Vanilla Box: the Real Estate Trend That’s Taking Residential by Force

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 20 October 2020 05:41
An example of a residential vanilla box real estate An example of a residential vanilla box real estate

There’s a new residential real estate trend in town and its name is Vanilla box!


No, it’s not the habit of having perfectly square homes painted in white, nor the tradition of sending a box full of vanilla treats to your clients. Also known as vanilla shell, white box or whiteboxing, vanilla box in real estate means selling a home almost naked. Its inside has just the minimum finished: walls, plumbing, ceiling, floor, power outlets, lighting, and HVAC. No appliances, no furniture, no colors. No customization whatsoever; that’s up for the new owner.


In many ways, to vanilla box a real estate is like the opposite of home staging. Instead of a home seller proposing a vision of that property, they give home buyers a blank canvas so they can customize the house exactly how they want. There’s no customization; even the floor and the lighting, for instance: the former is cemented so you can choose the type of floor you want, and the latter has only the connections so you can choose the type of fixture it goes with your design plans.


Commercial real estate agents are probably thinking “this is nothing new to me”, as vanilla box is something really common in commercial real estate; especially rent. It makes all the sense, right? Every retailer has its own pre-designed way of establishing their visual communication, design, and logistics. Some need more storage space; some don’t need storage at all. Same with cashier bays, racks, lighting, use of carpet etc. So it’s easier and faster not to have to deal with what was a leftover from your competitor and just do it exactly how you need. What’s really new here is that the vanilla box trend has come to residential real estate.


The reason behind that? It’s much more behavioral than anything.


Because of Agequake and the population pyramid change, Millennials realize early on that the Baby Boomer dream of real estate is much much harder for them. So, the ones who do manage to jump through the demographic hurdle and become home buyers want to get a home exactly like the one they've envisioned. A Vanilla box real estate option becomes much more enticing, less time-consuming – and, in the end, cheaper, since most of the Millennial’s finances were achieved through their manpower and not their investments - than a property with a lot of stuff in it that might not fit into their very specific dream.


Our team at has reached out to some of our top selling real estate agents nationwide and they said that, especially rich Millennial home buyers, are, in fact, willing to pay more for a lot less. It might seem like a crazy notion, but if you think about it… they are going to build it the way they want to no matter what, right? So – and it is another reason why a vanilla box real estate option gets Millenial home buyers so interested – in the end, it is more ecologically responsible to buy a stripped-down house to build on it, than it is to tear down everything inside and build again. We all know that’s an argument they can’t resist; so they’ll pay more and feel good about it.


While, because of the demographic profile of these two states, California Real Estate Agents and New York Real Estate Agents are more used to dealing with vanilla box real estate - selling houses for about 20% more than the houses that had home staging done - everywhere else, agents told us, the trend has been picking up steam in 2018.


So, here’s our advice: if you’re marketing a house in a market where Millenials have a high presence, it would be a good idea to advise your home sellers regarding this new concept.


It’s important to note that Vanilla Box and Grey Shell (also known as Cold Shell) are not the same thing. The latter is even more stripped-down than the former. It has no finish whatsoever. Even the wall studs are bare, and no plumbing or electrical connections; it only comes with sewer connection and, where regulation demands, sprinkler system - but even then, without being risen to ceiling height. So, this one, obviously, is not desired at all. No one sells a cold shell because people are looking for it; a cold shell means that the property construction is not done yet rather than it’s “stripped-down” to make it more appealing. The scenario where people do buy a cold shell is when home buyers need the location fast and maybe the home seller doesn’t have the money to do it in a timely fashion. And chances are, it will sell for less because of that.


But how to do it? How to sell the idea of ripping the home apart to someone who probably lived there for a while? How to make the home seller feel like they are not ripping dollar bills apart – especially in luxury real estate with its many marbles and crystals being thrown away.


We understand it might be a hard to sell proposition, which will require a lot of patience and good reasoning. Like agents told us, whoever gets into the vanilla box trend will have to answer questions like “But how do we do open house if there’s nothing to show inside the house?” or “But what if I end up selling for the same I would, if I had maintained everything?”. Well… first, you should carefully tell them The Ugly Truth about Open Houses, and, then, also remember that, depending on the home staging services he/she uses if the house doesn’t go vanilla, it could turn into a much more expensive endeavor.


But mostly, be honest and tell them: it’s a gamble. Every sale is; every innovation is. But when you do that before everyone else does, you get the bigger piece of the pie, right? And this one is vanilla; super sweet.

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Theresa Hus


Theresa Hus is a member of the content team at The OFFICIAL Real Estate Agent Directory ® producing countless informative and trendy real estate articles monthly for and its many outlets.

Real Estate with a twist; that's how one could define Theresa's writing. With 16 years of experience in the industry, Theresa is all about coming up with topics that go beyond the basic real estate agent advice and home buyers/home sellers "how to" articles you see around. Her main goal with her writing is providing not only information that will make readers lives easier when dealing with real estate, but a good time through a fresh, fun and insightful read. While the site is called, Theresa likes to keep away from generic real estate agent content; her articles are all about thinking outside the box, stepping in the consumer's shoes, and warning readers of things they might've never thought of. Sometimes they're quirky and very specific - like an article questioning if you would live in a haunted house if the price was right - sometimes they just contemplate issues that no one bothers to talk about but are very important to a lot of people, like articles regarding the pros and cons of living near a highway or real estate agents specialized in homes for the disabled.

To do that in a responsible way, Theresa is constantly talking with the many nationwide real estate agents registered on The OFFICIAL Real Estate Agent Directory ®, researching the newest real estate niches, trends, and overall best practices.

Specific areas/topics that Theresa is able and willing to share her expertise and knowledge on include:

·         Real Estate Entertainment News

·         Trending Markets Around the United States

·         Advice Columns for Home Buyers or Home Sellers

·         Articles on How to Add Value to Your Home without Breaking the Bank


To contact Theresa, please email

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