Posts Tagged ‘home staging’

Home staging becoming more important for a sale as real estate rebounds

August 18th, 2014

Dewey and Judy Baldwin’s Realtor told them not to expect a quick turnaround when they put their home up for sale in January.

But with only a couple of weak nibbles by the end of July, the couple decided to do what an increasing number of homesellers are doing nationally.Charity Keefer Article

They called a home stager, who brought in furniture and furnishings to spruce up the vacant, 3,500-square-foot home in Long Bay Estates.

“The house looks a lot better with furniture in it,” Dewey Hill said. “It brings out the features of the house.”

Home staging has been around for decades, said Maureen Bray, board president of the Real Estate Home Staging Association, but it’s really taken off in the last five years, a trend she at least partially attributes to broadcasts on HGTV.

Yes, she said, staging should help a home sell more quickly, but how much could depend on who you’re talking to.

Homes in Portland, Ore., where she is located, are on the market for an average of 77 days, she said. Those that have been staged by her company, Room Solutions Staging, sell in an average of 13.5 days.

Bray said staging has become more important as the real estate market has revived and buyers look at maybe a dozen homes before deciding which to purchase.

“The ones that look the best make buyers feel like they can move in,” she said.

The Baldwins chose new stager Charity Keefer, who recently opened her Showhomes franchise on the Grand Strand.

They got her mini-makeover package, and Dewey Hill said there is more buyer interest, and solid interest, in the home since Keefer did her work and had a brokers open house.

A former pharmaceutical saleswoman, Keefer said she got into staging as a way to get out of the constant road trips her job required and to spend more time with her husband and two small children.

But in addition, it gives her a chance to express her creativity.

“I’ve always had this creative side, and I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it,” she said.

Keefer said that besides the furniture and furnishings, her company painted the inside of the Dewey house, installed new light fixtures and put new tiles on the fireplace surround.

Keefer bought the franchise earlier this year and did one other home before she officially hung out her shingle. Since the Deweys’ home makeover, she has gotten a contract for a Socastee home being sold by Ron Boykin of Re/Max Southern Shores.

“When (a home) is vacant,” Boykin said, “it’s sometimes hard for people to visualize their own stuff in it.”

He said the owners of the custom home that borders a park and the Intracoastal Waterway signed for a $4,000 package that will have Keefer staging the entire downstairs and the master bedroom upstairs.

He’s not sure what to expect, but the home already has been on the market for a year, and Boykin hopes the staging will prompt a sale in three months.

Bray cautioned that people check out a home stager before they hire one. Among other things, she said that certification, while not required, is a plus because it shows the stager’s dedication to the profession. Further, she said that stagers should have their own liability insurance to protect the homeowner’s policy.

Keefer said she has both those, but she’s short on the experience that Bray said clients should also ask about. A stager’s website is another plus, Bray said, as are local references and before and after photos, which clients should want to see.

Besides the staging, Keefer will also be arranging live-in managers to give otherwise vacant homes that lived-in feeling, a hallmark of the Showhomes franchise.

While Bray doesn’t think managers are necessary, Showhomes believes that they can provide that extra oomph to houses that are for sale. Besides the lived-in feel, managers are responsible to see that the home is kept clean and show-ready.

“They really have to be meticulous in the way they live,” Keefer said.

Staging is not just cosmetic, although things like fresh paint and curb appeal can be important.

One of the most important things sellers should do is to declutter and depersonalize their home.

“It’s one of the main turnoffs for buyers,” she said of clutter. “It prevents buyers from seeing the main features of the house.”

Good staging will let buyers focus on the space of the house and to appreciate its architectural details.

But even before staging, Bray said it’s essential that sellers price their home to sell.

“Staging isn’t going to cure an overpriced home,” she said.

Keefer said homebuyers decide within 15 seconds of walking through the door of a home for sale if they could live there. Bray said the decision certainly comes within the first 60 seconds, so it’s critical for a stager or seller to focus on the home’s entry.

“You want whatever people see to make them want to see more,” Bray said.

Read more here:


Live in a multimillion-dollar home for $2,500 (CNN Money)

August 11th, 2014

San Diego Home Manager

The Starres aren’t movie stars, but they live like it — for a fraction of the cost.

They’re “hired” by Showhomes, a Nashville company that helps sell high-end homes. It preps the homes to look “lived in”… by finding people to actually live in them, at a very discounted rate.

