Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I'll buy the house, if they stay and change the diapers

In California, my motherland, a real estate company has hired actors to inhabit a model house, to show prospective buyers just how happy they would be there. They offer you coffee and fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, and the kids take your kids on a tour of their rooms, to show them how cool the house is. Really.

One of the prospects who visited the inhabited model liked the idea, saying that "it makes it real." Sort of a spooky echo of Tyrell's "more real than real" line in Blade Runner. Wasn't the hyperreality of Disneyland enough, SoCal? Did you really run out of waiter and waitress jobs for all of those out-of-work actors?

A woman from another home staging company, who prepares homes to make them more appealing to buyers does point out that there is a potential downside:

"'[It] could be sort of a turn-off,' and if the staged family did not reflect the family structure of the shoppers, it could limit the number of buyers."
Which shines a bright light on what's already obvious in the photos: the company that set this up believes that their target audience is a fit, white family, composed of a mom, dad, boy, and girl. Or they believe that that is the family that most of their customers aspire to be. One photo shows that the first possibility is not true, with a not-so-fit, gray-haired woman strolling by the faux family, seemingly amused.

That they're holding up this modern Leave It to Beaver clan as the gold standard of families is not so cool. Either that or they're keeping a series of families waiting in the green room, so that they can swap them in to match whoever is coming up the walk. That's not so cool either.

Family demographics and assumptions aside, my real question is, What's so wrong with these houses that they won't sell themselves? At this point, I'll take anything that keeps the water out.


  1. Wow, that's messed up. Do people really need to be convinced to buy a house like that? You should be able to picture yourself living there - but who doesn't have enough imagination to picture that on their own?!? I'm so with you -- whatever family structure they put in there could totally turn off a lot of the prospective buyers!

  2. Exactly what I was going to say, LB.

    Oh, and this: creepy, creepy, creepy.

  3. "Staging" a house--dolling it up with furniture and decor as if someone were living there--is a lesser version of the same thing.

    Something to contemplate: The people walking through the house probably are in the market to buy *some* house. Your job isn't to convince them that they want to buy a house; they already do. Your job is to get them to prefer this house over the others they will see. And, with a little luck, you'll also convince them the house is worth a few bucks more than they would have paid otherwise.

    It would be interesting to know how the people living in the house feel about their job. Their job isn't to live a real life, have petty squabbles, leave a pile of clothes in the laundry room. Their job is to live a model life--and then promote it to other people. Hmmm.

  4. Anonymous12:42 PM

    I'm in real estate and can't imagine this going over as well as They would like. They are isolating a HUGE majority of buyers. And yes, why wouldn't the house sell itself? They obviously don't have a lot of faith in their product.

    When I show furnished models I'd say half of the prospects like it, for visualization purposes. But the other half like vacant apartments so they can see an empty canvas. Plus, we DON'T have fake people living there.

    And one last thought: those poor kids 'working' it showing the other kids around. Sounds *real* fun. whoopie.

  5. I thought the weird thing was describing the actors as "docents", like the house was a museum. Furnished model homes are weird enough to me.

    About the Leave-It-To-Beaverish actors...from what I remember, Santa Clarita was pretty white anyway. Not an excuse, just perhaps the marketing justification. If this were happening here (just outside metro NYC) then the actors would either be baby boomer hedge fund managers or haitian immigrants...not that anyone who isn't a hedge fund manager could afford a house around here!