I’ve Avoided The Topic…
I’ve thought about writing this for a while and didn’t have the guts until now. Mostly for fear of people misinterpreting my words – but here it is hopefully to stimulate some good conversation.
Everyone knows sex sells – provocative images of men and women can attract business but the question will always remain: Is it the right type of business?
I can’t speak for men out there but can surely speak for many women when I say, who doesn’t like to wake up in the morning and feel beautiful and sexy? – who doesn’t like that self-esteem that comes with feeling sexy?
In real estate, many use sex-appeal to their advantage. In Miami it is so common to see properties and their agents being described as SEXY – “that sexy interior space overlooking the ocean”…. But is there a fine line between sex appeal and a true professional business?
We see it in desperate housewives where ultra-sexy Edie Britt is known to sleep with her clients when visiting properties or even Sex in The City where Samantha Jones seduces her Realtor in a pricey NY loft.
Sex Appeal in Real Estate
I’ve never been the one to use sex appeal in my favor; it’s just not my style. On the contrary, when I’m working with husband and wife I make sure to dress “unsexy” (if there’s such a thing) so that the wife feels comfortable with me. I go out of my way to be down to earth and demonstrate my architectural expertise and my knowledge of real estate. But lately, I have been in extremely uncomfortable situations where I come home to discuss it with Rick to see what our next step will be. Recently I negotiated a deal with a good looking man where I could feel a strange tension but the business relationship always remained professional – when the deal closed he said to me “You are a hot looking woman and didn’t want to tell you and make me uncomfortable so I waited until the transaction was completed to tell you”. (WHAT? “Hot looking woman” has become a joke in my house now).
Are you prepared?
I am so thankful that I work with my husband because every time I’ve been in a similar situation, I pass the client over to him. But I wonder about others in the industry and how they handle these tensions. There’s also the question of safety and the amount of creeps out there that we need to watch out for. There are horror stories about stalkers and women being violated while showing properties.
My purpose with this article is to make you think of safety first, of the way we portray ourselves and our properties and the way we handle sexual issues that may come our way. I’m not saying using sensuality is wrong either; but if you use it, you better be ready to deal with what it brings.
I found a site called Realtor Safety 911 that gives all kinds of helpful information as well as points out scenarios some of us may have never even considered. Some of you are too sexy for your own good (yes that’s a joke) – so please have a plan, and use common sense – know that you can become easy prey if you are not smart.
September 29, 2008 at 10:37 am
Ines, I have to be thankful that clients appreciate my mind and my knowledge because my body sure won’t pay the bills.
September 29, 2008 at 11:08 am
Ines, all I could do is chuckle as I read your article. I know I really shouldn’t chuckle because it’s a serious subject, but this hasn’t been a problem for me. Of course, maybe I wish it were! Like Mack said, if I relied on my body to pay the bills then my home would be one of those in foreclosure. 😉
Seriously, for the pretty younger women, they need to be very careful as you mention, and not send the wrong message with their photos or body language. Even us older women need to use caution as we can be viewed as ‘easy targets’. I took an all day safety course a couple years ago at the Board, where we actually got to hit and punch in a way that didn’t take brute strength. It was a good confidence builder.
September 29, 2008 at 11:21 am
Mack – you don’t have to be HOT to be sexy btw – keep using your brain though…..if that works for you 😉
Elaine – don’t chuckle – you are a great looking woman and you are right about the “targets” no matter the age. I’m glad to hear about the safety course you took, those are definitely empowering and more than that, they give an awareness that is necessary in our business. Stay safe!
September 29, 2008 at 12:06 pm
What’s all the fuss? Bruiser can’t help it if he was born such a handsome bulldog 🙂
September 29, 2008 at 1:19 pm
I used to work with a very hot female agent who frequently got phone calls from prospective male buyers wanting to see property. One was very specific about seeing two properties – both vacant, but both very different to the point that is didnt make much sense.
She asked me to go with her to show the properties. We got to the 1st property and he was already there. She parked a few houses down and across the street. I stayed in the car. She went to use the lockbox, then told him she left the key in the car. I got out of the car and told her, “You forgot your key”. As soon as he realized she was not alone, he told her he wasn’t interested in seeing the property and left in a hurry.
