Business & Economy
7:46 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

How To Sell A Home? Let Someone Else Live There

Showhomes, Home Staging
Almost all of the furniture in this home belongs to Showhomes. Cora Blinsman only brought her own bed along.
Credit Eric Mennel / WUNC

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. Cora 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 Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s  nicest, upscale communities.  This one is currently going for $430,000. It's got  four bedrooms, two baths. The kitchen has two cooking surfaces; gas and electric. And 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," said Blinsman. "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.  He sys 70 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.

And these are not always easy homes to sell. They’re often worth more than a million dollars. The home Blinsman is in had been on the market for 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 so they’re warm when you come home."

"You know, pick your stuff up, and make sure it looks nice... The stuff I was always telling my kids," said Blinsman.

Showhomes, Home Staging
Cora Blinsman pays $1,100 a month on a $430,000 home. But she can be forced to move out at a moments notice.
Credit Eric Mennel / WUNC

Also, don’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 a buyer might love the house, but hate the Cowboys.

Blinsman says the rules haven’t been so bad. On the contrary, this home at this time has been really good for her. She says 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.'"

And this is the real trick behind Showhomes. It’s not just about giving the buyer 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.