In the Beginning… In the deepening real estate darkness of 2008, my wife and I had the questionable good fortune of having a 5,000 SF, 6 bedroom spec house on 2+ acres coming to market at $4.295M in Amagansett North. Even in early 2008, it was evident that the Hamptons landscape was about to go through a challenging transition. With a good chunk of capital tied up, we were naturally concerned with how long we would need to hold the house before it found 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, having found a renter for our own house, we moved into a now fully furnished house on Canvasback Lane and on July 15th of that year officially began the process of finding our ultimate buyer.
Stage Right: The staging of houses both old and new was certainly not a novel concept. Tired, well lived in houses had been for years the beneficiaries of freshening up where sellers either hired a designer to reinvigorate the interiors or tried it 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 would get a partial furnishing with the first floor commonly getting the most furniture and accessories along with maybe the master upstairs. Other developers would furnish the entire house from the window and wall treatments, to the carpeting and right down to the audiovisual systems. And, why not? There are some significant benefits to furnishing a house. Let’s take a look.
Photography: It began to dawn on spec builders that with 80 percent or more of buyers beginning their search on the internet that big, empty boxy rooms did not play well online or even on the brochures that realtors would ultimately hand out to their colleagues and potential buyers. But once furnished, these same rooms would now come alive online and give a potential buyer ample reason to contact their broker find out more. Print advertising similarly benefits as both common rooms and bedrooms as well as outdoor spaces begin to jump off the page with beautifully staged spaces.
Showings: It doesn’t take a broker long to see the difference in the reaction of buyers when they walk into an empty house, as opposed to a furnished spec house. Immediately, in the furnished house, the buyer begins to understand the spatial relationships of the various spaces and can imagine living in and using the house themselves. Sometimes they will actually sit in various rooms while they talk amongst themselves or with the 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 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 SF, 3-acre estate with tennis 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? Very often the buyer will actually want to buy 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 merely purchase the furnishings and begin using the house immediately, filling in or switching out later on where needed. And if you are a prolific builder with multiple projects underway then you can easily pack it up and move it to the next project. I recently found a buyer for one of my own listings of a mostly furnished house in Water Mill South for M & M Custom Homes. The buyer had their own furniture so M & M merely moved the furnishings North of the Highway to their nearly complete project there. Now ready for photography and showings, the mostly furnished 948 Deerfield Road looks sensational and at no additional cost to the developer. Mega builder Joe Farrell has enthusiastically embraced staging and with so many houses underway, actually has a warehouse from which he pulls unsold furnishings for various projects. And if you are the very talented designer/developer James Michael Howard, you actually fully furnish the house from the custom carpets to the window and wall treatments, right down to the bedding, wall art, and table top objects, to offer the ultimate in furnished houses, where a buyer could move in with only their toothbrush and clothes, and live in a house that might have been outfitted for the most discerning of high end buyers.
In the End… So I’m sure you’re dying to know what happened to our little furnished endeavor in Amagansett? Well, by October we found our buyer at slightly less than ask. As it turns out, they wanted all the furnishings too at 85 cents on the dollar 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 available that you could move in to and use immediately.