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Actors play host at open house

Staging critics say it's distracting

H

ome sellers long ago discovered that small touches could boost selling prices – fresh flowers, the smell of freshly baked cookies. Now a real estate developer, Centex of Dallas, is adding in beautiful people, according to CNNMoney.com.

The experiment in what's called "staging" is simple. Homebuyers enter a home and see not just furniture but real people – actors – playing out the life they might lead there.

"Staged model homes tend to be sterile and dry – this was a way to put the heartbeat back into the home," said Jim Garfield, spokesperson for Roddan Paolucci Roddan, Centex's publicist.

The Centex program, which its creators call HomeLife, has been used twice so far at Milestone, a 166-house development in Santa Clarita, about 40 kilometres north of Hollywood.

In one performance, the "model" family spent about three hours pretending it was Mom's birthday. They baked a cake, sang "Happy Birthday" and the children drew and framed a picture – of a Centex house. The original cast included a former Baywatch hunk, Jason Simmons, in the role of Dad. "It's physically manifesting somebody's dream," said Garfield.

Amanda Larson, a marketing director for Centex, says the idea came about when she sat down with Roddan's creative people and worked out an idea to make the visiting-a-model-home experience "more interactive and more memorable”.

The scenes are not completely scripted. Instead, actors are given scenarios, schooled on the home's features and benefits so they could answer visitors' questions. They pretend shoppers are guests in their house.

The foray into the fringes of home staging is not without its skeptics.

Barb Schwarz, a staging pioneer and the author of Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money, says, "The last thing a Broker wants to see is people in the house. Homebuyers will start talking to the people – and not about the house."

Schwarz says the whole idea of staging is to focus on the space. "You're selling the space," she says, "not the stuff and certainly not the people. Staging a home is about depersonalizing it. Putting people in it is the ultimate way of personalizing the space."

July 19, 2006 in Selling Toronto Real Estate | Permalink

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Comments

This is a pretty ingenious marketing ploy! Wow, I didn't know that Centex was doing this! Very interesting and food for thought to use in the local market where I work...

Posted by: Kari | Jul 20, 2006 7:43:22 PM

Call me an idiot, but "the point of staging a home is to depersonalize it, but let's hire people to personalize it?"

If I walked into this scripted birthday party scene I would vomit in my shoes and do a U turn. This may work on people south of the border but I think we're or at least I hope we're a little less naive up here.

Did some "C" actor come up with this idea to make a buck???

Posted by: Steve King | Jul 19, 2006 11:48:58 PM

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