Love in the Time of Foreclosure

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Does your house have a job?

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Stephanie Walker

Stephanie Walker is a blogger/playwright who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago.

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Last year at this time Bob and I were doing everything in our power to save our house. Those of you who have been following LITTOF know this quite well. We tried everything. Mostly what I wrote about was our quest to modify our loan. But what I haven't written much about is our attempt to make our house a star with earning power.

It was L.A. Of course we went there. We thought, we have this gorgeous house with stunning views... what production company wouldn't want to use our home as a location and pay us thousands of dollars a day for the privilege?!

My first encounter with a location scout

One morning while Bob and I were walking Pablo, we noticed something going on at the Schindler up the street that had been vacant ever since we moved in. There was a small film crew in the driveway. I began to walk up the drive and was immediately greeted by somebody who asked nicely if they could help me. I requested to speak to the location manager with two goals in mind:

1. Finally see the inside of the fabulous How House designed by Rudolf Schindler
2. Get the location scout to take a look at our house as a potential location

The location manager was very friendly and said that he'd be happy to show us the house at the end of the shoot (that never happened) and that he'd love to take a look at our house (that did happen.) Oh, they were doing a still photography shoot for a Nordstrom catalog, by the way.

Later that day, the location scout took some digital photos of our house and said he'd follow up in a day or two. He said that our house had great potential to be used as a location for still photography. Long story short, I never had any success with follow-up. But the whole experience inspired us. For a short time we were convinced that we could land some big shoot that would save the house and we'd live happily ever after.

Stalking the scouts
Anytime we saw a film crew in front of a house in our neighborhood (which was often... like several times a week) we stopped and asked to speak to the location manager. We said we were interested in using our house as a location. We'd get the location manager's card and then e-mail them photos of our house. And man did we have photos. We'd send them links to the Apartment Therapy tour of our house and to my blog that I wrote in the voice of our house. So, not my blog. But our house's blog.

One day Bob came home from running errands with 4 different cards from location managers. Yep. Four cards. Four different film shoots in our neighborhood alone. In addition to using their cards, we would go online and register with reputable location companies such as Plan-It Locations.

Coming up empty

The thing is... all of our efforts translated into zero dollars. It just didn't pan out. We heard that nobody was having any luck renting their residences as locations because of the economy. The money, we were told, just wasn't there. A familiar story. So, though we tried, we had no offers.

Not until, that is, we sold the house. Since we sold the house we have had three offers to use our former house as a location. One of the offers was for a Comcast commercial and would have been 15 hours and over $2,000 net. Another, that I received today, was from Bravo and would be over $3,000 net for 15 hours. Not bad. Not bad at all.

I've passed all inquiries along to the new owners. And each time I just shake my head and laugh at the irony. Because what else is there to do? I guess things like this can take a year before they translate to any kind of actual money. We just didn't start early enough.

Learn from our mistake

But here's the thing. You can learn from our mistake. We didn't try to have our house work for us until it was already too late. I wish we had started as soon as we finished the remodel. Had we done that, we might have had a fighting chance.

I've written several times that we're not sure if we'll ever own a home again. But if we do, we're going to make damn sure that our house works for us. We would want our house to have earning power. Whether that means buying a duplex to be able to rent half out or buying a place that would be attractive to location scouts and production companies, our house would work for us.

There's work for houses all over the country

Here's the other thing... you don't have to own in L.A. to land a job for your house as a location. Chicago, New York, Seattle, Miami or even Dubuque, Iowa is fair game. You never know. It doesn't hurt to at least try. When I told the Plan-It Location scout that we had moved to an island in Washington, she wanted to know if we'd be willing to list our house here in case they had any inquiries for a Pacific Northwest location. So, really... it doesn't hurt to try.

P.S. The biggest thing we worried about in listing our house as a location was bothering our neighbors. That definitely is a risk you take and it always helps to be upfront. Had we landed anything we would have talked to each neighbor to let them know the situation in advance.

Just a little thought for the New Year. If you own a house, how will you have it work for you in 2010? Something to consider... especially if you're upside down on your loan.

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