Trust your gut and don’t take chances.
September 29, 2008 at 1:33 pm
Hey Chuck – Bruiser is a handsome bulldog, isn’t he? 😉
Bob – that’s exactly what I’m talking about – I’m so glad your colleague was smart to take you along and hope many other agents think of their safety, have a plan and most importantly…..”trust their instincts” – TY
September 29, 2008 at 1:57 pm
You hit on a topic that is so *right on*, Ines! Some agents that feel the need to wear the short skirts, unbuttoned blouse, (ok… to be fair… unbutton shirt exposing some chest hair) to try to sell Real Estate are just asking for possible trouble.
Sex appeal type dress does not belong in the workplace, regardless of where you do business. And I could go into sexual harassment abuse of purpose along the same lines, but I shouldn’t open that can of worms on your blog 🙂
Dress and act professionally – or take it elsewhere. For safety, for reputation, for professionalism.
Way to take on the topic!
September 29, 2008 at 2:01 pm
Thank goodness I haven’t had this problem — Uncomfortable!
Putting oneself out there in a suggestive or, in this case, almost unclothed image just screams of unprofessionalism. I work in a very casual community — jeans, nice casual clothes are okay for photos, but I wouldn’t even think of that type of shot. Serious buyers with serious money look for better professional judgement.
I would like to point out that predators don’t just look for pretty. They look for weak, easy and desperate. Prescreen and be careful!!!
September 29, 2008 at 2:02 pm
Great points on this one. This ad actuallly ran in the area in which I operate. There was quite a big deal about it from being “not professional” and what not, but she generated some serious phone calls off of it (unfortunately I don’t know the number). It also probably helped that many of the radio stations picked up the ad as well and called her about it. So it brought buzz, but not sure about the closings.
I definitely think it’s a fine line on what you choose to market for. Having a powerful marketing message that brings you the type of business you want day in and day out, is a more sound approach than the shock value that brings you just a burst of interest.
September 29, 2008 at 2:33 pm
Kim – what’s interesting about “appropriate dress code” is that there is a huge disparity for different parts of the country. Showing multi-million dollar properties with nice jeans and a t-shirt is normal and acceptable in Miami where I know if may not quite go in Seattle.
The other aspect that can be poorly interpreted is what defines sex appeal and what doesn’t. I know the graphic can also be an extreme, but what about those “sexy waterfront high-rises” in South Beach? – How about those vacant listings we show on a regular basis to people we think we know.
Elaine – you hit it!
James – I would be curious to know what type of business it brought this agent. Did she waste her time with guys setting appointments to check her out – did wives avoid her at all costs? Did people take her seriously? It would be interesting to get her marketing perspective.
September 29, 2008 at 3:07 pm
Ines…agree with you that this was a post that needed to be written. It’s fantastic that you have Rick, bringing him along or handing clients off to him. I wish I had that! I never wear a skirt suit to a client meeting; am probably making a distinct effort to be ‘unsexy’ too. I’ve had a male client stop me in the middle of a listing presentation to ask if I was married; a good friend of mine that is a Realtor (and a very attractive blonde) had someone tell her once that she didn’t get their listing because his wife thought she was ‘too pretty.’…Always a good idea to be wary in situations with new clients.
September 29, 2008 at 3:45 pm
I will probably get flamed for this but I have noticed over the years that the good looking agents seem to do more business than the ugly ones. It’s obviously not universally true (thank God), but I think some of the clients think if they have to spend time with someone why not make it someone who is “easy on the eyes”? I seem to sell more to women than men and think that “chemistry” is a factor some of the time.
But even though that is true, I have always thought that it was dangerous for women to put their pictures on signs or advertising. I know the people who do it, think that people want to know who they are doing business with, but the chance of uncovering a wierdo just wouldn’t be worth it to me.
