Model Families Act as Human Props in Luxury Homes

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The Mueller Family in Tampa, Florida is living large under an unusual set of circumstances: They’re human props in an unsold luxury home.The Muellers live a nomadic lifestyle as part of a new trend in real estate. This marketing technique allows people to move into empty, unsold luxury homes for a fraction of what they’d cost to live in normally, on several conditions. They must keep the house pristine, vacate if an agent is showing the house, and move onto the next house when it’s sold.

Home-staging firms are very optimistic about this technique, claiming that having a family in a house creates a pleasant and homey atmosphere that’s very popular with potential homebuyers. It also allows for more organic and lived-in home staging that softens flaws and enhances focal points. The homes often sell faster and for more money as the result of model family living. Houses that are less lived in often feel hollow or dreary to homebuyers, and many house-staging firms refer to them as “naked homes.”

The stagers have very specific rules for their model families. Clothes must be organized and personal items minimized, and everything must be clean and properly placed at all times. Families like the Muellers have their living arrangements inspected regularly to make sure everything is still in it’s place.

The Muellers once owned seven homes and a bed and breakfast, but a financially devastating fall from grace caused them to lose all of it. Living as prop families has actually been a lifeline for them, allowing them to live in the opulent surroundings they’re used to on nothing more than minimum wage jobs at McDonald’s.

Custom homes are often valued at over one million dollars in the US, and are usually 17% more energy efficient than older homes. They’re also built in high-end luxury areas, and the home the Muellers currently occupy overlooks the tenth hole of an exclusive golf course in Tampa. The company they work for pays their moving costs, and the Muellers pay them about 1,200 in rent, plus household bills.

“This is an interesting trend for inventory homes. For the new home market, even the presence of a sales associate in every model helps make residences more ‘human’,” says Erik Cocks, Marketing at Arthur Rutenberg Homes. “I think this has the potential to positively affect prices as it keeps the residence from giving off the impression of an unwanted house and makes it a wanted ‘home’.”
The family actually enjoys the adventure of their living style, and celebrate every time one of their houses is sold. They’ve lived in five over the past two years and say that its drawn them closer together as a family.

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