Archive for June, 2011

A Marketing Strategy for Vacant Houses that Works in a Slow Real Estate Market

June 30th, 2011
Vacant houses are a tough sell in any market and getting them to stand out in the minds of Realtors can be equally difficult.

Showhomes Home Staging is shining the spotlight on the dilemma by hosting successful open houses specifically tailored to Realtors and brokers. The highly effective events take place onsite at previously vacant properties, many of which have lingered on the market for months or years before being staged and maintained by Showhomes.

The 25-year-old national home staging company specializes in a unique home staging method that allows home buyers to visualize living in a home and form a deep emotional connection with the property. Franchisees recruit and train live-in Home Managers to stage and maintain the home while it is on the market for sale.

“Vacant houses almost always show poorly,” says Matt Kelton, Showhomes’ COO. “They often smell musty, can be unkempt and are hard to get buyers excited about. We breathe new life into vacant listings that previously failed to stir buyers emotion.”

“Not only that, once a home has been on the market for an extended amount of time, it’s usually top-of-mind to Realtors,” Kelton continued. “Inviting the local real estate community to a Showhomes open house is a great way to reintroduce a property to the market.”

Lori Layman, a Realtor with Nashville-based Crye-Leike Real Estate Services recently hosted Showhomes sponsored open house for Realtors in Middle Tennessee. She was thrilled with the results.

“Even the nicest homes won’t sell if you can’t get people in the door,” Layman says. “I was amazed at how beautiful the home looked. Having the event enabled many real estate professionals in our community to see Showhomes’ magic upfront. Showings definitely pick up from these gatherings.”

A real estate agent for 21 years, Layman believes that Showhomes’ combination of professional home staging along with Home Managers is the answer to the down real estate market. “With vacant houses, people tend to think it’s a distressed sale. Also, people can’t visualize what to do with the space.”

Vacant houses are a continuing problem in all major U.S. real estate markets.

Of the nation’s estimated 130 million housing units, 11.3 percent or some 14 million units stood vacant last year, according to the U.S. Census. Experts say the glut of empty homes will take three years or longer to stabilize to pre-recession levels.

Showhomes Home Staging continues to be one of the success stories in the slumping real estate market, posting record revenue growth for the last six years. Services are always free to Realtors and extremely cost-effective for home sellers, who also save on utilities and upkeep – and can cancel costly vacancy insurance as their risks of loss plummet with Home Manager occupancy.

Real Estate Professionals Turn to Showhomes Home Staging for Lucrative Career Switch

June 28th, 2011
It’s no secret that the economic tumble of 2008 hurt many professionals in the real estate industry — Realtors, mortgage brokers, contractors and home builders among them. Many have scaled back their careers, left them altogether or are searching for a related alternative.

For many, Showhomes Home Staging has emerged as a profitable career option. Multiple  Showhomes franchisees are current or former licensed real estate agents, mortgage brokers or property management specialists, allowing their in-depth knowledge to compliment Showhomes’ innovative business model.

”My real estate knowledge made it much easier for me to manage my Showhomes franchise at a high level,” says Kent Welch, owner of Showhomes South Kansas City. “It’s definitely one of the reasons why we were successful out of the gate, and why we continue to show profitable growth year after year. A career with Showhomes is an excellent fit for real estate professionals because they almost always have immediate contacts in the community.”

Welch is also an active owner of a Wiechert Realtors franchise with 80 Realtors. His franchise sold 400 homes in 2010. His Showhomes franchise is one of the most successful in the network of 75 franchisees.

Showhomes’ business model is based on the fact that well-furnished homes kept in show-to-sell condition sell faster, and for higher prices, than vacant houses. The Showhomes “twist” adds a live-in Home Manager to care for the home. The Home Manager pays about a one-third of what it would normally cost to rent the home.

“We’ve seen many real estate professionals segway into Showhomes with ease,” says Matt Kelton, Showhomes’ COO. “In fact, seven of our top 11 producers come from a real estate or mortgage background. When you think about it, it makes sense. Realtors have experience in building a relationship-based business and are accustom to working for themselves.”

