Service places Caretakers into vacant, often luxurious homes to spur sales
By Tom Bailey Jr. / Memphis Commercial Appeal
May 5, 2010
About a year ago, the same Brandi Jackson left a $700,000 home in Collierville’s Braystone neighborhood after living in luxury there just 30 days.
Photo by Karen Pulfer Focht / Memphis Commercial Appeal After a successful staging, Brandi Jackson loads up her belongings in a Germantown house for mover Sherrod Farmer on Tuesday. Jackson lived in the Oakleigh subdivision house for six months as a “manager,” helping the owners finally sell it after 2 years.
Last fall, she moved out of a $460,000 home in Collierville’s new Creekside neighborhood, having lived there five months.
Jackson is not flipping, squatting, evading or even waffling about her choice of neighborhoods.
She’s helping sell houses.
She’s a “home manager” for Showhomes Home Staging in Memphis.
The franchise screens and places people like Jackson — and their furniture — into vacant homes that are on the market.
The house seller pays Showhomes a setup fee and Showhomes recruits someone to live in and furnish their home, making it easier to sell. The caretaker is responsible for the utilities, insurance and sometimes lawn care.
The house sitter enjoys living in a very nice home and neighborhood for perhaps one-third of what it would normally cost to rent the home. Home owners like this arrangement because it saves them thousands off the monthly cost to fully stage a higher end home.
The caretaker agrees to have the house ready for agents to show on short notice, and to not be present when the house is shown.
Crye-Leike real estate agent Donna Northcutt was so happy with the results at Braystone, she arranged to have Jackson move from there to the Creekside house.
The Braystone house had been for sale more than a year, but sold within 30 days after Jackson, her son and “eclectic/modern” furniture moved in.
The Creekside house had been on the market more than a year, and sold five months after Jackson moved in.
The Oakleigh home had been on the market for 21/2 years, and sold five months after Jackson moved in.
“Having furniture and a caretaker in the house makes a big difference,” Northcutt said.
“A lot of (prospective home buyers) think the empty rooms look too small, say, for a king-size bed,” Northcutt said. “But if a king-size bed is in there they say, ‘Oh, it looks great.’ They don’t see the size of the room very well without furniture in it.”
Early last year Jackson was going through a divorce, moving out of her Arlington home, and was looking for a place with at least three bedrooms for all her furniture.
She found the Braystone home on Craigslist. The monthly fee was $1,500 a month to live in a $700,000 home.
“You can’t beat that,” Jackson said.
Among the amenities were a media room, game room, view of a lake, walk-in shower and upscale appliances.
Of course, neighbors were quick to approach and ask, “Did you buy?”
“You tell them, ‘No, I’m staging the home – I’m a prop.’ That piques their curiosity.”
Of all the neighborhoods, Braystone was the most positive.
“Every single person on that block talked to me,” Jackson recalls. “They were kind to me, so sweet. You’d think it would be different since that was the most prestigious neighborhood.”
Jeff Ross bought the Showhomes Home Staging franchise in Memphis about 18 months ago. He has owned the Little Rock franchise eight years.
“With our success in Little Rock, it made sense to go two hours east to a bigger market,” Ross said.
Typically, Showhomes works with homes priced at more than $200,000.
The house sitter must have nice furniture and no pets, must not smoke, and never refuse a showing on as little as an hour’s notice.
“The house has to be immaculate,” Ross said.
Which is fine by Jackson, an organized person by nature.
The key, she said, is to always keep the house clean enough so that it would never take long to make things just right.
Sitters in Memphis can move into half-million-dollar houses for as little as $900 to $1,200 a month if they qualify, Ross said.
Jackson was paying $1,000 a month for the $300,000 home in Oakleigh. Monthly amounts vary market to market and pricing is set by the local franchise. The home owner on this home would have had to pay over $2500 a month to have it staged without a caretaker.
But on Tuesday, she made her last move. The former teacher who plans to enter law school took advantage of the buyer’s market; she bought her own home in Cordova.
Owners: Jeff and Heidi Ross
Service: Provides live-in “house managers” and their furniture for homeowners who are trying to sell their vacant houses. Most economical way to stage a home with little or no up front staging fees and no monthly staging fees. Cost deferred to closing.
Phone: (901) 361-7419