Those new service sector jobs: human props to sell real estate

by on July 9, 2014 at 2:17 am in Economics, Uncategorized | Permalink

The future is in marketing, right?:

When the Mueller family sits for dinner, the leftover broccoli and crepes are already wrapped in plastic, the kitchen is beyond spotless, and the rest of the home is so tucked-away tidy it looks like they just moved in. In a way, they have: Every inch of furnishing, every little trinket and votive candle, sits precisely as designers placed it five months ago. That would make them the most perfect suburban ideal, except for one catch: This isn’t actually their home. Bob and Dareda Mueller and their three grown sons are, instead, part of an “elite group” of middle-class nomads who have agreed to an outlandish deal. They can live cheaply in this for-sale luxury home if it looks as if they never lived here at all.

The home must remain meticulously cleaned and preserved: the temperature precisely pleasant, the mirrors crystalline clear. If a prospective buyer wants to see the home, they must quickly disappear. And when the home sells, they must be gone for good, off to the next perfect place.

That they do everything an owner would do — sleeping, making memories, learning the home’s quirks and secrets — imbues an otherwise-empty home with an unmistakable energy, say executives with Showhomes Tampa, the home-staging firm that moves them in. It also helps the homes sell faster, and for more money.

“They have to live a very different, very difficult life,” said Kim Magnuson, a sales director. Added franchise owner Linda Saavedra, “The home managers act like human props … and (with buyers) it’s like magic. It works phenomenally well.”

The full story is here, and for the pointer I thank Ted Frank.  File under Markets in Everything.

1 Brett July 9, 2014 at 2:25 am

I think the key section there is where they talk about both of them working at McDonald’s. If it wasn’t for the “house vagrant” thing they’d be homeless, packed into a tiny apartment together, or packed in with relatives somewhere. Not much a job.

My guess is that the future “pay the bills” white collar job is going to be some type of monitoring technician/robot watcher/liability checker thing, where you’re just constantly checking on systems and making sure all the hoops required by various laws are met (sort of like a cashier monitoring a bunch of self check-out stations). One aspect of a larger and more complex economy is that you need more work done just to manage that complexity, which I suspect will be done by humans with machine assistance.

2 Rahul July 9, 2014 at 4:56 am

I’m not sure if it is a good deal. They pay the company $1200 a month plus all utilities. Besides they are bringing in all their own furnishings & furniture.

Can’t they just rent an apartment for that money?

3 Jake July 9, 2014 at 9:34 am

$1200 doesn’t buy much for a family of 6 these days. Living in DC I’m sure my sample is biased, but around here you can get one bedroom in a group house in a nice area for that amount. Getting a ‘luxury home’ for that price is a pretty solid deal.

4 Urso July 9, 2014 at 10:21 am

$1200 doesn’t strike me as a startingly amazing deal for Tampa. Zillow shows a *ton* of 4 BR homes in the $150k-200k range, which comes out to ~$1200 a month. Are these “luxury” homes? No, but still seems better than this weird life. De gustibus I guess.

5 ummm July 9, 2014 at 3:55 am

these jobs create economic value

6 dearieme July 9, 2014 at 4:36 am

“the home-staging firm”: what entrepreneurial spirit!

“They have to live a very different, very difficult life”: oh what bollocks!

7 Steve Sailer July 9, 2014 at 6:50 am

The epitome of the last housing bubble were all the human signs juggling arrows pointing to open houses:

8 prior_approval July 9, 2014 at 7:13 am

‘File under Markets in Everything.’

Or the culture that is America.

9 rayward July 9, 2014 at 7:55 am

Empty houses are far more difficult to sell than occupied houses. One explanation is that prospective buyers can’t think conceptually or in abstract terms, or see in their minds eye the arrangement of their furniture, photos, books, etc. An empty house is just an empty house. In a place such as Tampa, with so many relocating from far off places, they can’t see themselves or anybody else living in an empty house. I have been in Tampa since before it was “America’s Next Great City”, when it actually had charm, when it was very ethnic (Italian, Spanish, Cuban, Greek, and “Gringos” as the Latins called people like me), with very ethnic neighborhoods, restaurants, and stores. Today, Tampa is an empty vessel, like those houses with make believe people living in them.

10 The Anti-Gnostic July 9, 2014 at 9:17 am

I lived for several years in Tampa. I loved the place, and it had some great redneck, old hippy dives in addition to the Latin flavor. What happened?

11 J July 9, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I don’t mean to be rude, but when has anyone ever called Tampa “America’s Next Great City”?

12 rayward July 9, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Anyone who spent time in Tampa 30 plus years ago will remember the ubiquitous slogan; it even appeared on the old Sombrero. Granted, it was ridiculous, but it’s how many in Tampa saw its future. The actual future, however, is depicted in George Packer’s book, The Unwinding.

13 China Cat July 9, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Another explanation is a variation on the bandwagon phenom.

No one buys a vacant house the way no one buys the last orange in the bin- Everyone gets the idea that the thing for sale has been rejected by everyone else.

14 Sam July 9, 2014 at 8:00 am

File under capacity utilization in everything

15 Jake July 9, 2014 at 9:35 am

As with a lot of sharing economy type stuff I don’t have any problem with this, and I’m sure it’s helping a lot of people, but the fact that it exists is a symptom of some worrying trends.

16 regularjoeski July 9, 2014 at 9:49 am

Not new. My daughter went to school with the kids of people who did that in the late 1980’s. The parents said if you were willing to move with 30 days notice you could rent great houses for low cost. The real estate company always had another house in the same school district for them to move into. It was a “win-win” for the realtors and renters. House looked lived in and renters who took care of the house while getting a great bargain.

17 byomtov July 9, 2014 at 10:43 am

Correct. Not new.

I had a friend who was in the business of buying, remodeling, and reselling houses in the late 80’s – 90’s. When the house was ready for resale, or even before, he would find people willing to live there for free until it was resold. I don’t know about all the staging business, but it sure cut insurance costs, which are murder on unoccupied houses.

18 Rahul July 9, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Is there an element of deception here? i.e. Do the buyers ask much about the old owners? Is it obvious to them that these are dummy residents?

19 Tom Noir July 9, 2014 at 10:22 am

NO ONE has mentioned Arrested Development here yet??

20 Urso July 9, 2014 at 10:46 am

This post feels incomplete without a “COME ON!” at the end

21 Aretino July 9, 2014 at 12:14 pm

A couple of points on how this works in practice:

1. The owner of the house doesn’t get any rent; it all goes to the house staging company.

2. This isn’t really an option for low income renters, since house staging companies strongly prefer tenants who have higher end furniture, and enough of it to fill a higher end house.

22 July 10, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.

You obviously know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving us something enlightening to

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