Luxury homes that are vacant can be hard to sell. Plus, they are at greater risk for break-ins.
Kelli Reed is a modern-day nomad.
She lives in a for-sale six-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot luxury lakefront home that is decorated with her own furniture, paying a fraction of the typical rent. When the home gets a buyer, she’ll move into another for-sale upscale home, taking her belongings with her.
She could be in each home as little as a month or a couple of months or longer.
“I never know where I’m going to be month-to-month,” she said.
Reed is a live-in luxury-home caretaker.
Luxury homes that are vacant can be hard to sell. Plus, they are at greater risk for break-ins. Occupied and staged homes, however, show and sell better.
To make vacant high-end homes more marketable, two Valley companies, Showhomes and HomeTenders of America, provide live-in caretaking services, complete with furniture and accessories.
There are benefits for everyone involved, representatives say.
Sellers get their homes professionally staged without having to pay for it or the furniture rental. Not having to rent furniture can mean a savings of $6,000, likely more, a month, said Janelle Joyce,CQ who owns one of the two Valley franchises of Showhomes. Reed owns the other.
Sellers also don’t have to pay monthly utility bills or for upkeep on the home. They also don’t pay for the live-in caretaking services, although there may be a small fee at time of escrow.
Management companies make their money from the fees the live-in managers pay. At any given time, they have up to 30 or 40 homes with live-in managers.
Potential buyers get to view decorated homes instead of empty ones. They can better visualize how their furniture will look rather than being perplexed by bare rooms that have no personality.
Live-in managers get to live in high-end homes for a fraction of the cost. They pay a fee — typically about a third of the cost it would be to rent such a home — to the management company, plus they pay the utilities and yard and pool care.
There are drawbacks.
Live-in managers have to keep the homes impeccably clean so that the home can be shown at a 30-minute or hour’s notice.
“You have to make your bed every day,” Joyce said, laughing. “That’s just the beginning of it.”
Toilet seats must be down. Sinks must be free of debris. Granite kitchen counters must be clear of spots. There can be no clutter.
“Everything has to look perfect,” she said.
Managers must leave if a home is going to be shown to potential buyers. And if the home is sold? They generally have up to a month to move. And it’s usually to another for-sale vacant luxury home.
The nomadic lifestyle attracts a certain type of person, said John Bezik, who with his wife, Cyndee, owns HomeTenders of America, based in Scottsdale. The couple also are live-in caretakers of a luxury home.
“This is good for people in transition, people getting relocated, for people who don’t want a long-term lease,” he said. It also attracts people who have gone through bankruptcies, divorces, short sales and foreclosures “so they can get their credit together.”
Most of the managers have previously lived in luxury homes and so have the furnishings to match, he said. But they need a place to live.
Being a home caretaker allows them to retain the lifestyle while not having to pay the high price, he said. And they don’t have to pay for a storage unit for their furniture.
The staged homes typically sell in four to five months but may take as long as a year, Joyce said. Showhomes homes generally range from 4,000 to 15,000 square feet, with larger homes and some architectural styles, such as ultra contemporary, taking longer to sell, she said.
Caretakers, who must pass background checks, are matched with homes that fit the style of their furnishings.
Reed says she likes her lifestyle, which is simpler than it was in the past.
“It was a life change,” she said. “Before this, my life was so structured.”
After getting divorced, she moved to the Valley because her brother lived here. She wanted a job that gave her flexibility, allowed her to be social and gave her time to get involved with her church.
Owning the East Valley Showhomes franchise lets her do all that plus be her own boss, she said.
And she enjoys the luxury lifestyle, even though it’s a temporary one in each house.
“A home doesn’t define me,” she said. “I don’t have sentimental value on material things. My value is with my family and friends.”
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