“Many real estate pros want more than the boom or bust cycle,” Kelton added. “In many cases Showhomes offers a much more predictable income and it’s in a niche of the industry that’s predicted to grow for years in the future.”

Elayne Wooding, owner of Showhomes of St. Petersburg, is a licensed Realtor and was formerly a sales manager at a major publicly-traded home construction company.

“When I bought my Showhomes franchise I already knew how to determine the marketability of a home,” Wooding says. “It’s never been hard to approach people to have important conversations, and that includes all the different parties involved in selling a home. It’s just a natural fit and it gives me a big advantage.”

Homeowners Turn to ‘Home Staging with a Twist’ to Sell Distressed Properties

June 23rd, 2011
Homeowners wanting to sell face a daunting set of circumstances: How do they get the most value for their property in a market that’s focused on deep discounts and bargain basement shopping?

Many homeowners are turning to Showhomes Home Staging, a Nashville-based franchise company that specializes in staging high-end vacant houses. Realtors and homeowners who use Showhomes report promising success stories. Homes that have languished on the market for years routinely sell quickly and at or close to market value.

Elayne Wooding, owner of Showhomes St. Petersburg, is one of hundreds of examples. Wooding’s franchise recently staged a home that had been on the hard-hit Florida market for three years. The distressed property sold at list price for over $600,000 in less than 90 days. Not only that, there were competing offers.

“In this market it’s critical that you use every available option to enhance the marketability of a home,” Wooding says. “Showhomes knows how to put a property in the very best possible light. Not only can we make home staging impeccably beautiful, we offer something no one else does – a live in Home Manager to occupy the home and make sure it’s in perfect show condition.”

Homes need to be in top-notch shape to get attention. Consider the latest headlines: Bloomberg reports that U.S. homes in the process of foreclosure sold at an average of 27 percent discount in the first quarter and purchases of distressed properties fell to less than half the peak set two years ago. At the current pace, it will take three years to clear the log jam of distressed properties, according to Realty Trac, a leading authority on foreclosures.

Using live-in Home Managers sets Showhomes apart and gives it a critical edge, says Matt Kelton, Showhomes COO. “The service is highly attractive to the homeowner because Showhomes picks up utility bills, handles minor maintenance and takes care of cleaning,” Kelton says. “Just as important, having a home that’s warm, inviting and lived-in creates a whole new level of desirability.”

Showhomes Home Staging has 75 franchises in 24 states and 2011 marks 25 years in business. “We are going stronger than ever,” Kelton says. “There’s a vital need for our comprehensive home staging services. In any economy homeowners want a great return on value for their homes.”

Showhomes Home Staging Makes Entrepreneur Magazine’s Annual List of Low-Cost Franchises

June 21st, 2011

Franchises costing less than $50,000 to start gaining popularity

With the economy struggling to recover and the housing market showing little life, one franchise industry sector has a healthy pulse: franchises that cost $50,000 or less to start.

Entrepreneur Magazine, considered by many as the bible for small business owners, listed Showhomes Home Staging on its annual low-cost list of franchises to watch.

Here’s what the magazine said about the low-investment sector:

The economic conditions of the last few years have caused a bit of a conundrum. More and more people are looking to take their careers into their own hands by becoming entrepreneurs, while less and less financing has been made available to help those dreams come true.

One solution? Businesses with startup costs low enough that they don’t need financing. And the franchise world has been all too happy to provide such opportunities. In the following listing, you’ll find 195 companies in categories ranging from automotive services to children’s businesses, home improvements to travel agencies–all of which you can get off the ground for less than $50,000.

Showhomes is a top rated franchise, ranked highly on Entrepreneur Magazine’s annual Franchise 500 list and ranked as a Top 50 Franchise by the Franchise Business Review.

Showhomes has a unique twist on traditional home staging: it uses live-in ‘Home Managers’ to occupy and help stage vacant houses while they are on the market and for sale. Live-in Home Managers make a big difference in how well a home shows and typically produce higher sales prices in much shorter times.

