I have always felt that putting your best foot forward in how you look to someone you are about to do business with is very important.
However, these days, I almost feel like I am in a minority since I see Realtors in jeans and shorts, T-shirts, flip flops and shower shoes all the time while showing and leaving listing appointments.
Everyone has the right to dress however they would like but consider this: What kind of client do you want to attract?
Even if I was working with investors looking at flips, I would still want to look professional. I wouldn’t wear a 3 piece suit, but worn out T-shirts and worn out jeans or shorts NEVER look like you are a professional real estate agent!
Your buyer and/or seller is entrusting you with a significant investment and looking to you for guidance and knowledge. You need to look like you know what you are doing.
If I were a Seller and called a Realtor out to talk to me about selling my $500,000 home, I would be very unimpressed with someone who showed up with a T-shirt advertising his favorite beer and a pair of droopy shorts hanging on to his hips. He would not look like a person I could take seriously or would hire for selling my expensive home. If he did not look like a professional or a person of business, why would I believe that he is? Why would I trust him? He didn’t take the time to look the part. My impression would be he was someone who showed up for barbecue instead of a listing. First impressions do matter.
Individuals who are professionals will feel the same. They don’t go to work looking slovenly dressed, because no one is going to take them serious either. You need to look the part!
So with all that being said, how do you dress professionally and when is it acceptable to dress down? Here are some inside tricks you can use so that your dress actually helps your clients feel at ease and helps you win the deal!
Be a mirror. This means seek to be a reflection of your clients dress and personality to match them. That is a physiological technique you can use to put your client at ease and make them feel more comfortable around you. There are many ways to use this technique other than with dress, but for now just know that when you match another person’s gestures, tone of voice and yes dress, they will feel so much more comfortable with you and you will immediately become relatable to them. This is a trust building technique.
I begin my discovery of the clients personality with the first phone interview while making the appointment to meet for a listing appointment or a buyer consultation. I ask questions like:
-How long have you lived in the home?
-Why are you selling?
-Where do you think you want to move to?
-Are you up-sizing for more room or downsizing for less room.
-What is the address of your home.
Sound familiar? Yes of course, these are questions you would normally ask a potential client, but now you know that they have a dual purpose.
These questions also determine the approximate age group of the potential client, (+1).
If they have lived in the home for 40 years, they won’t be millennial’s or generation X’ers. If either seller is a professional himself, #2 or #3 has a potential to reveal that.
Don’t ask if they have children but most times they will tell you if they have a small children, no children or grown children and so forth. Depending on the age of the children I can glean their casualness. If they have small children and you know they will be there, I wear a more business casual look as they will be more relaxed. No children might be a more formal look. I think the location and the price range of the home is more telltale than anything as to how you should dress.
These are all clues to help you discover how you will dress to meet them the first time.
As a side note: Many times the client will share what they think their home is worth. That is wonderful information because then expectations are set by the seller and you will know what kind of a CMA to prepare when sitting down in front of them and how to handle objections on pricing, should they arise in your meeting.
With the knowledge of the price range and neighborhood and my 5 questions I now feel very confident as to what dress will be appropriate.
As an example during my phone interview, I learn they are attorneys, doctors or a CEO that lives in a neighborhood of homes that sell between $500,000 to 1 million dollars. At this point, I can feel comfortable to wear a casual suit or one that is a bit dressy with pumps. You could also wear a nice sweater jacket with slacks and nice top (no cleavage please). Don’t wear the super glitzy or sequined party dress. (You’re not going to a cocktail party.)
For a man, wear a fashionable suit or a shirt, tie, dress slacks and loafers.
If I am working with a Seller in a moderate neighborhood, I go with business casual as a suit can seem too formal. Slacks or skirt, nice top, sweater jacket or even nice denim jacket, khakis, heels, sandals or flats and moderate but pleasing jewelry would be appropriate. I believe if your legs don’t show well, don’t go bare legged. Panty hose give your legs a nice finish and cover up a multitude of sins. (Just being real here.)
You are always striving for professional and put together look.
If I am meeting a developer in his office who sounds formal and very business-like on the phone to discuss marketing a new homes subdivision, a blue pant suit or jacket and skirt (knee level) and pumps or dress sandals would be appropriate.
A good ole hometown boy builder/developer would most likely be much less formal . A first meeting on a building site or even his office would be dress jeans (no holes) a sports jacket and boots not heels. You might end up trekking around in mud later! (Oh and by the way, I always bring an extra pair of tennis shoes or boots for trekking around.) This dress would be appropriate for looking at land as well. I would never wear a skirt and heels to look at land.
When working with a buyer client use the areas/neighborhoods you will be showing them homes in to determine the appropriate dress. You should always dress professionally, whether in low income areas or high class neighborhoods, but there is a large difference between price range and dress when you are determining whether to wear business casual or a suit and tie. Again, fall back on your clients profession and where you are showing.
Another inside tidbit is that red, royal blue and dark purple are power colors for women and blue or black are power colors for men. If you want to send the message of loyalty and conservatism, go for black and white or dark blue. Whatever you do, do not give your reputation a bad name by showing up for an appointment in holey jeans and a T-shirt with your favorite beer advertised on it as I mentioned before. An exaggeration? Not one bit. Don’t underestimate the power of a first impression to help or hurt you.
Oh, and by the way, watch the bling. Expensive jewelry is intimidating to some and mostly unnecessary today. It may also turn into a safety issue as there are some looney’s out there that could try to steal it, threatening your life. No jewelry is worth that!
I have also noticed that if my dress is too formal with young people, (millennial’s for instance) they can feel uncomfortable; that I am too high class for them. Most young folks dress very casually, jeans with everything, so I will try to mirror that dress in a professional style with dress jeans and a nice jeans jacket, a fashionable top and a skirt or maybe capri’s and a nice top. Remember that in a people business like ours, it really matters what you look like when you show up. People are judging you, right off the bat!! Think about that. You do it too!
Here is a quick story about how you should NEVER dress as a professional Realtor.
An agent in my office came to meet a client one afternoon in short shorts that barely covered her behind and a wispy top in the shape of a triangle (triangle in front, thank god). The top was made out of a lightweight scarf material that you could see her skin through. It was bare all the way to her waist in the back except the string tie holding the two sides of the scarf together. When I saw her walk past my office, shocked to see her dressed that way, I jumped up to whisk her into my office telling her I was terrified and worried that her client would walk in and see her this way and she needed to cover at least her bare back up.
I placed the suit jacket that I had been wearing that day over her shoulders. She was a very offended and let me know that she was an independent contractor and could dress as she pleased. My response?
Be cognizant of the fact that you are in an office setting first of all. Secondly, you should be projecting yourself as a professional to the buying public. The public is perceiving you as someone they know who can expedite a business transaction in the form of a real estate contract. Thirdly, think about how you will be received if you’re sitting down in front of a husband and wife and the husband can’t take his eyes off your chest because he can see right through your top. That will definitely land you in a dangerous and compromising position, causing the wife to be upset and wanting the husband to get rid of you! (Just sayin’)
While you may not be tempted to go to that extreme with wearing short shorts, and a wispy top that barely covers your chest, avoid any equivalent of inappropriate dress. Although the hours in this business may make us tired, we can’t look like we just rolled out of bed, wrinkled and disheveled hair.
The famous line bears repeating: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
No second chance—no sale……people still notice!