real understanding as to just what it takes to run a staging business.

Many stager's have been coached to stage with what the seller already has in the way of furnishings and decorative accessories (props). Which is all well and good, but what if what the property that needs to be staged is a vacant property? Or what if the property that needs to be staged is occupied but basically an empty home?  What does the stager do if a house needs more "bling" to bring some life and appeal to it?

Here at Real Estaging we made a commitment 3 years ago to build a prop library to best serve our clients and all different types of staging for home selling needs.

Currently we have nearly 5000 items available in our "PROP LIBRARY"...  which sounds like a lot. But what do you do if all of our props are out and placed in homes and a new staging job comes in? Well, you're going to need to buy more!  AND... you just can't put shlocky junk in a house and call it staged. (Well you can, and I have seen "stagers" that have.) But if you want to build a reputation for quality staging... you gotta get and have quality props.

However I have to admit owning a Prop Library sometimes feels like that voracious plant in the play The Little Shop of Horrors that constantly screams, "FEED ME SEYMOUR!"

July for us has been a CRAZY BUSY month here at Real Estaging (hence, I have had NO TIME for Active Rain).  Fortunately (or unfortunately) much of what we own in our inventory was already out "PLACED" in client properties.... and we needed more!

So shopping for nic-nacs we went... and racked up a whopping $6,448.21 for our prop tab for the month of July! (We us Brook rental furniture as our supplier for furniture.) THAT is a lot of money we had to spend... and remember it does NOT pay for itself the first time it is placed... it takes a few flips!

Oh and then there are the hidden costs to creating and maintaining a prop inventory. Costs such as...

  • Pay to the employee for the time the spend sourcing and shopping for props.
  • Mileage and travel time to various suppliers
  • Inventory Management... tracking who has what and where.
  • Packing and shipping items to and from client sites.
  • Cleaning, repair and damage of props.
  • And of course Storage.

Having options and a variety of service levels... WILL help differentiate your staging business from other stagers in the market place. Being a one stop staging shop... will help build your reputation. But be forewarned, if your not careful owning a Prop Library can turn that one stop shop into a Shop of Horrors.

Stage It Forward...

Me

 

Comment balloon 27 commentsCraig Schiller • August 01 2007 12:41PM

Comments

I am so glad you have resurfaced!  Busy is good, too busy for Friday words. . . I don't like that.

Posted by Lori Gilmore, One Savvy Move Home Staging (One Savvy Move) about 13 years ago

I know exactly what you mean.  I have been using the current down time to clear out what can't be used again and replace with items from the Summer Sales.  I'm also trying to anticipate and gear up for Fall a little.

$6 grand sounds like a fortune.  D'you not use rental company's furniture then?  Otherwise, what are you buying?  You're using wholesale discounts wherever you can, right?

Posted by Juliet Johnson, Jacksonville Photography & Digital Marketing (Vizzitopia) about 13 years ago

Hey, you're back!  Sounds like you've had quite a month.  Where the heck do you keep 5000 props?  Do you store them in a warehouse?  It seems like it would be challenging to make a profit as a stager.

Posted by Michelle Ewing, Riverside, CA (Trademark Realtors) about 13 years ago

Wow...that's lot's of "mula"...I don't feel so bad now spending around $3,200.--in the last couple of months. July was a busy month...is it true that there will be a slow down in the last two weeks of July because it's mostly closings? August last year for me was quiet. (in terms of staging).

Julia

Posted by Julia Fedak (Royal LePage State Realty) about 13 years ago

Boy, the Little Shop reference is a creepy, considering I am currently looking for Audrey II as a prop for my daughter's upcoming play.  I'd ask if you have one in that massive amount of props, but I know you have better taste than that ;)

Just when I think I see a light at the end of the debt tunnel, one or two more vacants pop up.  it is a vicious cycle, but I don't think you can realistically do vacants without keeping a great prop library.  Shop on!

Posted by Kimberly Wester about 13 years ago

Wow Baby!!

How true your story is!!  I have been usuing the last couple of weeks to source and shop for what I need so that I am not in a pinch when the items are needed.  You must have some great shoppers on your team!