Currently, there are 200 home managers, who reside in the home until it’s sold (it usually takes about three to six months). They watch for any maintenance issues and make the home look desirable (food in the fridge, clothes in the closet) for prospective buyers.

But not everyone can get the gig — Showhomes’ acceptance rate is about 40%. Residents must undergo online background checks, including criminal and rental histories. They’re typically white-collar professionals who are in a city temporarily, newly divorced or, in the Starre’s case, a family of five looking for a quick and easy rental.

With Showhomes, the Starres didn’t need to make a long-term commitment — they could leave their furniture in storage until they figured out where they wanted to live long term.

But what was a temporary move became a way of life. Over the past two years, they’ve lived in five different Showhomes — ranging from $900,000 to $1.3 million in value — all in the San Diego area. The amenities have included everything from tennis courts to pools.

“It’s a way to live in a really inexpensive way,” said Matt Kelton, chief operating officer of Showhomes, which has 58 franchises in 18 states.

But it’s not all a walk in the park. Showhomes has a number of restrictions for home managers.

“You can’t be a smoker, you can’t have a bunch of pets, no religious items — things that can deter [a buyer] one way or another,” added Kelton.

Personal items like family photos, sports teams and political paraphernalia are also prohibited. And then there’s the prospective buyers who could be surveying their home at a moment’s notice.

“We give up certain parts of our lives [for] the reduced rent,” said Calvenn.

They also have to move every time a place sells, with just about a month’s notice, and maintain a spotless home in the meantime.

“You have to keep it clean and model home-ish,” said Crystena Starre, a stay-at-home mom to her three kids. “We got to teach the kids, ‘We need to put things away.’”

For homeowners, Showhomes is piece of mind that costs just .5% to 1.25% of the list price (this can vary and decreases the longer a home stays on the market).

Radiologist Bernie Schupbach first worked with Showhomes in Fox Valley, Ill., when he put his home on the market six years ago.

“I was living probably 20 miles away, and it was hard to get down to check on it,” explained Schupbach. “There was always ongoing concern of a water pipe breaking or animal infestation or vandalism in the interim between visits.”

Schupbach didn’t have to worry about finding and vetting renters — or about the state of his home before it sold.

“We only communicated with [the home managers] if there was a problem,” said Schupbach.

Schupbach’s home was on the market for several years during the recession. It ultimately sold for around $500,000, and he had such a good experience that he employed Showhomes to stage his new home for buyers (which is the other half of the company’s business).

And while Kelton says one man was a home manager for 15 years, moving from home to home, the majority do it for a much shorter period of time because of the “nomadic lifestyle” it requires.

As for the Starres, the wealth of knowledge they’ve acquired from living in different San Diego neighborhoods has helped them narrow down where they want to put down roots. They soon plan to purchase their own home.

From Road Warrior to Home Staging Entrepreneur

August 7th, 2014

Charity Keefer

Charity Keefer (36) was born and raised in Lynn, Indiana and moved to South Carolina in 1997 where she graduated from the College of Charleston with a BS in Business Administration in 2001. Upon graduation, Charity worked for one year at UPS conducting outside sales. She has spent the past 11 years selling pharmaceuticals. Her husband, Bradley, a native to the Grand Strand, is a podiatrist and partner with Seacoast Podiatry Associates. The couple also have two children together Noah (6) and Ava (5).

How did you learn about Showhomes? 

In 2003 I moved from Charleston to Myrtle Beach, which is where I met my future husband, Bradley. Being in pharmaceutical sales, I was constantly on the road traveling and was away from my family. Last fall (2013) I was doing some soul searching and was looking into business franchises on a top 50 list. I was hoping I could find a business that matched my corporate business background with my passion for creative design. (The idea actually came to fruition one day when I thought of all the vacation homes Myrtle Beach has to offer tourists and the desperate need for some updating in regards to these properties).  I came across Showhomes and after having an initial 30 minute phone call with Matt Kelton (which actually lasted two hours!) I knew Showhomes was the perfect fit for me.

Why did you want to work with the brand?

I am a business minded person with big ideas and Showhomes is a great organization that offers a great service, so it made sense for me. Plus, it was close to home and brought together beautifully my business background and love for design. I also come from a family of small business owners so I guess you could say it was in my blood.