September 29, 2008 at 4:14 pm
…I can only wish….LOL
Yea, I teach my team and learned a long time ago to dress to make people feel comfortable. Since you said this is a real ad, all I can say is “she is looking for love in all the wrong places.” That’s a song I love. IMO it is best to speak more to the wife than the husband to avoid the wife getting jealous. Not my problem, but someone in my household is hot.
September 29, 2008 at 4:15 pm
Ines – Different dress code is true for different parts of country, I’d agree. However using “sex appeal” in dress isn’t acceptable anywhere. I think you agree with that as well.
September 29, 2008 at 4:40 pm
Heather – it’s a shame isn’t it? I’m glad you are aware and hopefully you’ll be able to depend on a male colleague to help you in difficult situations.
Dan – that would be a difficult theory to prove but it would certainly be interesting. How many people choose a Realtor because of their looks? too funny. I’ve had bad experiences because of my marketing and my photo has always been with my husband…..it’s something to think about just because we are so easily accessible.
Missy – shut up!! you cannot wish – you and your daughter are beautiful women. That’s actually an interesting strategy (I use it as well). So who’s HOT?
Kim – absolutely, there’s a right time and wrong time for sexy attire – AGREED!
Jay Valento - Long Beach CA real estate
September 29, 2008 at 7:26 pm
It was a billboard in Long Beach. The agent got a lot of publicity from it…from news print to local television. Perhaps it is showing the beach lifestyle you can live….lol.
September 29, 2008 at 7:30 pm
Jay – I still think it would have been more effective if she would have had a milk mustache….just saying.
Jay Valento - Long Beach CA real estate
September 29, 2008 at 7:50 pm
Ines – I think she would be up for that…and is an active Realtor here in town. I would be happy to get a commercial for milk too…can you work that out for me. I will make it unique…I will set in our Red Wagon and drink the milk.
September 29, 2008 at 7:52 pm
Such a ‘SEXY’ article… Had to throw it out there
September 29, 2008 at 7:57 pm
I remember that billboard quite well.
I think this is better marketing though
September 29, 2008 at 9:21 pm
OMG Jason, you are too much!
Loren – that woman is Wacked! and the comment from Lani about the cutouts is priceless
October 1, 2008 at 12:34 am
The agents name is Wendy. Her broker fired her. The community ostracized her. She did just fine while the market was good, don’t know how she is doing now. It was a lot of drama and every blonde female agent was asked “Was that you” by a lot of very small minded people with no manners.
October 1, 2008 at 6:02 am
Realtor Safety 911 is one of my favorite websites, it provides very useful self defense tips for realtors.
October 1, 2008 at 7:28 am
Thanks Laurie – I don’t know about the broker firing her – that’s a bit extreme. But I do think it’s all about thinking of the consequences when you do an add like that…..like how people will approach you and how you will be regarded. Plus….If I had any business at all in Long Beach….it would all go to you and you know that 😉
October 1, 2008 at 7:49 am
Dear Hot Looking Woman,
I, too, am lucky that I work with my husband. Both single people and couples tend to be put at ease by knowing that “we” are there to help them, and it helps deter creeps. I just have to make sure that other agents that we work with are safe. Thank you for the 911 Link.
October 1, 2008 at 8:00 am
ooops – just looked at #23 and it was supposed to be “when you do an AD like that”….but I’m sure you guys got that
Mariana – you crack me up every single time! 🙂 you are right about those creeps within our industry, we can’t just think that all Realtors are sane. TG for our husbands in the business…..makes our lives so much easier.
October 1, 2008 at 8:11 am
Ines – Hot or not, we need to be careful when we are out there showing homes to people we don’t know. Okay – so I do wish I could pull it off, but I’m really way past that 🙂 Honestly, I would never choose an agent who promotes herself in this manner.
October 1, 2008 at 8:19 am
Mike – self defense training is something EVERYONE should take (from a single class to a series) – it’s empowering and can get you out of a problem – whether you are a Realtor or not.
Paula – I personally wouldn’t knock her for doing it, it’s her call and although not my style, she has every right to portray herself as she wants. I had a scare with a pervert who found me on-line and there was even an FBI investigation….I can laugh about it now, but I can tell you how scary it was at the time, and how vulnerable I felt.