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Is Our Industry a Bunch of Bums?


A Harsh Truth

Recently I attended a Broker’s Roundtable where someone made a statement about her observation of more and more real estate professionals “dressing down” when on the job.  The word bum was mentioned which made me think “how is our profession viewed by both itself and the outside world?”

You are Who you Work With

There’s a rule of thumb that you should dress at or slightly above the client(s) you are with.  Our business is about people and rapport.  If you dress the same way for everyone you will more than likely not “click” with everyone.  Just as you wouldn’t show up to a black tie event in shorts you also may not want to meet with a client who doesn’t wear suits with one on.

Keeping the Image (Playing Devil’s Advocate)

I understand the view that the agent/broker needs to always be dressed the best to feel like they are in control and also to “command control of the situation”.  As I have heard from several sources although our society has become more casual the pendulum is starting to swing slowly back the other direction.  Many professionals are shying away from casual dress or fears that it is a detriment to their bottom line.

Is There an Answer?

Many factors play into this topic and the discussions they create.  Local customs, climate, your personality, and the personality of your target clientele are just a few.  However, I do feel that fellow professionals using words like “bum” to describe us shows somewhat of an ignorance towards how varied both our industry and our melting pot of a society is today.

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Written By

Matt is an Real Estate Broker and Consultant from Northern Virginia. He is always looking for new ways to make the industry more efficient and consumer-oriented. Matt is a social networking junkie who can be readily found on Twitter and Facebook.



  1. Jason Sandquist

    August 11, 2009 at 10:38 am

    @mattwilkins my jeans probably cost more that most agents weekly outfits

  2. clint miller

    August 11, 2009 at 10:43 am

    I just bought a house here…the team that I used dressed in what I would call “business casual” every time we were together. But, in NW Montana, we have “dress jeans”. 🙂 Heck, even the Governor wears jeans every day. Its just accepted as part of the culture here.

  3. Jonathan Dalton

    August 11, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Of all the issues facing the industry, this is what these folks decide to focus on?


  4. markbrian

    August 11, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Considering the heat and humidity where I am, I will wear what works for me and is appropriate for the job.

  5. Benn Rosales

    August 11, 2009 at 11:30 am

    I really think you do a disservice to yourself if you go overboard either way. In Austin, flip flops and shorts are pretty much the accepted attire here when you’re talking about running around in 105-111 degree heat with a humidity index to match.

    On the other hand, if I walked into a bank to find the loan officer in shorts, I would wonder if the bank was getting robbed and ask what they had done with the banker. If I walked into a McDonalds and found the cashier wearing a suit, I might wonder if he or she had fired all the McEmployees.

    I decide on first glance whether the person in front of me is qualified to even speak to me, much less sell me a home, I think it’s prudent to dress smartly and skip what may be ‘in style’ for what is “in business.”

  6. Benn Rosales

    August 11, 2009 at 11:36 am

    @papagrande aka JDalt Doesn’t the conversation they were having sort of center around what’s good for the industry? Defining what is acceptable attire for the brokerage is about standards ( loosely ) and as recently as @ines’s last post new brokerage was compared akin to doing business w/o shaving. As incredible as it may seem, it seems to be conversation revolving around what’s good for business and what brokerage wants their consumer experience to be from the top down- I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

  7. Ruthmarie Hicks

    August 11, 2009 at 11:37 am

    I’m with Jonathan Dalton on this one. We have huge problems facing our industry. Unless agents are dressing in 20-year old cloths with food stains along with worn out shoes with holes in them, this is the least of our problems. Around here some people want the “corporate look” others don’t. To each their own. I think HOW we conduct our business – is far more important than what we choose to wear. There are a lot of well-dressed vultures doing quite well in our market. Let’s clean up our act in other ways first. Scum attracts scum – it doesn’t matter if its dressed up in a suit and tie or designer outfit.

  8. Joe Loomer

    August 11, 2009 at 11:42 am

    In Augusta – where May-Sep temperatures typically range in the mid-90’s with very high humidity – the “accepted” dress is khaki pants with a polo shirt – mine are embroidered with the company logo.

    Wintertime it’s shirt and tie – if not a coat (winter ain’t really winter here), and business dress for the ladies. Most agents adhere to this. Perhaps it’s something to do with the local culture, as Clint suggests.

    Either way – I don’t desire to give any prospects a negative impression of me just because of my attire. You’ve got your work cut out for you if you start off on the wrong foot – even if it’s only visual.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  9. Jeffrey Douglass

    August 11, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Hmmmm, clothes make the man (or woman).

  10. BawldGuy

    August 11, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Sorry folks, but this discussion is providing me with a welcome mood change, as I woke up feeling a little slow from yesterday’s workout. 🙂

    This is post material for sure.