 How has business been since opening?  

We have only been in business for one week and we have already worked on one home vacant home in established beach community. It is in a great location just blocks from the ocean. It is truly a hidden gem. It has been on the market for five months and needed some updating, so I hope we can get it sold soon!  I am really looking forward to seeing where business goes as there is nothing like it in the area. The closest Showhomes are in Charleston and Asheville, so I am hoping the community takes advantage of the great services the company has to bring premium buyers with premium offers!

 What services do you plan on offering?

I would like to balance it out with a little bit of everything; staging, home management and makeovers/updates. I really hope to focus on vacation rentals as well.

Are you involved in any community outreach programs?

I am an active member of the Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors and hope to get involved with the local women’s shelter. I also am a Realtor® and have my certificate in staging (CPRES).

 Do you have any future plans for expansion? Future plans?

Absolutely, maybe one or two locations. I am not sure yet, but would love to have another location after the Grand Strand is well established.

Do you have any other hobbies or interests?

I am an avid runner and am currently training for my first full marathon in February. I also enjoy time on the water with my family.  We are big boaters and enjoy water sports.



Founded in 1986, Showhomes has helped Realtors® and homeowners sell more than 25,000 residential properties worth more than $8.5 billion, by transforming high-end vacant houses into fully-furnished, inviting, valued Showhomes. Currently serving prominent communities in 20 states, Showhomes is a rapidly expanding franchise system with 61 offices nationwide. Boasting the expertise of long-time real estate and interior design professionals, Showhomes is a one-stop-shop for home staging, home redesign, “One-Day Makeover’s” for currently occupied homes and its proprietary Home Manager program – a proven model to get upscale vacant homes off the market, faster. Every major national media outlet in the U.S. has praised the work of Showhomes, the company’s work has also been featured on Oprah, HGTV and the Travel Channel.  For more information or to learn about franchise opportunities, please visit


4 Secrets for Growing Your Business (Inc Magazine)

August 5th, 2014
There is more to expanding a company than simply relieving a customer’s pain point. Here’s what you need to know

Spot a pain point. Relieve it. Then do it again.

That’s the trick to starting a business, right?

Yes, but one of the keys to growing your business is replicating a product or service–and ensuring enough people ultimately buy into your concept. Here’s what you can learn from some companies trying to perfect exactly this.

1. Out-Convenience Your Competition
Start by discovering what customers want, then make it more convenient than what’s already available. Through his aunt, Peyman Aleagha learned that real estate agents often pay one company to design their website, another to host it, and yet another to create content for it. When he couldn’t find a simple service that his aunt could use for her own real estate business, Aleagha decided to “create a solution that does it all.”

Enter WebsiteBox, a one-stop, “do-it-all” shop that gives agents a code to activate their own, customized site and a startup guide that teaches them how to market their services online. The kit, which costs a one-time fee of $99, also includes about $500 worth of coupons for products and services from the likes of Google AdWords, Microsoft Bing, and WebsiteBox’s app store, which sells additional features for $99 a pop (such as a service that publishes home listings on Craigslist or another that offers premium telephone support).

2. Strategically Market Your Message
Consider pitching your wares to industry brokers, trade associations, or other corporate groups, rather than specific individuals across an entire sector. It could save you a lot of time and advertising expenses.

WebsiteBox could have targeted individual real estate agents exclusively–there are around two million of them actively licensed in the U.S. But a more strategic move has been marketing to real estate brokers, who in turn have sold the kit to thousands of their agents or given it away as a recruiting tool in both the U.S. and Canada.

3. Perfect Your Pricing
At what price point would your product best fit?

More important: How would you get it to that price?

After spending years working at his family’s denim factory in Honduras, and conducting some market research, Alejandro Chahin decided to aim for a retail price of less than $100 for a new line of jeans he wanted to roll out. To lower his manufacturing and distribution costs, the 28-year-old started selling directly to consumers (via Mott & Bow) and handled a lot of the production in-house, including cutting and sewing material as well as laundry-washing the denim. His final retail price? $96 per pair.

“We did a few test groups and $96 conveyed the message of expensive enough to be premium but not trying to trick the consumer into games like infomercials do by saying $99.99,” says Chahin, who has been growing his customer base by about 15 percent each month. “Additionally, according to research, premium jeans are categorized in the price points upwards of $95.20.”

