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Three Questions for Chicago Agent and Reality TV Star Brandie Malay

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She's a Chicago and North Shore real estate agent by day, and a reality TV star by?other days. With an expertise in property staging and design, Brandie Malay of @properties is a familiar face on HGTV shows like "Designed to Sell," "Hidden Potential," and starting last month, Bravo's "Property Envy." We caught up with Malay to talk the Chicago market and what she's learned from her double-duties:

How would you describe the current state of Chicago's real estate market? What changes is it seeing?

The market completely turned around after the first of the year. It was almost like whiplash. Inventory was down, rates were still low and buyers finally realized we had hit the bottom. In turn, all of these buyers who had been sitting on the sidelines had now decided to jump in the game. This has created a type of frenzy where multi-offers are commonplace.

Over 90% of the deals I have negotiated in the last 4 to 5 months have been multi-offers whether it be with my sellers or my buyers. Buyers are almost stunned by the paradigm shift that has taken place in such a short amount of time. Sellers need to be cognizant of the fact that yes, they are more in the drivers seat now, but they can't get greedy. Most buyers still need to obtain a mortgage, and because of that, the home will still have to appraise to value in order to secure the loan. We need to make sure we find a sort of symbiotic relationship between the sellers and buyers so that we don't experience a mini bubble.

You have a lot of experience with prepping and staging a home before putting it up for sale. What advice would you give to people who are selling about preparing their space?

Sellers need to remember a few different things. This is a business transaction so you can't get emotional about the process. I know this can be difficult for many people as a home is where you establish memories. That being said, how you live is not how you sell. They are two totally different animals. You are free to have red walls and zebra print wallpaper; however, you don't want to impose your taste onto the buyers coming into your home. You want neutral.

I've noticed a clean transitional style with muted on trend paint colors make a home show best. The expression "you only get one chance to make a first impression" exists for a reason, it couldn't be more true in real estate. This starts by decluttering your home. Clutter eats equity. So do dirty homes. Spend the money to have your home professionally deep cleaned and continue to have it professionally cleaned while on the market, especially if you have pets and/or kids. You don't go to sell your car and drive up to the dealership with fast food wrappers on the seats and bugs on the windshield do you? No. You have it detailed. The same goes for your home. You have to spend money to make money.

Your home is your biggest asset and you need to treat it as such. I can count on one hand clients of mine that didn't need staging assistance. You don't have to spend a fortune and you can use many of the things that are already are in your home. I have had some sellers question the staging process. I explain that it is much cheaper than your first price reduction. Those sellers who have posed objections, but ended up staging always say "wow...I had no idea what a difference it would make". I will rarely take a listing now unless they are willing to do some staging. It is a proven fact that staged homes sell faster and for more money.

What lessons have you learned working in Chicago realty specifically that you bring to the table on your reality shows?

I think just being from Chicago and the Midwest makes me relatable on TV. I've been selling real estate for over 12 years in Chicago. Before that, I helped upstart a loan company where we outsourced construction loans from banks for custom built homes and managed them from start to finish. I've experienced both the ups and downs of the marketplace first hand. I'm not just a talking head. I'm out pounding the pavement daily for my clients. Hard work, sensibility, ethics and going the extra mile seem to bode well for me and I think my clients as well as TV viewers understand that.

I speak the truth. I don't tell people what they want to hear, I tell them what they need to hear. I've never been one to sugar coat something and most things to me are fairly black and white. I believe that "in the field experience" translates well onscreen. Selling homes is my business, but TV is my hobby and it's been fun!