Live-in caretakers to help sell luxury homes (Fox Business)

August 20th, 2014

The Willis Report

Showhomes home manager Calvenn Starre and Showhomes San Diego President Lisa Gulliver on the growing popularityof hiring live-in managers to care for homes on the market.  Check out the live interview with Gerri Willis on The Willis Report:



Home staging becoming more important for a sale as real estate rebounds

August 18th, 2014

Dewey and Judy Baldwin’s Realtor told them not to expect a quick turnaround when they put their home up for sale in January.

But with only a couple of weak nibbles by the end of July, the couple decided to do what an increasing number of homesellers are doing nationally.Charity Keefer Article

They called a home stager, who brought in furniture and furnishings to spruce up the vacant, 3,500-square-foot home in Long Bay Estates.

“The house looks a lot better with furniture in it,” Dewey Hill said. “It brings out the features of the house.”

Home staging has been around for decades, said Maureen Bray, board president of the Real Estate Home Staging Association, but it’s really taken off in the last five years, a trend she at least partially attributes to broadcasts on HGTV.

Yes, she said, staging should help a home sell more quickly, but how much could depend on who you’re talking to.

Homes in Portland, Ore., where she is located, are on the market for an average of 77 days, she said. Those that have been staged by her company, Room Solutions Staging, sell in an average of 13.5 days.

Bray said staging has become more important as the real estate market has revived and buyers look at maybe a dozen homes before deciding which to purchase.

“The ones that look the best make buyers feel like they can move in,” she said.

The Baldwins chose new stager Charity Keefer, who recently opened her Showhomes franchise on the Grand Strand.

They got her mini-makeover package, and Dewey Hill said there is more buyer interest, and solid interest, in the home since Keefer did her work and had a brokers open house.

A former pharmaceutical saleswoman, Keefer said she got into staging as a way to get out of the constant road trips her job required and to spend more time with her husband and two small children.

But in addition, it gives her a chance to express her creativity.

“I’ve always had this creative side, and I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it,” she said.

Keefer said that besides the furniture and furnishings, her company painted the inside of the Dewey house, installed new light fixtures and put new tiles on the fireplace surround.

Keefer bought the franchise earlier this year and did one other home before she officially hung out her shingle. Since the Deweys’ home makeover, she has gotten a contract for a Socastee home being sold by Ron Boykin of Re/Max Southern Shores.

“When (a home) is vacant,” Boykin said, “it’s sometimes hard for people to visualize their own stuff in it.”

He said the owners of the custom home that borders a park and the Intracoastal Waterway signed for a $4,000 package that will have Keefer staging the entire downstairs and the master bedroom upstairs.

He’s not sure what to expect, but the home already has been on the market for a year, and Boykin hopes the staging will prompt a sale in three months.

Bray cautioned that people check out a home stager before they hire one. Among other things, she said that certification, while not required, is a plus because it shows the stager’s dedication to the profession. Further, she said that stagers should have their own liability insurance to protect the homeowner’s policy.

Keefer said she has both those, but she’s short on the experience that Bray said clients should also ask about. A stager’s website is another plus, Bray said, as are local references and before and after photos, which clients should want to see.

Besides the staging, Keefer will also be arranging live-in managers to give otherwise vacant homes that lived-in feeling, a hallmark of the Showhomes franchise.

While Bray doesn’t think managers are necessary, Showhomes believes that they can provide that extra oomph to houses that are for sale. Besides the lived-in feel, managers are responsible to see that the home is kept clean and show-ready.

“They really have to be meticulous in the way they live,” Keefer said.

Staging is not just cosmetic, although things like fresh paint and curb appeal can be important.

One of the most important things sellers should do is to declutter and depersonalize their home.

“It’s one of the main turnoffs for buyers,” she said of clutter. “It prevents buyers from seeing the main features of the house.”

Good staging will let buyers focus on the space of the house and to appreciate its architectural details.

But even before staging, Bray said it’s essential that sellers price their home to sell.

“Staging isn’t going to cure an overpriced home,” she said.