4. Adequately Incentivize Your Team
Not many would want to live in a luxury staged home and be ready to leave whenever a real estate agent needed to show it–with just 30 minutes’ notice, seven days a week.

But a home-staging company called Showhomes has pinpointed the few who are happy to pay–that’s right, pay–to be one of these home managers: relocated business executives, families who’ve just sold a house and are building a new one, divorcees, even pro athletes. “It’s amazing how many people are in a life transition,” says Showhomes COO Matt Kelton. (All told, there are around 200 active home managers today.)

Of course, you need to dangle the right incentive to secure a committed group of individuals to help with an usual business model like this one. Showhomes, which makes the bulk of its revenue through a 0.5 to 1.25 percent cut of a home’s sale that’s staged this way, offers generous discounts to home managers that range between one-third and one-quarter of what the rent for a luxury house might normally cost.

Read more:

Living in luxury: Home managers happily pay rent to care for fabulous houses on the market

August 4th, 2014


Jim and Kaye Biby, pictured here in the Deerwood Estates home they're managing, have owned Showhomes Jacksonville since 2006.  Cristin Wilson For the Times-Union

Buzz Thomas has been a home manager for the past five years. He’s currently working with Showhomes Jacksonville.  One of the best things for him, Thomas said, is that he’s had an opportunity to live in some of the area’s most prestigious neighborhoods. He’s currently getting settled into his Queens Harbour home after living in a condo in Epping Forest.

Thomas said the contract he signed won’t allow him to disclose how much he pays to live in the properties, but he did say it’s easily 50 percent to 70 percent off what it would be if the home were on the market as a rental.

Thomas became involved in the program after selling his home. At the time, he wasn’t sure if he was going to stay in the area or relocate.

The condo was perfect for him, he said.

“My favorite spot? I woke up every morning with my windows open to the river,” he said.


Jim and Kaye Biby have owned Showhomes Jacksonville since 2006, but the franchise has been in the area for the past 16 years. Like McInnes, the Bibys also do traditional staging; that part of the business has increased as the housing market has improved.

The Bibys currently have 12 homes with home managers. But they said that if they had more managers, they could have even more homes. The idea is that popular.

The couple said it’s a fact that staged homes sell faster than empty ones.

“What we’re trying to do is slow [buyers] down so they’ll look at the house and envision themselves in it,” Kaye Biby said.

Realtor Dennelle Hickson agrees.

“You want to put your buyers in a position that when they walk in they feel like they’re at home already. Of course, you can’t feel at home in an empty house.”

There has been a 9.5 percent increase in the number of homes for sale during June 2014 compared to the same month a year ago, according to the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors’ latest numbers. The median sales price for homes in the area is $168,000, which is almost 6 percent higher than a year ago.

Those numbers are no surprise to Realtor Sharon Mills.

“Overall, the market is definitely picking up,” she said. “We probably have less inventory than we’ve had in a long time.”

The Bibys get their home managers from an initial online application. They do background and credit checks and also ensure that the applicant has nice furniture and accessories to put in the home and is responsible, neat and tidy. Families are welcome, but messes are not acceptable.

Most of the time, Showhomes stages the entire house.  If the managers need help staging the large house, the companies have warehouses full of furniture and accessories.


Since the home managers are living in properties that are for sale, the homes need to always be ready for showings.

Thomas, who also is a Realtor, said it’s a small inconvenience considering what you get in return.

“If you compare where you get to live and the type of home you get to live in, then making accommodations for the showings is well worth it,” he said.

Home managers are responsible for utilities, for example, that can easily cost hundreds of dollars a month for a 4,000-square-foot home.   It might not appeal to many to have to move every eight months or so. But the Showhomes usually has another home ready for the managers to move into.



The Newest Staging Strategy: Live-In Home Staging

August 4th, 2014

Showhomes Featured in Zillow

Renting Model Homes

Is the solution to selling a home quickly renting it out? Showhomes Home Staging in Tampa, FL isn’t your typical home staging company: one strategy they use to get homes off the market faster is enlisting a resident to live in and take care of the home while it’s on the market. By matching vacant properties with residents, they add energy to a home that can’t be achieved in atraditionally staged home.

“The home will sell faster, create buyer appeal, receive more response, and allow buyers to emotionally connect with a home. A home that’s occupied has energy in it that rooms full of furniture don’t have,” explained Linda Saavedra, franchise owner of Showhomes Tampa.