Best of all, Showhomes approach to home staging costs homeowners less than traditional stagers and most fees can be paid at closing. As a result, Showhomes has increased the number of banks it works with and is expecting its seventh year of increasing revenue. Showhomes is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and has helped homeowners and their Realtors sell an estimated 26,000 homes.

Quick facts about a Showhomes home staging franchise:

Franchise Fee: $34,900

Total Estimated Investment Begins At: $43,800

Financing Available: Yes

Veteran Discount: Yes

Royalty Rate: 10%
National Ad Fund: 2%
Territory Definition: Zip Codes

Want to learn more? Fill out the request information form and attend an informational webinar to see if Showhomes is a fit for you.

Showhomes Home Staging Celebrates a Quarter of a Century Staging Homes

June 16th, 2011

Cutting-edge home staging pioneer marks 25th anniversary

When Showhomes Home Staging launched in 1986, few people understood what home staging was, much less the critical role it played in selling a house faster and for a higher price.

The Nashville-based franchisor changed all that with its dynamic ‘home staging with a twist’ concept that combines live-in Home Managers with impeccable home staging standards.

Now in its 25th year, Showhomes Home Staging is the only national franchise that provides the services of live-in Home Managers and one of the largest and most successful home staging providers in the country.

The success isn’t just impressive; it’s stunning. The small company that started in Edmond, OK, has more than tripled the number of franchisees since 2007 and now has operations in 73 markets and 23 states.

The Great Recession of 2007-2010 didn’t hinder Showhome’s rise to the top. Revenue growth has registered in the double digits for the past six years. The franchisor has also emerged as an industry leader in helping banks stage and sell vacant foreclosed homes for top dollar.

“When we started out, people looked at us in strange ways,” says Matt Kelton, Showhomes COO. “The idea that a home would sell faster or for a higher price when staged was new to the real estate industry. Today, with so many vacant houses on the market for sale, demand for what we do is higher than ever.”

2011 is proving to be another breakthrough year. Showhomes Home Staging cracked the Entrepreneur Magazine’s popular list of the top 500 franchise companies for the first time and was ranked in the top 50 low-investment franchises in the country and among the top 100 home-based businesses.  Street Trends listed Showhomes as a hot trend and one of franchising’s best bets. The Travel Channel called Showhomes a best kept secret in the real estate industry.

“We’re happy to have done so well and equally pleased that we’ve remained on the cutting edge of the home staging industry,” says Kelton. “Real estate is a volatile industry and we’ve built our success on helping homeowners sell vacant houses in every type of market condition. We expect the next twenty-five years to be even better.”

Showhomes Home Staging Ranked in Top 50 Franchise Companies by Franchise Business Review

June 10th, 2011

Showhomes has industry high franchise owner satisfaction

For the third year in a row, the Franchise Business Review ranked Showhomes Home Staging one of the Top 50 franchise systems based on franchise owner satisfaction.

Washington DC Franchise Business Review Top 50 Franchise

The Franchise 50 – 2011 Franchisee Satisfaction Awards ranked franchisors by their overall levels of franchise owner satisfaction. The Top 50 ranking puts Showhomes in a select group of the best franchise companies in the country, and only companies with excellent fundamentals, great financial position and high franchise owner satisfaction scores earn a spot.

“This is the most important award in franchising,” said Matt Kelton, Showhomes’ COO. “Over 80 percent of our owners said they would make the decision to purchase a Showhomes franchise again.”

Showhomes provides a twist on traditional home staging, using live-in Home Managers to occupy and help stage vacant houses so they are kept in perfect show condition. Showhomes’ whole house staging dramatically improves the speed and price of a home sale and with millions of vacant houses on the market, Showhomes is poised for additional growth.

The ranking comes as the home staging pioneer celebrates its 25th anniversary. Showhomes started staging homes in 1986 long before widespread use of home staging in real estate and has evolved into a national franchise system with more than 70 locations.





“Franchisee satisfaction is one of the most important criteria to consider before investing in any franchise system,” said Franchise Business Review President, Eric Stites. “Very few franchise companies have achieved such high ratings from their franchisees, which puts Showhomes in a very elite class of franchise opportunities.”

