Attractive real estate agents: the research and the hype

attractive real estate agentsIt is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but a recent research article has the blogosphere a buzz questioning how attractive real estate agents can help you sell your home. The article was even posted on a National Association of Realtors® blog (; posing the question, “do attractive real estate agents sell homes for more money?”

Do attractive real estate agents help sell your home faster?

The research conducted by Salter, Mixon & King, and published in the journal Applied Financial Economics, was titled “Broker beauty and boon: a study of physical attractiveness and its effect on real estate brokers’ income and productivity” (2012. vol. 22(10): p.p. 811-825). The research was not just an attempt at pop psychology, but rather it was one of the more recent attempts to establish how physical attractiveness affects income. The authors suggest, as stated in the abstract, that, “Results suggest that beauty augments more attractive agents’ wages and that more attractive agents use beauty to supplement classic production-related characteristics, such as effort, intelligence, and organizational skills.”

As the article makes its rounds on the internet, the results have most likely become misinterpreted and distorted. Although headlines might suggest that attractive agents sell homes at higher prices than others, however, the results could be interpreted that attractive agents may actually charge you more for their services rather than selling your home at a higher price (after all, the research is how beauty affects earnings). Additionally, as some have suggested that the results indicate less attractive agents sell homes quicker, beauty does not guarantee a quick sale (or satisfaction, as I describe below).

Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Hamermesh & Biddle state that there is empirical evidence that “beholders view beauty similarly” (1994. Beauty and the labor market. The American Economic Review, 84(5), 1174-1174.). They also acknowledge that beauty may “alter” other characteristics – and these variables are difficult to measure. Some variables that may be part of the “beauty quotient” might include facial structure, height and weight, while other variables may also include a person’s self esteem and confidence. Although Hamermesh & Biddle make it clear that there is a “penalty” in earnings for unattractiveness, they also acknowledge there may be “unobserved” characteristics associated with attractiveness that could account for increased earnings (they suggest a possible example is that increased earnings in adulthood with appearing physically attractive may be a result of a privileged background).

Do attractive real estate agents help sell for more money?

selling housesThe phenomenon of increased earnings for the beautiful is not a new concept, but Salter, Mixon & King have indicated it is factual for real estate agents. But the attractiveness quotient is not clear cut as other factors (besides physical characteristics) are brought to the table, such as networking and communication skills, previous experiences, and professional image.

But wait- there’s more to the story! There is another body of research on contrast effects and physical attractiveness that suggests that when people are surrounded by beautiful people, happiness decreases (see: Michael Levine (2001). Why I hate Beauty. Psychology Today. 34,4). So, this could be interpreted to indicate that just because you hire an attractive real estate agent (quite possibly for a higher commission) – your satisfaction is not guaranteed.

Do attractive real estate agents make more commission?

The bottom line: stick with the basics when hiring a real estate agent; which include (among other things) asking trusted sources (such as friends and relatives) for a referral , and ask agent about their license and qualifications as well as recent references.

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By Dan Krell

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.