While Showhome’s staging strategy is a cost-effective alternative for homeowners, it’s also beneficial to the home managers, who can live in these nice homes for the price of an apartment rental. Home managers essentially rent the home, act as caretakers, and vacate the property once the home is sold — usually within 4 to 6 months. They also must live neatly and accommodate showing times, leaving the home during scheduled showings.

“When the buyer comes in and sees that the home is meticulous, has beautiful furnishing, and includes food in the pantry, they think the homeowner still lives there. Having a resident in the home creates the natural perception that the home has more value. After all, a home that is furnished, well cared for, and occupied exudes a sense of energy that an empty, vacant house just doesn’t,” Linda elaborated.

A home manager differs from a traditional renter in that they are considered sub-contractors, similar to a professional caretaker. Renting a home is governed under different real estate laws, where renters legally have tenant rights. Neither applies in Showhome’s case, since the company stages homes instead of renting them out.

Showhomes advertises online and carefully screens candidates. To qualify, potential home managers must have have beautiful upscale furniture, good credit, and clear a background check. Getting in the door as a home manager is no easy task — approximately 1 out of every 50 applicants is approved for the home manager program. The biggest difficulty Linda’s team has is finding home managers as fast as the homeowners want them.

“If the homeowner gives us the contract today, they want us to move someone in tomorrow — but it takes time to find a good fit and match for a home,” explained Linda.

Recruiting a home manager helps both the homeowner and the renter. A home that’s staged, occupied and taken care of will bring top dollar, while also giving the owner and home manager financial relief while the home is on the market. Showhomes finds home managers by marketing on major rental websites, as well as receiving referrals from home managers and real estate agents. For example, an agent who sells a home that’s still under construction might refer his buyers to be home managers while their home is being built. Professionals in transition, such as a banking professional relocating to Tampa and shopping for a home, are also a good fit for the program.

While not every client Showhomes takes on is a candidate for live-in staging, Linda feels that an occupied home has the life and energy an empty home just doesn’t. “Hands down, this is the best way to do it.


“Ghost Tenants” Live in Luxury Homes at Apartment Prices

July 31st, 2014



The Mueller Family lives together in a 4,800 square foot Tampa, Florida home, but they only pay $1,200 in rent every month. (Photo courtesy of the Mueller Family)


Bob and Dareda Mueller used to own a large, beautiful home on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.

“We were in a golfing community, we were actually on the lake, and it was about 4,800 square feet,” says Bob.

But then they lost everything.

“It was the real estate crash, we had probably too much of our assets in real estate,” Bob explains. “The downturn of the economy just brought us to having to sell them for next to nothing or really losing money on them.”

The couple lost their lavish home and their properties, but they still had their lavish home furnishings; a baby grand piano, a $10,000 Pakistani rug. So a friend told them about Showhomes, a home staging company that actually moves families, and all of their belongings, into homes that are on the market.

“The advantage is, the whole house is being staged,” says Linda Saavedra, Showhomes’ Tampa, Florida franchise owner. “There’s food in the pantry, there’s clothes perfectly organized in the closet. It looks like a model home, it almost looks like no one lives there, yet someone does. The buyer naturally thinks the home seller still lives there. They don’t know that it’s a home manager that’s living in the home.”

The Mueller’s have lived in five Tampa homes in two years, moving every three to eight months. They live like ghosts, keeping the homes meticulously clean and uncluttered, not displaying any family photos. A designer perfectly arranges all their belongings when they move in. The deal is, they have to make themselves scarce when a potential buyer comes over for a tour.

“We don’t just make our beds just any which old way, it has to be made exactly according to their standards,” Dareda says. “We never go to bed with dishes in the sink. I keep the soap, shampoo also, shaving, all those things, not in the shower, but it’s in a drawer.”

The ghost tenants, or home managers as they’re officially referred to, can potentially move as often as every 60 days, as long as it takes for a home to sell. But it’s completely worth it for Bob and Dareda who both now work at McDonald’s and would never be able to afford living in the 4,800 square foot home, complete with pool, that they’re currently living in.

“This is a large four bedroom, beautiful home, four and-a-half baths,” says Dareda. “If I was renting this it would probably be in the neighborhood of over $3,000 a month. We pay $1,200 a month.”

