Property Trax: Rise in vacant homes leads to more cases of ‘mansion squatters’
By KAREN RIVEDAL, Dec 23, 2010
As if the owners of mansions weren’t burdened enough.
Now comes a report from Showhomes, a nationally franchised network of home stagers based in Tennessee, that the number of ne’er-do-wells shacking up in vacant mansions is on the rise.
The increase is tied to the wave of temporarily vacant homes being created by the struggling home market, Showhomes said.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported vacant homes increased to 19 million in the first quarter of 2010, some number of which are high-end properties ripe for trespassers with a taste for the finer things, the staging company warned.
Among the recent incidents cited was the case of a woman in Seattle, arrested for living in a $3.3 million home on the minor technicality that it wasn’t actually hers.
Similarly, a man in Chicago recently set up shop in an empty $700,000 home, carting in his furniture and big-screen TV and going so far as to introduce himself to the neighbors as the new owner, which reportedly worked for several months.
(Wasn’t there a short-lived show on FX about something like this, starring Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard? Life imitating art, I guess, or vice versa.)
The problem can be compounded by the vagaries of homeowners’ insurance, which may not cover properties and the damage that squatters can do after a home has been vacant for a period of time.
Policies specifically for vacant homes, meanwhile, can be expensive and still not offer full coverage, Showhomes said.
The solution offered by Showhomes — shocker — is to hire one of their live-in managers to watch over the property and keep it in good shape for showings.
One would guess there are probably simpler and less expensive remedies out there, such as maybe not leaving a mansion vacant in the first place, and being more aggressive about getting it sold.
But even if a live-in stager seems over the top for most of us, there are plenty of advocates for the use of smart staging concepts to possibly give homes for sale a competitive edge.
Note: Using a Live-In Stager from Showhomes is often far less expensive than most home owners realize. Most of the fees are paid at close and in many markets, owners don’t have to pay up front or monthly fees.
To learn more about opening your own Showhomes Home Staging franchise, fill out our request information form to attend a webinar