Posted by Kimberly Uksik, Home Stager - Durham, Toronto, On. (Independent) about 13 years ago
$6000 in one month of BLING....ca-CHING!!  Hope you have some really great art or sparkly stuff!!  : )  No doubt you will have added to your huge inventory!!  Investments count!! Regards-Kathleen
Posted by Kathleen Garvey, Denver's Neighborhood Expert - Listings & Sales (HomeSmart Cherry Creek - Denver) about 13 years ago

This just reinforces my decision to stick with occupied homes.  If you are going to have a prop library, you have to do it right, just as you have described.  Inventory management is a job unto itself.  I prefer to leave that to others.  Plus, it keeps my expenses to a minimum.

Posted by Angel Walker (Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Partners) about 13 years ago

Great to hear your thoughts again. You have been busy! 

Posted by Nathan Jelovich, ImageKind.com (Imagekind.com) about 13 years ago
I just hope that your business expands to Miami some day and I can use your services here.  All the stagers I've met with don't have the accessories, want to use the sellers' stuff (I can do that too)....but let me stop whining, you've already heard it from me.
Posted by Rick & Ines - Miami Beach Real Estate (Majestic Properties) about 13 years ago

I just spent 4500.  on furniture because i don't have a cort rental in Idaho and rent a cent can be limiting and in bad condition . My accessories are growing as well. I to had a crazy busy July and I am glad it has eased up a bit.  My inventory right now is all out in homes and in my garage but i am committed to be a full service stager and all the headache that comes with it. Glad you resurfaced i was going to do a where's waldo oh i mean where's craig blog

Posted by Maria Lechner, Home Stager Boise ID (The Added Touch Home Staging) about 13 years ago
Craig!  You're back!  You've been missed by all I'm sure.  So, how do you store and track all that inventory?  Teach us oh Master of the Stage.
Posted by Patricia Ebrahimi, Home Staging the Washington DC Area from Rockville MD (SHOW SMART! HOME STAGING & Color Consultant) about 13 years ago

WOW, that's a chunk of change!

Sure have missed your writings!

Expect to see an email from me soon about what we discussed previously.... ;)

Posted by Fran White, Kansas City North Real Estate, 816-682-3897 (North Kansas City Real Estate, Reece and Nichols Residential) about 13 years ago

Craig,

Thanks for the post. here's hoping that the staging helps to move the property in a short period of time.

Posted by William Collins, Property and Asset Management (ERA Queen City Realty) about 13 years ago

Hi Craig,

So...what local Chicago stores do you like? I know that I always find stuff when I'm not looking!

Glad that your month was so busy and active. Remember us...at least, once a month!

Posted by Eileen Landau, ABR, CRS, e-PRO (BAIRD & WARNER, NAPERVILLE) about 13 years ago
And people wonder why we charge what we do -  there is a lot more involved that the $50 plant.
Posted by Kathleen Lordbock, Keller Williams Realty Professionals (Keller Williams Realty Professionals) about 13 years ago

Hey Craig, Welcome back,  I have been quite absent myself, but always like to check in on your blog.

Your blog is very timely, as I am in the process of tracking the props I do have already.  The value in just $$ amounts is staggering to me.  I denfinately will not be adding furniture to my inventory.  Unless it is small and fits in my SUV!

Posted by No Longer Available about 13 years ago
Craig: You and I are in the same boat. I am racking up those American Express miles, I tell ya. Whenever we are not actually on location staging, we are tracking inventory, inputting info into iMagic or sorting. Just curious, do you use iMagic?
Posted by Michelle Minch, Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA (Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA) about 13 years ago
WOW! Congratulations on your busy business and such demand for staging. We have actually reduced our inventory greatly and started working with a furniture company for the big items. Now we don't have the extra overhead of props/storage and the danger of damage. Unfortunately we have been forced to turn down clients when we run out of props. I feel your pain. It's a fine line.
Posted by Rachel Backus, www.stagedmakeovers.com (Staged Makeovers) about 13 years ago

I had nearly the same amount spent in accessories in the month of July.  It's definitely an investment and you're right, one that will pay off with subsequent flips. 

Glad to see you posting again.

