Posts Tagged ‘showhomes’

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:


Meet the house-sitters who stage the American Dream (Fusion TV)

August 7th, 2014

Do you own a bunch of nice furniture but have nowhere to put it? Showhomescan help.Fusion TV

Some of the nicest luxury homes in suburbs across America are occupied by “prop families” — temporary tenants who use their furniture to help stage million-dollar homes that otherwise would sit empty. Showhomes is the company that puts people — and their furniture — in homes that realtors are trying to sell. The tenants rent the homes for a fraction of what a mortgage payment would be, but have to leave the homes spotlessly clean and be ready to vacate at a moment’s notice if a realtor wants to show the home to a potential buyer.

For all intents and purposes, the home must appear occupied but not lived-in. Beds must be made in a precise manner, kitchen counters devoid of plates or clutter, and no personal items can be displayed anywhere in the house.

The idea behind the arrangement is to allow a potential buyer to “see themselves living in the home” — but not someone else.

And the moment the home is sold — be it a week or six months— the itinerant tenant must pack-up his or her furniture and move to the next showhome.

The advantages to this bizarre arrangement are obvious to the real property owner: occupied homes tend to sell more quickly than an empty house, and there’s no up-front cost for a property manager, say company officials.

“Typically homes that are staged will sell from anywhere from five to ten percent higher,” says Marisa Salas, owner of Showhomes Miami.

The arrangement seems to work for some renters, too.

“I have a lot of furniture, because after [my] divorce I had all this furniture I had to put somewhere,” says home manager Lydia Rebot. “And since I’m repairing myself, I don’t wanna be in any ugly space if I cannot afford a better place. Right now I’m just giving myself time to live comfortable and happy.”

Home manager Alan Shuminer is also a divorcee with more furniture than he knows what to do with. He joined the program about five years ago, thinking that it was a transitional phase. But 10-15 luxury properties later (he says he’s lost track), Shuminer has changed his definition of what it means to have a “home.”

“I was married and lived in the same place for 15 years. Does that mean that was a home to me?” Shuminer asks. “Maybe for a little while. I guess wherever I am is where my home is.”

Filmed by Ingrid Rojas and edited by Jesse Swinger


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.

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.


Fast Company Features Showhomes

July 18th, 2014

To Sell Houses, People Are Used As Props In McMansions They Don’t Own

A poignant story from the Tampa Bay Times follows one family that lost everything in the recession and has found a peculiar way to hold on to the trappings of wealth. It sounds like the plot of some long-lost dramatic version of Arrested Development, but this is real.

The Mueller family invested in real estate, which was a very good idea until all of a sudden it wasn’t. Their bank accounts drained, their livelihoods gone, the Muellers figured out a way to maintain a semblance of their former lifestyle. A staging company called Showhomes allows them to stay in expensive, McMansion-type homes for exceedingly little money, only $1,200 a month–with the caveat that the house must remain in perfect, Showhomes-dictated selling condition at all times. They can place some of their own luxury items in the house, but their entire living situation is controlled by Showhomes, down to the pictures they hang and the books they show. And they may have to move out at a moment’s notice.

To see the entire article in Fast Company please go here:

Fear running short of cash in retirement? What to do

July 15th, 2014

Rodney Brooks, USA TODAY

One of our biggest fears is that we haven’t saved enough for retirement.  It’s time to stop worrying about it and start doing something. The fact is, there are a growing number of options.

Sharon Duncan USA Today

The answer may not necessarily be working in your current job through retirement. Many of us don’t realize it, but we may not all be healthy enough to do that. In fact, According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, 47% of retirees left the workforce sooner than they had planned.

“I think that when people are in this position, they need to try not to worry and panic, because they have options,” says Sandy Franks, executive director of the Women’s Financial Alliance in Baltimore. “They get too worried and panic.”

But, as with anything, you need to first look at you

“Knowing what your expenses are can go a long way in making sure you can have a comfortable retirement,” says Herb White, president of Life Certain Wealth Strategies in Denver.r budget to find savings and ways to cut costs.

But after that, there are other ways for retirees to actually earn — or save money — many that you probably haven’t thought of.

Some options:

 1. Can you turn your hobbies into extra income?

White says one client, a former engineer, now teaches the clarinet, bassoon and saxophone to children and adults. Another client, a former nurse, became a substitute teacher.

Sean Lee, founder of SPL Financial in Salt Lake City, says among his clients is a married couple who knew they would need supplemental income in retirement, but did not want to work. She’s already retired and he’s planning to retire in January. “They didn’t want to go to Walmart or work part-time at Home Depot,” he said.

Both turned to their hobbies. He was a pencil artist who did Western-style drawings. She created Western-style glasses and purses. “They’ve turned these hobbies into profitable businesses,” Lee says. “They’re to the point of that they don’t have to use their retirement funds.”

Another option, says Franks, is website, which offers online instruction. If you have any skill — plumbing, baking, cooking or even how to use an Excel spreadsheet — you can turn it into a course and offer it though People pay to take the course.

She says one woman created a cake decorating course. “She has 554 students paying her $39 apiece. “That’s about $21,000, an excellent way for a pre-retiree to create extra income.”

 2. Embrace the “shared economy.”

Franks says a growing trend is people renting rooms like a hotel or bed and breakfast. “Retirees can rent out rooms of their house for as much as $100 a night, Franks says. “One room rented out two nights per week is about $10,400 a year in extra income. You can rent out spare closets.

