Miami Homeowners Rent Mansions, Cars, Boats to Location Scouts for Extra Cash

Some owners have offered up their homes, cars, boats for some extra cash.

ByABC News
February 9, 2015, 4:34 PM

— -- Behind every “House of Cards” there’s a real house. Actually, there are a lot of houses.

Homeowners in a few select cities across the country have opened their doors to location scouts, who book their properties for movies, TV shows, music videos and commercials.

Homeowner Jo Ellen’s south Miami 10,000-square-foot mansion has been featured in everything from candy commercials to TV shows to rapper Lil’ Twist’s music video for the song “Little Secret.”

“This has been in quite a few music videos,” Ellen said. “It’s been in still catalogs. They just take out all the furniture and use the black and white floor and the white walls.”

Ellen said what she charges ranges from $1,500 for a full day of shooting with four people, to $15,000 for a full day of shooting with 150 people.

The house was used in ABC's "Revenge Miami,” a show based on the true-life story of a Miami kidnapping and extortion gone wrong.

“They recreated one of the scenes where they killed somebody in the bed,” Ellen said, gesturing to her bedroom. “I walked in here and there was a dead person in my bed… Not a real dead person, a faking it dead person.”

To get her house on the market for location scouts, Ellen said she went through an agent.

“All my photo shoots come from someone who is in the business and someone who knows the people in the business because I certainly don’t know anybody in the business,” she said. “It’s a hard job I think because they have to pull insurances in case you’re sued, they have to make sure your house is left clean afterwards. They have to do the go-between price, I’ve never asked for a price – he does that and then they just tell me.”

Listing properties for shoot rental spaces is a booming an industry in Miami, especially in the winter months. While much of the rest of the country is in a deep freeze, some production companies head down to Florida to take advantage of the weather and the unique homes.

Clint Phinney, a locations scout to the stars, is the owner of Miami Sites, a sort of database where production companies can rent any type of home they want, from waterfront properties to old Americana.

“For fashion shoots they love clean white, neutral, interesting furniture that kind of thing,” he said. “If it’s TV it’s different. Just as long as the bones of the house are good they can dress it or do what they want with it.”

Aside from homes, Phinney rents everything from motorcycles and props to cars and yachts, pretty much anything a production company would need to spruce up the background of a commercial or a television show. Phinney is always on the hunt to expand his database with whatever he can.

“When I drive around and I see things, even little silly things like an old beat up truck on the side of the road, I’m thinking, ‘that’s perfect for the background or this house would be great,” he said.

Phinney’s Miami Sites is one of only a small number of location libraries around the country that offer this type of service.

Homeowners can reach out to him to list their homes for rent for production shoots. That’s what Tanya Adams, a mother of three, did when she wanted to rent out her property, which overlooks the water, but also her vintage Jeep and her boats.

“All these people are taking pictures of our boat, we might as well make some money from it,” she said.

Adams reached out to Phinney to set up an appointment to take photos of her living room, library, pool and patio.

“I think it’s a lot of fun,” Adams said. “It’s a great industry and the money, that’s always good. I have kids to put through college and future weddings and things like that.”

Jose Souto sold his coffee business three years ago and built a giant house, nestled in an exclusive enclave of Coral Gables Estates in Miami, to rent out for photo shoots and music videos. Souto said the project hasn’t made him rich. He said he makes a couple thousand dollars per shoot, and they are usually small photo shoots for magazines, but for him, it’s more about the enjoyment of the experience than the money.

“It’s a good way of making an extra buck,” he said. “I’m retired. I don’t work anymore so every dollar we can get, it works.”