Archive for September, 2011
Chicago-area franchise owners help banks, builders and re-modelers sell homes in tough market
Mike and Janine Callahan embody the famous moral from the fable, “Tortoise and the Hare” – slow and steady wins the race.
The entrepreneurial couple started cautiously when they opened Showhomes Fox Valley in 2009. They concentrated on trust building with key players in the community – Realtors, builders, homeowners, re-modelers and banks included. Building bonds took a little time, but the Callahan’s instincts told them it would pay off, one sold house at a time.
Flash forward, and business is flourishing at the Chicago-based franchise. The careful relationship building that started two years ago paved the way. The Callahan’s have seen a 158 percent increase over 2010 and have emerged as one of the top 10 Showhomes franchises.
“We took the time to help educate people about the high value our staging service brings to the table,” says Callahan. “We built a foundation and then watched it evolve as the homes we staged quickly sold when other listings sat for long periods of time.”
The Callahan’s discovered that more homeowners and builders are turning to remodeling in a difficult housing market. In fact, the Remodeling Market Index shows the second quarter of 2011 as the second highest quarter of remodeling activity since 2007. Remodeling by itself isn’t enough to sell a home, though, and homes sell faster with Showhomes involved.
Showhomes has a unique twist on home staging: it uses live-in Home Managers to help stage and occupy vacant houses and keep them in show condition for Realtors. This approach lowers homeowner costs to stage and often produces a faster sale at a higher price.
“It’s one thing to hear someone tell you that the Showhomes approach is a game-changer,” Callahan says. “It’s another thing altogether – and much more powerful – for them to see it in action at one of our Realtor and Broker open houses. Once the builders saw what we do with their own eyes, they got it immediately.”
“Builders and banks saw Showhomes could help them sell their properties faster, which means saving money for just about everyone involved,” Callahan adds. “We picked up six homes almost immediately following our early open houses.”
Word-of-mouth snowballed, and the Callahan’s now work with several builders/re-modelers in Chicagoland. These formerly distressed properties are now appealing, knock-out homes.
The couple also took on the challenge of building relationships with bankers, specifically those burdened with a glut of foreclosed houses sitting empty. Working with them took patience because the banking industry is in the midst of a massive shift of its own, Callahan says.
“In the past they relied on unloading properties as quickly and cheaply as they could to get them off the books,” he says. “But with so many foreclosed properties on the market, the old ways don’t work anymore, especially with high-end homes.”
“These relationships take months if not a year to turn into something,” Callahan continues. “But when the light bulb goes off, it’s amazing. The banks and builders we work with now understand if they want to compete they need to step up their game. When they do, the magic starts to happen.”
The Callahans are racking up success stories, including the recent sale of a high-end property in five days. It had lingered on the market for almost three years.
Showhomes has three locations spanning much of the Chicago metro area and all three are top-performing franchises.
“We’re one of the best things going in the Chicago real estate market,” says Callahan. “More and more people are learning about us after hearing that our homes sell and its good to know our service really helps improve the market.”
Existing-home sales fell nationally in July from already-low levels, and experts say the housing market will take at least another year, or longer, to emerge from its long slump. The stock market is on a bumpy ride too; and no one has a clue when it will stabilize.
But there is good news emerging in this uncertain economic scenario, especially for homeowners trying to sell their homes and the Realtors who help them. We are thriving at Showhomes Home Staging. In fact, our growth is exploding.
Homes staged and managed by Showhomes, many of which have been on the market for years, often sell in a matter of weeks and for top dollar. Showhomes Home Staging franchisees all over the country are stacking up success stories for clients. Many are experiencing their best year ever in 2011.
The mother and son team, Jeff and Nancy Smith, owners of Showhomes Orlando are up 64 percent. The Muelver family, who owns a Showhomes Home Staging franchise in the Milwaukee area, was cited this year for chalking up record revenues in an already thriving market.
Jim and Kaye Biby, who co-own Showhomes Jacksonville, are also having a stellar year. The Bibys are experts at working with bank-owned properties that have been languishing on the market for a long period of time.
“We’re noticing that more people are willing to try different approaches to getting their home sold,” Jim Biby says. “Most of the bank-owned properties and short sales really need the touch of elegant staging and a live-in Home Manager, in order to sell. We dramatically increase the odds in favor of the home selling.
“Now that the banks have discovered us, I expect that market to keep heating up,” Biby adds. “There are still millions of foreclosures on the market. I expect more and more banks to discover Showhomes services.”
Other markets with skyrocketing sales include Tampa, Fla., Memphis, Tenn., Coral Gables, Fla., Suburban Chicago, Los Angeles, Calif. and more.