“Showhomes is a unique franchise that fills an important niche,” said Linda Saavedra, owner of the Showhomes Tampa location. “I’m very happy with my business, and I believe it is one of the best franchises to open.”

Showhomes Home Staging has become one of the largest providers of home staging services in the country, and the sagging real estate market has driven the sales of new franchises. Showhomes has had four years of double-digit growth and posted a staggering 88 percent increase in 2010 in corporate revenue both from existing operations and franchise sales.

“2010 was a record year for us,” Kelton said. “This ranking comes after Entrepreneur Magazine ranked us highly in its annual Top 500 franchise list and we were listed as a top low-investment franchise by the Franchise Business review and one of the leading real estate franchises by Entrepreneur Magazine.”

For more information about the Showhomes home staging franchise, visit

Showhomes Home Staging: 5 Reasons Vacant Houses are Hard to Sell

June 3rd, 2011
Showhomes Home Staging helps homeowners win the beauty contest
Musty smelling, bare-walled, vandal-prone properties just don’t sell.

Last year of the estimated 130 million housing units in the United States, 11.3 percent or some 14 million stood vacant according to the U.S. Census. A large portion of these houses are vacant and for sale, leading to a glut of vacant houses crowding the market.





“Given the vast oversupply of homes currently on the market, only the jewels will sell. If a house is vacant, it must be updated, remodeled or staged if it is to have a chance of selling,” said Nancy Osborne, Chief Operating Officer of, a Santa Clara CA-based financial information publisher and interest rate tracker. Showhomes Home Staging confirms that trying to sell a vacant house adds obstacles to the sale and depresses the sales price.

Showhomes Home Staging is a franchised business with a twist: the company uses live-in Home Managers to manage vacant houses while they are on the market for sale and offset a homeowner’s expense to stage the home. Its unique model has proven effective for 25 years.

Here are five reasons a vacant house is hard to sell from Showhomes Home Staging:

1. People don’t simply buy houses; they buy the next chapter of their lives.
This is an emotional experience and emotion influences what people buy and how much they will pay. Vacant houses are devoid of life, and the chance to make an emotional connection is lost.

2. Vacancy distracts buyers from looking at the house itself.
They wonder: “Is this a divorce?  Why did they move out? Are they selling because they have money problems? Is this home hard to sell?” They’ll make a low-ball offer, thinking the owner is desperate.

3. When a house is vacant, buyers focus on flaws.
They look at nail holes, carpet wear and gaps in the molding rather than how the space works. In a vacant house, floors, walls and ceilings are all buyers see. This drives the price down.

4. People can’t visualize how furniture fits.
An empty bedroom might appear awkward or a living room might seem cavernous. Some spaces might confuse buyers because a use is not obvious. Buyers are derailed and move on to the next house.

5. Vacant houses don’t show as well as staged and occupied homes.
Without people, even the best house quickly looks and smells vacant. Dust settles, leaves scatter, and stale odors spread. These cues often shorten the showing time, leading to fewer sales.

“Homeowners don’t realize how much harder a vacant house is to sell,” says Matt Kelton, Showhomes’ COO. “In today’s market you have to win the beauty contest to sell your home.”

“Staging your home is no longer an option,” says Barbara Corcoran, real estate expert for the Today Show and star of Shark Tank.

Showhomes Featured in Nashville Ledger

June 1st, 2011

Staging a house for sale with furniture is nothing new. Putting real people in the picture is another story.

Spacious four-bedroom executive home in upscale Nashville neighborhood. Monthly rate: Too good to be true.

The catch? You have to keep the house spotless and be ready to disappear with 30 minutes notice.

It’s home staging taken to a whole new level. Instead of simply decorating a vacant house or condo with nice furniture, a couple of rugs and some art, this staging includes actual people.

It’s a win-win, as an otherwise-vacant house seem more like home to a prospective buyer, and tidy, disciplined caretakers get a great place to live at a fraction of going rate.

