Managing the upkeep and marketing of a vacant home in the current economic climate has many homeowners stressed and their budgets stretched thin. Having experienced the challenge of owning a couple of vacant vacation properties and paying two or three mortgages at various times in my real estate career, I can sympathize. Add up the cost of insurance on a vacant home (if you can get it), maintenance costs, homeowner's dues (these can be particularly expensive) and utilities, and this can exceed the family budget.

GOOD FOR 'SHOW'

Recently, a friend transitioning to a new job asked for assistance finding an inexpensive rental. Our real estate office had brochures for a company called Vacant Home Caretakers.

Vacant Home Caretakers offers an opportunity for relocation clients or people in transition to become a home manager and live in a neighborhood before they buy their next home. This saves them valuable dollars over expensive rentals and allows the home manager to provide a service in lieu of high rent. As the saying goes, "Find a need and fill it."

Vacant Home Caretakers started in 1979 in Washington state when active licensed realtor Suzanne Carnevali observed many homes sitting vacant in the Hanford area as a result of recent industry closures and job losses. Seeking a way to match caretakers to the vacant properties sitting on the market, Carnevali designed the "home manager" concept. The 30-year-old company now has several locations and is rapidly expanding due to the current economic climate.

This hassle-free service to homeowners and their real estate licensees provides carefully screened home managers who will stage the home, occupy the property, pay the utilities and care for the yard. This transformation enhances the home's value and salability, and there is no charge to the home owner or the real estate licensee for this service.

Home managers live in the home while it is on the market and are required to maintain the interior and exterior in "show condition" at all times. They are trained to create a welcoming ambiance, cooperate with all real estate showings (they will leave for all showings) and keep the home immaculate. Real estate licensees benefit by knowing the home will always be available and show well. These subtle nuances can make or break a sale.

A BENEFIT TO ALL

Having a home manager occupy the home offsets the costs of utilities, maintenance, security issues and insurance increases or cancellation from leaving the property vacant. Licensed, bonded and insured, Vacant Home Caretakers guarantees the home will be left in excellent condition when the home manager leaves the property after it sells.

Vacant Home Caretakers provides for the entire scope of the real estate cycle and benefits the community at large. When crime in the community is prevented, everyone feels safer and property values are protected to a greater degree.

Vacant Home Caretakers is a member of the National Association of Realtors and the Washington Association of Realtors.For more information on Vacant Home Caretakers, call (888) 783-8001 or e-mail info@vacanthomecaretakers.com.