Philadelphia Inquirer Spotlights Showhomes Home Staging
May 22, 2011 | By Al Heavens, Philadelphia Inquirer Real Estate Columnist
American Public Media’s Marketplace radio program appears to be fascinated by unusual trends in real estate.
(I hate to pick on the program, which I listen to frequently, but I didn’t start this.)
Two years ago, it reported on real estate agents in Los Angeles hiring professional actors to populate a neighborhood during a weekend tour by buyers. Consumer advocates cried foul, and the buyers were ticked off, too. It seems the development of 90 houses was empty, a victim of hard times, and they believed they had been sold, well, neighbors.
Caveat emptor, especially in the land of make-believe.
But, to clarify, this was not the first such example I could remember. In 2006, Centex Homes, now part of Pulte Homes, came up with “HomeLife” – staging homes with “real people” – at a development near, as it happened, Los Angeles.
In one performance, the “model” family spent about three hours pretending it was Mom’s birthday. They baked a cake and sang “Happy Birthday,” and the children drew and framed a picture of a Centex house, CNN reported.
Yet Barb Schwarz, author of Home Staging: The Winning Way To Sell Your House For More Money, observes that “staging a home is about depersonalizing it,” since you are selling the house, not the furnishings and certainly not the people in it.
Fast-forward to 2011: On May 2, Marketplace reported on a Tennessee franchisee of a national staging company, Showhomes, that outfitted foreclosed houses with temporary residents to make the properties more attractive to potential buyers. As if cut-rate prices weren’t attractive enough.
It’s true that, because of the large number of bank-owned properties, many houses go to seed while the legalities are sorted out. But rather than waste a lot of effort creating such fantasy, why not develop procedures to process foreclosures and short sales more quickly?
Just a suggestion . . . . Whenever I hear of a “trend” like this, I always have to ask: “Is it happening here?”
Gloriann M. Ellis, an associate broker at Weichert Realtors in Media, had a new home for sale for which she considered finding short-term tenants. She said she contacted a company that places people and furniture in vacant homes, for corporations and individuals as well as small banks.
Prospective “Home Managers” are scrutinized as well as the furniture is, she said – you want someone who will cooperate when you tell them it’s time to move.
The “Home Managers” pay the staging company less to live in the house in question than they normally would, but they are required to keep the property in order and be available for showings from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The home is not for lease or rent and the Home Manager is not a tenant.
As soon as the house goes to agreement of sale, its occupants are given 30 to 45 days to move out and transfer to the next home to stage.
Perhaps to another bank-owned house in another town, just in time for another enterprising reporter to “discover” this trend.