Do you have a passion for design? Do you understand how to make a room look larger without knocking down a single wall, or how to turn a ho-hum entranceway into something that takes a guest’s breath away? Then you might have what it takes to start a professional home staging business.
However, it takes more to start a successful professional real estate business than an eye for detail and a well-placed throw rug. Like any business, there also needs to be a demand for your service too, which is why we crunched the numbers for you to determine the 10 best states to start a real estate home staging company.
The results of our study revealed a number of surprises. For example, even though California is the most populous state and New York is famous for its design and fashion, neither are particularly attractive for would-be stagers. In addition, virtual staging services, like Asteroom, are also becoming more popular as more buyers are preferring to do their initial homeshopping safely behind a screen rather than in person.
Whether this real estate marketing trend continues after the pandemic is over is yet to be seen. That said, Asteroom reports seeing adoption growing in areas with listings price lower than $1 million, and relatively populated places like Texas, Florida, and the outskirts of Southern California. Although it admits that in terms of their service’s impact on live staging, it is still too early to predict trends.
That said, while services like those offered by Asteroom can get a potential buyer interested in a property, real estate agents report that homes that are physically staged sell between three and 30 times faster than their non-staged counterparts. This data is likely to become even more important as the pandemic’s economic impact continues to linger. In addition, as there are only a reported 10,000 professional home stagers in the industry worldwide, there is also plenty of opportunity for those who aren’t afraid to launch a new career.
In Focus: The Top 10 States for Starting a Staging Business
1. North Carolina (Best for Low-cost Furniture Access)
Is it any wonder that the state that boasts a 36-foot tall dresser as a highway attraction would take the number one spot for access to furniture? Between the state’s impressive number of furniture rental and affordable long-term storage options, North Carolina offers would-be real estate stagers ample opportunity to create unique interior designs that can make even the most distressed property impress. In addition, the area boasts nearly 50,000 licensed real estate agents for a professional stager to call on, as well as a healthy real estate market.
2. Florida (Huge Potential Client Base)
Florida features the second-highest number of licensed real estate agents in the nation, as well as the most luxury homes on the market. Therefore, there is plenty of opportunity for a would-be stager. However, major cities, like Orlando and Miami, have recently made LendingTree’s list of some of the least competitive metropolitan markets in the nation.
This means that more often than not, sellers don’t receive multiple offers, and the average listed home stays on the market for nearly 90 days. Therefore, because sellers in this state will want to ensure that when they do receive an offer it is as high as possible, they will be more likely to view hiring a professional stager a worthwhile expense.
3. Alabama (Slow Sales Are Great for Business)
Listings in Alabama may be at historic lows. However, more than a fourth of those listings are considered luxury homes and have been sitting on the market for close to 90 days. It means that there is still plenty of potential for talented stagers in the Yellowhammer state who know how to make a property shine. In addition, Alabama comes in second in terms of the number of furniture rentals, and is in the top 10 for the most affordable storage.
4. Illinois (Multiple Financing Opportunities)
Illinois may be ranked 49th in the nation in terms of expected population growth, but even so, it ranks within the top 10 for the number of licensed real estate agents in the United States and the number of luxury home listings. However, what is most remarkable is the fact that homeownership rates remained stable through both the first and second quarter of 2020, meaning the area did not see a major swing caused by pandemic-related migration. The state also ranks number two in terms of access to local banks, allowing would-be stagers plenty of opportunity to secure the financing they need to launch their business.
5. Pennsylvania (Opportunity to Be a Part of History)
From Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, the state of Pennsylvania is filled with historic neighborhoods. Unfortunately, this means that it often takes more than a little extra care when it comes to getting a property ready to list. However, Pennsylvania also features low vacancy rates and homeownership on the rise, making it a great potential market for designers who know how to showcase those original hardwood floors.
6. Georgia (Safe & Stable Market)
A stable real estate market is just one of the many reasons the state of Georgia earned a place in the top 10 best states to start a real estate staging business. It also doesn’t hurt that professional stagers in the Peach State have access to Home Depot’s headquarters, in addition to more than 40,000 licensed real estate agents.
7. Missouri (Major Growth Potential)
Twenty-five percent of Missouri’s close to 30,000 listings are priced above $300,000, placing them in the luxury home category. However, even though Missouri has seen one of the largest improvements in homeownership rates between the first and second quarter of 2020, it ranks 29th in the nation in terms of the number of homes sold in the past 30 days. The numbers tell us that there is a lot of room for a talented home staging professional to make an impact.
8. Arizona (Poised for Favorable Market Shift)
Arizona offers the third-best client base in the nation for professional real estate staging services when you look at the state in terms of the number of licensed real estate agents in the area, expected population growth, and the total number of homes listed for sale. Homeownership rates have also taken a dramatic dip between the first and second quarter of 2020, which could result in more homes remaining on the market longer, and making a professional real estate staging service even more in demand over the months to come.
9. South Carolina (Growing Population)
Whether it was simply due to people moving to areas that were less impacted by the pandemic or due to low interest rates and South Carolina’s affordable housing, the Palmetto State now boasts one of the largest gains in homeownership rates in the country. In addition, the state is also experiencing one of the largest drops in vacancy rates, which can only mean that people are flocking to the area. Therefore, a professional staging service that establishes themselves now will be well-positioned to serve a growing clientele.
10. Kentucky (Affordability Meets Style)
Kentucky offers a unique opportunity for professional stagers who aren’t afraid to experiment with luxurious designs and those who are willing to seek out partnerships for co-marketing in addition to new clients. This is because the state offers the most high-end furniture options for home staging designers to choose from out of all the states that made it into our top 10. In addition, the state can boast of having the seventh-highest homeownership rate, likely due to the fact that the median sell price for a home is much less than the cost to buy a home in other states.