    Bottom line? There are some dress codes which simply aren’t congruent with cries for more stringent entry level requirements.

  11. Greg Afarian

    August 11, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I would somewhat agree…. As mortgages being my background, I started by always wearing a suit and tie to work. I would obviously get dressed up to go to my closings and whenever visiting Realtor’s. It seems somewhere during the internet boom that casual became the new dress code. Was it all related to laziness or what but, this trend seemed to follow throughout most ever industry. I love that Seagram’s Ad that it shows the trends from 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and 2009 and the meaning is that we all go “back to basics”…. I would tend to believe that would be the case here.

  12. Seth Parker

    August 11, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Again, I’m one of those “southern” guys where temps are in the mid 90’s right now, but I think “how the agent dresses” should be of minimal concern. If I’m “dressing Up,” I’m wearing khakis and a polo. I’m not above wearing blue jeans and a polo to meet a client. Want to know what I’ve heard more often than not? “Oh, thank God. We were hoping that we weren’t going to have to deal with a banker today.” I’ve never lost a deal because of how I dress. Ever. Even when the client has dressed up more than me. You win over a client with knowledge, understanding, and helpfulness. If they’re too superficial to worry about how you’ve dressed today, well, do you really want THEM as a client?

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand different situations. I’m not out selling multi-million dollar condos to wealthy businessmen that EXPECT that kind of thing…so that doesn’t really apply. I’m talking about normal, every day real estate sales…if there is such a thing.

  13. Matt Wilkins

    August 11, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I have to agree with everyone os far. Yes it is a local thing and it also depends on the price point.

    My personal example of comfort over what is considered professional is in my are there are many listings that have the utilities shut off. Showing these homes in the heat of summer with no A/C is NOT fun. I’d rather be wearing a nice looking shirt, shorts, and sandals/shoes than sweating through something heavier and more formal.

  14. Adam Gallegos

    August 11, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    I don’t think there are any rules to follow here. You should be smart enough to gauge whether you are entering a situation where it makes sense to dress it up a little bit. I tend to dress casual, but I would never push that to the point where I offend someone.

  15. Norm Fisher

    August 11, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    It’s a tough question and the answer may be differ depending on local customs.

    I once had a kitchen manager who wears a white smock and a hair net all day suggest that my open neck button down shirt was inappropriate for business. I’ve worn a tie most days since.

    One thing for sure, if you want me to sign a contract to pay you 20-30K to sell my house you’re going to need to make a positive impression on me. Clean, well groomed, and well dressed doesn’t amount to an automatic win but I’m probably not going to hold those things against you.

  16. Bob

    August 11, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Agree with JD on this. Not important enough for a broker roundtable to spend time discussing when other issues are far more pressing.

    This is an individual office meeting issue (and another reason why office meetings are considered a waste of time by many).

    FWIW, the last 3 meetings I have had with attorneys has seen them in khakis or dress jeans. They wear ties for court.

  17. Ken Brand

    August 11, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    If you’re bright enough to dress yourself, then you’re bright enough to know how to roll in proper style – or not. I’ve found that I run into problems when I don’t listen to the little Jiminey Cricket voice that whispers – No Not That, and we wear it anyway.

    As the Sales Manager, I wear lots of hats, one of them is Fashion Police, when I see it, I call it. Boom.

    Now back to that thorny issue, Big Broker, Independent Broker and how to keep from being broker and broker. (what a lame joke).


  18. Barb Dragotta

    August 11, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Clothes may make the man as the saying states; that is true as long as the clothes are clean, decent, fit properly and appropriate for the weather conditions. I would wonder about a person in short sleeves here in a Michigan winter just as much as someone in a buttoned up, wool outfit in the summer.
    It does seem appropriate for Brokers to discuss just what is the image they desire to place before their clients, thus ‘policing’ their ranks. Most agents do “get it” & “get with the program” rather well; but Ladies at times some of us seem to have difficulties deciding just where we do our Business activities–leave the low cut tops, high hems for the night scene. Rule of thumb for either sex–‘if you have to tug, stretch, pull up or down any article of clothing that you are wearing at the Office / showing, meeting, then perhaps that article should best be left for the track run or beach ball court. Just a thought !-

  19. jlittleaz

    August 11, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    In Phoenix the temps are triple digits for at least 3 months solid. It is madness to dress in business atire. It may even be life threatening. Khakis and sport shirts or polos are considered acceptable, I don,t think shorts and flip flops are. I don’t care how expensive your jeans are, someone else will show up in cheap rags.
    My Sun City neighborhood is. A quasi resort, so ties can make the client uncomfortable.
    Clean, neat, and well-groomed should always be the rule.

