MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – We’ve all heard about staging homes — bringing in special furniture to make the house more attractive and marketable.

But some upscale homes add people to the equation, and if you’re willing to think outside the box, it’s an opportunity to live a luxury lifestyle at a fraction of the cost.

Annette Hruby really loves her home.

“It’s great for entertaining,” she said. “I invite my family over, my friends over.”

She loves living in the spacious, four-bedroom, five-bathroom beauty in Eden Prairie.

“I have a really nice view with a deck,” she said, “so I can go outside and grill.”

It’s on the market for $699,000 and always needs to be ready for showings, but she doesn’t own it.

“For me, it’s a perfect fit,” she said. “It doesn’t bother me at all that within an hour or two somebody’s going to come and take a look at the house.”

She manages it for Showhomes Minneapolis, a staging company that was hired to make the home more marketable.

“Having a home manager and having their furnishings staged beautifully really shows a buyer, ‘How could I live in this house myself?’” said Showhomes owner Karen Galler.

“Plus I get the benefits of living in beautiful homes and seeing what I like and what I don’t like,” said Hruby.

And if she makes it sound like something from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, sometimes it is. Annette’s last house used to belong to Kirby Puckett.

“Yeah, Kirby Puckett’s house,” she said, “It was fun to have that mystique about it.”

Showhomes has managers in about half of its houses, giving them a neat, but lived-in feeling.

“It’s having somebody there being a caretaker vs. if it was vacant,” said Galler.

But these caretakers bring their own furniture, staged and sometimes supplemented by the Showhomes designers.

They’re also the first line of defense against frozen pipes and other problems, while giving the house the kind of “life” that can shorten its time on the market.

“When someone’s living there,” said Galler, “it has the smell of cooking, and real people being there.”

“Real people” who have to keep the house show-ready. They also have to pay for utilities along with lawn maintenance and snow removal. And they pay rent. But they get the luxury living at a half to a third of the normal market rate.

“If I was going to be living in Edina,” said Hruby, “it was going to be anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 for a two-bedroom townhome. Okay, I have a full home for that.”

Still, this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Even if you’re a neat-freak who’s flexible enough for last-minute showings and willing to move with 30-days notice, you still have to pre-qualify, which means more than just finances.

“To be a part of our program,” said Galler, “they have to have great furniture, it has to be on trend. So we have to qualify their furniture. They can’t smoke, and they can’t have pets.”

So, how often do the home managers move? The average is five months, but it obviously varies with each house. Managers get free rent the month they move from one house to another, but do have to pay for movers.

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