From Garage to HGTV: How This Woman Grew a Successful Home-Staging Business

Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Kristy Anderson spent most of her childhood on the move.

She and her mother, Bridget, would often change apartments. And Anderson, in an attempt to make each place feel more like home, would spruce it up with some amateur decorating.

She would rearrange some pillows. Or maybe she’d take some bedsheets and turn them into curtains.

“My mom always welcomed it,” said Anderson, a South Tampa resident. “She was very encouraging.”

Nobody knew it at the time, but what she was doing was making her way toward building her own business.

Anderson is the founder and executive director of Dwell Home Staging, which specializes in getting homes ready to hit the open market. She now employs a staff of 11. 

Dwell has been featured on HGTV and is repeatedly ranked among the top home-staging businesses in the country.

“Never in a million years did I ever imagine this,” Anderson said.

How to Start a Home Staging Business

Kristy Anderson, of Dwell Home Staging
Kristy Anderson adds foliage elements to her staged home kitchen. Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Home staging rose with the popularity of HGTV shows that demonstrated how an uncluttered, tastefully decorated home could bring in higher offers from buyers who could then envision themselves living in the space.

And although you might have an eye for design, you’ll also need a head for business to start a home-staging enterprise. 

If you’re unsure whether you’re ready to make it a full-time career, consider starting small.

Before she launched her home-staging business, Anderson worked for 12 years as a teacher and assistant head at Academy Prep of Tampa. But even amid her 10-hour days at the school, Anderson spent her nights staging homes for her friends. It was fun. But she figured it was just a side gig.

“It was a real small-time,” Anderson said. “I would just go into people’s homes, re-design or revamp it, and maybe bring a few new pieces in.”

And although home-staging is among our top home-based business ideas, you’ll need extra space in your home — or elsewhere — to store the pieces you’ll need to dress up your clients’ homes. 

Anderson took $3,000 out of her savings account and created an office out of her garage — from there, Dwell Staging was born.

Anderson’s aspirations were modest — she never thought staging homes would match the $65,000 a year she was making as an assistant head of school. So she planned on making a living as a real estate agent.

But Dwell continued to grow.

How to Get Clients

Anderson built her client base through word of mouth and friendly referrals, as well as through Google Adwords. 

She created a Facebook page, which she routinely updates with videos of homes she has recently staged, and a Twitter account. She’s since gone on to expand her social media reach to Instagram, YouTube and real estate-specifc sites.

She joined local associations for homebuilders, investors and realtors and visited realtors to give in-person presentations.

Anderson also hosted broker’s opens, which are strictly for real estate agents and not for the public, in homes she had staged.

The initial campaign worked — Anderson became so busy running Dwell that she no longer had time to pursue her real estate license.

“That’s when I said, ‘I guess this is what I’m doing,’” she said.

Purchasing her inventory wholesale from furniture and accessory vendors from across the United States, Anderson needed just six months to take Dwell from her garage to a storage facility. A year later, it moved into a 2,000-square-foot office and warehouse until it outgrew that and moved into a 9,000-square-foot facility.

How to Stage a Home

Woman steaming curtains and placing pillows
Malaika Hollist, left, and Brittney Davis work to complete the living area and patio .Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

When she’s staging a home, Anderson considers her true clients to be the home’s potential buyers, not the current owners.

“We always design for the target demographic of the expected buyer,” Anderson said. “This is the first indicator for our design. Then we look at the home’s architecture and design, and select pieces that highlight that. If it’s occupied, we try to use as much of what the seller has as possible, while using our inventory to supplement in order to pull together a cohesive look.”

Dwell charges an average of $15,000 to $30,000 for its staging packages, which includes furnishings, artwork and decor for vacant dwellings. 

We always design for the target demographic of the expected buyer.

It’s a process that seems to be working. Dwell brought in $180,000 during its first year, 2014, and close to $500,000 in 2017.

Although she sold Dwell to Happy’s Home Centers in 2017, Anderson still runs the daily operations and has since branched out into the Sarasota market.

Anderson always dreamed of landing on HGTV — that dream came to fruition when Dwell designed a space for the show “Container Homes” with the help of artists from the Tampa Bay community.

“I’d watch all those shows on HGTV and would dream —‘Wouldn’t that be great?’” she said.

And Anderson knows who to thank for success — her mother Bridget, who passed away last May.

“She was always saying, ‘Just say yes,’ and, ‘Why not you?’” Anderson said. “She kind of ingrained it in me to take big risks. Why couldn’t it be me?”

woman holding pillow
Kristy Anderson makes an adjustment to the bedding in an upstairs bedroom. Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

John Lembo is a contributing writer for The Penny Hoarder.