Wanted: Neat Freaks To Live Cheaply In Mansions, Disappear On Command

Hiding your sleeping bag in the attic is not required.

Hiding your sleeping bag in the attic is not required.

Help wanted: must own enough upscale furnishings to fill a large house. Applicants must be meticulously neat and able to make a house look like someone lives there, but without making it look like someone lives there. Your compensation: being able to live in a luxury home for below-market rents.

This job isn’t for everyone: most people don’t normally organize their clothes by color in the closet or place their toothbrush in a rack at precisely the right angle. However, there are plenty of wealthy families who lost their own homes in the recession and don’t mind being told how to fluff their pillows and where to put their votive candles.

A house that’s professionally staged, or filled with furniture and decorated to look like someone lives there, always looks fake. That’s why ShowHomes, a franchised company, hires “home managers” to live in fancy, empty houses and turn them into homes. The managers and their families live there sometimes for just a few weeks, and sometimes for more than a year.

The Tampa Bay Times interviewed one of these families, a couple with three grown sons who currently live with them in a $750,000 estate outside of Tampa. They moved to Florida from Missouri specifically to become home managers, and had tried to turn a large inheritance into a bigger real estate fortune, but the housing crash hit and left them broke and homeless. Now the parents work for McDonald’s while their kids work part time, helping to cover the $1,200 rent. And when a realtor calls, the family clears out on short notice.

‘Human props’ stay in luxury homes but live like ghosts [Tampa Bay Times]