March 28, 2007
Jen Guyer, home stager and co-owner of Staged By Design
In November 2003, Jen Guyer turned her knack for scouring the sale racks into a job of her own design. As co-owner of Staged By Design -- the home-staging business she founded with realtor Krystal Perkins -- she spends her weeks making homes on the Seattle market more inviting to potential buyers. This means adding furniture and decorative flourishes to vacant homes. It also means maintaining a warehouse full of "inventory," a moving truck, and a handful of employees.
Q: How did you get started in this career?
A: Before I was a stager, I was a video editor in the television industry. But the hours were hard. When I was 24, 25, I could work 4 a.m. to midnight and it wasn't a big deal. But that schedule got old after a while. So I decided to go to Bellevue Community College to try interior design as a career. But I dropped out after a couple quarters. I decided it would be more fun finding things that I personally liked and putting them into houses instead of working with one client and finding things that they liked.
"Staging has gained massive popularity in the last two years. When my partner and I started the business about four years ago, every party we went to we had to explain what we did. Now I go to a party, and everyone knows what staging is and they all want to talk to me about it because they all want to start their own business."
"I'm ruthless. When I go to a place, I'm like, 'There's a little stain here.' And Target will give you 10 percent off a floor item. They will sell all their floor items."
Q: What's a typical day like for you?
A: Arriving at the warehouse, finishing up a little paperwork, loading up the truck for the day's staging, doing the actual staging, and maybe finishing out the day with a job bid for another realtor. It's a full-time job just coordinating furniture, where it's at, who's getting it, who's going to lift it.
Q: Does that mean you don't actually do much shopping?
A: Shopping, I spend 10 hours a week - at least. And actual staging, we average about three hours per job, and we stage about three houses per week. So the "shopping and decorating" part of the job takes up at least half my week. We might be on the way to a job and realize we need to pick up one specific item we don't have, like a blue tablecloth. The shopping is by far the most time-intensive part of the job, but I can't complain about that.
Q: Do you move the furniture yourself?
A: Krystal (her business partner) and I used to do it all, from beginning to end, and then we both got pregnant. So two years ago we started hiring people to move our furniture. Anyone looking to start their own staging business should consider the lifting and moving aspect. When we started our business, Krystal and I thought, "Oh, it's going to be so much fun. We're going to decorate houses!" But by the time we moved all that stuff in, we just needed a nap.
Q: What advice would you give a hopeful stager?
A: Work at Pier 1. Through my shopping travels, I discovered that lots of stagers who are starting their own businesses and collecting a bit of new inventory work at Pier 1. You get to see what the other stagers come in and buy.
Get to know some local realtors, too. A lot of the realtors we know have an inventory of stuff they put in houses - like big plants - but they don't want to be bothered with having a big inventory they have to move around. It's easier for them to call in a stager. Also, StagedHomes.com teaches classes on how to become an ASP, an Accredited Staging Professional. When Krystal and I were looking to get into the business, we thought it was an important move. We got a ton of knowledge about the business aspects.
Q: Do you belong to any professional organizations?
A: We are part of IAHSP, the International Association of Home Staging Professionals. It's so valuable for new stagers to meet other stagers and maybe get some jobs helping them. That's where you get the experience: actually going to work for free for a more established stager.
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