Keefer said homebuyers decide within 15 seconds of walking through the door of a home for sale if they could live there. Bray said the decision certainly comes within the first 60 seconds, so it’s critical for a stager or seller to focus on the home’s entry.

“You want whatever people see to make them want to see more,” Bray said.

Read more here:


Live in a multimillion-dollar home for $2,500 (CNN Money)

August 11th, 2014

San Diego Home Manager

The Starres aren’t movie stars, but they live like it — for a fraction of the cost.

They’re “hired” by Showhomes, a Nashville company that helps sell high-end homes. It preps the homes to look “lived in”… by finding people to actually live in them, at a very discounted rate.

Currently, there are 200 home managers, who reside in the home until it’s sold (it usually takes about three to six months). They watch for any maintenance issues and make the home look desirable (food in the fridge, clothes in the closet) for prospective buyers.

But not everyone can get the gig — Showhomes’ acceptance rate is about 40%. Residents must undergo online background checks, including criminal and rental histories. They’re typically white-collar professionals who are in a city temporarily, newly divorced or, in the Starre’s case, a family of five looking for a quick and easy rental.

With Showhomes, the Starres didn’t need to make a long-term commitment — they could leave their furniture in storage until they figured out where they wanted to live long term.

But what was a temporary move became a way of life. Over the past two years, they’ve lived in five different Showhomes — ranging from $900,000 to $1.3 million in value — all in the San Diego area. The amenities have included everything from tennis courts to pools.

“It’s a way to live in a really inexpensive way,” said Matt Kelton, chief operating officer of Showhomes, which has 58 franchises in 18 states.

But it’s not all a walk in the park. Showhomes has a number of restrictions for home managers.

“You can’t be a smoker, you can’t have a bunch of pets, no religious items — things that can deter [a buyer] one way or another,” added Kelton.

Personal items like family photos, sports teams and political paraphernalia are also prohibited. And then there’s the prospective buyers who could be surveying their home at a moment’s notice.

“We give up certain parts of our lives [for] the reduced rent,” said Calvenn.

They also have to move every time a place sells, with just about a month’s notice, and maintain a spotless home in the meantime.

“You have to keep it clean and model home-ish,” said Crystena Starre, a stay-at-home mom to her three kids. “We got to teach the kids, ‘We need to put things away.’”

For homeowners, Showhomes is piece of mind that costs just .5% to 1.25% of the list price (this can vary and decreases the longer a home stays on the market).

Radiologist Bernie Schupbach first worked with Showhomes in Fox Valley, Ill., when he put his home on the market six years ago.

“I was living probably 20 miles away, and it was hard to get down to check on it,” explained Schupbach. “There was always ongoing concern of a water pipe breaking or animal infestation or vandalism in the interim between visits.”

Schupbach didn’t have to worry about finding and vetting renters — or about the state of his home before it sold.

“We only communicated with [the home managers] if there was a problem,” said Schupbach.

Schupbach’s home was on the market for several years during the recession. It ultimately sold for around $500,000, and he had such a good experience that he employed Showhomes to stage his new home for buyers (which is the other half of the company’s business).

And while Kelton says one man was a home manager for 15 years, moving from home to home, the majority do it for a much shorter period of time because of the “nomadic lifestyle” it requires.

As for the Starres, the wealth of knowledge they’ve acquired from living in different San Diego neighborhoods has helped them narrow down where they want to put down roots. They soon plan to purchase their own home.

Home staging valuable tool in real estate market

August 11th, 2014

Katie Meisenger looked twice at a Batavia home for sale in 2013, but she could not see herself and her family living there.

Meisenger wanted to move her family from a smaller space in North Aurora and had her eyes on a nearly 5,000-square-foot home in the Tanglewood Hills subdivision on the city’s west side. Since the home was vacant, all she could see was the wear and tear until Showhomes, a home staging company, worked on the space.  “

The Realtor took us in the third time, and that’s really when it came alive,” Meisenger said.

