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Is the idea of human props taking the sharing economy too far?

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The sharing economy has undoubtedly been a tremendous boon for the efficient utilization of our resources.  Whether it’s our homes or our cars, a plethora of businesses have sprung up that have offered us the potential to rent out our unused, or under-used, things to others.

One of the more interesting applications has come from the same property market that has spawned the likes of Air BnB.  Rather than renting out spare capacity in existing homes however, this new approach involves renting out entire homes that are vacant yet on the market for sale.

The model is an outlandish one that sees people rent out homes that are on the market in return for making them appear lived in to potential buyers.  The thing is, they have to give the property an occupied feel, without it looking as though there is anyone actually living in it.  They must clean and preserve the house as though it were brand new.  If a viewing is to take place, they have to vacate the property temporarily, whilst of course, once the house is sold, then they have to vacate it permanently.

For the home owner there is a clear benefit of such an arrangement.  Their home gets all of the benefits of having a lived in home provides the sale process, with real estate experts suggesting that such a look and feel helps properties sell both faster and for more money.

The whole process is run by a Florida based company called Showhomes.  Traditionally they would offer property makeovers and stagings to make properties appear more attractive to potential buyers.  They have recently ramped up this process however by deploying what they call ‘managers’ to make homes appear more homely.

Filling vacant houses with stuff, the firm said, “enhances the focal points, softens age and minimizes flaws.” But adding in fake homeowners adds something else entirely, they say, turning quasi-spiritual: “There’s an energy there. You can feel it. There’s something. There’s life.”

There are currently people ‘living’ in around 15 homes in the Tampa Bay region, with most being luxury properties valued at over $500,000.  Some of the ghosts have lived in their properties for over 18 months, whilst others under a week.  What’s more, the ghosts are also expected to bring their own high quality furniture and a penchant for cleanliness with them.

The ghosts are also expected to pay Showhomes a rent per month, plus cover any household bills for the duration of their stay.  The decor of the house, and indeed location of furniture, will all be decided by Showhomes designers, and maintained via random inspections, even down to how clothes are to be displayed in wardrobes.

It really doesn’t sound like much of a deal at all, and it’s quite something that it’s grown to the extent that it has.  Could you see this working where you live?  Would you even consider it yourself?

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