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When Giving the Home a Lived-In Feel is Work

September 25, 2014 | By

When Calvenn Starre moved from Orange County to San Diego, he immediately looked for a home in Rancho Santa Fe, a community he had always dreamed of living in. Yet once he and his family were settled, his dream quickly turned into a nightmare.

“I live on the Internet all day long,” says Starre, chief operating officer of startup FitTeam. “I realized that the Internet speed there was the most horrible thing ever. I literally didn’t work in the house for three months because it was so frustrating.”

Luckily, Starre hadn’t bought or rented the home with the questionable Internet speed. The house was for sale the entire time he lived there — a situation he has found himself in half a dozen times over the past two years. The reason? Starre is a home manager for Showhomes, a home staging company that places people in for sale houses so they’ll sell faster.

Launched a decade ago, the Showhomes’ home manager program is very selective, says Lisa Gulliver, the co-owner of a franchise in San Diego. Though the rules are straightforward, not everyone is necessarily equipped for the role, which requires a certain kind of discipline.

“We’re looking for neat and tidy people who can keep a home beautifully staged to show on a moment’s notice,” Gulliver explains. “They also can’t mind moving several times a year, so we look for people who are super flexible and easygoing. They’re basically on our team and are helping to sell the home, so they have to have the right attitude.”

Unusual as it may seem, the home manager program remains an unequivocal success for Showhomes, says Gulliver, with houses selling about 30 percent faster than their vacant counterparts. The franchise network has helped more than 25,000 homeowners sell their properties.

“We’ve had many, many experiences where houses have been on the market for a long time, and then we stage and put in a home manager and they sell right away,” she says. “Putting a home manager into a home really brings life into a home.”

The program works just as well for home managers, says Starre, who has been able to test drive neighborhoods throughout San Diego without having to prematurely commit to one. What’s more, home managers pay roughly half of what rent would normally cost. And since they don’t have to commit to an extended lease, they’re liberated from the prolonged frustration that comes with dealing with, say, a bad Internet connection.

There’s a tradeoff, of course, as the program requires members to keep their adopted homes clean and organized. There are rules, for instance, that prevent them from displaying family photos or leaving their towels hanging in the bathroom.

Yet for Starre, the benefits far outweigh the ostensible hassles. “It’s second nature to us to hang our towels in our closet on a hanger,” he says.

“The kids know that before we leave the house, they’ve got to clean up their rooms and have everything shipshape. It’s been a great discipline exercise.”

After a two-year run as a home manager, Starre is nonetheless ready to call it quits. His wife, he says, is ready to put down roots in the city, and by now they have a better understanding of where they want to live. Though his experience has been overwhelmingly positive, Starre concedes that it’s not for everyone.

“It’s a great program and I recommend it to people” he says. “But I don’t recommend it to too many people, because if they’re slobs I don’t want it to look bad on me!”

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