Kathy

Posted by Kathy Nielsen, Atlanta Georgia Home Stager (http://atlantahomestaging.net) about 13 years ago
Craig, welcome back! Wish you were in our market. My concern for stagers in our area with lots of props is that after our 400% over normal inventory, a large number of which are vacant, what they're going to do with huge amounts of inventory when the market returns to normal.
Posted by Sharon Simms, St. Petersburg FL - CRS CIPS CLHMS RSPS (Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International) about 13 years ago

Craig,

Thank you for letting us know we are not alone.  Every-time all of our inventory is out, I think.....no way!  We have enough furniture and accessories to furnish 11 homes.  That fine line is getting skinnier.  To buy more, or turn down work.  We mainly do vacant homes and have an appointment today to bid a 7800 square foot home and another bid tomorrow for a 5500 sq ft.  I hate to turn down work, but if I purchase more inventory I am afraid of what we will do if it all comes back at once!  We have two huge storage units but they are busting at the seams.  We try to rent, as much as possible from Aaron's Rental.  Our only other solution is Cort......but they are soooooooo expensive.  Unfortunately, Aaron's quality of furniture doesn't work in multi-million dollar homes.....there is only so much you can do with pretty silk pillows.

We have been doing this for four years now and things always seem to work out.  We have a job to do on the 20th and I have no idea where I am going to get everything to pull this one off, but we as stagers know we will.  That's part of the fun in this crazy business.

Posted by Debbie Wheeler, Chandler, AZ Rooms Rearranged RESA, IRIS (Real Estate Staging/Rooms Rearranged, LLC) about 13 years ago

I am with Vicki as well, I can stage 10 vacant homes at the same time but I have stopped buying more inventory. There are just no space to keep them once the 10 comes back. Ack. It's quite a toss up. I hate to turn down work but I have got no furniture left! I haven't tallied up my purchases this year at all, I am a little scared to do that ... haha ;)

Hey are you at blogger's connect in sf?

Cheers,

Cindy 

Posted by Cindy Lin, Host, The Home Staging Show podcast (Staged4more School of Home Staging) about 13 years ago
I just joined this group as I am not a professional stager, just a long-time Realtor who has done staging in some form or another for years.  It truly started with vacant homes and significant estates.  It is great to see how much talent is out there, I wish you all were in the Lake Norman area of NC.  In LA there was a great deal more staging.  When I first started here I was shocked to walk in to a brand new home and see it not just bare but filthy!  Just for fun I staged this house for the agent to show her what is possible.  She gave me a budget of $300!  I decided to buy the props knowing that I could use them later.  But, I have the same problem...where do I put everything.  Plus, in this market listings are active a lot longer so I end up having to buy more and more!  Thanks for letting me vent!
Posted by Diane Aurit, Lake Norman Real Estate (LKN Realty, LLC) about 13 years ago

Glad to see your face back in the ring, Craig.

This blog does a great service to the home staging business owners who at times must justify their prices. Vacant staging is a lot of work, and the costs of props are high.

And that's not to mention the double parking fines from parking the staging crew's truck outside a seller's building in the busy downtown streets of Chicago! 

Posted by Sue Argue, NH Home Stager (Staged First Impressions) about 13 years ago

LOVE IT!! Looks like my receipts. People have NO CLUE what it takes to accomplish a successful staging. I am concerned that as this biz grows too many amateurs will get into it and RUIN this business. This is hard work, long hours and a very time and MONEY consuming task.

I just lost a bid because the builder worked with a furniture company that was giving him all the furniture for FREE as a way of advertising their biz. I asked BUT WHERE IS THE BLING/ In my price I detailed all that he was getting, after seeing it in writing I realized we are crazy. We add alot of BLING and eventho we may be great shoppers, this stuff adds up!

Great Post

Phylis Pafumi

Posted by Phyllis Pafumi, ReStyled to Sell Staging Homes NJ (ReStyled to Sell Home Staging New Jersey) about 13 years ago
Been there done that.  I feel so much better now that I've thinned down my inventory and do a limited number of vacancies.  The bulk of my business is occupied homes which does keep my costs down.  I was getting carried away spending, spending, spending as if my reputation depended upon having everything for everyone.  I feel so much less stressed and in control.
Posted by Sharon Kreighbaum, www.stagedmakeovers.com (Staged Makeovers) about 13 years ago

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