Archive for July, 2010

Insurance Industry Expert: Showhomes Solves Vacant Home Coverage Problems

July 21st, 2010

Jack Hunglemann

Jack Hungelmann, an insurance industry expert and author of the bestselling ‘Insurance for Dummies’ book, recently published an online article about the issues owners of vacant homes have with homeowner’s insurance.

In his article: “Showhomes” Solves the Coverage Problems of Home Vacancy“, Hunglemann had this to say about Showhomes:

How Showhomes Works

Showhomes solves both the vacancy and unoccupancy problems. A resident manager moves in and completely furnishes the place. The manager takes care of the premises, including lawn care, snow removal, etc., and pays the utilities. The manager also keeps the home neat and ready for showing at any hour. When a prospective buyer comes through the home, they see that it is clearly cared for inside and out. There is food in the fridge and clothes in the closet. Prospective buyers pay more and buy more quickly in an occupied, nicely furnished home.

Resident managers pay Showhomes a monthly rent, about a third of the rental value for that type of home in the rental market.

Vacant home for sale damaged by vandals

Features of the Showhomes Homeowner Contract

I’ve read the Showhomes’ contract. From a risk management perspective, it’s quite reasonable to both parties. Note the following.

  • Insurance Obligations—Showhomes agrees to carry general liability for injuries and property damage to the public, special perils legal liability coverage for damage to the home itself, and workers compensation. The homeowner agrees to continue the insurance on the home.
  • Mutual Waiver of Subrogation—Both parties agree to waive claims against the other to the extent the loss is covered by their own insurance.
  • Mutual Indemnity Agreement—Both parties agree to defend and pay any judgment against each other when one party is sued due to the sole negligence of the other party.

    The Benefits

    There are several benefits to the owner of a vacant home of the Showhomes relationship:

    • The home is no longer vacant or unoccupied—ergo, no exclusion for glass, vandalism, or arson.
    • The insurance is no longer at risk of being immediately canceled. In fact, the homeowners policy underwriter may elect to continue the homeowners policy. The home is now occupied by a “caretaker,” and the homeowner is not receiving rental income from the resident manager.
    • If the policy must be rewritten due to the fact that it is no longer owner-occupied, the home should be eligible for a preferred market dwelling fire policy. This means preferred rates and broad coverages, thus avoiding the high-priced limited-coverage specialty marketplace.
    • There is a high probability of a quick home sale at a better price.
    • It transfers the maintenance and responsibility for utilities to the resident manager. This is especially an advantage if the owner of the home has moved to another area. (The resident managers won’t however scrape up your doggie poops, nor will they clean your swimming pool!)

    You can read the entire article here.

    Vacant home staged by Showhomes in Nashville

    Showhomes is a near-perfect solution for homeowners that have a vacant home. Vacant homes are a hand grenade when it comes to insurance; often the only option for an owner is to pay 400% more for a policy that has less coverage.

    Fortunately, with Showhomes, owners get a perfectly staged and occupied home that looks and shows well. Because we carry specialized insurance, the homeowner can often get a far less expensive policy that costs less and covers more.

    Showhomes News: Forget fresh flowers and percolating coffee, human stagers are where it’s at

    July 21st, 2010

    Pat Hermann poses before the mansion she stages in Minnetonka, Minn.

    Pat Hermann poses before the mansion she stages in Minnetonka, Minn. AP

    Steve Ladurantaye, Real Estate Reporter

    Globe and Mail

    Forget fresh flowers and percolating coffee, human stagers are where it’s at in the tough, high-end U.S. home market

    Patricia Hermann is the ultimate house sitter.

    In the past four years, she has lived in six monster homes in Minnesota, where she works as a nurse at the Minneapolis Heart Institute. The average emergency room nurse in the state makes about $70,000 – good money, but not enough to make the mortgage payments on the $850,000, five-bedroom Tudor-style she’s currently calling home.

