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Meet Summer Rosenbalm of Chilton Staging + Design

Today we’d like to introduce you to Summer Rosenbalm.

Summer Rosenbalm

Hi Summer, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today. 
I found my passion for Real Estate when my husband and I started flipping houses. He managed the construction, and I managed the design. When flipping houses, you’re taking a lot of risks, so you’re really paying a lot of attention to the market and how homes around you are selling. With our first flip house, we really put everything we had into it. Our life savings were on the line, so we were hyper-sensitive to how we could get the best return. We saw pretty quickly the difference presentation makes in how a home performs on the market. With every house we flipped, we went all-out on making sure it looked its best before going to market. We were always able to bring in multiple buyers and usually able to watch bids come in over asking price. Meanwhile, very similar homes would sit on the market much longer and sometimes have to lower the asking price. The only real difference was how our homes were presented. This is where I learned – with my own money on the line – the true importance of home staging. 

Our most recent flip house was a 100-year-old historic home listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was a very unique airplane bungalow with lots of art-deco features. Very different from our usual projects. This is where I fell in love with design. Mixing 1920s brass hardware with brand-new quartz countertops or pairing century-old chandeliers with modern recessed lighting brought a new wave of challenges for me. In the end, that house became a beautiful mix of old and new. That house was on Chilton Avenue, which became both the inspiration and the namesake for my next venture Chilton Staging + Design. 

Nothing compares to the spark I felt when my husband and I received multiple offers on our flip houses. Giving someone else the opportunity to feel that spark is what motivates me more than anything. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Before starting Chilton Staging + Design, I was working an 8-5 job for a non-profit serving West Africa. It was both stable and fulfilling. I just came to a place where it was time to go out on my own. Taking that leap of faith was extremely difficult for me. I’ve always been a person that favored structure, routine, and systems. But even in the most fulfilling job, even in the stability, I still wasn’t happy. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and I’ve always known that I wouldn’t ever be truly fulfilled until I cut the 8-5 ties. 

Secondly, building a business from the ground up is hard. There’s no momentum. I wasn’t able to fade out of my 8-5 job and step into a business that was already warmed up. I started at ground zero. This was especially difficult because I didn’t have much of a network built up. That’s usually where your new business takes seed – in your network. To make it more challenging, I’m an introvert. I learned really quickly that I was going to have to get out of my comfort zone to be successful. 

In starting my business, my skills were very left-brained. Management, spreadsheets, deadlines, and budgets, were my jam. Marketing and sales were not. But being a brand-new business without any customers, I had to get good at sales and marketing really quick. 

I think that’s what small business has been so far for me – becoming all things, at all times, as needed. 

I’ve had to learn to remove the labels I’ve always put on myself and know that I can evolve and that everything is figure-out-able. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Chilton Staging + Design?
Chilton Staging + Design specializes in maximizing the value of homes on the market. We work to increase buyer appeal, add value to the home, reduce time on market, and ultimately help you sell your home faster and at a higher price. According to the National Association of Realtors, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than unstaged homes. 

There really is a science to it. For example, we try to put a mirror in the entryway of every house we stage because, statistically, buyers are more likely to put in an offer when they literally see themselves in the home. 

Staging is about helping the buyers see someone else’s house as their new home. It’s much more than filling empty spaces and making the place look pretty. We want to portray the buyer’s future life. In a staged home, you’ll never see anything that reminds you of the undesirable parts of life. We remove things like cleaning supplies, toilet plungers, bathroom scales, self-help books, exercise equipment, etc., because in a perfect life, you don’t have to worry with these things. Instead, you enjoy warm candles, cozy blankets, romance novels, and bubble baths. You’ll rarely see a television in a staged house, much less the furniture pointed at a TV. Why? Because in the perfect life, you’re not sitting on the couch watching TV. You’re playing with your kids in the backyard or visiting with friends and family around the fireplace. These are just some of the details that make homes so much more sellable – sometimes even on a subconscious level. 

Buyers need to feel an emotional connection to a home before they pull the trigger. This is why staged homes perform better than unstaged homes. The stats can all be the same, but buyers will be drawn by their gut to the home they can see their new life in. 

When most people think about home staging, they think about vacant staging, which is bringing furniture and décor into an empty home. But your home can be staged for sale whether or not it is vacant. In fact, occupied staging and design consultations make up more than half of our business. With occupied staging, we use the home’s current furnishings (we might bring in a few supplement pieces) and reconfigure things to make the home look its best. 

Another popular service (especially among real estate agents) are our consultations. With a consultation, we provide a written report of exactly everything the homeowner needs to do to get the home ready for market and maximize the home’s potential. It’s an easy and affordable way to add a lot of value for their client. Agents that provide staging consultations to their clients not only see homes that sell for more, they end up with happier clients, better referrals, and repeat customers. In addition, their stats look better (their average time on market is less than other agents), and their portfolio of listings looks better having been properly staged for sale. 

In addition, we also offer Short-Term Rental Styling. I own two short-term rentals (Airbnb/Vrbo) myself, so over time, I’ve been able to learn what works and what doesn’t when outfitting your STR. Over time, we’ve tested countless varieties of linens, discovered the best furnishings, and curated the perfect bed recipe. With our Short-Term Rental Styling Service, we turn vacant properties into turn-key rentals – providing everything from the mattresses to the kitchen utensils. 

Who typically pays for staging? So far, our customers are about 50/50. While it’s more proper for the agent to pay for the home staging, we also have several homeowners that reach out to us directly. It’s even possible for the homeowner and the agent to split the staging costs. 

There are three main things that set Chilton Staging apart from other home staging companies: 

#1 We pride ourselves on keeping a modern and updated inventory. We are constantly purchasing new inventory to ensure that our designs are fresh, modern, and appealing to a wide audience to make homes look their best. 

#2 We are extremely easy to work with. Some of our clients simply text us an address, approve the quote and next thing they know, their house is staged and ready for photographs. 

#3 We are owned and operated by real estate nerds. As a real estate investor myself, I have a deep understanding of all sides of the transaction. I strive to enhance all of my customer’s ROI. I keep my thumb on the market at all times and consider myself a student of real estate, constantly learning and adapting my business to help give my clients a competitive edge. 

Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
I grew up in a very small rural town. I often compare my high school years to the TV Show Friday Night Lights. I’m grateful for where I come from because it taught me great values, built a lot of character, and helped shape me into a well-rounded person. 

But I always wanted to do big things. My family always inspired me to dream big. This was my motivation throughout my childhood. I was very self-motivated to succeed. I was the responsible kid and was very studious. I never had a clear picture of what I wanted to be when I grew up; I just knew I wanted to be successful – so I worked as hard as I could. 

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Image Credits

Gary Cunningham

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