Showhomes hires movers for the home managers, but the Mueller’s are responsible for packing and unpacking each move, so they’ve paired down their belongings considerably. Linda says it’s a win-win situation. Home managers get to live cheaply in expensive homes, and it costs the seller far less than a typical staging.

“If the home owner were having the home fully staged, the home owner would have to pay us to rent all of that furniture, which would be significantly more than what we collect from the home manager,” Linda says. “So while the home manager is living in that house, we actually pay for the home owner, their electric bill, their water bill, their lawn service, their pool service. They’re saving money by having the home manager in their property.”

Linda says houses that have been stuck on the market for months will suddenly sell once inhabited by a home manager, and usually for 25% more than if it was vacant. It’s such a sweet deal, home managers often stick with the luxury nomad lifestyle for quite a long time.

“In California they have home managers who’ve been with them for almost 15 years,” Linda says.

“After having multiple properties, it sounds like a dream, yet there are at least five bills that go with each home. So it’s been kind of nice not to be responsible for the real estate tax, for the roof, for the maintenance. We don’t have any intentions of leaving Showhome’s program anytime soon.”

The Mueller’s currently share the home, and the rent, with their three 20-something sons.

Live-in managers a plus when selling luxury homes

July 29th, 2014

Luxury homes that are vacant can be hard to sell. Plus, they are at greater risk for break-ins.

Kelli Reed is a modern-day nomad.

She lives in a for-sale six-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot luxury lakefront home that is decorated with her own furniture, paying a fraction of the typical rent. When the home gets a buyer, she’ll move into another for-sale upscale home, taking her belongings with her.

She could be in each home as little as a month or a couple of months or longer.

“I never know where I’m going to be month-to-month,” she said.

Reed is a live-in luxury-home caretaker.

Luxury homes that are vacant can be hard to sell. Plus, they are at greater risk for break-ins. Occupied and staged homes, however, show and sell better.

To make vacant high-end homes more marketable, two Valley companies, Showhomes and HomeTenders of America, provide live-in caretaking services, complete with furniture and accessories.

There are benefits for everyone involved, representatives say.

Sellers get their homes professionally staged without having to pay for it or the furniture rental. Not having to rent furniture can mean a savings of $6,000, likely more, a month, said Janelle Joyce,CQ who owns one of the two Valley franchises of Showhomes. Reed owns the other.

Sellers also don’t have to pay monthly utility bills or for upkeep on the home. They also don’t pay for the live-in caretaking services, although there may be a small fee at time of escrow.

Management companies make their money from the fees the live-in managers pay. At any given time, they have up to 30 or 40 homes with live-in managers.

Potential buyers get to view decorated homes instead of empty ones. They can better visualize how their furniture will look rather than being perplexed by bare rooms that have no personality.

Live-in managers get to live in high-end homes for a fraction of the cost. They pay a fee — typically about a third of the cost it would be to rent such a home — to the management company, plus they pay the utilities and yard and pool care.

There are drawbacks.

Live-in managers have to keep the homes impeccably clean so that the home can be shown at a 30-minute or hour’s notice.

“You have to make your bed every day,” Joyce said, laughing. “That’s just the beginning of it.”

Toilet seats must be down. Sinks must be free of debris. Granite kitchen counters must be clear of spots. There can be no clutter.

“Everything has to look perfect,” she said.

Managers must leave if a home is going to be shown to potential buyers. And if the home is sold? They generally have up to a month to move. And it’s usually to another for-sale vacant luxury home.

The nomadic lifestyle attracts a certain type of person, said John Bezik, who with his wife, Cyndee, owns HomeTenders of America, based in Scottsdale. The couple also are live-in caretakers of a luxury home.

“This is good for people in transition, people getting relocated, for people who don’t want a long-term lease,” he said. It also attracts people who have gone through bankruptcies, divorces, short sales and foreclosures “so they can get their credit together.”

Most of the managers have previously lived in luxury homes and so have the furnishings to match, he said. But they need a place to live.

Being a home caretaker allows them to retain the lifestyle while not having to pay the high price, he said. And they don’t have to pay for a storage unit for their furniture.

The staged homes typically sell in four to five months but may take as long as a year, Joyce said. Showhomes homes generally range from 4,000 to 15,000 square feet, with larger homes and some architectural styles, such as ultra contemporary, taking longer to sell, she said.

