Staging 'twist' helps vacant homes sell

It usually takes five days to bring in the furniture and furnishings, which are normally owned by the home manager who will move in -- not as a tenant, but as a subcontractor to Showhomes.

Instead of rent, the manager pays a monthly fee to Showhomes and picks up all utilities. Showhomes pays for additional home insurance, as most homeowner policies will not cover a vacant house.

At closing, the seller pays Showhome a "success fee" of 0.25 percent to 1 percent of the listing price (as opposed to the sales price), with a half-percent being most common. Some franchise offices use a two-tiered fee structure: 0.75 percent if the home sells within 90 days, 0.25 percent thereafter.

"On a million-dollar home, we would typically charge a $2,500 setup fee and a $5,000 success fee if and when the home sold, paid at closing," says Scott. "If we didn't succeed in producing a sale, the homeowner would only pay the setup fee."

Management material

The home manager plays a pivotal role in the success of the home staging/ residence management model.

Scott is himself a home manager in Nashville, Tenn., where Showhomes is based.

He's currently managing his 12th house, which is listed at $1.7 million. He pays a monthly fee of between $1,500 to $1,800 plus utilities to live in the home and keep it in show-ready condition 24/7.

Scott says it's difficult to compare the monthly fee to what the home managers would be charged to rent a similar home.

"We don't often compare rental rates because the houses we do are not really rental properties," he says. "You don't see many $2 million houses for rent."

Home managers must have a touch of wanderlust. In many cases, they move back out of the house soon after settling in.

Carol Dicker, the relocation director for Prestige Properties and a home manager for 12 years, moved five times in the last year alone.

The mother of four boys has lived in everything from a $300,000, 3,500-square-foot home to a $1 million, 5,000-square-foot new construction.


Her longest stay? Three and a half years. Her shortest? Thirty days.

"Psychologically, when homes are vacant, buyers feel they have more bargaining power, but when someone is in the home, it takes that element away," she says. "I enjoy each experience. You don't get too sedentary and you certainly don't collect excess stuff. It keeps you kind of focused."

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