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Everything You Need to Know About Staging Model Homes

Nov 29, 2023
Living and dining room with green accent wall with white couch and black and gold accessories.

Marketing to home sellers and their agents has long been the strategy for home stagers, but there is another group that needs staging services: home builders.

Home stagers that expand their clientele to include home builders enjoy greater diversification and increased profit potential.

From landing builder clients to the design process, model homes can feel like a different ball game from typical home staging. Although all of the skills and staging design principles that you've learned as a Staging Design Professional® still apply to staging model homes, there are some key differences to keep in mind.

In this blog, we'll share everything you need to know about staging model homes! First, let's define some key terms.

What Is the Difference Between a Model Home and a Spec Home?

When builders begin developing a subdivision, they usually include a model home. This is a house that is not for sale (at least not yet), and is decorated to give potential buyers a real feel of what the homes in the neighborhood will be like.

Often, model homes are available to tour before the other houses in the neighborhood are even under construction. That way, buyers can experience the potential floor plan, upgrades, and amenities of their future home.

The truth is larger builders that have developments nationwide usually have in-house design teams that stage their model homes. But, don’t get discouraged by that.

We’ve staged plenty of model homes for builders with in-house teams. Maybe a house was finished before the design team was ready, or the design team was too busy, or in some cases, the local supervisor just liked our designs better than the in-house team.

Spec (short for “speculative”) homes, like model homes, are new builds. The difference is that spec homes are ready to be sold immediately and are move-in ready. They may lack custom finishes, because they were built before having a buyer.

Spec homes are typically not staged by in-house designers like model homes are. This means local home stagers are much more likely to land these jobs!

How to Get Jobs Staging Model and Spec Homes

With the right marketing and relationship-building, professional home stagers can partner with builders to stage their model and spec homes. This can blossom into a mutually-beneficial relationship that brings you repeat business.

There are many ways to connect with home builders in your area. Here are a few ideas:

  • Referrals. Ask your Realtor® clients if they have any builder connections and if they would make an introduction.
  • Local home builder associations. Sponsor lunch and give them a home staging marketing presentation they can't forget!
  • Visit the sales office. Walk in and chat with the sales representatives. Make a great first impression- it helps to bring a small gift. We like bringing yummy-smelling candles with our logo on them. Also, bring a marketing flier with your staging business’s statistics. Your goal is for the division president to get the message that staging spec homes with you will sell them FAST!
    Pro tip: Go during the week and in the morning. Afternoons and evenings after working hours and (especially) the weekends get very busy! They probably won’t be very receptive to what you have to say when there are potential buyers in their office.
  • Social media. Get active on social media, showcasing your knowledge and statistics. We have some social media template bundles to get you started.

How to Stage a Model Home

Builders use model homes to really showcase their craftsmanship, design style, and all the unique features that are available when building a home with them. Model homes usually have a lot of upgrades the builder will want to highlight.

The goal of the model home is to make buyers fall in love with the builder and get excited about customizing their own dream home.

While the design principles of staging model homes are the same as any other vacant home, there are some key differences to these projects, as highlighted below.

Discuss Sales Office Needs

Model homes are frequently used as the sales office for the development. This means the dining room, study, and even the garage might need to be set up for the sales team to actually work.

In a typical staged home, the desk chair is unlikely to be comfortable enough to sit in 40 hours a week. It is important to understand how the home will be used by the sales team and meet their needs.

The use of the model home will also likely dictate how you price your services as well. More on that below. Spec homes are very rarely used as personal offices for sales reps.

Include More Furniture and Accessories

In a model home, you should add more than you typically would while staging. Model homes should feel more “designed” than “staged.” You would likely style every shelf in a built-in bookcase, whereas in a staged home, you may only style about half of the shelves. And a spec home may not even have those built-ins, as they are an upgrade.

In spec homes, use the same amount of furniture and accessories as you would for a typical vacant stage.

Stage Every Room

When staging regular vacant listings or spec homes, you would usually skip secondary bedrooms, the laundry room, the pantry, and closets. In model homes, there is a greater expectation to stage every single space.

Window Treatments for Model Homes

Typically, window treatments are not included in vacant staging because bare windows often look more updated and help visually extend space to the outdoors. They also usually convey with the property so they must be purchased, rather than part of your rental inventory.

However, in a model home, you may choose to hang curtains to enhance the home-like feel. Well-dressed windows can also add a touch of luxury and functionality to the space.

Why We Love Staging Spec Homes

Spec homes can be the ideal staging projects. Once you establish the relationship, it is a volume of repeat business with very loyal customers.

It may take some time to jump through the hoops to become an approved vendor. Once you have been vetted by their legal and insurance departments, sales managers don’t want to bother getting quotes from other stagers who may not be approved yet.

These homes tend to sell very quickly, and as soon as one sells, there is another one ready to be staged in the same community. Your inventory moves from one house to another – often just next door or across the street – with a new contract starting each time.

The furniture rarely comes back to your warehouse. It is constantly out working for you. When you stage the same, or close to the same, floor plan over and over, it gets super easy to have an efficient process. Efficiency and repetition mean greater profits.

How to Price for Model Home Staging

Builders want to be able to predict costs and include staging as a line item on their budget. Offer them a great value at a package price that they can count on.

When staging pre-owned homes, we always require payment upfront. Understand, though, that when you are working with large production builders, payments are processed through their accounting department, which may take 30 days or more. However, the community manager needs that house staged this week, so you will need to accept that payment will always be delayed.

Our Pricing Lab for Home Stagers™ goes into detail on how to price for model home staging.

Staging Studio was created by stagers, for stagers. Learn more about our RESA-accredited Staging Design Professional® training course.


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