    Ms. Hermann is a “home manager” for Nashville-based Showhomes Home Staging, an nationally franchised network of home staging businesses. She pays a small amount each month – the amount is different in each market, but is usually around $1,200 to $1,500, or the average rent in a city for a decent two-bedroom apartment – and moves into empty homes that are languishing on the resale market. She’s a human prop, brought in along with fresh-cut flowers and some tasteful paintings to help a property feel “lived in.”

    “I’ve been doing this since 2006 and I kind of take it one year a time,” said Ms. Hermann, a 63-year-old grandmother of three. “Maybe I’ll decide to get a place of my own again some day, but I’ve gotten so spoiled that it would be hard to move into a little apartment.”

    The concept of home staging, often called “fluffing”, is an old one. But in the aftermath of the U.S. foreclosure crisis, it has taken on greater importance, as desperate homeowners try to set their properties apart from millions of others on the market.

    Staging used to mean bringing in some snazzy furniture and making sure there weren’t any lingering odours to turn off prospective home buyers. But that is no longer enough. The housing crash has left some 20 million homes unoccupied and for sale, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many of these are high-end properties being sold by people who took on too much and have since moved to rental properties or smaller homes. Others are empty because of foreclosures.

    Regardless of the reason, vacant homes often sell for less than occupied ones. Buyers know the sellers are motivated to unload the property. Empty houses can depreciate quickly because maintenance is neglected, and buyers have a hard time picturing themselves living in what is currently an empty shell. In the U.S., buyers already have a lot of choice: For every qualified one, there about 40 homes available.

    “The bottom line is vacant houses get low-balled by bottom fishers,” said Thomas Scott, vice-president of marketing at Showhomes.

    Enter the professional house sitter, whose job is to keep the property in “pristine” condition in return for below-market rent. “We don’t let just anyone do this,” said Mr. Scott. “There’s pretty rigorous screening involved. You can’t have a criminal record, you need good credit and you can’t be a slob.”

    There’s no particular demographic in play, but young professionals and even families are prime candidates, Mr. Scott said. Many of the home managers are coming out of a divorce and looking for short-term housing while they figure things out. Most managers stay on for a few years, while some have been around for a decade or longer.

    Showhomes charges homeowners a fraction of a percent of the selling price and also makes money from the monthly fees it collects from its managers.

    The Canadian market hasn’t seen human stagers yet, but Mr. Scott said the company would target model homes and homeowners who have been transferred to other cities.

    There is no shortage of actual home stagers in Canada, however. They typically work with real estate agents to make a home look more desirable to prospective buyers, removing clutter, adding new furniture and rearranging things so there is better flow.

    “Ten years ago this was just a cottage industry made up of housewives looking for something to do,” said Christine Rae, president of St. Catharines, Ont.-based Canadian Staging Professionals and co-author of Home Staging for Dummies. “Now there are savvy professionals making a good living.”

    The goal of professionals in both countries is to ensure the changes look as natural as possible, so that the buyers don’t feel like they are walking into a movie set.

    It has been a profitable business for Showhomes, which now has 65 locations and hopes to have 80 offices open by the end of the year. Some 450 people are signed on as house managers, and collectively they help sell about 1,000 homes a year.

    As for Ms. Hermann, she’s torn between loving where she’s living and hoping the homeowner is able to sell the luxurious home. She has been there for nine months, and the longest she’s ever lived in one of the homes is 16 months.

    “I think with this economy, I may be here for a while,” she said. “I feel bad for the homeowners, they get worried. But I know I’m helping. The house looks amazing.”

    For more information and franchise opportunities, visit www.showhomes.com

    Showhomes News: Tampa Franchises Featured on Fox News

    July 21st, 2010

    June 03, 2010 — TAMPA – FOX 13 News: Selling a home in today’s economy isn’t easy, but there are ways to speed up the process.

