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by SixFigureStart | April 29, 2009


Lost your job? Lost your house? Kill two birds with one stone by becoming a temporary occupant for a real estate "home staging" company! Move into an empty luxury home at a discounted rate, keep it looking fresh and fancy (like someone important actually lives there) until the property manager is able to sell it, then take your bonus and move on to the next one. It's all quite simple, really, so says the Wall Street Journal. People just won't buy that incredible property if they don't see another human squatting there first.

Home "staging" companies charge owners several thousand dollars to fill houses with attractive furniture -- but no human props. Faux homeowners could be the next big thing in staging. They supply "that little extra mint on the pillow," says Steve Rodgers, president of Windermere Exclusive Properties in San Diego, which has the listing on Windward Way. "Down-low and subtle is sometimes good."

Ms. Clavin responded to a Craigslist ad placed by Quality First Home Marketing, a San Diego startup. It aims to fill high-end empty houses with occupants who play the part of happy homeowners, in a bid to remove the price-depressing stigma of vacancy.

When a real-estate agent phones, Ms. Clavin says, " 'I live here' -- because technically, I do," and provides a broker's number before the caller inquires further. She must keep the house spotless between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. She usually gets only five minutes to light the candles, flip on music and disappear before a showing. If she has more time, she'll bake cookies to scent the home.

If the place sells in 90 days, she'll earn a relocation bonus, and move on to another empty asset.

And how sweet is this? You don't even have to pretend like you could ever actually afford to live there!

"I already know they can't afford the house," Ms. Heineke says. "I want to know if they can replicate a person who can afford that house."

Think you have what it takes to replicate high society? There is precedent for this sort of thing, although in the interest of full disclosure, Kramer ended up with very mixed results.

--Posted by Steven Schiff, Vault News & Commentary