The Worst Places for Starting a Home Staging Business
Being a tropical paradise, the state of Hawaii hardly needs help convincing buyers to settle on one of its major islands. It also doesn’t help that its location (more than 2,400 miles from the mainland) also makes access to low-cost furniture a challenge. Therefore, is it any wonder that it ranks as the worst location for starting a real estate staging business? However, the District of Columbia’s inclusion in the bottom 10, with its median sell price of more than $556,000, comes as more of a surprise.
To come up with our list, we examined data from sources such as the U.S. Census, the National Association of Realtors, and the Real Estate Staging Association to identify the parts of the country that offered the most potential opportunity for an emerging real estate service business. However, we also considered factors that could contribute to success, such as access to assets stagers need like furniture and financing.
We then grouped factors and determined a weighted score for each subcriterion, as well as a weighted score for each larger criteria group. Factors that contributed to a would-be stager’s potential client size, for example, accounted for 30% of the state’s overall score, while factors associated with low-cost furniture access accounted for 20%.
You can download our raw data as well as a table that shows how each state compared based on individual subcriteria here:
Client Size Potential: 30% of Total Score
According to the 2019 Profile of Home Staging prepared by the National Association of Realtors, 15% of real estate professionals reported hiring a professional home staging service. Twenty-eight percent of respondents also said that they recommend staging every home prior to listing it—not just those that are in the higher price brackets. As a result, we looked for the states that offered the largest number of real estate agents, listings, and growth potential to identify the greatest opportunity for would-be stagers to find clients.
Client Size Potential Breakdown & Top 5 Rankings
Current Real Estate Market Characteristics: 20% of Total Score
The overall health of the surrounding real estate market has a major impact on the potential for a home stager to find success. While there are agents who will stage every home prior to listing it, there are some that reserve this expense for only homes that offer the highest potential return on investment or are otherwise difficult to sell. This is why we looked for markets that featured a large inventory of luxury homes as well as troubled properties or otherwise slow movers.
Current Real Estate Market Characteristics Breakdown & Top 5 Rankings
Recent Real Estate Market Trends: 20% of Total Score
The best real estate market for a home staging business is an active buyer’s market. However, real estate market conditions are known to fluctuate throughout the year. This means that while there may be an excess of inventory in an area today, the opposite might be true 30 days from now.
As a result, in addition to identifying the type of market in an area, we looked at recent homeownership rates, which is the percentage of homes that are owner-occupied in an area and how that rate has changed from the beginning to the second half of the year. We also examined vacancy rates to identify areas where rental sales are weak, as this indicates weak rentals and could also offer an opportunity for home staging businesses to expand their business.
Recent Real Estate Market Trends Breakdown & Top 5 Rankings
Access to Low-cost Furniture: 20% of Total Score
It is great when a home stager is able to utilize a client’s existing furniture in their design. However, the homeowner may have already moved out of the property, taking their furniture with them. The condition of the existing furniture might also be less than ideal for helping a would-be homeowner imagine living in a space. As a result, a professional home staging business will be required to provide their own furnishings and help find a new home for furniture that detracts from the design.
Therefore, to help us identify the best states for home staging business, we looked for areas that featured a number of low-cost furniture options like consignment stores and yard sales as well as storage solutions. However, we also looked for luxury shops because luxury furniture sellers will often agree to partner with professional staging services, lending a high-end piece or two, as part of a co-marketing strategy.
Access to Low-cost Furniture Breakdown & Top 5 Rankings
Other Considerations: 10% of Total Score
In almost all cases, starting a business requires an upfront investment. While it is possible to stage a client’s home using pre-existing furniture, you will still likely need to procure more than a few gallons of paint and market your business. These expenses may require you to seek out financing. Therefore, we considered access to local banks and lenders.
Additionally, every time you stage a home using your own furnishings, you are potentially putting your inventory at risk. This is why we also factored in the number of residential break-ins reported by each area compared to the number of households reported in U.S. census data when compiling our list.
Other Considerations Breakdown & Top 5 Rankings
Data used to determine each state’s score was compiled from the following sources:
- International Association of Home Staging Professionals, Home Staging Industry Statistics
- National Association of Realtors (NAR), Monthly Membership Report (September 2020)
- National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2019 Profile of Home Staging
- United States Census Bureau, Housing Data (2020)
- Fortune Builders, U.S. Real Estate Market Trends & Projections For 2020
- Zillow.com, Research Data (October 2020)
- Zillow.com, State by State Home Values Data (October 2020)
- Zillow.com, What Is the Average Time to Sell a House?
- Realtor.com, The Midwest Dominates the Hottest Real Estate Markets in September, and Here’s Why (2019)
- Realtor.com, Market Hotness Index (2020)
- gsalr.com, Which U.S. State Has the Most & Least Yard Sales
- Neighbor.com, Self Storage Industry Statistics (2020)
- SpareFoot Storage Beat, U.S. Self-storage Industry Statistics (2020)
- Statista, MiniCo; Knight Frank; Radius+, 2020 Self-storage Almanac, page 14
- LifeStorageBlog, How Much Does a Storage Unit Cost in 2020?
- Banking Strategist, Community Banks: Number by State and Asset Size (2020)
- Statista; FBI, Burglary rate per 100,000 inhabitants in the United States in 2019, by state
- Police Department City of New York, CompStat
- Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime Data Explorer
- Fit Small Business, States With the Strongest Housing Market (2019)
- Construction Coverage, The Hottest Real Estate Markets of 2019