“Showhomes seems to always make a successful transition through whatever situation is out there in the real estate market,” Donna Muelver says. “It is a sought-after and much-needed service that works whether the economy is up, down or just lukewarm.”
Showhomes is expanding rapidly with 75 franchises in 24 states. For the past six years the company posted record revenues and helped many homeowners sell in a tough market.
The Palmers first thought Showhomes fees were ‘a misprint’
Brian and Melissa Palmer found out they had to move from Gainesville to Tampa, Florida while they were on a three-week family vacation in the summer of 2010. With only one week to make the move, they switched from vacation mode to warp speed ‘get out of town’ mode.
“The Internet was our only source of searching for a place,” says Melissa Palmer. “I found this great house for a shockingly low price and e-mailed to find out more. It was a home presented by Showhomes Home Staging.”
Showhomes made sense for the Palmers, especially because they knew they didn’t want a long-term lease in Tampa. They already were trying to sell a family home in Utah, where they lived before moving to Gainesville in 2009.
Still, the Palmers were skeptical at first.
“My first reaction was that this had to be a scam or a misprint,” Melissa says, laughing. “Everything I’d been looking at was much more expensive and nowhere near as nice. I did every Internet background search I could do. I eventually ended up calling some of the current Home Managers to find out how the program worked.”
Fast forward a year.
The Palmers are 100 percent satisfied as Home Managers and plan to stick with the program another year or so until they save enough money to buy a home. Not only that, their four young children, ages 2 through 8, have adjusted to a new – and much more organized – life than they were living prior to Showhomes.
“We are learning some pretty great habits,” Melissa says. “It’s a challenge, but not as hard as I thought it would be. I’m certainly not into making my kids feel like prisoners in their own home, and I don’t want to make them feel like they are living in a museum. But living in a Showhomes home is giving us the opportunity to learn together how to be a more organized family.”
The Palmers have lived in three homes so far – all 4-bedroom luxury abodes with fantastic amenities. The first one was a lake home with a swimming pool. “The second one was in a perfect little family community where families walked their dogs and kids played in the streets,” Melissa adds. “Now we live in the largest of the three homes, in a very upscale, guarded community that has great community amenities and a safe feeling.”
Brian, a health care executive, says being Showhomes’ Home Managers has helped the couple learn about Tampa neighborhoods. ”We’ve been able to ‘try on’ different neighborhoods,” he says. “We are more prepared to buy exactly what we want, where we want.”
The obvious benefits of being Home Managers – include living in a large, beautiful home for far less than market rates – are hard to beat, but Melissa says her family’s ability to learn new habits tops the list of perks.
“The kids get up and make their beds, clean out the bathroom sink after brushing their teeth, and put their toys away when they’re done playing,” Melissa says. “These are all things I wanted them to learn before, but now it’s actually happening. I have also become better at housekeeping which makes me a happier homemaker.”
Jeannette and Michael Fair didn’t know what to do and didn’t have many options. A horrible economy mixed with an even worse housing market left them teetering on the edge of foreclosure.
“My husband had just lost his job and we couldn’t afford our California home anymore,” says Jeannette. Worried about the impact a foreclosure would have on their credit history, the Fairs opted to sell their home through a short sale process. A popular remedy in today’s troubled housing market, short sales allow homeowners, with lender approval, to sell the home for less than what is owed on the mortgage loan and allows the seller to avoid having their credit score hit with a foreclosure penalty.
“We were not allowed to buy a home for two years after the short sale process,” Jeannette says. As Jeannette and Michael hunted for a new place to live they came across an advertisement for the Showhomes Home Manager program.
“Just knowing that we could be where we wanted to be at a price we could afford was sound enough,” Jeannette says. “It is an equal balance. We love the area and know the house we are in will sell. The best part is knowing Showhomes has an inventory of other homes we can move to in neighborhoods we are familiar with.”
Home Managers since mid-May, Jeannette, Michael and their two kids are enjoying the perks of their new lifestyle. Living in a $1.25 million house in the gorgeous Palos Verdes area, the Fairs are able to move beyond the rough patch, save money and live near their friends.
“Obviously living in a home you couldn’t otherwise afford is a perk to the program,” Jeannette says. “I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to live in a home that is clutter free. You can’t just hide things away in the closet or garage.”
Like many other Home Managers, the Fairs loved going through their belongings and gathering only what they really needed. “It feels great to be so lightweight and organized,” Jeannette says.
With the help of Sandra Wick, owner of Showhomes South Bay, the family furnished their new place and got it in ready-to-show condition. “Sandra helped us design, it was all very fun.”
The Home Manager program is the key to Showhomes success. It gives homeowners peace of mind knowing that their property is less susceptible to vandalism, squatting and damage as well as gives homes a real-life feel for potential buyers.
