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Become a House Stager

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This article was excerpted from Weekend Entrepreneur: 101 Great Ways to Earn Extra Cash, available from Entrepreneur Press.

Have you ever been inside a house for sale, and although you liked the house itself, the furnishings and decorating gave you the willies? Some real estate agents insist that empty houses sell better, because they allow prospective buyers to see themselves living in the space when it isn't cluttered with the current owner's things. Less is more when it comes to staging a house for sale, and an objective eye can help cut through the clutter that the longtime owner can't see anymore.

But a few tasteful pieces of furniture can set the tone, and that's when a house stager gets involved. Terry L. Cardon formed her business, TLC Home Staging, to work with real estate agents to rescue hopelessly decorated houses by staging them to look livable. Sometimes houses are staged while the owners are still living there, but more often the houses are empty.

For several years, Cardon had been staging houses informally, helping out when friends and family were selling a house. She seemed to have a real knack for it. With the encouragement of local real estate agents, she finally took the step and began to do it professionally.

What does it take to be a house stager? You'll need at least a good sense of design, but formal interior design experience is best. Caroline Benard decided to start her house staging service after years of interior decorating for high-end clients. She wanted a business that allowed her to spend more time with her children.

You'll need to own the pieces that you use to stage. Buying an extra set of high-end furniture that can be moved from house to house to house is a big investment for anyone. Another way of handling the furniture would be to strike a deal with a local furniture company so that you use their furniture on a casual loan basis and credit them with large signage throughout the house. Where do your clients come from? Stop in whenever you see a "for sale by owner" sign and offer your services. Network with local real estate agencies and let them know what you can do for them.

What can you expect to make as a house stager? Like realtors, some house stagers set their price as a percentage of the home's sales price, often around 1.5 percent. Others bid out each job according to how much work needs to be done. By asking realtors, you should get a better feel for what the market can bear in your area, but charging $1,000 to come in and stage a home isn't out of the question.

For more ideas on businesses you can start on the weekend, read Weekend Entrepreneur: 101 Great Ways to Earn Extra Cash.