Home Staging for Real Estate Investors

Staging for Investors
There is allot of excitement around the subject of home staging for real estate investors. In this home staging blog post we sample an interview with HGTV Interior Designer and the Creator of White Orchid Interiors, Lauren Matthews. Learn several tips and tricks for working with real estate investors to grow your home staging business. Watch the home staging for real estate investors interview video here.

What's it like working with real estate investors?
[Lauren] A real estate investor is someone who buys a home, makes improvements and then turns around and sells the home -- hopefully for a profit. Many real estate investors work on several properties each year so it is a great opportunity for stagers to work with a repeat client. At White Orchid Interiors, we have a number of investors that bring us 25 properties to stage each year. The right investor can bring significant volume to your business.

Real estate investors are also business people. They know what they are looking for and are often no nonsense. They understand return on investment which leads many to make home staging an important part of their marketing strategy. Investors are always looking for great customer service, a repeatable outcome and consistent pricing. And they really get the benefits of home staging.

Investors can also be fun and ideal clients for a home staging company. The homes are typically newly renovated, vacant and a great canvas to work with. You only have to sell the real estate investor one time and from then on it can be a streamlined process thereafter. Set the right expectations, set a good precedent and the relationship can go smoothly.

Have you ever shown up to a project and the home is not ready?
[Lauren] Yes, absolutely! This is one area where communication and expectations are important. Investors feel the pressure to get their homes finished and on the market for sale as quickly as possible. Sometimes we are given a home staging date and the home is not ready. This usually means turning the truck around, unloading and reloading another day. I have learned to be cautious and skeptical when a real estate investor says, "Wood floors go in on Monday, electrical and plumbing wrap up on Tuesday, carpet and cleaning happen on Wednesday, and you can stage the home on Thursday." Not likely.

In these circumstances, it is really important to be clear with real estate investors and help them understand the process. We don't work like other trades. You might be able to tell a plumber to come back tomorrow. But with home staging, it doesn't work that way. There is so much that goes into coordinating each home staging project -- moving, furniture, accessories, artwork and team coordination. Big picture, communication is critical when staging homes for real estate investors.

Are investors critical when it comes to interior design style?
[Lauren] Real estate investors are like artists and they can be critical of the design outcome. They have devoted tremendous time, they have a specific vision and have put their personal touch on each property. They have an expectation of the interior design style and outcome. But the challenge comes when their design expectations don't match their budget.

At White Orchid Interiors we send example photos or a design style mood board to help set expectations. We might also send a floorplan or layout sketch to make sure they are comfortable with the final design installation plan. It's also important to be consistent. Don't be tempted to do more for less. If a real estate investor wants to furnish and stage more rooms, adjust the price accordingly. Again, make sure you have set the right expectations.

Do you ever have challenges getting paid from real estate investors?
[Lauren] Payment is always an important topic for home staging pros. Investors are used to paying their trades after contract work is done, but for home staging companies, most of the work is completed before we walk into the house. We have to be paid up front, not upon completion of the staging services. I have noticed too, when payment happens up front, communication tends to be much better as we coordinate final details.

I think the most valuable advice I can provide is to make sure you have your agreements and processes worked out and don't be tempted to change them under pressure. If the investor respects you as a home staging professional and values the service you provide, they will work within your processes. Once you set a good precedent, the relationship can go smoothly.

How do you handle requests for volume discounts?
[Lauren] Because real estate investors have the potential to bring in more than one project, they often ask for a volume or home builder discount. When we offer a home staging quote I try to offer some kind of discount from normal pricing. It is important to know your numbers and where you need to be as a professional staging company. You will likely gain their business and even some respect if you are open, honest about pricing and stand your ground. Remember, no amount of volume is worthwhile if you are losing money.