How Should You Dress For Your Loan Application?

Mortgage and Lending with San Diego VA Home Loans/858-777-9751

Apparently, looks matter when you’re seeking a loan.  From a Rice University study:

People who are perceived to be trustworthy are more likely to have a higher credit score and pay lower interest rates on loans, and are less likely to default, according to the study by Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Even when hard facts such as credit scores are available, people rely on an assessment of trustworthiness to decide whether to make a loan.

dudeI’ll admit that I am not immune to this bias.  Much of my business is local and I “pre-judge” the intent if not the credit worthiness on the effort put forth.  Let me give you an example.  Two (different)  people made appointments, the day after Thanksgiving, 2008, to go through a pre-qualification.  Both needed counseling about how to pay down debt and improve their credit scores so that they could buy a home.

The first, an accomplished young man, arrived in like he was headed to the beach; shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops.  While this is the “standard uniform” of a San Diegan on his day off, his documentation reflected his cavalier dress.  We met for 45 minutes, outlined what he could do to prepare for home ownership, and concluded the meeting with a promise to “touch base” after the first of the year.  His dress, behavior, and attitude was “What can you for for me?” I didn’t take his inquiry seriously.

The second, an equally accomplished young lady, came to the appointment dressed to do business.  Her dress, while casual, reflected her solemnity and determination.  She read my article about how to prepare documentation, opened up a notebook, and took copious notes.  Within 30 minutes, we developed a detailed budget and a plan businessto pay down debt while saving for a down payment.  She requested three follow-up phone calls to gauge her progress towards her goal.  Her dress, behavior, and attitude is “How can you help me to help myself?”.  Obviously, she got me to “buy in” to her.

Successful Online Mortgage Shopping- Do You "Dress For Success?"

How might a borrower do this online? Borrowers would do well to understand that a loan originator is “interviewing” you as much as you are “interviewing” them.  I have been persuaded to take on difficult, time-consuming, loan transactions because I felt a sense of mutual respect from my discourse with the borrower.  Borrowers who referenced an online profile, where I could see their picture and resume, received 2-3 times the attention as those who didn’t.

Sounds unfair, doesn’t it? The Zillow Mortgage Marketplace would seemingly eliminate such subjectivity and democratize a borrower’s chances for the best loan terms.  I won’t argue against its efficacy for the “pristine” borrower.  Pristine, however, is becoming subjective as valuations decline rapidly.  Your “numbers” might not be enough to attract the most talented mortgage consultants in the country but… your picture might help.  From the aforementioned Rice University study:

“There is an array of information that you can get out of the pictures,” Duarte said, adding that borrowers use photographs ranging from family portraits to snapshots of their pets.

“The pictures are revealing something about the behaviour of these people that is not taken into account in the credit score model,” Duarte said.

To make sure that the evaluators’ prejudices did not skew the results, the researchers controlled for race, age, gender, obesity, attractiveness and education, as well as financial factors like employment status, income and homeownership.

Understanding what determines trustworthiness may be relevant to the current economic crisis and be the key in restoring trust in the markets, Duarte said.

Trust.   It’s the cornerstone to a healthy banking system. If “old skool” is now vogue,  pay heed to your grandfather’s advice; wear a tie to your loan applcation.  Online, a profile picture is your tie.

If your face is trustworthy, why hide it?

Part Two:

Successful Online Mortgage Shopping- Do You "Dress For Success?"


Re-Blogged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Jessica Horton Jessica Horton Realty 03/16/2009 10:26 AM
  2. Isaac E. Chavez 03/16/2009 10:51 AM
  3. D B 03/16/2009 12:53 PM
  4. Maya Thomas LLC, Broker 03/16/2009 03:21 PM
  5. Mirela Monte 03/19/2009 03:15 PM
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Chris Sonaggera
Yukon, OK
Keller Williams Elite,

Why should it matter what the person is wearing just as long as they meet the loan qualifications. 

Mar 16, 2009 05:22 PM #56
Brian Brady
San Diego VA Home Loans/858-777-9751 - San Diego, CA

This has turned into an interesting discussion but the Rice study suggest that appearance does matter. I dont make the rules, I just play by them. This post is more for consumers, illustrating that data from the Rice study. 

