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Did She Just Crawl Out Of Bed?!

Real Estate Broker/Owner with North Shore Suburbs & Chicago Real Estate

Casual Real Estate ProfessionalDuring a preliminary search this past month, I viewed several properties that required listing agents to accompany their respective showings.  Ironically, the most memorable observations I made at some of these showings were the listing agents’ less-than-smart-casual attire – an unofficial dress code which appears to be the current trend-du-jour.  Here are a couple of highlights:  One  agent, still wearing her workout gear, apologized for being “all sweaty” – then explained how she rushed straight from the health club and didn’t have time to change.  Another agent, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, looked fairly discheveled as though she’d slept through her alarm – then barely managed to pull herself together in time for our appointment.  Keep in mind – these showings were not scheduled at the last minute.  Rather, each appointment required at least 24-hour notice.

They Can Show Up In Their Pajamas For All I Care

Shouldn't work ethic, along with product knowledge, professional acumen, and keen negotiating skills, trump any questionable wardrobe choices?  When in a business-type setting, does one’s 'professional appearance' even add to – or detract from – the ultimate success of a situation?  In other words, when it comes to marketing, building relationships, or otherwise developing triumphant business transactions, does it really matter to any of the parties involved what anyone is wearing?  Certainly, the real estate industry hasn’t “cornered the market” on informal business attire.  In fact, it’s pretty obvious that “Casual Friday” has increasingly proliferated into mainstream “Casual Monday Through Friday.”

My Grandmother Always Told Me It Was Better To Be Over-Dressed Than Under-Dressed

The truth is, unless a specific environment dictates more formal work attire, dress code is essentially based upon personal preference.  That said, I’ve often noticed colleagues who appeared to be heading to the beach instead of the office.  Typically, if I'm in a business-type setting, I am wearing at least a casual-type dress, skirt, or slacks.  Plus, I promise that I will have put a brush or comb through my hair.  Okay, so you're probably thinking that perhaps I’m a bit old-fashioned.  Or, you're thinking that perhaps I’m stuck in a time warp.  Furthermore, from what I've witnessed this past month, I'm now thinking that perhaps I am also in the minority.  Fair enough.  Yet, when it comes to business environments of any kind, I strongly believe we can only benefit from exhibiting a presentable image at all times.  And, quite frankly, wearing shorts and flip-flops to conduct business  – particulary in a major, urban, metropolitan area doesn’t seem entirely appropriate.  Unless, of course, you’re selling surfboards.

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carie shapiro

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Comments (76)

Harry F. D'Elia III
WEDO Real Estate and Beyond, LLC - Phoenix, AZ
Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR

First impression mean a great deal in this life

Aug 11, 2013 11:16 PM
Roger Stensland
Keller Williams Realty Puget Sound - Maple Valley, WA
Let's Move!

The agent on the other side can do as they please.  That makes me stand out even better when I am well-dressed and the other party looks as though they have been blown out of bed.

Aug 11, 2013 11:31 PM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

I am aware of dress code and get influenced by the event...Then, I dress accordingly...People do take note...they just do and will always too

Aug 12, 2013 12:01 AM
Suzanne Otto
Six Twenty Designs - Lansdale, PA
Your Montgomery County PA home stager

There's a limit to casual Monday through Friday! I'm not a fan of shorts and flip-flops at the office. Jeansare always a source of contention. I feel as long as you have nice looking shoes (not sneakers) and a nice top (no T-shirts please!) they're okay. But there are still some people who think otherwise.

Aug 12, 2013 12:17 AM
Jeff Pearl
RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA - Lovettsville, VA
Full Service Full Time Realtor

And why did those agent seven need to meet you there? That is so annoying, and even more annoying when they follow you around the house blabbing about stuff we didn't even ask about. No, I don't think you are in the minority. People should dress for the occasion. Even clean jeans and nice shirt can pass for many real estate related activities. If I was listing my house, and a potential male listing agent showed up wearing shorts and flip flops, the listing appt would end before it started.

