We’ve come a long way baby to get where we got to today…entering our twelfth-year staging homes. Looking back to our humble beginnings we reflect on where we’ve been, where we are and where we are going with this crazy business of real estate staging.
With $5,000 in our business account (and Liz’ husband, Johnsie’s blessing) we announced at HBA’s Sales & Marketing Council Meeting that we are now staging homes. One of the builders immediately said she had two houses that she needed staged ASAP.
Holy smokes…now we have to go and buy some furniture. We quickly learned that $5,000 doesn’t go far in this business, but we made it work.
We had that first load delivered directly to the house and realized that half of the stuff we purchased had to be assembled. If you know us, you know we are not the most adept with tools and reading instructions. We sweet talked the delivery guys into assembling the items and gave them a quite generous tip.
Two homes complete, and we were off and running. Our next project was a $1.7 million spec home. The developer had a very specific vision for the property and Courtney and I said four important words that have continued to carry us through this past 12 years, “we can do this”.
At this point we had two choices, we could decline such a huge job since we were just in the infancy stages of business, and certainly weren’t equipped to for such a tall order, OR, we could decide to do whatever it took to continue running with our dreams and building our budding business.
Thankfully we chose the latter, and with our strong faith, we invested another $21,000 in furnishings and accessories.
With so much on the line, we worked our tails off making sure that home, and our future reputation were prepared to shine. The house turned out fabulous and dozens of agents visited the open house, as the saying goes, the rest is history.
Let me tell you, spending $21K on one house was crazy scary…but we were in it to win it. At that point we acquired a line of credit and continued to purchase furniture for each staging job. To this day, 12 years later, we are still investing in high quality inventory.
As the furniture began rolling in, the home garage filled up quickly, meanwhile my Husband had to leave his car in the driveway and he was not too happy. We had set up shop in our lower level and tricked out the walls with shelving for our accessories. It wasn’t the “ideal” vision of an office space everyone hopes for, but it was ours, and at the time it was perfect.
Courtney and I each had a desk and were cranking along. We quickly outgrew the garage and moved to a storage unit, then two.
Believe us, it is no fun running a business from a storage unit. Aside from the extreme temperatures and loud warehouse noises, more than once we found ourselves buried in an avalanche of furniture.
The growing inventory and additional services we began to offer, were just a reflection of our increasing business and soon it was evident we had to expand yet again, this time through hiring management.
The next step was hiring Courtney’s husband, Jon, as our operations manager, then renting 7,100 sf of office and warehouse space, followed by contracting for our own truck and movers, and also hiring a logistics manager.
These steps proved to be the perfect additions to the ever-expanding endeavors we get to take on!
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
I would also like to note, another happy ending, my husband, “Johnsie” got his garage space back, and yes, he still gives his blessings all these years later!
Liz, John, and Courtney September 2011
INhance IT! 2018
Oh how the market has changed over the past 11 years. To give you an idea of just how much, imagine this, when we started INhance IT! there were only two other companies offering vacant staging services in St. Louis. We were one of three! Today we know of more than 60 offering vacant staging and over 100 offering occupied staging consultations, and these figures continue to grow!
Back in the day (2007-2008), unstaged properties were sitting on the market over a year. Staging brought this number down to 4-6 months.
Today, the real estate market is so hot that unstaged listings are selling in less than 15 days – but professionally staged listings are selling within hours and, best of all, for thousands of dollars over list price.
In fact, the majority of our staged properties sell 82% faster than unstaged and for 6.2% over list price. We have gone from turning our inventory 1-2 times a year to 6-7.
While our original clients were 95% homebuilders, in 2008 many of these builders succumbed to the recession. At that point we had built strong relationships with some flippers and real estate professionals and our business continued to flourish. We now have a team of 8 incredible professionals and run like a “well-oiled machine”.
You know what makes our team so remarkable? Every person working for INhance IT! continually proves to have the exact same four-letter passion and work ethic that Courtney and I started with over a decade ago, you guessed it, they all have the winning “We can do this!” attitude!
That’s an important key to our journey thus far, because we have gone from completing 15 jobs a month to 15 jobs a week. Thanks to a meeting with Mike Michalowicz, the author of Profit First, we have a profitable, flourishing staging business.
Looking Forward to THE FUTURE
If only we had a crystal ball! Going forward in 2018, we are committing to giving back to the community and the staging industry more than ever before.
Liz Connolly, President of INhance IT! home staging
Liz is providing continuing education courses for real estate agents and is also providing Vacant Staging Training and other educational webinars for the Certified Staging Professional (CSP) organization. She will be presenting a seminar on working with builders at the upcoming RESA convention in Las Vegas.
Courtney Schomburg, Co-owner of INhance IT! Home Staging
Courtney is the president of the local RESA Chapter and is working to build awareness of staging professionalism.
INhance IT! is once again a sponsor of the St. Jude Dream Home and this year has the honor of working alongside TV star and design professional Michael Maloney.
Thank You, St. Louis!
What a whirlwind it has been, and we wouldn’t be able to stand here 12 years later, on the brink of more changes in home staging, without the help and support of those who are probably reading this right now.
The mentors, the agents, the home builders, our beloved and loyal clients, those who refer us, the media outlets that showcase our work, the industry as a whole, and of course our friends and family, who we love dearly.
While times have changed and continue changing, INhance IT! continues our commitment to bringing the highest level of professional home staging to the St. Louis market. Our tagline has remained the same since day one and rings true today…
“The cost of our service is less than your first price reduction”