Bubil: Looks can help make a sale, professor says


I would really like to run pictures with this column, but that could lead to problems.

Some real estate agents might be offended if I did not run their photos. So I won’t.

Here’s the story:

An associate professor with either a lot of pressure to do research, or too much time on his hands, studied the effects of an agent’s appearance on his or her performance as a salesman.

Sean Salter, associate professor of finance at Middle Tennessee State University, co-authored a study on how an agent’s looks affect property sales. He found that beauty pays.

According to a story in The Wall Street Journal, agents who most people consider to be attractive list homes for $20,275 more and sell them for $15,622 more than those marketed by “average-looking” agents.

Define average. (You don’t have to answer that.)

Salter said people often think of beauty as a sign of intelligence, competence and even a good sense of humor.

Salter and researchers Franklin Mixon of Columbus State University and Ernest King of the University of Southern Mississippi asked 402 people to rate the attractiveness of male and female agents on a scale of 1 to 10, using online photographs.

They found that every one-point increase in the listing agent’s attractiveness score added $10,989, on average, to a home’s listing price. A one-point increase to a selling agent’s score boosted a home’s selling price by $8,467.

“All else being equal, we give attractive people a little bump,” Salter told reporter Sanette Tanaka.

This has been my observation, too. It seems that those really expensive properties are being sold by attractive people.

Or at least they get the big listings.

Of course, good-looking agents would scoff at this, at least on the record. They sell more and list higher because they work harder and have more talent, they would say.

(Having an S-Class Mercedes for client transport, a spa membership, colored hair and whitened teeth have nothing to do with it.)

I would be remiss not to give credit to the many average-looking agents — define average — who are top-sellers despite having no experience as runway models.

But life is not just one endless sell-a-thon for gorgous agents.

The researchers found that pretty or handsome agents carry fewer listings and take longer to sell them. Salter says such agents use their beauty “to supplement other productive characteristics.”

In my opinion, the reason is that they land more high-end listings, which take longer to sell and are a smaller percentage of the market.


Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: July 27, 2013
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