To those who have asked the question about phone or online, I suggest that the borrower link to a profile with a picture so that I can "learn" about them.  We all work harder for those with whom we connect; the "picture on a profile" can do that for a borrower quite well.

Whatever happened to the surfer dude in flip flops? Did you continue to work with him, or did he fly off the radar?

He's gone, Mary.  Both those borrowers needed work; the lady who "looked" determined received my attention and put an offer in on a house today.

Why should it matter what the person is wearing just as long as they meet the loan qualifications?

Great question, Chris and Jenita.  Neither one of them did; they were "selling me" on working with them.  I had to make a choice about where to spend my efforts; the more reliable-looking person won my attention.


Mar 16, 2009 06:51 PM #57
Darrell Walters
W. Darrell Walters - Newnan, GA

I think it's important to dress for success but at the same time understand that not everyone has that attitude.

Mar 17, 2009 02:06 AM #58
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

My wife is my marketing person.  After talking to her about this post, she asked me if anyone made another observation.  The first applicant was male, the second female.  My wife found it no surprise that the manner in which they received the information given by the loan officer was quite different.  She's always quoting statistics regarding the willingness of single females to ask questions, take notes, do homework and step-up to buy homes in larger numbers than single males.  The stats don't lie either ... single women are out-purchasing their male counterparts 2 & 3 to 1 these days.  It's why we host female-only lending and financial seminars.  They are eager to learn and have the chance to ask questions.  They have more specific questions, approach the process a little differently, and have differing needs. 

Maybe some of the answer and attitude lies in the sex of the applicant.  Looking back on my applications, I would say it is true in some degree.  Not across the board obviously, but in many  many cases.

As far as the dress of the applicant, it's true that appearance doesn't always equal ability.  You can be surprised.  Have to agree with the assessment that my initial reaction can definitely be strong in a positive or negative manner though.  I think it's only human nature to react.  It doesn't change how I move forward with a client, but the initial reaction still occurs.  I also agree with Andrew in his response though.  We in the industry need to take stock of our own appearances too.  I've attended closings where the professionals in the room looked worse than the clients that just came in from doing manual labor on a hot summer day.  I still think it makes a statement regarding the quality of service being rendered, knowledge, and credibility of the professional.

Great dialogue and views expressed regarding this piece.  Keep 'em coming!

Gene Mundt, Professional Mortgage Consultant                                  Chicago Bancorp 

Mar 17, 2009 02:32 AM #59
Paul McFadden
Paratex - Seattle, WA
Pest Control, Seattle, WA.

Brian: Thank you. I think it's all about being a professional. Every once in a while, we meet some boy or girl genius who bucks the system. But, most of time, stereotypes ring true! Thanks again!

Mar 17, 2009 02:58 AM #60
Jeff Belonger
Social Media - Infinity Home Mortgage Company, Inc - Cherry Hill, NJ
The FHA Expert - FHA Loans - FHA mortgages - USDA loans - VA Loans

Brian... a few things, the studies about dress and such is very true. I agree that a loan officer should at least be in business casual dress, because even on the phone, it's how they portray themselves... and it's a fact. With borrowers meeting me in person, I have had a range of different appearances also. As much as I am like you, that I will look at this, as Kristin Moran stated, I try not to judge people anyhow. Even if they have lower scores, not until I find out the whole scope. Shit happens and it can happen to the best of us.

Overall, I am not arguing your point, I agree with most of it and understand it... just that I won't judge, well, try not to judge without hearing the whole story. Besides, as someone mentioned, people can fool you. But I will agree, even online, your picture is a thousand words. And those without pictures???  I just wonder...  lastly, I agree about the whole Zillow thing... are they just getting average loan officers?  I think so...  in many cases.  Good post.

Jeff Belonger

Mar 17, 2009 04:01 AM #61
Janet Guilbault
Guild Mortgage - Walnut Creek, CA
San Francisco Bay Area Direct Mortgage Lender

Well, Brian, I am in California like you, where the standard uniform is flip flops and shorts. Where reverse snobbery is in full force (the millionaire who drives the five dollar car and thinks its cool to look like he is poor).