  20. Matthew Rathbun

    August 12, 2009 at 11:14 am

    ” my jeans probably cost more that most agents weekly outfits” ROFLMAO

    When I was a broker I wore jacket and tie… When I teach or in the office I dress causal. I personally never wore jeans, unless I was showing land / farms…

    All that to say, that the situation dictates the appearance. More than once, I’ve heard consumers complain about the appearance of their agent, so the agent needs to choose.

    The worlds changing – I’m far more comfortable with a Pastor in blue jeans than I am with one in a suit; but that’s me. #justsayin

  21. Tina McManus

    August 12, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    I’ll weigh in here. I was in corporate sales for 15 yrs. before real estate. As I learned to dress more professionally, my income went up accordingly (and it isn’t always easy for a woman to strike that balance). When I got into real estate, my collegues made fun of me for dressing in skirts & jackets. Eventually, I started dressing more casually. Now, I’m re-thinking the casual thing again and thinking that I should start dressing a little better. A jacket is pretty neutral and says “I’m a professional” to your client. Is that a bad thing?

  22. Karen Goodman

    August 12, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    I try to dress professionally when I meet a new client. Usually black slacks and a nice top. As I get to know my clients, I will get more casual…even showing property in jeans if I think that it fits my client’s personality. I am much more focused after hours of showing homes when I’m comfortable.

    On days when I am in the office with no plans to see clients, I see no reason not to wear jeans. I’m not trying to impress the other agents. If they aren’t impressed by overhearing how I interact with my clients and prospects, my clothes won’t change their opinion.

    That said, when I work with executive clients, they never see me in anything but a nice outfit.

  23. Paula Henry

    August 15, 2009 at 12:16 am

    I dress to match my clients – right now – two sizes smaller would work best.

  24. BawldGuy

    August 15, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Paula — It’s always something, isn’t it? 🙂

  25. Barry Cunningham

    August 16, 2009 at 10:11 am

    This is real easy. We just tell the client what to wear and we’re sure to not be overdressed…and comfortable.

    As Benn said it’s friggin hot down here in the South and polo’s and shorts are most assuredly the fashion statement. Show me an agent dressing up in South Florida and I’ll show you an agent who hasn’t a clue.

    Most of the homes down here actually moving are foreclosures. You know..the ones with no power! So we call the clients and let them know in advance.

    ” Het Mr. Smith the forecast is in the high 90’s with crazy humidity and the homes you are looking at today more than likely will not have any power on which means no air conditioning, so please dress as cool, and comfortable as possible. If you want to meet me in a tank top and shorts…please feel free.”

    Then when we show up dressed in safari gear, it’s already assumed. Want a real killer…after enduring the first showing with no power and 120 degree temps in the home and no relief in sight…the offer of an ice cold bottle of water from the cooler in the trunk is like a giant hook in the side of the mouth.

    I bet we close more deals because of that than I can even imagine. They come back and always ask about the bottle of water and mention it in all testimonials.

    But I’m also with Jonathan D…is this really the issue in Real Estate today?

  26. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 5, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    I dress the same for all of them on the first few outings, then adjust downward if needed, but never upward.

    This is very nice shoes and pants, belt and a polo type shirt made from fancy looking high tech material, (DryFit, etc.), like maybe Tiger Woods would wear.

    These shirts are Nike, UnderArmour, Adidas, etc. If you spend $60 for the shirt, these look quite nice, formal and business like. They have a nice little sheen to them. Not any of that nappy cotton polo stuff.

    After we have gone out a lot, if my clients are wearing shorts and flip flops, I’ll drop it down to nice shorts, same shirts, and running shoes. Real classy, baby!



  27. renee kische

    September 8, 2009 at 3:25 am

    well, in Hollywood, CA you could have $5 mill on $5 in your pocket, on your way to Starbucks. What’s most annoying is no one at the Mercedes dealership sent out a notice when you get your DRE license stating a “must have” for image is to overextend yourself with a high priced lease… even it it means living in a rented appartment in West Hollywood. Ah, is it really better to look good then to feel good…or better yet, do your damn job and stop complaining about the “economic crisis” because you can’t make a $1200 car lease. What has gone wrong with the image or real estate? Or is it that I live in a bubble? Discuss.

  28. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 8, 2009 at 7:24 am


    Don’t know. Must be a hollywood thing. Here in the burbs north of Atlanta, I drive a very shiney 2008 Toyo 4Runner with leather interior.

    I’ve never had a client complain or stick their nose in the air getting in the car. And I’ve had some high-end clients in that car.

    I think there’s only so far you can go on the low end with the vehicle and still look like a successful professional, but you don’t need a Porsche Cayenne or a MB 5xx.

    In fact, that intimidates all your mid-range clients.


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