mortgage

Staging 'twist' helps vacant homes sell

Quick sales

Scott says that in most cases, homes with resident managers sell. Fast.

"We beat market conditions by half, usually," Scott says. "Take Orange County, Calif. That's a really slow market these days, there's nothing moving, but we had 11 sales in the last 60 days of $1 million-plus houses in neighborhoods where nothing else is selling."

Showhomes did a case study in Chicago for the last quarter of 2007, tracking 28 homes it staged with home managers against 28 comparable homes the owners left vacant.

The result: Showhomes sold much quicker for 93 percent of the listing price, while the majority of vacant homes had not sold by the end of the quarter and their listing prices had dropped by 14 percent. Some of those homes are still on the market today.

“We beat market conditions by half, usually.”

Carm Panzarella, a real estate agent with John Greene Realtor in Naperville, Ill., took a chance and brought Showhomes in on a $600,000 listing that had died on the vine for nearly a year. It sold within a month.

"It was fabulous," she said. "The home managers were an executive couple and they had the most gorgeous furniture. They allowed showings whenever they were scheduled. It got the job done."

Scott says the secret is focusing on the 45-minute threshold.

"That's the magic number," he says. "If you can get somebody to spend 45 minutes in the house, they're way more likely to buy the house. They need to be able to see themselves living there."

That's where mere staging often falls short.

"Staging these days with just furniture without a home manager is not producing the sales results it did in the boom," Scott says. "A lot of staging companies use rental furniture and everything looks really generic and it still looks like nobody lives there.

"One of the best compliments I can get from a Realtor is, 'Wow! I didn't know that home was staged!' We go to great lengths to make our houses not look staged. When you go to our houses, it looks like a really meticulous homeowner lives there. It's full of life, food in the fridge, clothes in the closets, maybe even color-coordinated. You walk in the closet and go wow, I want this life!"

Ironically, the subprime mortgage collapse has put Showhomes back where it started: fluffing up foreclosures.

"We are doing more and more foreclosure business these says; about 15 percent of our inventory is foreclosures and we expect that to rise, especially in Texas, Florida, Michigan, and Riverside County, Calif., where there are tons of foreclosures," says Scott.

As for Trenton and Tiffany Hassell, they may soon be Showhomes clients again. Tiffany has already inquired with their Dallas Realtor about a Showhomes residential manager for their Texas home after the Mavs traded her husband to the New Jersey Nets in a mid-season, multi-player deal for Jason Kidd.

Jay MacDonald is a contributing editor based in Texas.

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