Caretakers, who must pass background checks, are matched with homes that fit the style of their furnishings.

Reed says she likes her lifestyle, which is simpler than it was in the past.

“It was a life change,” she said. “Before this, my life was so structured.”

After getting divorced, she moved to the Valley because her brother lived here. She wanted a job that gave her flexibility, allowed her to be social and gave her time to get involved with her church.

Owning the East Valley Showhomes franchise lets her do all that plus be her own boss, she said.

And she enjoys the luxury lifestyle, even though it’s a temporary one in each house.

“A home doesn’t define me,” she said. “I don’t have sentimental value on material things. My value is with my family and friends.”

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The exterior of a Phoenix home staged by Janelle Joyce. Janelle owns a franchise of Showhomes, a company that provides live-in caretakers for luxury homes for sale that otherwise would be vacant. The thought is that furnished, lived-in homes are more likely to sell.

The exterior of a Phoenix home staged by Janelle Joyce. Janelle owns a franchise of Showhomes, a company that provides live-in caretakers for luxury homes for sale that otherwise would be vacant. The thought is that furnished, lived-in homes are more likely to sell. (Photo: Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic)

Showhomes Featured on Marketplace

July 24th, 2014

Humans make a house for sale feel more like home

(Eric Mennel/Marketplace)

Cora Blinsman pays $1,100 a month on a $430,000 home. But she can be forced to move out at a moment’s notice.

A home for sale in Newport Coast, occupied by real live people.

About a year ago, Cora Blinsman’s mom passed away. Needless to say, it was a really hard on her. She started taking stock of her own life. Blinsman had been a full-time, stay-at-home mom for 20 years, and she was feeling burnt out. She needed space.

So she got a lot of it.

Blinsman applied to be a home manager with Showhomes, a nationwide home staging company. Basically, she pays a monthly fee to live in a really nice house for sale in one of the nicest upscale communities in Chapel Hill, N.C. Her latest is currently going for $430,000. It’s got four bedrooms, two baths. The kitchen has two cooking surfaces; gas and electric. The backyard has three descending layers of gardens.

The idea behind Showhomes is that when someone lives in a home, it just feels warmer. More attractive to buyers.

“You’ve got your slippers by the bed,” Blinsman said. “I mean, I kept it very neat, but you could tell somebody lived there.”

Fred Pierson is the franchise manager for Showhomes in the Chapel Hill area. Pierson says the home manager method is the company’s most effective service. Seventy percent of the homes with managers living in them get an offer.

“Buyers are smart. They can tell when they’re walking into a staged home,” said Pierson.

These are not always easy homes to sell — they’re often worth more than $1 million. The home Blinsman is in had been on the market a year before she moved in two months ago. Now, she pays $1,100 a month for a home that would normally have mortgage payments two or three times that amount. So, it’s a good deal. But there are drawbacks.

“If home managers are doing this just for the savings, it will not work,” said Pierson. “It has to be a lifestyle they are willing to compromise.”

For example, Blinsman only lived in her first home for five weeks before it sold. Some managers can move up to five times a year. And there are rules.

“They’re very basic,” said Pierson. “You make your bed every day. Towels are not hung up over the shower, they’re placed in the dryer… You know, pick your stuff up and make sure it looks nice… The stuff I was always telling my kids,” said Blinsman.

Also, home managers can’t keep anything too personal lying around. No religious insignia. No family photos. One of Pierson’s homes had a mural of the Dallas Cowboys up on the wall. Showhomes needed to remove it because there’s always the chance someone looking to buy a home might love the house, but hate the Cowboys.

Blinsman says the rules haven’t been so bad. On the contrary, she says, being in this kind of home at this kind of time has been really good for her. Living in a wealthy community has opened her eyes to an entirely different lifestyle.

“I can be a part of the community and I can fit in pretty well,” she explained.  “But if I had a little broken down car, I could never drive through this neighborhood. I’d be like, ‘Oh my God, they’re gonna want to throw me out.’”

This is the real trick behind Showhomes. It’s not just about giving those looking for a home a look into someone else’s life – it’s about doing the same for the home manager. Giving them a chance to be someone else, if only for a little while.