The furniture, hanging pictures and other decorative accents added to every room gave the home a certain warmth and sparked ideas for what she could do with the space. Two days later, Meisenger and her husband put in an offer, and they have lived there with their three children since November.

The Meisengers’ story is one of many that demonstrate the benefit of home staging. Staging involves strategically changing the appearance of a home to make it look more desirable in the hopes a buyer will make an offer.

Home staging can bring in 10 percent more offers and speed home sales up to 78 percent faster compared to homes that are vacant, according to the Real Estate Staging Association 2012 Annual Report. The number locally is generally 50 percent faster, said Mike Callahan, owner of the Showhomes Fox Valley franchise with his wife, Janine.

“The idea of real estate is to give that impression of a perfect home that everyone wants but no one really has,” said Tiffany Riehle, a real estate broker with the Berkshire Hathaway Starck Real Estate office in St. Charles. “You’re trying to show buyers what could be in that space.”

Riehle said she almost always refers sellers to St. Charles-based Finishing Touches Interior Design, which offers staging services. She said she and other brokers turn more often to home staging in the current real estate market.

Homes are selling close to their list price and receiving multiple offers from buyers, Riehle said.

Since buyers can be pickier, staging can be helpful to set a property apart from others, she said.

Home staging companies contract directly with sellers, and real estate brokers see them as valuable to their marketing, said Margaret Gehr, owner of Chicagoland Home Staging. The way homes look on a computer screen is important, especially in today’s digital age, Gehr said.

Gehr said a home staging project typically involves a consultation that involves going room to room and deciding on an action plan. Staging companies either will redesign rooms using the home’s existing furnishings or bring in their own.

Showhomes will contract with people to actually live in staged homes.

“An occupied home looks better, feels better and smells better,” Mike Callahan said.

The Callahans themselves have lived in an 8,000 square-foot staged home since October in the Crane Road Estate neighborhood in St. Charles Township. They have lived in about 10 houses since they sold their Batavia home and purchased the franchise in December 2008 in the midst of the Great Recession.

Mike Callahan uses his mortgage banking background, and Janine Callahan uses her decorating background to lead a team of eight people. They figure they eventually will go back to a permanent home, but they call the current phase in their lives an adventure.

“The results for the homeowner just bear out time and time again,” Mike Callahan said of home staging. “It’s a wonderful tool for them to utilize.”

From Road Warrior to Home Staging Entrepreneur

August 7th, 2014

Charity Keefer

Charity Keefer (36) was born and raised in Lynn, Indiana and moved to South Carolina in 1997 where she graduated from the College of Charleston with a BS in Business Administration in 2001. Upon graduation, Charity worked for one year at UPS conducting outside sales. She has spent the past 11 years selling pharmaceuticals. Her husband, Bradley, a native to the Grand Strand, is a podiatrist and partner with Seacoast Podiatry Associates. The couple also have two children together Noah (6) and Ava (5).

How did you learn about Showhomes? 

In 2003 I moved from Charleston to Myrtle Beach, which is where I met my future husband, Bradley. Being in pharmaceutical sales, I was constantly on the road traveling and was away from my family. Last fall (2013) I was doing some soul searching and was looking into business franchises on a top 50 list. I was hoping I could find a business that matched my corporate business background with my passion for creative design. (The idea actually came to fruition one day when I thought of all the vacation homes Myrtle Beach has to offer tourists and the desperate need for some updating in regards to these properties).  I came across Showhomes and after having an initial 30 minute phone call with Matt Kelton (which actually lasted two hours!) I knew Showhomes was the perfect fit for me.

Why did you want to work with the brand?

I am a business minded person with big ideas and Showhomes is a great organization that offers a great service, so it made sense for me. Plus, it was close to home and brought together beautifully my business background and love for design. I also come from a family of small business owners so I guess you could say it was in my blood.

 How has business been since opening?  

We have only been in business for one week and we have already worked on one home vacant home in established beach community. It is in a great location just blocks from the ocean. It is truly a hidden gem. It has been on the market for five months and needed some updating, so I hope we can get it sold soon!  I am really looking forward to seeing where business goes as there is nothing like it in the area. The closest Showhomes are in Charleston and Asheville, so I am hoping the community takes advantage of the great services the company has to bring premium buyers with premium offers!

