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Furnishings Help Vacant Home Sell

August 08, 1993|From Consumer Reports Books

It's a fact of life that furnished homes sell faster than empty ones. Part of the reason is aesthetics: A furnished home looks more comfortable and appealing and helps buyers visualize themselves living in the house. Another reason is psychological: The buyer often gets the impression that a vacant house is a hard-to-sell house. If you must leave your present home before you sell it, taking all or most of the furnishings, make some attempt to give your vacant home a lived-in look.

One solution is to rent furniture, preferably from a store with a designer or decorator on staff to help you make the right selections. Some stores charge a fee for the services of a decorator, others don't. Take into account other expenses too, such as pickup and delivery charges, security deposits and insurance. Depending on the quality of the furniture you select and where you live, expect to pay $100 to $400 to furnish a living room, for example.

You don't need to rent too much furniture--only the basic pieces for each room, along with some area rugs, lamps, throw pillows, artwork and a few accessories. The goal is to make the place look comfortable, attractive and spacious.

A cheaper and better solution for most sellers is to hire a housesitter, or home manger, who will furnish and live in the home and be prepared to vacate it on short notice. Having someone live in your home also deters vandals and reduces insurance rates, which can increase markedly if a home is left vacant.

You can find a housesitter either through word of mouth or local advertising, but because of the risk in bringing a stranger into your home, you may feel more comfortable using the services of professional managers hired through residential management services. Two such companies are Showhomes of America, phone (214) 243-1900, and Caretakers of America, phone (303) 233-2676. These services screen house-sitters, who generally apply for the program as a result of financial difficulties. Sitters are matched to homes according to their geographic preferences and the style of their furniture, which must look attractive and blend in with the home's design.

House-sitters pay the utility and maintenance costs and must carry a limited liability insurance policy. They are also obligated to keep a home clean and to take care of any maintenance problems. They must agree to make the home available for showing 12 hours a day, seven days a week and to vacate it in a matter of days. In return, the house-sitters are charged a rent that is 25% to 50% below market. The residential management company collects the rent as its fee.

Most homes that are manager-occupied sell in about 90 days, half the time it takes to sell an empty home. In addition, the average offer for an occupied home is at least 10% higher than for a vacant one.

How to Dress Up a Vacant Home

If you decide to furnish your vacant home with rental items, professional decorators who design model rooms and homes suggest that you add a few personal touches:

--Set the dining room table as for a formal dinner. --Put some brightly painted wooden toys or stuffed animals on top of a table or dresser in a nursery or child's bedroom. --Place some books and magazines on the coffee table in the living room. --Set attractive canisters on a kitchen counter. --Add green plants (artificial ones can be quite attractive) to soften an empty corner and make the house seem lived in. --Leave fresh towels and guest soap in the bathrooms.

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