Who’s Living in Your Vacant Home? Showhomes Home Staging News
Showhomes – a home staging company – allows a hired home manager to live within vacant homes for sale with the intent of making the environment more welcoming to potential buyers.
By Nicole DeCosta
The West Linn Tidings, Aug 19, 2010
Who is living in your vacant house for sale?
Edie Moll, a general manager with Showhomes in West Linn, said that her company – a national brand in home staging – revolutionizes the way residential real estate is marketed by turning a vacant house into a valuable home.
Home staging – preparing a private residence for sale in the real estate marketplace through furnishings and décor – is used to attract buyers by making a home look and feel appealing. Through staging, once vacant homes are transformed into welcoming spaces with furniture, making them more appealing to buyers and hopefully selling the home more quickly and for more money than if it were left vacant.
At least that’s the idea.
But when selling a staged home it costs money to make money and Moll explained the fees associated with the service. She said her company provides a way to offset these fees.
A home manager.
“Staging can be expensive. It’s a monthly fee, whether the home sells or not,” Moll said, noting that homeowners or real estate agents typically pay for the service. “But when you have a home manager, they offset that.”
Managing and Staging a home
Home managers with Showhomes live in staged homes for sale and keep the home tidy so Realtors can show the home to prospective buyers. Home managers pay the utilities, landscaping and housekeeping fees, which offsets the cost of the staging, Moll said. The homes are kept in immaculate condition.
“They’re ready all day, everyday – which makes it easy to show,” said Re/Max Equity Group, Inc. Broker Laurie Thiel, who is marketing a listing at 2335 Oswego Glen Court in Lake Oswego staged by Showhomes and occupied by a home manager. “It shows like an occupied home but with the ease of a vacant home.”
Home managers typically have fine furniture, pass several background checks, do not smoke or own pets and agree to move when the home sells, which can happen at any time.
“They could live there a week or a few months,” Moll said. “When they do move we actually move them to the new house. In some cases they may be at work and we’ll move everything and have the home decorated and staged and put away by the time they get home from work, but they’re just at a different address,” Moll said.
It takes a certain person or family to fit the mold for this lifestyle.
Oftentimes, hoping to familiarize themselves with the city, business professionals become home managers.
“Not everybody has the ability to be able to change like that,” Moll said, snapping her fingers. “And more often than not, the home managers are entrepreneurs. They’re used to change. They’re flexible. They like change.”
If a home manager has children, Moll said, they would be moved to another home within the same school district. Single father Thomas Iizuka, who lives in the home on Oswego Glen Court, is an architect and found out about Showhomes in a newspaper ad two years ago. And he’s lived in two staged homes since then.
Iizuka described his living situation as “keeping decorations intact.”
“A lot of people can’t live that way, but the way I looked at it was sort of like when you go to a really nice hotel or you’re renting a vacation home in the desert,” he said. “You have to be in the frame of mine that (in order) to make it look nice and enjoy the experience, you have to be respectful of the other person’s place.”
The concept is set up to be a win-win-win – allow the homeowner to stage the home, help the real estate agent to sell it and provide housing for the home manager.
Setting the stage
Instead of being tenants, the home managers are contractors to Showhomes, Moll said, so “if they leave something in the sink or there is laundry out they have to pay a fine.”
Home managers must have renters insurance and provide photographs of their furniture before being approved.
“Oftentimes they bring their own furnishings and artwork,” Moll said, who noted that her company also provides upscale furniture and décor items to display.
“Each home is unique. Not every home (on the market) is contemporary or traditional. We use whatever pieces would work in their home and add to it.”
The home on Oswego Glen Court utilizes mostly furniture that belongs to Iizuka.
“But these (bar) stools are ours,” Moll said, who houses furniture items not in use in an 11,000 square foot warehouse in Gladstone.
“Part of the requirement is to have nice furniture because most people that have nice furniture live well and live neatly. So if you have worn out things it (can be) indicative of how they probably live,” Moll said.
And while the furniture is nice, the presentation must be also.
A real estate agent and prospective buyer could drop by at any time to view the home for sale. And Thiel said that having the home furnished and orderly at all times helps her business and clients.
“Most people don’t have a lot of vision. So, if you give them an empty space they have trouble trying to fill it with size and quantity. ‘Will my sectional or easy chair fit there?’” she said. Having the home furnished “gives some space dimension.”
Another draw for home managers is the price point. Home managers often live in luxurious homes at a cost lower than their mortgages would be, Moll said.
“If (the home) is $850,000 (the mortgage is) going to be about $6,000 or $7,000 a month plus utilities,” Moll said. But living in the same home and serving as a home manager could cost about $2,000, which is what Iizuka pays on his home listed at $849,900. Moll said she has provided this service to clients in Oregon for two years.
“I was doing this in Phoenix before. And I was a home manager for almost eight years. The homes (I lived in) there were 7,500 to 10,000 square feet,” she said.
An added value, Moll said, for homeowners allowing a home manager to live within their vacant home?
Protecting the valuables inside.
“Security is a big deal. You don’t want to leave a vacant home for too long because your appliances can disappear,” Moll said of what thieves often steal from vacant residences.
Having a home manager live within a home “also reduces insurance costs,” Moll said, noting that vacant homes could cost more.
For new housing developments, having homeowners already moved into several homes is valuable for those looking to buy, Moll said.
“People don’t want to be the first in the neighborhood,” she said. “This way, it feels comfortable.”
But when the home is shown, home managers must leave the home and make sure everything is neat and orderly.
“Buyers will look at everything. They must keep it this way all the time,” Moll said. “Even closets must be organized.”
Iizuka said he lives neatly because it’s how he’s “wired” but for many, living this way would just be good practice, he said.
“You’ve got to make your bed and take the dishes out of the sink,” Iizuka said. “There should be Showhomes for teenagers. Sort of a, ‘you can live here as long as you clean your room.’”
Iizuka continued, “I wish there were more Showhomes because I think there are a lot of people in my situation who either (went) through divorce or job misplacement (and) would like to be in a home like this because they still have their furnishings – nice things – and want to be able to enjoy them.”
Moll said she typically oversees between half a dozen and a dozen home managers at a time.
At the beginning of the summer, Moll said, she was overseeing 12 home managers, “but those homes sold.”
For more information about Showhomes visit www.showhomes.com.