Live-in models beat a lick of paint when selling empty houses
Showhomes home staging was featured in The Times of London, the UK’s largest newspaper today by US Business columnist Alexandra Frean:
By Alexandra Frean American Notebook
May 5 2011
It’s tough to sell an empty home. Buyers can be put off by the bare surroundings and a single nail hole in the wall can assume cavernous proportions.
So, as tens of thousands of vacant houses remain on the market, many of them foreclosed properties owned by banks, one real estate company has come up with a solution to the problem: “Live home-staging.”
Instead of bringing in some tasteful furniture, paintings and rugs, as most American home-staging companies do, Showhomes, based in Nashville, Tennessee, and operating in 25 states, moves in real people to give empty homes a “lived-in” feeling. It even charges a small monthly fee to its live-in models, whom it refers to as “home managers”.
Matt Kelton, COO of Showhomes, says that his company has created a rare thing in the property market — a winning solution for sellers, buyers and home managers: “We concentrate on homes selling for $500,000 to $1 million. Typically right now, a home like that takes around a year and a half to sell and it will go for 25 per cent less than the asking price. Results vary by market but we typically sell them in an average of five months and we get 95 to 96 per cent of the asking price.”
The Home Managers, who might expect to pay $5,000 to $7,000 a month for a house in that bracket, actually pay Showhomes about $1,800. The downside is they have to move every five months or so, but Showhomes does all the moving for them and provides enough closets for their clutter. Buyers, meanwhile, get to fall in love with a home that looks, feels and smells inviting.
With foreclosed properties owned by banks now constituting at least a quarter of home sales, Showhomes is busier than ever.
“In 2007 we had few banks; now we have 22,” Mr Scott said. “We bear some of the holding costs, such as the utilities, and we keep the yard tidy. For a bank with 100 properties on their books, we can save them upwards of $500,000 in holding costs in the space of a few months.”
Finding the right type of home managers is crucial. Showhomes prefers families (“a home with children looks like a happy home,” it says), but divorced men are also in demand. “We take them out shopping to make sure they have the right furniture and things,” Mr Scott said. “They really are ideal because they are usually so beaten down that they will do everything we tell them to do.”
Showhomes is a national franchise company with locations in 76 markets.