First impressions count — a lot! — when it comes to choosing a real estate agent.
Sure, sales stats matter, and references from friends and family are key. But everything about an agent broadcasts their personal brand — the car they drive, the clothes they wear, how they wear their hair, even the shoes they walk on. These visuals — call them an agent’s “curb appeal” — are constantly sending messages that clients either receive subconsciously or loud and clear.
So it’s important to look the part of a successful real estate agent — but not too much.
In an article for Market Leader, Shannon O’Brien, a real estate agent, says she walked a “fine line” between “projecting a professional image and intimidating a client.”
“How you straddle that line depends on the region, the customs within that region, your niche clientele, and good old common sense,” O’Brien says.
In 2013, Market Leader surveyed nearly 2,000 Realtors to discover their “habits.”
- The “average Realtor” had an annual income of $43,5000, was a 57-year-old female who dressed in “business casual” and drove a silver/grey SUV or sedan.
- The “least” success Realtor was a female in her 20s who dressed in business casual and drove a blue minivan.
- The "most" successful Realtor was a male, 30-50, who dressed formally and drove a white luxury sedan.
What should agents wear?
Business casual is the style 85 percent of agents chose when meeting with a client, according to the Market Leader survey.
Of course, “business casual” varies depending on the place you live. Casual in Manhattan is a lot different from casual in Key West, for instance.
Typically, business casual for men includes dress slacks, a button down or polo shirt, maybe a sports jacket, dress shoes, and dark socks.
For women, business casual means a skirt or dress slacks, blouse, sweater, colorful jacket, and pumps.
The top tier of agents pump-up their style and wear business attire any time they meet a client. For men, that includes a suit or jacket and dress slacks, business shirt and tie, dark socks and shoes, according to The Balance. Women will throw on a pants or skirt suit with closed-toe pumps.
Some agents dress down when they’re pushing paper in the office. But you never know when a client will walk in the door unexpectedly. Then, you could be stuck going on a house visit in your Saturday clothes.
If you do want to be comfortable in the office, keep a nice jacket and dressy shoes in your office or car that you can put on in a pinch to dress up a pair of jeans.
It pays to invest in upscale and classic suits that you can change up with different ties or scarves. Buy a new, pricy suit each year, and eventually, you’ll have an impressive wardrobe that’s always in style.
Here are some wardrobe basics for female agents, according to an Inman article.
- Flats or small heels that make driving easy and are easy on the feet. Pair a dressy loafer with slacks or a pencil skirt.
- Tank tops, which can stand up to over-heated houses and running around town. Wear neutrals under bright jackets, or dress up black or navy jackets with a bright or patterned tank. Hint: Avoid spaghetti straps, which are a little too casual and can show bra straps.
- Pencil skirts that hit the knee or go below. Avoid mini-skirts and long, airy skirts that can blow up in the wind.
Don’t wear this
Fashion magazine Marie Claire warns real estate agents against dressing “too sexy or distracting,” which can make you “easy to dismiss.”
Women should avoid:
- Low-cut or see-through blouses
- Tight pants
- Visible bra straps
- Stilettos and strappy sandals
- Short skirts
Hair, makeup, jewelry tips
The rule is: Keep it simple, but elegant.
Men should avoid a big pinkie ring. Women should keep jewelry to a minimum — not only because lots of bling can look tacky, but because expensive jewels can make you a target, especially when you show a house to a new client.
Many agents buff their nails, instead of wearing striking polish. A light pink or buffed nail look is elegant, and the upkeep costs less. Chipped fire-engine red nail polish looks terrible and requires frequent touchups.
Which car to drive
Cars are part of a real estate professional’s brand. Although clients may never see an agent’s office, they almost always see his car and start making judgements depending on those wheels.
The Market Leader “Habits” survey found that Realtors mostly drive sedans and SUVS, choosing neutral colors like white, silver/grey or black.
The most successful real estate professionals are 172% more likely to drive luxury cars, the survey showed.
The subject of cars is a popular topic among members of Facebook’s “Raise the Bar in Real Estate” public group.
One agent said he passed up buying a Mercedes or BMW, and instead opted for a Subaru Forester. “I love the all-wheel drive and the way it handles all the road conditions.”
Another agent said agents should pick a car with “not too much flash, but just enough to say, “I’m good at what I do.” She recommended a Cadillac or lower-end Mercedes or BMW.
Zurple, a real estate marketing platform, says the debate about real estate agent cars will always rage, but some auto truths are self-evident.
- Make sure whatever you drive is clean and clutter-free.
- If you’re driving clients around, choose a car that’s comfortable for all types of clients, especially those who would have trouble getting into a sports car.
- Keep mileage in mind. You’ll be putting thousands of miles on that car each year, and you don’t want to go broke filling it up a gas guzzler every day.
- Don’t buy a high-maintenance car that will spend most of its life in the shop, which drains your time and budget.
- Pick a car you can afford. As you get more successful, you’ll be able to lease fancier cars. But while you’re building your business, chose a car that fits your budget.
Show it off
So you've got the perfect look — but do you have the perfect presentation to seal the deal?
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Joe Nickelson is a real estate professional dedicated to helping home buyers and sellers achieve their dreams of owning property, and helping real estate agents stop using the sometimes-vicious tactics that weigh on their consciences. He believes that the Smart Agents books will, quite literally, change people’s lives for the better. Check out his full bio here!