In the Beginning...
In the deepening real estate darkness of 2008, my wife and I had the questionable good fortune of owning a 5,000-square-foot, six bedroom spec house on more than two acres. It came to market at $4.295 million in Amagansett North. Even in early 2008, it was evident that the Hampton landscape was about to go through a challenging transition. With a good chunk of capital tied up, we were, naturally, concerned about how long we would need to hold the house before finding a buyer. We made the decision to furnish the house and actually move into it while we marketed the property. In February of that year, we enlisted the help of the very talented Celerie Kemble, who, in short order, put together a great interior design plan. By the early summer we had found a renter for our own house, and we moved into a fully furnished house on Canvasback Lane. On July 15, 2008, we officially began the process of finding an ultimate buyer.
The staging of houses both old and new was certainly not a novel concept. Tired, well-lived in houses had been the beneficiaries of makeovers for years, wherein sellers either hired designers to reinvigorate the aged interiors or tried to do so themselves. But as new construction took hold in the Hamptons, a number of savvy builders began to stage their projects. Some of these spec houses were partially furnished; the first floor commonly received the most furniture and accessories, while it was less often that the master upstairs was also redecorated. Other developers would furnish the entire house from the window and wall treatments, to the carpeting, and even right down to the audio visual systems. And why not? There are some significant benefits to furnishing a house. Let’s take a look.
Spec builders soon began to recognize that with 80 percent or more of buyers beginning their search on the internet, big, empty boxy rooms did not display well online or in the brochures that realtors gave to their colleagues and potential buyers. Once furnished however, these same rooms would come alive online and give potential buyers ample reason to contact their brokers for more information. Print advertising benefits similarly from a revamp. Common rooms, bedrooms, and even outdoor spaces begin to jump off the page with beautifully staged designs.
A broker will quickly see a difference in the reaction of buyers who walk into an empty house as opposed to a furnished spec house. Immediately, in the furnished house, the buyer understands the spatial relationships of the various rooms and can imagine living in the home themselves. Sometimes, they will actually sit in various rooms while talking among themselves or to their brokers. This is a very powerful dynamic. With so many houses being shown in the dead of winter, a buyer gets a much warmer feeling walking through a furnished new construction.
The Rental Option
And what’s wrong with generating some income from a well-furnished spec house until it finds its buyer? This is exactly what we are doing with a 9,000-squre-foot, three-acre estate with tennis court that has been exquisitely furnished on Bridgehampton’s iconic Ocean Road.
Have Furniture, Will Travel…or Not
And when the house sells, what happens to the furnishings? It is often that the buyer will actually want to purchase some, or all, of the furnishings just like in a resale. With so many houses selling close to the summer, it makes it very easy for a buyer to simply purchase the furnishings and begin using the house immediately, filling in or switching out pieces later on where needed. And if you are a prolific builder with multiple projects underway, then you can easily pack the decor up and move it to the next project. This was the situation recently when I found a buyer for one of my own listings in Water Mill south. The house had been furnished by M & M Custom Homes, but because the buyer had all their own furniture, M & M merely moved the furnishings north of the highway to another nearly complete project. Now ready for photography and showings, the mostly furnished 948 Deerfield Road home looks sensational at no additional cost to the developer.
Mega builder Joe Farrell has enthusiastically embraced the concept of staging. With so many houses underway, he has a warehouse from which he pulls unsold furnishings for various projects.
The very talented designer and developer James Michael Howard completely furnishes his residences, installing everything from custom carpets, window and wall treatments, and bedding, to wall art and table top objects. He offers the ultimate experience for buyers who wish to move into luxurious homes with only their toothbrush and clothes.
In the End…
I’m sure you’re dying to know what happened to our little furnished endeavor in Amagansett? Well, by October we found a buyer at slightly less than asking price. As it turns out, they wanted all of the furnishings, too, and spent 85 cents on the dollar for each piece. Thus, cementing in my mind forever the value of the furnished spec house. If this is something that appeals to you, call me today. I have several residences available that you can move into and use immediately.