Squatters: the Ultimate Scene Stealers
The once-elegant, sprawling home now sits empty, silent in it memories of warmth, laughter and belonging. The ‘for sale’ sign swinging in the winter wind invites prospective buyers, but the brochure box hasn’t seen a fresh brochure in a while and the lockbox is accumulating cobwebs. Agents showing homes in this lofty price range find that most of their buyers tend to rush through cold, vacant rooms unable to picture the purpose of lovingly thought-out living spaces previous occupants once called their own.
Multiply this snapshot by the millions, and a troubling landscape comes into view. Vacant luxury homes not only sit neglected, but become lures for vandals and even squatters, who find a way to move their belongings in, introduce themselves as new neighbors and hunker down, knowing they can’t be kicked out without a court proceeding.
This kind of thing is, in fact becoming rampant. Even actor Randy Quaid got into the act by illegally occupying an old Hollywood home he had sold years before. It’s not enough any more to merely stage a vacant luxury listing. Someone should be there, ever vigilant, taking care of the place.
An article recently ran in Orange County’s OC Weekly, when journalist Scott Moxley reported how squatters move in and then refuse to move out until they are forced to by a civil action. “…in California, as in every other state, squatters can have legal rights that shield them for an extended time from police action and irate property owners. The legal concept dates back about 600 years in agrarian European culture, when it was believed it was better to have someone take over a property and make it a home than have it sit unoccupied and become an unproductive eyesore.”
A sobering thought, when the Sacramento Business Journal recently ran an article about how one of every fourteen homes in the Sacramento area sits vacant. Realtors must remain vigilant, sometimes, their bank clients forcing them to take weekly photos of every room of their vacant listings – a time-consuming and tedious task. It can be a royal headache to manage vacant luxury listings that either sit staged and unoccupied or vacant and cold, rarely shown by agents.
There may be a solution to this dilemma, however. An innovative company called Showhomes seems to have figured it out a while back. Dubbed America’s largest and oldest home staging company, the franchise operation solves both staging needs (merchandising the home so that it looks like a model home) as well as a Realtor’s or owner’s property management need. By moving a caretaker into a fully staged home (staged with their own pre-approved furnishings) Showhomes creates a win-win proposition for getting properties sold more quickly and at a higher sales price (the difference in the final sales price is staggeringly impressive for a staged and/or occupied home as compared to a vacant home, which attracts lowball offers) all the while helping the owner with monthly-carry costs.
Carefully screened, trained and dedicated ‘home managers’ become interim caretakers for these professionally staged luxury homes, functioning as contracted on-site hosts to make sure the homes to which they are assigned are ready to show at a moment’s notice, 12 hour per day, seven days a week.
Beth George, Showhomes franchise manager for the past 15-years in the Orange County/Los Angeles area says, “And when the property sells, we move our managers to another ‘Showhome.’ We actually have some home managers who have been with us for years.”
For more information on locations and how the company works with banks, investors, sellers and Realtors, go to Showhomes.com.