Architects, design firms and real estate companies depend on model home designers to decorate and improve the interior aesthetics of model homes. A well-decorated model home enhances the experience for potential buyers, as they can better visualize themselves living in a comparable model. Model home designers select furniture, place settings, color schemes and lighting designs for all rooms in the homes. If you want to work in this field, you'll need a bachelor's degree. You can expect to earn an annual salary that's above-average compared to most occupations.
Salary and Qualifications
The average annual salary for model home designers was $60,000 as of 2013, according to the job site Simply Hired. To become a model home designer, a bachelor's degree in any field is acceptable. It also behooves you to take courses in interior design, drawing and computer-aided design. You can also become certified as an interior designer by taking the three-part National Council for Interior Design Qualifications exam. To qualify, you need a bachelor's degree and two years of experience in the interior design industry. The exam tests your competency in design application, construction standards, space planning, life safety and lighting design. (See references 1 and 4 and resource 1)
Salary by Region
In 2013, average salaries for model home designers varied significantly in all U.S. regions. In the West region, they earned the highest salaries of $68,000 in Alaska and California and the lowest of $48,000 in Montana, according to Simply Hired. Those in the South made between $47,000 and $95,000 per year, respectively, in Mississippi and Washington, DC. If you worked in the Northeast, you'd make $54,000 or $73,000, respectively, in Maine or Massachusetts, the lowest and highest salaries in that region. In the Midwest, your salary would be the highest in Minnesota and the lowest in South Dakota -- $64,000 or $42,000, respectively. (See references 6 to 9)
Your salary as a model home designer may be higher in certain industries. In 2012, interior designers, including those who decorate model homes, earned the highest salaries of $64,250 working for real estate brokers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those who worked for architectural or engineering firms made $58,230 annually -- versus an industry average of $52,970. Your salary would be highest in Washington, D.C., because of higher living costs in that district. For example, if you earned $60,000 as a model home designer in Des Moines, Iowa, you'd need to make $94,276 in Washington, D.C., to enjoy the same living standard, according to CNN Money's "Cost of Living" calculator. (See references 2 and 5)
The BLS projects a 19 percent increase in jobs for interior designers, including model home specialists, which is statistically about average. Specialized designers, such as those who focus on high-end homes, will enjoy a 27 percent increase in employment opportunities -- largely driven by an increased demand for custom and environmentally-friendly homes. The real estate market largely dictates the number of available jobs for model home designers. Real Trends forecasts a 6 to 8 percent increase in new home sales in 2013. (See references 1 and 10)