Brandie Malay

Photo: Bravo/Evans Ward

Brandie Malay does double duty on the real estate beat: she’s an @Properties agent working the North Side and the North Shore, and she’s a realty reality TV star, about to launch her third series, Property Envy.

Debuting July 9 on Bravo, the 30-minute show features Malay as part of a panel who will talk about “Extreme, Exquisite and Eye-Popping” homes, household technology, and design.

On Monday, she talked with me about the Chicago real estate market and offered advice for buyers and sellers based on both sides of her work, agenting and TV.

Were you surprised at how fast the market changed this year?
It’s amazing. As of January 1, the market turned on a dime. I’m uber-excited, but slightly concerned that we don’t experience a little but of a bubble. With inventory so low and prices skyrocketing, we have to be cognizant that appraisals have to support the prices [that buyers and sellers negotiate], or we’ll [have] problems.

In a fast-rising market, the comparable sales are lagging: they may not reflect the price a seller can get today, even if they’re from the past month or so. How should a seller calculate the asking price form recent comps?
I’d say you can price it to 105 or 110 percent of what the comps sold for, depending on the neighborhood. You want to get as much money as you can, but don’t get greedy. You have to price it appropriately, or nothing [happens].

This is clearly a time to buy, before rising prices and interest rates eat up affordability, but what if I can’t afford to sell my house right now?
You should consider renting. The rental market is hot right now for houses. I had a client in Winnetka who was underwater by several hundred thousand dollars; they rented [the house out] and it was their cash cow, making back more than their mortgage payment. We put a house up for rent in Winnetka recently, and I had seven showings the first day on the market. Five of the seven brought rental applications. It was [offered at] $6,500 but we had applications coming in higher than that. Ironically, we didn’t rent it. Somebody came in with an offer to buy it for cash.

What are some lessons for sellers that come from your TV experience prepping homes for sale?
Make sure your home looks as good as possible. I’m talking uber-clean. Pack your stuff away. Clutter eats equity. I rarely take a listing if they’re not wiling to do some staging at some level. How you live is not how you sell your house. You don’t have to spend a lot [on staging]. Throw new covers on some pieces. Organize your closets. Go outside and pick some flowers and bring them in. 

How about design trends that you’re seeing in homes that are featured on the new show?
Kitchens are trending toward lighter. Not so heavy in the cabinetry, the details. People are definitely paying more attention to lighting in the kitchen. In bathrooms, people want light and fresh, not heavy colors. Tonal grays. Gray is very on-trend right now.

And mud rooms—oh my gosh, mud rooms are taking over the world. With all the cubbies and storage and the doggy wash area. You can make one in a city townhouse or a condo if you’ve got that entry space with the double closet. You take out the doors and put in a bench, the cubbies on the top and on the bottom. So when you come in there’s no destroying the house, it’s all taken care of in one quick bada bing, bada bang.