“You can rent out rooms in your house through, Vacation Rentals by or Airbnb,” Franks says. “It’s almost like a mini bed-and-breakfast style way to make extra money. It’s perfect for making extra retirement money. Usually the kids are gone so most people close to retirement have spare rooms.”

If you don’t want to rent rooms, consider renting kitchen appliances or even tools, she says. “You could rent out your camera for $40 a day. The possibilities are endless. One person was able to rent his car out to folks who needed to run errands. He was making about $1,000 extra per month. That’s an extra $12,000 per year.”

Another option, take care of pets when their owners are on vacation. DogVacay co-founder and CEO, Aaron Hirschhorn, says he got the idea for his company when he and his wife left their dogs at a kennel.

“We had left our dogs in a kennel for a 10-day trip and cost was $1,400 and one of the dogs was hiding under my desk for two days,” he says.

DogVacay founder Aaron Hirschhorn with Rocky(Photo: DogVacay)

The couple started keeping dogs in their home, first for friends and later for others. DogVacay was born.”It turned out to be a way better experience,” he says. “The dogs are in a loving home, they get to be out of a cage. Also, it’s more affordable than kennel, because there is no overhead.”

In a little over two years, the company has grown to 1,500 hosts across the country, a good portion of them retirees,” Hirschhorn says. The hosts set their own rates, and DogVacay gets 15% for infrastructure support, including customer service.

Hosts can keep up to three dogs at a time and the average is $30 per night for a dog. “You can be as active as you want,” he says. “You can do it just weekends or full-time. A few retirees who do it full-time earn $5,000 or $6,000 a month. One who watches dogs every weekend may earn $1,000 a month.”

3. Sell or rent your home and move into a luxury home.

Showhomes in Nashville offers an unique opportunity for Baby Boomers and empty nesters. The company “stages” homes for sale. The theory is that homes look better and are easier to sell if someone is actually living in them. “People have trouble visualizing a home when it’s vacant,” says Matt Kelton, chief operating officer.

“We’ll match that vacant home with someone with nice furniture, like an empty nester. They can live in a home with their own furniture. They pay 30% to 50% less (than the market rate). They can live in a golf course gated community. But they have to leave when it’s a showing and they have to keep it in good condition.”

Showhomes will pay to move you in, and then pay to move you out when the home is sold.

Sharon and Brent Duncan, ages 51 and 56, are empty nesters living in a $1.75 million home on a golf course in Asheville, N.C. She’s been there for almost six weeks so far. Duncan, who now works for the Showhomes agent in Asheville, is living in her third property. They sold their 5,500-square-foot home in Franklin, Tenn., after their kids left.

Sharon Duncan, right, and Cindi Stringer, go over paperwork in a $1.6 million home in Arden, North Carolina. Duncan currently lives in the home while it is on the market.(Photo: Davis Turner for USA TODAY)

“It was either go to a 1,600-square-foot loft or go into a show home where I could use all my furniture and save money on our monthly rental,” Sharon Duncan says. “We went with Showhomes.”

“You get to live large for less, actually,” she says. “You get to live in these beautiful properties. With this particular community, HOA covers lawn care and maintenance. You are living in these gated communities, a pretty maintenance-free situation. If the water heater goes out, that is the homeowner’s cost. You get to have a more relaxed and enjoyable lifestyle while you are saving money.”

“It becomes a win-win for everyone,” says Kelton. “Homes sell faster. The home manager is able to live at a highly reduced rate. “They stay on average five months. “They don’t move until the house moves. I’ve had people in for 30 days and some people for 18 months.

“It’s not for everyone,” he says. “But if they are flexible they can live a lifestyle, a lot of times, they couldn’t afford.”



The Today Show Features Showhomes!

July 8th, 2014

‘Model families’ live like human props to help sell luxury homes

The Mueller family once owned seven homes and a bed and breakfast. Today, they work minimum-wage jobs — but they’re still living large. The Today Show

The family from Tampa, Florida, is part of a growing real estate trend in which people move into empty luxury homes for sale and essentially act as a “model family,” human staging props used to turn a house into a home — for someone else.

“The home will sell faster and it’s gonna sell for more money, and it sells for more money because it looks more valued and it’s cared for,” Kim Magnuson, the sales and marketing director for Showhomes Home Staging Tampa, told TODAY on Tuesday.

Working with Showhomes, the Muellers live in a luxury house for about half of what it would cost to rent. One catch: They have to keep the home immaculately clean all the time in case a prospective buyer stops by.

“Never any dishes in the sink, always in the dishwasher, laundry never on top of the washing machine or the dryer,” Dareda Mueller told TODAY’s Gabe Gutierrez.

The family also has to leave the house at a moment’s notice if a prospective buyer is coming to see it. Once the property is sold, the family usually has about a week to move to another luxury property.

“It gives you a two-week window that is very challenging,” Bob Mueller said. “So you have like a week to pack up all your things, and then you have five days to unpack all those boxes.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” Dareda said. “It’s very adventurous.”

“Through, you know, the struggle of having been wealthier at one time and not as wealthy now, has really just helped us all pull together and draw closer,” Bob said.

The family loves living the transient life, and celebrates every time one of “their” houses get sold.

“We sold the home, and then it’s on to the next place,” Dareda said.

— Gabe Gutierrez and Scott Stump, TODAY

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter and Google+.