 What services do you plan on offering?

I would like to balance it out with a little bit of everything; staging, home management and makeovers/updates. I really hope to focus on vacation rentals as well.

Are you involved in any community outreach programs?

I am an active member of the Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors and hope to get involved with the local women’s shelter. I also am a Realtor® and have my certificate in staging (CPRES).

 Do you have any future plans for expansion? Future plans?

Absolutely, maybe one or two locations. I am not sure yet, but would love to have another location after the Grand Strand is well established.

Do you have any other hobbies or interests?

I am an avid runner and am currently training for my first full marathon in February. I also enjoy time on the water with my family.  We are big boaters and enjoy water sports.



Founded in 1986, Showhomes has helped Realtors® and homeowners sell more than 25,000 residential properties worth more than $8.5 billion, by transforming high-end vacant houses into fully-furnished, inviting, valued Showhomes. Currently serving prominent communities in 20 states, Showhomes is a rapidly expanding franchise system with 61 offices nationwide. Boasting the expertise of long-time real estate and interior design professionals, Showhomes is a one-stop-shop for home staging, home redesign, “One-Day Makeover’s” for currently occupied homes and its proprietary Home Manager program – a proven model to get upscale vacant homes off the market, faster. Every major national media outlet in the U.S. has praised the work of Showhomes, the company’s work has also been featured on Oprah, HGTV and the Travel Channel.  For more information or to learn about franchise opportunities, please visit


Meet the house-sitters who stage the American Dream (Fusion TV)

August 7th, 2014

Do you own a bunch of nice furniture but have nowhere to put it? Showhomescan help.Fusion TV

Some of the nicest luxury homes in suburbs across America are occupied by “prop families” — temporary tenants who use their furniture to help stage million-dollar homes that otherwise would sit empty. Showhomes is the company that puts people — and their furniture — in homes that realtors are trying to sell. The tenants rent the homes for a fraction of what a mortgage payment would be, but have to leave the homes spotlessly clean and be ready to vacate at a moment’s notice if a realtor wants to show the home to a potential buyer.

For all intents and purposes, the home must appear occupied but not lived-in. Beds must be made in a precise manner, kitchen counters devoid of plates or clutter, and no personal items can be displayed anywhere in the house.

The idea behind the arrangement is to allow a potential buyer to “see themselves living in the home” — but not someone else.

And the moment the home is sold — be it a week or six months— the itinerant tenant must pack-up his or her furniture and move to the next showhome.

The advantages to this bizarre arrangement are obvious to the real property owner: occupied homes tend to sell more quickly than an empty house, and there’s no up-front cost for a property manager, say company officials.

“Typically homes that are staged will sell from anywhere from five to ten percent higher,” says Marisa Salas, owner of Showhomes Miami.

The arrangement seems to work for some renters, too.

“I have a lot of furniture, because after [my] divorce I had all this furniture I had to put somewhere,” says home manager Lydia Rebot. “And since I’m repairing myself, I don’t wanna be in any ugly space if I cannot afford a better place. Right now I’m just giving myself time to live comfortable and happy.”

Home manager Alan Shuminer is also a divorcee with more furniture than he knows what to do with. He joined the program about five years ago, thinking that it was a transitional phase. But 10-15 luxury properties later (he says he’s lost track), Shuminer has changed his definition of what it means to have a “home.”

“I was married and lived in the same place for 15 years. Does that mean that was a home to me?” Shuminer asks. “Maybe for a little while. I guess wherever I am is where my home is.”

Filmed by Ingrid Rojas and edited by Jesse Swinger


4 Secrets for Growing Your Business (Inc Magazine)

August 5th, 2014
There is more to expanding a company than simply relieving a customer’s pain point. Here’s what you need to know

Spot a pain point. Relieve it. Then do it again.

That’s the trick to starting a business, right?

