Triad couple finds success in staging homes for sale (Winston-Salem Journal)

Nancy and Robbie Jones Dec 2015Nancy Jones had just served her husband, Robbie, breakfast in bed early one Sunday morning when they got a text message from a Realtor showing service that the house they lived in was about to be shown to potential buyers.

The Joneses had 30 minutes to get out of the house.

As Showhomes home managers, the couple are used to being prepared to leave a house in 20 minutes, but typically they get a 24-hour notice.

“That’s why it’s so important to keep the house show-ready,” Nancy Jones said. “All we had to do was get dressed, put the breakfast and dishes away, then out the door.”

They have lived in three different homes in the Triad and one in Tampa, Fla., under the Showhomes Home Manager Program.

Home managers are basically caretakers of properties. They bring their home furnishings and live in vacant homes for sale.

But the Joneses are more than home managers. In November 2014, they became Showhomes franchise owners. Before that, Nancy Jones worked in the furniture industry for several companies, including Thomasville Furniture and Drexel Heritage, and her husband worked in the soft drink industry. The couple were first introduced to the Showhomes franchise concept while living in Florida from 2011 to 2013.

Founded in 1986, Showhomes is a home-staging company based in Nashville, Tenn. The franchise system has 32 franchisees and 55 offices nationwide and is currently in expansion mode. In North Carolina, Showhomes has franchisees in such areas as Winston-Salem, Raleigh and Asheville and hopes to move into Charlotte in the next 18 months.

Showhomes Triad N.C. is Nancy and Robbie Jones’ company. It is based in Winston-Salem and covers Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point. In addition to offering people the opportunity to become home managers, they provide traditional home-staging, updates and makeovers aimed at helping Realtors and homeowners sell residential properties.

The Joneses have become successful franchise owners in a short time, setting the record for the highest revenue earned within the first year at Showhomes. They have also been named the most successful franchisees in Showhomes’ entire national system.

“They have been a real boost to our whole system,” said Matt Kelton, chief operating officer for Showhomes. “They’ve done more revenue than some franchisees who have been around for 10 years or longer. They’ve been able to bring in enthusiasm and energy and the right attitude. They’ve also done a good job of building Showhomes — our name in the Triad.”

In terms of overall sales, Showhomes has had its biggest year in its 30-year history, Kelton said.

“A lot of it is our new services, but we’ve had people like Robbie and Nancy who have really taken it to a whole different level,” he said.

Nancy Jones said that she and her husband were expected to do about $75,000 in sales their first year but have done more than $200,000 and are pushing to do more than $300,000 by the end of December.

Staging homes with a twist

Traditional home-staging, updates and makeovers are Showhomes Triad N.C.’s other offerings, of which updates have been the most successful side of the business.

The staging services vary depending on various factors, including the size of a house and how much staging is done, but typically start at $2,500 and go up.

Jo Ann Morgan, a design consultant for Showhomes Triad N.C., said that people often equate staging with interior design but the two are different.

“We want to stage a home to appeal to the broadest possible, potential buyers,” Morgan said. “So it’s different. It’s not personalized.”

The traditional staging and home managers are in vacant properties, while updates can be done in vacant or occupied houses.

“But makeovers are occupied (homes) where the homeowner is trying to stay in the property until it’s sold,” Nancy Jones said.

Realtor Earla Clark chose Showhomes Triad N.C. when a house in Lewisville had been on the market for quite some time.

She said that her clients, who still lived in the high-end home, had done all the right things to make the house attractive, but other Realtors and potential buyers said that its master bedroom was too small for a king-sized bed.

Clark, a Realtor at Keller Williams with offices in Kernersville and High Point, said that the master bedroom was really large, but it had a unique layout that made it hard for potential buyers to recognize that.

“What was missing was visualizing the space through the buyer’s eye, and that’s what Nancy and her team were able to do,” Clark said.

Showhomes Triad N.C. provided updates, makeovers and staging for the house.

Clark said that Nancy Jones used many items already in the home and brought in a king-sized bed and linens.

Jones also had the 19-year-old house’s driveway pressure washed.

“The house was immaculate, but just pressure washing the driveway made it look like it was freshly poured,” Clark said.

The future and home managers

The Joneses attribute part of their success to their passion, including Morgan’s.

“The three of us are totally committed to not just growing the franchise, but we are committed to helping homeowners sell their houses,” Nancy Jones said.

The Joneses hope to continue growing their sales by signing on home managers, which Robbie Jones said is not for everyone.

“To qualify to become a home manager, you have to go through extensive background checks, which include credit and criminal,” Robbie Jones said.

Potential home managers also audition with their own furniture and pay fees to be in the program. They pay an upfront fee of $1,500, then a monthly fee that ranges from $1,000 to $4,000, depending on the house. They also pay the monthly utilities for the home and cover such things as trash, lawn care and — if there is one — pool maintenance. Once a house sells, the home managers get a stipend for moving and the opportunity to move into another home.

Homeowners pay a $1,500 fee to enter the program and a minimal fee for services when the real-estate contract is closed. They also pay for updates done to their property.

Nancy Jones said that the monthly fees charged to home managers are below the market rate for renting a comparable property.

The Joneses became home managers for Susi and David Tornow’s home in Oak Ridge when the Tornows recently moved into another house in Galax, Va.

The Oak Ridge house had been on the market for more than a year. While living in the house, the Joneses staged and did updates to the house. Instead of replacing their kitchen cabinets, the Joneses brought in workers to resurface the existing cabinets and did other updates such as new light fixtures and bathroom faucets.

“Robbie did a lot of the odd jobs that needed to be done, but it turned out to be a showcase,” Susi Tornow said.

“The home was just beautiful when that was done because otherwise, it would have been an empty house that was difficult to sell.

She said that once the house was put on the market, they had an offer within a few days, then another buyer made a higher offer within a week.

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