Aug 12, 2013 12:27 AM
Phil Stevenson, CRMP
PS Mortgage Lending 305-791-4874 or 888-845-6630 - Miami, FL
"Mortgage Nerd" in Miami, Florida and Texas


I agree with you completely. First impressions count, so you have to make them count. Looking professional is turning into one of those things that is falling by the wayside but you only make yourself look bad by dressing like a "surfer." People appreciate (and notice) that you took the time to look professional for them.

Aug 12, 2013 12:28 AM
Carie Shapiro
North Shore Suburbs & Chicago Real Estate - Evanston, IL

Aaron:  I always like dress to impress!

Joanna:  As you mentioned, we are doing this job as a business - not a social activity.  And, how we present ourselves is part of the package.  I so agree with you!  Well said, Joanna :)

Brian:  There was a commenter above that wondered if full length mirrors were becoming a thing of the past too :)

Sharon:  A few folks have left me scratching my head, for sure!  Unkempt and sloppy for a business appointment ... I don't get it either.

Jimmy:  Dress for success or dress to impress ... either way, it sure matters to me too!

Rosie:  Well said.  I also like being comfy.  Professional and presentable is always important too!

John:  Exactly!  You understand business casual as it relates to both markets.  And, it sounds like you dress appropriately and accordingly for each market.

Myrl:  Under many circumstances, casual attire works well.  However, in my opinion, there is casual and there is casual.  I'm talking sloppy, unkempt, and borderline beach attire.

Amanda & Jared:  To each his or her own!  Freedom of choice is a beautiful thing.

Nina:  That is such an excellent question:  Why is it acceptable in our profession to look anything less than professional?  I would love to hear feedback on that topic!


Aug 12, 2013 12:30 AM
Than Maynard
Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma - Purcell, OK
Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862

Most of my clients would be uncomfortable if I showed up in a suit and tie!

I can understand short notice and an agent being under dressed, but 24 hours or more? Poor planning on their part. I really don't understand why some people think the listing agent needs to be at every showing.

Aug 12, 2013 01:03 AM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Looking professional is important in our job.  Most Dallas Realtors dress extremely well. I recall a Realtor in a lovely St John suit at an open house in 100 degree weather! That said, I have encountered a few young female Realtors in nice jeans.  Business casual can be professional, comfortable and approachable. As many have said, we have a few seconds to make an impression.


Aug 12, 2013 01:07 AM
Matt Kombrink
One Source Realty - Geneva, IL
Your #1 Source For Real Estate

Carie, you're right on with this post.  Your grandma was correct.  And quite frankly, being dressed professionally just makes someone act and feel more professional.

Aug 12, 2013 01:43 AM
Fernando Herboso - Associate Broker MD, & VA
Maxus Realty Group of Samson Properties - Clarksburg, MD
301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA

Guilty as such. .when I'm on my way to the gym or coming back. .but only with other agents. . never with my clients 

Aug 12, 2013 01:51 AM
Paul Collier
Patriot Home Mortgage - Huntington Beach, CA
Paul Collier

Our office is so casual (full of surf guys) that I joked we needed to declare UNCASUAL Friday. To our defense though, we largely work out of the eye of the public, holed up in our offices processing loans. If we go out to an association meeting or anything like, we put on suits and ties. I think it absolutely speaks to your commitment to your business in what you choose to wear.

Aug 12, 2013 03:22 AM
Michelle Francis
Tim Francis Realty LLC - Atlanta, GA
Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease


We work a pretty nice (translation - higher price point) home market.  We do typically dress this way - not always high fashion, but at least going for the professional look.  We have had moments - which all of us would like to avoid, but I believe it does make sense to dress for success. 

So, I will be old fashioned with you!

All the best, Michelle

Aug 12, 2013 06:18 AM
Carie Shapiro
North Shore Suburbs & Chicago Real Estate - Evanston, IL

Yvette:  Yes, life happens.  We all get caught off guard or situations come up at the last minute.  Scheduled appointments with plenty of notice ... hmmmm.