Yes, but one of the keys to growing your business is replicating a product or service–and ensuring enough people ultimately buy into your concept. Here’s what you can learn from some companies trying to perfect exactly this.

1. Out-Convenience Your Competition
Start by discovering what customers want, then make it more convenient than what’s already available. Through his aunt, Peyman Aleagha learned that real estate agents often pay one company to design their website, another to host it, and yet another to create content for it. When he couldn’t find a simple service that his aunt could use for her own real estate business, Aleagha decided to “create a solution that does it all.”

Enter WebsiteBox, a one-stop, “do-it-all” shop that gives agents a code to activate their own, customized site and a startup guide that teaches them how to market their services online. The kit, which costs a one-time fee of $99, also includes about $500 worth of coupons for products and services from the likes of Google AdWords, Microsoft Bing, and WebsiteBox’s app store, which sells additional features for $99 a pop (such as a service that publishes home listings on Craigslist or another that offers premium telephone support).

2. Strategically Market Your Message
Consider pitching your wares to industry brokers, trade associations, or other corporate groups, rather than specific individuals across an entire sector. It could save you a lot of time and advertising expenses.

WebsiteBox could have targeted individual real estate agents exclusively–there are around two million of them actively licensed in the U.S. But a more strategic move has been marketing to real estate brokers, who in turn have sold the kit to thousands of their agents or given it away as a recruiting tool in both the U.S. and Canada.

3. Perfect Your Pricing
At what price point would your product best fit?

More important: How would you get it to that price?

After spending years working at his family’s denim factory in Honduras, and conducting some market research, Alejandro Chahin decided to aim for a retail price of less than $100 for a new line of jeans he wanted to roll out. To lower his manufacturing and distribution costs, the 28-year-old started selling directly to consumers (via Mott & Bow) and handled a lot of the production in-house, including cutting and sewing material as well as laundry-washing the denim. His final retail price? $96 per pair.

“We did a few test groups and $96 conveyed the message of expensive enough to be premium but not trying to trick the consumer into games like infomercials do by saying $99.99,” says Chahin, who has been growing his customer base by about 15 percent each month. “Additionally, according to research, premium jeans are categorized in the price points upwards of $95.20.”

4. Adequately Incentivize Your Team
Not many would want to live in a luxury staged home and be ready to leave whenever a real estate agent needed to show it–with just 30 minutes’ notice, seven days a week.

But a home-staging company called Showhomes has pinpointed the few who are happy to pay–that’s right, pay–to be one of these home managers: relocated business executives, families who’ve just sold a house and are building a new one, divorcees, even pro athletes. “It’s amazing how many people are in a life transition,” says Showhomes COO Matt Kelton. (All told, there are around 200 active home managers today.)

Of course, you need to dangle the right incentive to secure a committed group of individuals to help with an usual business model like this one. Showhomes, which makes the bulk of its revenue through a 0.5 to 1.25 percent cut of a home’s sale that’s staged this way, offers generous discounts to home managers that range between one-third and one-quarter of what the rent for a luxury house might normally cost.

Read more:

Living in luxury: Home managers happily pay rent to care for fabulous houses on the market

August 4th, 2014


Jim and Kaye Biby, pictured here in the Deerwood Estates home they're managing, have owned Showhomes Jacksonville since 2006.  Cristin Wilson For the Times-Union

Buzz Thomas has been a home manager for the past five years. He’s currently working with Showhomes Jacksonville.  One of the best things for him, Thomas said, is that he’s had an opportunity to live in some of the area’s most prestigious neighborhoods. He’s currently getting settled into his Queens Harbour home after living in a condo in Epping Forest.

Thomas said the contract he signed won’t allow him to disclose how much he pays to live in the properties, but he did say it’s easily 50 percent to 70 percent off what it would be if the home were on the market as a rental.

Thomas became involved in the program after selling his home. At the time, he wasn’t sure if he was going to stay in the area or relocate.

The condo was perfect for him, he said.

“My favorite spot? I woke up every morning with my windows open to the river,” he said.