    The last two years have been a rollercoaster ride Jim and Nancy Ward. They have been realtors in the Bay Area for nearly 16 years, having gone through the boom and the bust.

    “It takes more creativity to showcase a home,” said Nancy, “to put it in its best light, because there is so much competition.”

    To help them showcase, they’ve teamed up with a company called Showhomes home staging.

    “When we come in and design and decorate a home, what we’ve done is transformed a vacant house into a valued home,” Karla Dorsey, Showhomes’ Director of Sales.

    Here is how the showcasing works: a professional house-sitter moves into your home with their furniture. They maintain the house and pay the electricity bill, but you continue to make the mortgage payments.

    “What we do is we bring a home manager in, that’s a professional house-sitter,” explained Dorsey. “They have their beautiful furnishings, we come in as a design team and we design and decorate the home.”

    “Showhomes” are selling 50 percent faster and 25 percent more than vacant homes in Hillsborough County. In the last two weeks, 9 houses have gone under contract.

    “First home we ever staged with Showhomes, we actually were able to put a contract on a home that had been for sale with other realtors for three years in 29 days,” said Nancy Ward.

    Five of the Wards’ homeowners went with Showhomes. All of those houses have closed or are pending.

    “Another success story recently was a house in Cheval,” added Nancy. “A more expensive home, fewer buyers available to buy a home like that, and it was under contact in 9 days and has already closed.”

    For more information about Showhomes home staging, go to www.showhomes.com

    Chicago North Shore Home Staging Franchise Best in Nation

    July 21st, 2010

    Former Lake Forest Realtor uses staging to drive home sales

    Nashville – Showhomes, a national home staging franchise, awarded its Chicago North Shore – Barrington location its coveted Franchise of the Year Award for 2010.

    Showhomes recognized the North Shore – Barrington location because “it excels in home staging, maintains the highest standard of quality, has shown steady growth several years in a row, and has produced outstanding home sales results for its customers,” said Bert Lyles, Showhomes CEO.

    The home staging franchise has a twist that is producing results in today’s real estate market: it uses live-in home stagers to help sell vacant houses. The company helps home owners and their Realtors in the Chicago market sell homes substantially faster than comparable vacant homes and often for a much higher price.

    The Chicago North Shore – Barrington franchise is owned by Barbara Bliss, a former Lake Forest Realtor. “It’s thrilling to be a part of so many success stories,” said Bliss. “My franchise has flourished during the boom and the bust. We have roared through the recession; we’ve seen double digit growth every year since 2005.”

    “I have a passion to help Realtors, home owners and buyers visualize the very best possibilities for presenting a house,” Bliss said. “A beautifully staged home with a live-in home stager makes all the difference in a market that’s overflowing with inventory.”

    It is also the most economical way for a home owner to stage a large home: the live-in home stager pays the monthly staging fee so the home owner doesn’t have to, saving thousands.

    Houses staged by Showhomes are often the first to sell in the northern suburbs of Chicago, where Bliss’ franchise has its blueprint. Case in point: recently, she staged a $3 million home that had been on the market for 806 days before staging and it sold in 78 days once the live-in stager moved in. In addition to selling faster, the home sold for very near the asking price.

    Bliss’ current listings top $40 million. She has six employees and a bustling storefront in downtown Lake Forest. She credits much of her success to a boundless passion for home staging and her willingness to educate Realtors about the benefits of Showhomes.

    “This is tough market for home owners,” Bliss said. “I’m happy that our hard work makes it possible for many homes to sell that would otherwise sit. In many ways, we are helping the housing market recover one home at time.”

    About Showhomes Home Staging

    Showhomes is a home staging business with a twist: the company uses live-in home stagers to manage vacant houses while they are on the market for sale and offset a home owner’s expense to stage the home. The innovative marketing strategy has been producing results since 1986 and the company has helped over 25,000 home owners sell vacant houses valued at over $8 billion. For franchise opportunities and more information, please visit www.showhomesfranchise.com.