Showhomes Unique Model Featured on NPR

July 22nd, 2014

Temporary Tenants Give Luxury Homes A Lived-In Look

Alan Shuminer lives on two acres of land in a house with a current list price of $3.3 million in Miami — and he only pays $2,600 a month. He is a home manager for Showhomes, a home staging company.

Bernie Schupbach needed to sell his home in the height of the real estate crash.

His home in Yorkville, Ill., was unoccupied. It had lingered on the market for a long time — and Schupbach, a radiologist in Aurora, Ill., was growing uncomfortable.

“To me, you worry about a pipe breaking in winter. You worry about the heat going out. You worry about vandals. You worry about animal infestation,” he says. “My big concern was: There’s nobody there, I’m 30 miles away.”

Then somebody mentioned Showhomes to Schupbach and his wife, Lynn.

Showhomes is a home-staging company that helps people sells their homes. Its employees make minor suggestions like changing a paint color or fixing up a front door, but also de-clutter and depersonalize a home.

And nothing depersonalizes a home more than having another person, couple or family living in it — meet Showhomes’ unique Home Managers program.

Home managers are actively recruited — and vetted — by the staging company, through avenues like real estate agents and Craigslist. Showhomes gets paid by both the homeowner and the home manager.

The home manager pays a fee that’s one-third to half of what traditional rent in a specific market might be plus utilities, says Matt Kelton, chief operating officer of Showhomes.

The average fee paid by a home manager to live in a Showhomes property is $1,350 per month.

Home managers go through a specific training program. They need to keep the house immaculate, disappear when potential buyers come for a showing, and, once the house is sold — never come back again.

Oh, and there’s another catch: Whoever moves in needs to have enough furniture to fill the home, which is often a luxury property.

Kelton says that on average, home managers have a five-day “no peek rule,” when designers take their furniture and redesign the house. He says homeowners often see their newly redecorated house and say, “Man, I wish I wasn’t moving.”

Kelton says the Home Manager program helps sell houses by making them look lived-in. An empty house, he says, gives off the perception that a homeowner is desperate to sell.

“To sell a vacant house, you’re going to see a home that takes longer to sell. It’s going to show the flaws of the homes right away,” he says. “Something about having food in the pantry … it’s hard to put my finger on it, but there’s some kind of emotional connection that happens.”

Showhomes was founded in 1986 and now serves communities in 18 states. The company, with nearly 60 franchise offices across the U.S., was founded during the savings and loan crisis and oil bust of 1982 in Oklahoma, when interest rates were set at 17 or 18 percent and banks had huge amounts of foreclosed homes.

The company started to take homes that were sitting vacant and match them with people who were being relocated.

Many home managers are people in transition, like executives who have been relocated, or someone waiting for their new home to be built.

Alan Shuminer has been a home manager in Miami for about five years. When he first got involved in the program, he had just gone through a divorce and was looking for a place close to his three children.

Shuminer says he’s an atypical home manager because he’s in the program for the long haul. He estimates he’s moved 10 or 12 times. Luckily for him, if a home manager is moving to another in-town Showhome, a franchisee pays for the move.

And it works perfectly for Shuminer. “I’ve done the house ownership bit,” he says. “My lifestyle right now doesn’t require me to be home very much.”

Nationally, properties staged by Showhomes list for an average $750,000, but range from $200,000 to $12 million.

Shuminer, a lawyer, says he hasn’t lived in a house that’s less than $1.41 million. He currently pays $2,600 per month for a 7,500-square-foot house — with a pool — that’s listed at $3.3 million. (According to Kelton, the average home manager fee is $1,350 per month.)

Generally, Showhomes focuses on properties that among the most expensive in an area, Kelton says. Nationally, its average list price is around $750,000, but prices range from $200,000 to $12 million.

And Shuminer’s favorite part of the program? “Going to a new house,” he says.

He says he gets bored and too acclimated after a while; he reaches the point where he’s ready to move. And it’s easy for him, because after so many moves, he says he has a lot less stuff than he used to.

“I think some people see it as being unstable,” Shuminer says. “The fact that I move around is just one of the idiosyncratic quirks about me.”

Kelton says being a home manager means a very different kind of lifestyle. He said he’s had managers in the Showhomes system for anywhere from 30 days to 10 years.

As for Schupbach, the radiologist, he guesses home managers lived in his house in Illinois for about two years. “I had somebody in the house. I knew that if something went wrong, they would tell me,” he says.