Jim and Kaye Biby have owned Showhomes Jacksonville since 2006, but the franchise has been in the area for the past 16 years. Like McInnes, the Bibys also do traditional staging; that part of the business has increased as the housing market has improved.

The Bibys currently have 12 homes with home managers. But they said that if they had more managers, they could have even more homes. The idea is that popular.

The couple said it’s a fact that staged homes sell faster than empty ones.

“What we’re trying to do is slow [buyers] down so they’ll look at the house and envision themselves in it,” Kaye Biby said.

Realtor Dennelle Hickson agrees.

“You want to put your buyers in a position that when they walk in they feel like they’re at home already. Of course, you can’t feel at home in an empty house.”

There has been a 9.5 percent increase in the number of homes for sale during June 2014 compared to the same month a year ago, according to the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors’ latest numbers. The median sales price for homes in the area is $168,000, which is almost 6 percent higher than a year ago.

Those numbers are no surprise to Realtor Sharon Mills.

“Overall, the market is definitely picking up,” she said. “We probably have less inventory than we’ve had in a long time.”

The Bibys get their home managers from an initial online application. They do background and credit checks and also ensure that the applicant has nice furniture and accessories to put in the home and is responsible, neat and tidy. Families are welcome, but messes are not acceptable.

Most of the time, Showhomes stages the entire house.  If the managers need help staging the large house, the companies have warehouses full of furniture and accessories.


Since the home managers are living in properties that are for sale, the homes need to always be ready for showings.

Thomas, who also is a Realtor, said it’s a small inconvenience considering what you get in return.

“If you compare where you get to live and the type of home you get to live in, then making accommodations for the showings is well worth it,” he said.

Home managers are responsible for utilities, for example, that can easily cost hundreds of dollars a month for a 4,000-square-foot home.   It might not appeal to many to have to move every eight months or so. But the Showhomes usually has another home ready for the managers to move into.



The Newest Staging Strategy: Live-In Home Staging

August 4th, 2014

Showhomes Featured in Zillow

Renting Model Homes

Is the solution to selling a home quickly renting it out? Showhomes Home Staging in Tampa, FL isn’t your typical home staging company: one strategy they use to get homes off the market faster is enlisting a resident to live in and take care of the home while it’s on the market. By matching vacant properties with residents, they add energy to a home that can’t be achieved in atraditionally staged home.

“The home will sell faster, create buyer appeal, receive more response, and allow buyers to emotionally connect with a home. A home that’s occupied has energy in it that rooms full of furniture don’t have,” explained Linda Saavedra, franchise owner of Showhomes Tampa.

While Showhome’s staging strategy is a cost-effective alternative for homeowners, it’s also beneficial to the home managers, who can live in these nice homes for the price of an apartment rental. Home managers essentially rent the home, act as caretakers, and vacate the property once the home is sold — usually within 4 to 6 months. They also must live neatly and accommodate showing times, leaving the home during scheduled showings.

“When the buyer comes in and sees that the home is meticulous, has beautiful furnishing, and includes food in the pantry, they think the homeowner still lives there. Having a resident in the home creates the natural perception that the home has more value. After all, a home that is furnished, well cared for, and occupied exudes a sense of energy that an empty, vacant house just doesn’t,” Linda elaborated.

A home manager differs from a traditional renter in that they are considered sub-contractors, similar to a professional caretaker. Renting a home is governed under different real estate laws, where renters legally have tenant rights. Neither applies in Showhome’s case, since the company stages homes instead of renting them out.

Showhomes advertises online and carefully screens candidates. To qualify, potential home managers must have have beautiful upscale furniture, good credit, and clear a background check. Getting in the door as a home manager is no easy task — approximately 1 out of every 50 applicants is approved for the home manager program. The biggest difficulty Linda’s team has is finding home managers as fast as the homeowners want them.

“If the homeowner gives us the contract today, they want us to move someone in tomorrow — but it takes time to find a good fit and match for a home,” explained Linda.