“They told me the whole process, and it just seemed like a good deal,” says one such “Home Manager’, a Centennial Medical Center physician who, following a divorce, relocated from Oak Hill to a property in Green Hills. For him, the monthly rate for a 4-bedroom home was well worth the offset of a potential sale.

“They ask you to do as much as you can to furnish it, and they will help you if you’re missing a few pieces. They gave me a few weeks to get situated, and it has worked out fine,” he adds.

He moved into the property in January and says it’s shown on average one to three times per week. Realtors give him a day’s notice, but even if a call comes for a same-day viewing, he’s ready.

“I have to keep it presentable, so I have a maid come in one and a-half days a week,” he adds. “If my kids have been here, I make sure they pick up after themselves, and I keep the place pretty neat.

“I’m not decorating it a lot, because it could sell at any time, but it’s given me a good place to be while I’m transitioning between selling my home and looking for something else.”

It’s a formula that seems to work for Nashville-based Showhomes, which proclaims itself “America’s largest home staging company” with 75 franchises in 24 states.

“There is an increased acceptance that staging is hugely critical in order to get the best sale price for your house, and so people are more receptive for it than they might have been in the past,” says Bert Lyles, Showhomes’ CEO and a former adjunct faculty member at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management.

“It was just a growing trend for a long time, but it’s much more the norm now. And a service like ours can really add to – and change – that landscape.”

Staging has become big business, complete with certifications (Accredited Staging Professional) and organizations such as the Real Estate Staging Association. Placing actual people in homes is is not new but is catching on.

Showhomes works with banks, Realtors and owners to find Home Managers for empty properties. These “home managers” are tasked with keeping the property spotless at all times and must have high-quality furnishings. They also have to clear out within a half hour if a potential buyer is en route to view the property.

In other words, they have to be willing to live open to scrutiny.

“There is an increased acceptance that staging is a hugely critical in order to get the best sale price for your house, and so people are more receptive for it than they might have been in the past,” Lyles says. “It was just a growing trend for a long time, but it’s much more the norm now. And a service like ours can really add to, and change, that landscape.”

For Lyles, the time is right. He sees the thousands of vacant properties in the Middle Tennessee area, many of them foreclosures, as blank canvases. And he’s got the paint box.

“If you walk into a house and see furniture in one room, or maybe two, you know it’s vacant,” he says. “If you walk into a home that looks well cared for, with food in the fridge and clothes in the closets, then you can see how effectively you could utilize that space. Buying a house is a big financial decision, no matter what the economy’s like. Even if it’s a good deal, you’re still going to be uncertain if you’re not sure what a sofa would look like over by the fireplace.”

The concept isn’t yet a solid hit with every Realtor, but its success does show that many are willing to color outside the lines in a tough environment, says Kenneth Bargers, a Realtor with Pilkerton Realtors’ Brentwood office.

“Listing agents want homes off the market as quickly as possible, and if the owner is willing to cooperate with something like this, and everyone’s working as a team, there’s nothing wrong with trying something different to stage a home,” Bargers says.

“I think with a service like this you’re talking about larger-square-foot homes, but this would be something to do just like working with clients to look at the lighting, the windows, all the features that might need some attention to help make the sale happen more quickly.”

Lyles says his business model allows him to price Showhomes’ staging services lower than more traditional, furniture-only competitors.

Like his screening of “home managers,” Lyles is also careful about potential franchisees. It’s more important to find a good fit than just a willing business person, he says.

“It’s really important that you find that good local business owner who’s plugged in, but that the market also has the right type of homes for us,” he says.

“Put those two things together and we have seen a franchisee ramp up some very high volume in a short time. Nobody’s going to confuse Los Angeles and Orange County with Little Rock, but the principles for our business work the same on each market, and our franchisees in each location have done quite well.”

Next up is more growth, but across the country and in Showhomes’ own backyard.

“We’d like to be in more than 100 markets within a year; that’s kind of a magic milestone for us,” Lyles says. “But we’re also paying attention to things here at home. We’ve built our business very effectively in Davidson County, particularly in the Green Hills area, but we’re looking to expand southwards and increase our presence in Williamson County and some of the neighboring counties as well.”