Fake Happy Families Sell Homes

Status: Strange, but true
California realtors have devised a new way to sell homes. They're hiring actors to play "happy families" during open houses:
Attractive film and stage actors are cast in the roles of cheerful-looking parents and their angelic children, recreating scenes of domestic bliss that they hope will impress prospective buyers...
With Hollywood just down the road, there is no shortage of photogenic and unemployed actors, for whom the alternatives are normally bit parts in television advertisements and waiting on tables. Centex recruited Jaason Simmons, 35, best known for his three-year stint as a lifeguard on Baywatch, to play the father of the fictitious family. Camille Chen, a television and film actress, is "mother" while two children from a local theatre company are the couple's offspring. While the "family" cooks, eats, chats, plays games and watches television, a stream of house-hunters passes through. The viewers are encouraged to treat the occupants as "real" people and quiz them on the items such as the oven or refrigerator, for which the actors are given fact sheets to mug up on beforehand. Normally, the "guests" will find themselves gatecrashing an uplifting family occasion, such as the baking of a birthday cake. "We do it as a free-flowing improvisation - set the parameters and make it like a play, with specific acts," said Mr Garfield.
My wife and I often go to open houses in our neighborhood, partially because we like seeing what other people have done with their homes and partially because we're thinking of moving. Just last week we went to one in which the homeowners were there with their kid. They seemed like nice people, but now I'm wondering if it was all fake. Maybe they were just actors.

My favorite part of the article is this line: "A second show day at the development, which features three to five-bedroom homes from $500,000 (£280,000) to $610,000, is planned for Saturday. The cast will be the same except for Miss Chen, who has a previous engagement and will be "changed out" for a new mum." This immediately brought to mind Lucy Clifford's short story "The New Mother", in which misbehaving kids learn that their poor suffering mother is going to be changed out for a new mother (a mechanical one with a rat's tail). So I'm thinking that parents who visit the Centex open houses can now warn their kids that if they misbehave they'll be sent to live with one of these fake happy families. That would scare me if I were a kid. (via J-Walk)

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Posted on Tue Jun 06, 2006


That's really creepy, although maybe everyone you met in Edinburgh were actors too...
Posted by Madmouse  in  Edinburgh  on  Tue Jun 06, 2006  at  02:08 PM
*Bundles Madmouse into unmarked black car*

...very "Truman show"
Posted by Man In Black (not Johnny Cash, the other kind)  on  Tue Jun 06, 2006  at  02:38 PM
No they... ummm... we weren't.
Posted by Boo  in  The Land of the Haggii...  on  Tue Jun 06, 2006  at  04:25 PM
Would I be quite correct in saying 'Only in America!'?
That is just plain weird! I mean, I know houses that are furnished tend to sell better than unfurnished ones, but personally I'd rather look at a house while the occupants weren't there. I'd just feel rude otherwise.
Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Tue Jun 06, 2006  at  05:29 PM
It goes without saying that the person you met in Edinburgh who claimed to be Alex was also an actor.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Tue Jun 06, 2006  at  10:50 PM
The viewers are encouraged to treat the occupants as "real" people

This sounds like the visitors actually know they're fake... so it really is like a theatrical event. Sounds kind of cool, in a surreal, True Stories kind of way.
Posted by outeast  on  Wed Jun 07, 2006  at  01:26 AM
Do you think I'd be able to hire a fake happy family to come home to? I'd like that.
Posted by David B.  on  Thu Jun 08, 2006  at  02:33 AM
I may be wrong but, don't realtors get the owners to leave when they show houses? After all that's why you hire a realtor. Let him do all the work. And the realtor may think that if the buyer meets the seller, they may have no need for him/her anymore.
Posted by Captain Al  in  Vancouver Island, Canada  on  Thu Jun 08, 2006  at  06:14 PM
I just had a horrible thought. What if you went to an open house in California and the Brady Bunch was there? I think I would get sick all over their carpet.
Posted by Captain Al  in  Vancouver Island, Canada  on  Thu Jun 08, 2006  at  06:16 PM
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