Thrilled to find a housing solution that works and a place their kids love, the Fairs highly recommend the Home Manager program to flexible families who are looking for a unique opportunity.
“We always joke with our friends and call this our ‘summer home,’ but I really do feel at home here. The kids were quick to acclimate, the whole thing just feels right,” Jeannette says.
The Home Manager program has been a financial relief for the Fairs and could just be the solution you are looking for. Interested? Contact your local Showhomes franchise to find out more.
Tom Seifert is living the dream. A single guy in an 8,000 square foot house, Tom is not only free of mortgage payments and house repairs but also is able to entertain female friends and family in his million dollar home – all while saving money.
Sound like one lucky guy?
Tom didn’t win the lottery or find a recipe to get rich quick, he simply became a Showhomes Home Manager. He was in the midst of selling his house in Minnesota and didn’t plan on buying in the near future.
“The real estate market wasn’t very conducive for sellers and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” he says. “ I was just getting a divorce and knew the location I wanted to be in. Someone recommended I check out the Showhomes Home Manager program and needless to say I found it very intriguing.”
A Home Manager since December 2010, Tom has lived in three upscale homes ranging from $650,000 to around $2,000,000 in affluent Minneapolis suburbs such as Edina and Chanhassen. Thrilled he is able to maintain his previous lifestyle for a fraction of the cost, Tom doesn’t think he’ll be turning to home ownership any time soon.
“The lifestyle is great because I have a wonderful space to entertain. I can throw cocktail parties, invite business associates or family over and everyone can have a great time. My daughters love coming to visit, and the grand-kids get a kick out of the new homes.”
An insurance broker consultant, Tom also likes that he can meet new people and save more money.
“I like to think of it as an adventure. I get to meet new people and neighbors, maintain a fun and enjoyable lifestyle and save the money I would be spending on a mortgage or home repairs,” he says. “I am not buying or fixing a lot of stuff. I used to be a big “cleaner/fixer/invester” in my home, and now I don’t have to buy trees and paint additions. I can accumulate more money and live in these fun spaces.”
Tom is a self-proclaimed neat-freak. “Being a Home Manager is great, especially if you are already a neat and tidy person,” he says. The program requires its Home Managers to keep the homes clean at all times — nothing that couldn’t be tidied in 20 minutes. All Home Managers must be prepared for frequent visits from Realtors and potential buyers and are usually notified a day or two in advance.
The Home Manager program is the key to Showhomes success. It gives homeowners peace of mind knowing that their property is less susceptible to vandalism, squatting or damage and gives homes a real-life feel for potential buyers.
“This really is a win-win-win for everyone,” Tom says. “It really is important to have your home staged if you are looking to sell. It is amazing the difference it makes. People love seeing how their lifestyle would fit and are excited to see how Showhomes has staged it.”
When Tony Hearn was going through a divorce he had to move quickly. He wanted an affordable place to live near his two children in the coastal community of Fairhope, Ala., but wasn’t sure he could pull it off.
Through a friend, Hearn heard about Showhomes Home Staging, a national franchisor that places live-in Home Managers in well-kept, beautifully furnished homes while the properties are on the market for sale. Within a few days, Hearn was the Home Manager of a large home with five bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths a few blocks from the beach and within 10 minutes of his children.
Hearn couldn’t have been happier. He enjoyed living in a gorgeous home while going through the ups and downs of a divorce and even saved money in the process.
Stories such as Hearn’s are common at Showhomes, says Matt Kelton, Chief Operating Officer at the Nashville-based franchisor.
“Divorcees have to deal with a lot of stress — dividing property, assets and savings, not to mention the emotional adjustment of separation,” Kelton says. “Showhomes can provide remarkable stability during this otherwise chaotic time. You can sort out what your post-divorce life is going to look like and live in beautiful surroundings for a fraction of what it would normally cost.”
The gig was a huge advantage during a tough time, Hearn says. “It was one less thing to worry about, and I was able to save about $700 a month. It worked perfectly.”
Home Managers typically pay a minimal fee in exchange for keeping the home clean and ready for Realtors to show to prospective buyers. The Home Manager pays the monthly utility bill and any required lawn or pool maintenance.
The Showhomes Home Manager program also has worked for Chuck Barrow, who got involved when he was going through a divorce three years ago. He was thrilled with the program and has stayed with it. Barrow is now living in his third Showhomes property – a $1.2 million, 4,000-square-foot home on the water with views of the Sunshine Skyway.
“I can go get an apartment for $1,200 a month and it’s really nothing special at all or I can live in a million dollar house on the water,” Barrow told the St. Petersburg Times. “I have dolphins in my backyard every day.”