mortgage

Staging 'twist' helps vacant homes sell

A 2004 Showhomes survey of 800 top-producing Realtors found that vacant homes spend an extra 30 to 60 days on the market and sell for at least 10 percent less than occupied homes.

In the past, absentee homeowners like the Hassells had to pay for upkeep and utilities on an empty home. They also shelled out a monthly fee for a houseful of staged furniture that may or may not have helped the cause.

Now, couples like the Hassells are finding that moving in home managers with their own upscale furniture and artwork keeps the home in show condition, speeds the sale and fetches top dollar. The upfront staging fee is often quickly recouped by having the utilities paid by the home manager.

“I'm the only one around the water cooler who is smiling about the real estate market these days.”

A few regional companies offer combination home staging and residence management services. They include Prestige Properties, Castle Keepers and Mansion Minders in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex; and Creative Show Homes and No Vacancy in Atlanta.

However, Showhomes is the only brand offering these services nationally.

Showhomes' origin in the 1986 oil bust in Oklahoma City and Dallas positioned it well, not only to compete effectively during the housing boom of the new millennium -- when staging was all the rage -- but to remain viable when the subprime bubble burst.

"We're poised this year for our fifth consecutive year of double-digit growth," says Thom Scott, director of operations for Showhomes.

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"Even in the housing boom, we did really, really well. The buyer psychology behind selling vacant houses just works, regardless of the market. I'm the only one around the water cooler who is smiling about the real estate market these days."

How does home management work? With Showhomes, your property must list for $500,000 or more to qualify. Showhomes then charges an upfront staging fee of $1,000 to $3,000.

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