There is one particular Chicago real estate brokerage that sure seems to have a preponderance of attractive real estate agents (and, no, I'm not going to tell you which one it is - well, maybe if I know you). I've often speculated that this is not coincidence. I think they either have a deliberate recruiting strategy or they are just easily influenced by looks or maybe they just use a really great photographer. And I'd like to believe that their bias had nothing to do with the fact that this brokerage was the only one that wouldn't hire me when I first got my real estate license.
Well, for the last week a story has been circulating about some recent academic research that might actually suggest that there is some validity to picking a real estate agent based upon looks. The study appeared in the journal Applied Financial Economics and was entitled “Broker beauty and boon: a study of physical attractiveness and its effect on real estate brokers’ income and productivity”.
Ideally I would have reviewed the actual article but I wasn't about to pay $36 for a copy so I'm relying upon Marina Adshade's summary of this study of the impact of realtor attractiveness on home sales on the Big Think blog. Unfortunately, she doesn't provide enough details for my taste but here are some of the key points:
- The researchers looked at time on market and selling price and attempted to control for the quality of homes sold.
- Male agents on either side of the transaction are associated with lower selling prices.
- The gender of the agents does not impact how long a house is on the market.
- Attractive agents on either side of the transaction are associated with higher selling prices.
- Houses listed by attractive listing agents take longer to sell.
- The researchers believe that attractive agents get higher prices because they tend to obtain listings that sell better, not because of any inherent advantage that they have.
I'm afraid that I'm left with more questions than answers from all this. Are they saying that male buyer's agents get better prices for their clients but female listing agents get better prices for their sellers? And attractive listing agents get better prices but unattractive buyer's agents get better prices for their clients? And are you better off with an attractive (or unattractive in some cases) agent or one that is just smart and works hard? And if the researchers believe that attractive listings agents obtain listings that sell better then are they suggesting that they weren't able to totally control for the quality of the homes sold (this is likely, BTW)?
The funny thing is that a few female real estate agents in Chicago clearly believe that their looks can help them succeed in this business and take full advantage of this consumer bias with spectacular portrait photos on their Web pages and business cards. Even funnier is the fact that I've met a few of them and a) the reality doesn't always do justice to the photos and b) some of these photos were taken more than 10 years ago - to the point that I didn't recognize them when I first met them. For all I know there are male agents that play the same game but admittedly that wouldn't hit my radar.
I firmly believe that attractive agents have a clear advantage in this business. Not that they can execute any better than the rest of us but I believe it's easier for them to get the business. This is why my partner and I don't have the obligatory realtor photos on our Web site. We don't think realtor selection should be a beauty contest. As I've pointed out on numerous occasions, when selecting a real estate agent you should single mindedly focus on what the realtor is going to DO for you. However, I decided to include a rare photo of my partner in the upper left corner of this blog post and if you really feel a need to see what I look like you can click here.