Janis:  I'm with you.  Years ago, when I showed many industrial properties, I sometimes had on a suit, nylons ... and construction or rubber boots.  I always looked professional from the ankles up :)  And, your blog about builders enjoying that agent's wardrobe ... we'll look forward to reading that one, for sure :)

Carol:  Great point!  We are making a first impression somehow, somewhere, every day!

Harry:  Yes, first impressions mean more than some people realize!

Roger:  You're so right!  Being well-dressed and groomed wins every time!

Richie:  I agree.  People do take note.  I did!

Suzanne:  Yes, there are plenty of people out there who view "professional attire" differently.  And, that's okay ... for them, right? :)

Jeff:  Thanks for saying I'm not in the minority.  And, I agree with what you said about a listing appointment.  A listing appointment should be treated like an interview.  I wouldn't show up sloppy or unkempt for an interview.  Would you?

Phil:  I agree with everything you said in your comment.  Why do you think looking professional is falling by the wayside?  It's sad.

Than:  Dressing professional doesn't have to mean suit and tie.  Lots of ways to look presentable.

Aug 12, 2013 02:07 PM
Carie Shapiro
North Shore Suburbs & Chicago Real Estate - Evanston, IL

Sharon:  Yes!  Business casual can be professional, comfortable and approachable!  And, wearing a St. Johns suit to an open house in 100+ degree heat ... now that's class :)

Matt:  Thanks!  Plus, I think dressing professional can make you feel more confident too!

Fernando:  Never with clients ... me too!

Paul:  Ha!  Uncasual Friday ... that's a good one!  But, you guys know when you need to step up and dress up too :)

Michelle:  Yes, we've all had our moments.  But, for the most part ... dress the part, right?  And, thanks for being old-fashioned with me, Michelle :)

Aug 12, 2013 02:14 PM
Nancy Laswick
United Real Estate - Phoenix, AZ
Your REALTOR® For The Valley Of The Sun

Carie, I always try to look like a professional... I'm sure I don't always pull it off especially during Monsoon season after showing several homes without A/C when the temp inside the home is well over 110! That's when you really wish the offical dress code for the day was beach wear ;-)

Aug 12, 2013 06:39 PM
Mary Ann Daniell Realtor
Coldwell Banker United, Realtors - Subsidiary of NRT LLC - Killeen, TX
Delivering Successful Results Since 1999

We dress to reflect our client's lifestyle.   You see it all around here.. from board shorts to jeans, dresses and skirts..  we work fast here since our clients need a home within a few days, so real estate is rather "down and dirty" LOL.. plus the heat (27 days now over 100) limits some wardrobe choices.   

Aug 13, 2013 04:20 AM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

There are many real estate agents that need to follow the advice of your grandmother, a very wise lady. Thanks for sharing your story.

Aug 14, 2013 12:36 AM
Karen Feltman
Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, IA KW Legacy Group - Cedar Rapids, IA
Relocation Specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I think that you are representing a client in a large investment, a home, you need to look appropriate.  Clients notice even if they don't say anything.  I will never forget the mediation that I was asked to attend with my broker and buyer clients.  The mega-million dollar glamour girl listing agent strolling in over 15 minutes late in short shorts and a sports bra, hat and ponytail as though she hadn't missed a thing... and on the phone to boot!  Not only did her seller immediately fire her in front of all of us, but I think that her broker may have come completely unglued after we left.  My buyers were appalled that she did not think the mediation was worth her time considering what she is paid to represent that $350,000 listing.  Apparently going to the gym and taking her time was more important that day.

Aug 14, 2013 08:25 AM
Connie Harvey
Pilkerton Realtors - Brentwood, TN
Realtor - Nashville TN Real Estate

Carie, we're not old fashion, we just text the way we talk! LOL

Aug 16, 2013 07:53 AM