Saturday, January 24, 2015

Have You Used Home Tenders? - Staging Homes for Sale

I have a friend that considered using home tenders for a vacant house she had up for sale.  If you don't know or have never heard of home tenders, here's a brief description.  

Home Tenders are babysitters for your empty house.  The sale pitch goes like this, “To sell it faster and for more money, Home Tenders transforms your vacant home into a outstanding and appealing “model home.”

The catch is that you allow strangers to live in your house.  These people are different from tenants because they do not sign an agreement with the home owner. 
Here’s how it works:  Home tender companies advertise for people to baby sit properties.

Must be an honest, motivated and responsible individual. After clearing our credit/background check, you will be trained in the basic duties required of a Home tender resident, which include keeping the home in ready-to-show condition. Then, for a monthly fee that’s much lower than a comparable rent or lease, you (and your family) can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in a home until the home sells.

Key advantages of being a home tender:
Reduce living expenses and only pay a fraction of the cost of ownership. Usage fees are at least 50-70% less than a comparable living arrangement.
Most credit difficulties are not an issue.
Start up costs are very little.
You get to use your furniture.
Able to live in an exceptional home.
Maintain an upscale lifestyle without sacrifice.
Able to evaluate various areas and communities before committing to lease or a purchase.

Home tenders attract people who:
Are between jobs.
Are uncertain about their future location, employment or relationships.
Have encountered some financial or credit difficulties (such as the foreclosure of their own home).
Have plans that only require temporary housing.

Like the idea of living in an attractive, home for a fraction of the typical cost.

Sites like Zillow have forums with titled, what problems have you encountered with home tenders living in your home? what problems have you encountered with home tenders, house managers, or live in specialists living in your home when you were trying to sell your home quickly???

My friend being concerned about horror stories, complied a list of questions for a company referred to her.  The following partial email is the result:

In 5 years and 500 properties this is the weirdest set of questions we have ever encountered. I will answer them below individually in blue.

Shannon Boswell

I have a few questions I hope you don’t mind asking:

3.       Is it correct that First American Home Tenders, Inc. filed as a Domestic for Profit Corporation in the State of Florida on Friday, May 21, 2010? Yes

4.       Shannon M. Boswell was President and now serves as in the Month to Month Home Manager Program.  Is Mr Boswell responsible for weekly announced and random inspection visits? The question is a little jumbled but I will do my best. Michael Shannon Boswell is a very big man and is one of the original 2 founders. I am writing this and the day to day operations manager, CEO and President and only officer of the company. Weekly random inspections are not generally performed. Realtors are our best asset when it comes to inspections. Our showing instructions include language that says the home is staged by us. It asked for feedback on showings. Realtors are happy to provide feedback. Any negative feedback is dealt with the same day or the next business day.

Inspections/Showings: Any visit/inspection of the home is done by calling or texting the home manager with a minimum of 1 hours’ notice. The home manager vacates the property and the showing or inspection is conducted. If an inspection is done, then a follow up report with pictures is generated. If violations are found, the home manage will be warned and give a specific number of hours or days to correct. Then a follow up inspection is conducted which generates another photo report. If the violations are not corrected the home manager is issued 21 day notice to vacate. In 500 properties done now, twice have we had to issue 21 day notice for failure to comply.

5.       Is it correct that First American Home Tenders, Inc. is not a member of the Better Business Bureau? Correct. You have to pay for a membership which gives me, the business owner, nothing except the ability to hide negative feedback from consumers. If you don’t pay they post everything. Is the company a member of professional business associations? No except that I am an Accredited Staging Professional (ASP). Which ones? There just aren’t that many companies like ours. Most don’t last 5 years like us or the national franchise charges for their services.

7.       There is a video covered by local news from 2011. That was less than a year after the company was started.  Has the company been covered by the press favorably more recently? Nope most of those stories are sought out by the business owner and I haven’t needed to do so since.

8.       Does owner/agent have complete access to my property? Yes with an hours’ notice to the home manager.

9.       Do you use model home type furniture or the Home Manager’s personal furniture? We use appropriate furniture for the home. We are not a decorating service, we are a staging service that does it for free. Depends on the home as an example: We have a $2million dollar home in Keene’s Point Windermere. It is 6,600 sq ft 5 bedrooms, media room and a full study. We have a combination of both in that home. The home in the title of this email is only builder grade with no upgrades to speak of and 1/10th the value. It would probably be completely done by the home manager. Sometimes in a case like this a good home manager would have everything except the formal living and dining areas. In that case we would provide those.

10.   What type of background checks are performed on Home Managers? As thorough as possible. We do prior address locators to check other states if needed. They must be free from criminal misdemeanors, felonies and prior evictions. We check the terrorist and sex offender national database as well. Is the Home Manager an employee and/or client of First American Home Tenders, Inc.? Client Is that information available to owner/agent? No per the rules of our background check company and corporate policy.

11.   Has your company and/or owner been forced to legally evict a Home Manger?We are unable to evict people. They are not tenants. We have to go through an ejectment. We have been through the process completely once and began it two other times out of 500 homes. Always to our satisfaction.

12.   Are Home Managers screened for smoking and pets? Yes, no smoking inside the home, pets are contingent on the home, realtor and homeowner. If natural hardwood floors are present we do not allow pets even if the owner and Realtor agree. Generally pets are not allowed. Another factor is the pet itself. If everyone agrees pets are ok, then we have to meet the pet prior to an approval. Generally we have them bring the pet to the showing. Are they most often couples, families or single? There is no normal demographic. It is all of the above.

14.   Best references are independent word of mouth. Agreed but so is credibility and longevity. In the rare instance we are asked for references we will give out a couple of names for Realtors that have used our service in the past. Jami you are very familiar with the one that is our oldest and has done by far the most homes with us of anyone. We can provide that information if it is necessary. 

Are there any available on internet and/or social media? None that I am aware of. We do not solicit our previous homeowners and realtors for such information. At this stage in our company’s life it is usually credibility that is more powerful. We have many realtors we have worked with over the years.