Couple overcomes hearing barrier in building business



 As owners of a Showhomes home staging franchise, Elisa and Brandon Macomber of Santa Fe make a living off their eyes.

Their business depends on their ability to redecorate private residences to make them more appealing to potential buyers. Their revenue has grown each year since they started the franchise in 2016, according to Brandon, and they now employ two individuals in addition to themselves. At a recent Showhomes conference, the couple won several awards including "Fastest Average Sale Time."

But it is her hearing, not her vision, that Elisa said has colored much of her professional journey. A bout of meningitis as a baby left her with profound hearing loss. Brandon, too, is hearing-impaired, the result of a premature birth and an episode of pneumonia.

"Not being able to talk on the phone has been a huge hindrance in my career, and that drove me to start my own business," said Elisa in an email (the Macombers provided written responses to questions). "I knew I could help people in so many ways via text and email, and in person, of course."

Now Elisa, who can lip-read, takes Brandon or another employee with her to meet clients to ensure she doesn't miss out on conversations while taking pictures and walking around the home.

"It can be a challenge, because I need to be able to look at the people while they're talking, but at the same time, I need to look at the house and take everything in visually," said Elisa, who handles most of the staging while Brandon handles the business side.

Brandon said their answering service has been invaluable for collecting names, addresses, emails and phone numbers of the people they interact with.

Asked about their top home-staging tips, Brandon said it's important to "remove yourself and your personal preferences from the process, and neutralize the property."

"By putting yourself on the market, you are trying to sell the house, not your style or your things," said Brandon. "Buyers need to envision themselves living there."

Elisa suggested removing all pictures and sentimentals from the home before it is photographed in order to protect the privacy of the homeowner.

"With (real estate listing) pictures being online all the time now, you want to protect your privacy," she said.

The couple said their work is filled with surprises. Elisa said she once found a black widow spider hiding beneath a client's rug. Brandon mentioned an even stranger experience.

"We found one of our faux apples with a bite mark in it," said Brandon. "That was pretty funny."