Recruiting a home manager helps both the homeowner and the renter. A home that’s staged, occupied and taken care of will bring top dollar, while also giving the owner and home manager financial relief while the home is on the market. Showhomes finds home managers by marketing on major rental websites, as well as receiving referrals from home managers and real estate agents. For example, an agent who sells a home that’s still under construction might refer his buyers to be home managers while their home is being built. Professionals in transition, such as a banking professional relocating to Tampa and shopping for a home, are also a good fit for the program.

While not every client Showhomes takes on is a candidate for live-in staging, Linda feels that an occupied home has the life and energy an empty home just doesn’t. “Hands down, this is the best way to do it.


“Ghost Tenants” Live in Luxury Homes at Apartment Prices

July 31st, 2014



The Mueller Family lives together in a 4,800 square foot Tampa, Florida home, but they only pay $1,200 in rent every month. (Photo courtesy of the Mueller Family)


Bob and Dareda Mueller used to own a large, beautiful home on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.

“We were in a golfing community, we were actually on the lake, and it was about 4,800 square feet,” says Bob.

But then they lost everything.

“It was the real estate crash, we had probably too much of our assets in real estate,” Bob explains. “The downturn of the economy just brought us to having to sell them for next to nothing or really losing money on them.”

The couple lost their lavish home and their properties, but they still had their lavish home furnishings; a baby grand piano, a $10,000 Pakistani rug. So a friend told them about Showhomes, a home staging company that actually moves families, and all of their belongings, into homes that are on the market.

“The advantage is, the whole house is being staged,” says Linda Saavedra, Showhomes’ Tampa, Florida franchise owner. “There’s food in the pantry, there’s clothes perfectly organized in the closet. It looks like a model home, it almost looks like no one lives there, yet someone does. The buyer naturally thinks the home seller still lives there. They don’t know that it’s a home manager that’s living in the home.”

The Mueller’s have lived in five Tampa homes in two years, moving every three to eight months. They live like ghosts, keeping the homes meticulously clean and uncluttered, not displaying any family photos. A designer perfectly arranges all their belongings when they move in. The deal is, they have to make themselves scarce when a potential buyer comes over for a tour.

“We don’t just make our beds just any which old way, it has to be made exactly according to their standards,” Dareda says. “We never go to bed with dishes in the sink. I keep the soap, shampoo also, shaving, all those things, not in the shower, but it’s in a drawer.”

The ghost tenants, or home managers as they’re officially referred to, can potentially move as often as every 60 days, as long as it takes for a home to sell. But it’s completely worth it for Bob and Dareda who both now work at McDonald’s and would never be able to afford living in the 4,800 square foot home, complete with pool, that they’re currently living in.

“This is a large four bedroom, beautiful home, four and-a-half baths,” says Dareda. “If I was renting this it would probably be in the neighborhood of over $3,000 a month. We pay $1,200 a month.”

Showhomes hires movers for the home managers, but the Mueller’s are responsible for packing and unpacking each move, so they’ve paired down their belongings considerably. Linda says it’s a win-win situation. Home managers get to live cheaply in expensive homes, and it costs the seller far less than a typical staging.

“If the home owner were having the home fully staged, the home owner would have to pay us to rent all of that furniture, which would be significantly more than what we collect from the home manager,” Linda says. “So while the home manager is living in that house, we actually pay for the home owner, their electric bill, their water bill, their lawn service, their pool service. They’re saving money by having the home manager in their property.”

Linda says houses that have been stuck on the market for months will suddenly sell once inhabited by a home manager, and usually for 25% more than if it was vacant. It’s such a sweet deal, home managers often stick with the luxury nomad lifestyle for quite a long time.

“In California they have home managers who’ve been with them for almost 15 years,” Linda says.

“After having multiple properties, it sounds like a dream, yet there are at least five bills that go with each home. So it’s been kind of nice not to be responsible for the real estate tax, for the roof, for the maintenance. We don’t have any intentions of leaving Showhome’s program anytime soon.”

The Mueller’s currently share the home, and the rent, with their three 20-something sons.