Family samples local living via Showhomes Home Staging Franchise
Occupants also are home managers who will move when house is sold
By Nancy Mueller • FOR WILLIAMSON A.M. • October 15, 2010
If you are neat, looking for a house to rent and have good furniture, a local home staging company might have a deal for you.
Showhomes Nashville offers discounted monthly fees to those who qualify, provided they are willing to act as live-in “home managers” who furnish the rooms, keep the place perpetually clean for showings and are willing to move out when the house sells.
Terease Baker-Belle had never heard of such a thing until she stumbled on the company’s advertisements while searching the Internet for a house to rent in the Nashville area.
A mother of two, she was transferred to Franklin from St. Louis, Mo. Before actually buying a house, she wanted to rent for a bit while she got more familiar with Nashville’s communities.
“I had no idea this kind of thing existed,” she said.
After she and her furniture passed muster, she ended up moving into a six-bedroom house in McLemore Farms, off Goose Creek Bypass in Franklin.
Coming from a 7,000-square-foot home in St. Louis, she had plenty of furniture to fill this 5,406-square-foot house, which is for sale for $565,000.
Built in 2007, its a luxury property that has three stories, including a nanny suite, a home theater and a big, fenced yard; Baker-Belle pays $2,000 a month to live in it.
But each morning before she goes off to work, she has to make sure that the house is “show ready.”
This would be a deal-breaker for some people, but it hasn’t been a problem for Baker-Belle.
“It’s not that bad; I usually know 24 hours prior to a showing,” she said.
“We have people go through a training session on this,” said Lee Dyer, the operations and placements manager for the company.
“They need to have the house ready at all times. No dishes in the sink or towels on the floor.”
It might seem simpler for a company to stage a vacant house and leave it at that, but those with the company say unoccupied homes pose security and insurance issues for sellers.
And while the concept of using renters as stagers may be unfamiliar to many, Showhomes CEO Bert Lyles said the company has been using home managers since the recession of the 1980s.
“The idea started in Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado, places that were affected by the oil price crash,” he said. “It spread through the broader real estate market during the recession in the late 1980s and ’90s.”
Franchises have weathered change
Showhomes is a company with franchises all around the U.S., and Lyles said franchisees “have succeeded with this business model through all economies.”
The company has staged more than 50 homes in the Nashville area, many of them with home managers, but at this time, Baker-Belle is the only one in a Williamson County house.
“We want to do a whole lot more,” Lyles said.
Home managers have to pass a background check and a credit check before the company will sign them up, but the first order of business is whether the person has nice furniture, and enough of it to stage the whole house.
“That’s the first thing we look at,” Dyer said. “It’s not so much the style its in; it has to be nice, fairly new, and current. Our stagers take a look at it.”
Home managers also have to be willing to furnish the bathrooms with nice, new towels and shower curtains.
Sometimes, people are allowed to bring their pets.
“We’ll take them on a case-by-case basis,” Dyer said. “They have to be clean, and well-behaved.”
For franchise information, visit www.showhomesfranchise.com