Vol 6 No. 46 -August 9, 2006

Actors portray families in model homes

By Louise Bolger

Shakespeare wrote, "All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players," a concept some real estate marketers have extended to selling the family home. And what better way to sell a home to families than to have real life families in it, sort of living breathing furniture.

Sounds crazy, maybe, but an advertising and public relations firm in Los Angeles came up with the idea of placing actors in model homes portraying a family. It’s called “Homelife” and the actors don’t just sit around on the pretend furniture. They actually pretend to be a family with kids, games, toys — right down to spilling coffee on the carpeting and greeting you when you come in.

Centex Builders, which does a lot of building in Florida, some right here in Manatee County, has tested the concept in some of its Texas and California communities. A Santa Clarita, Calif., community has also set up a production which has become a form of community entertainment, in addition to a marketing tool attracting curiosity seekers and the press.

Staging a home for sale is not a new idea, the principal is to encourage buyers to mentally move into the home and persuade them to linger so that a lasting impressing is made. Real estate agents have always offered advice to their clients on getting a home ready for sale. Everything from new paint and carpeting to removing the kids water colors from the refrigerator. In addition, in recent years professional staging services have become popular to help homeowners rearrange furniture, accessorize, eliminate clutter and neutralize homes to broaden the appeal to buyers.

When I marketed corporate relocation properties for relocation companies, we utilized the services of marketing managers in some of the high end properties. The idea being that a nicely decorated home with real people living in it will warm up the property and show better to prospective buyers.

However, adding professional actors into the marketing mix could be a turn off by reducing the home buying experience to a spectacle. This is especially true if the potential buyers are not a family and can’t relate to the actors, or more likely, if the actors become a distraction. It’s an interesting concept that could ultimately work against the sale.

The publication relations firm and the builders who have created and tried Homelife feel it’s successful resulting in sales. They point out that not all the model homes in a community are populated with actors, and they don’t go as far as hanging clothes in the closets. The idea is to create something more memorable than the competition and increase traffic through the communities, which apparently has worked.

Employing actors to depict family members is like staging on steroids, but in a slow real estate market, whatever works works. It would sure be fun to see some of Manatee County’s builders try the Homelife system. It would get their communities noticed and employ a few out of work actors. I guess all the world really is a stage, curtain going up.

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