Where techno geeks have their own nerdy unkept look, and there are plenty of aging west coast hippies with gobs of money in the bank, still wearing peace symbols, long hair, and tie dyed shirts.

Gotta love being in California where what you wear has absolutley nothing to do with your bank account!

Mar 17, 2009 04:22 AM #62
Mark MacKenzie
Phoenix, AZ

Janet:  You bring up a really good point.

Looks can be deceiving.

I think ultimately what this comes down to is respect.  If a client genuinely wants your help, then you go the extra mile for them.



Mar 17, 2009 04:29 AM #63
Andrea Moore

I find just the opposite to be true, but maybe it's my area. I find the well-dressed, affluent people to be the penny-pinching jerks. The ones who come in straight out of working at the chicken plant or the mechanics to be my most appreciative clients. They may not have their paperwork straight, but with some coaching, they'll do anything you ask. Once you have their business, you better bet they are your client for life, and they will tell their friends. I can't say the same for the rate-shopping jerk in the suit.

Mar 17, 2009 12:37 PM #64
Wayne Johnson
Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS® - San Antonio, TX
San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale


I enjoy these thought provoking posts that generate such energy on both sides of an issue. Although I am a little surprised that many negative terms are used to describe clients (fools, jerks, etc.) That may be coming through in many interactions with them because they use some of the same adjectives to describe some agents.

Good post, Brian.

Mar 17, 2009 12:55 PM #65
Mike Saunders
Lanier Partners - Athens, GA

Brian - it is the attitude more than the dress that matter to me. Ok, they can flip flops and shorts, but hopefully clean and no strong personal aromas. I learned long ago, in San Francisco, in a different field, you don't judge people by the clothes they wear (ok, I admit, I might have a problem with the pants hanging down around the knees). A person is most comforrtable in clothes they feel comfortable in.

Mar 17, 2009 01:04 PM #66

Hey Wayne, that wasn't nice!  But I'm glad you said "some" agents.  While I believe that you should always "dress up", I agree that you should dress for the market.  Here in Florida at one end you are selling houses on the beach.  I would look pretty foolish in a suit and heels trying to show a beachfront property.  But here in Orlando - I see a lot of different attire, from way too casual to professional.  I would like to err on the side of looking too professional.  How my clients are dressed is not my concern as long as I don't see underwear.  All I want to see is a pre-qualification letter.  Good exchange of ideas on the posts, though.

Mar 17, 2009 01:13 PM #67
Brian Brady
San Diego VA Home Loans/858-777-9751 - San Diego, CA

This is a consumer article, advising borrowers to "dress for success" . 

The main point is to help consumers "get an edge" when they shop online. 

In my opinion, the most important part of this article is:

How might a borrower do this online? Borrowers would do well to understand that a loan originator is “interviewing” you as much as you are “interviewing” them.  I have been persuaded to take on difficult, time-consuming, loan transactions because I felt a sense of mutual respect from my discourse with the borrower.  Borrowers who referenced an online profile, where I could see their picture and resume, received 2-3 times the attention as those who didn’t.


Mar 17, 2009 01:42 PM #68
Brian Brady
San Diego VA Home Loans/858-777-9751 - San Diego, CA
Jeff Daniel
John L. Scott Ocean Shores - Ocean Shores, WA
Managing Broker, John L. Scott 360.581.9020

I totally understand Brian. Everytime someone walks in my office wearing a tie, it makes me wonder what they're up to...

Mar 17, 2009 04:20 PM #70
Ann Gravel, Pat Bennett Realty, New Hampshire

Hi Brian,  your post has brought some interesting responses.  Up here in the Northeast we have been taught at an early age to dress neatly when trying to impress and also to watch manners and language.  I agree that it matters in what part of the country you do business that it makes sense to go with flow, but your mannerisms and personality say a lot as well.  As far as online applications go, or any business conducted online, I have had an immediate phone call that has given the person on the other end some idea of whom they were dealing.  I do like Jeff Belonger's response especially his statement on the credibility of the client.  He has insight and knows life can deal us some very bad circumstances, but that does'nt mean we are down for the count.  I also agree with Andrea Moore re: best dressed and penny pinching, I've dealt with many of those.  It all rests with the person behind the desk in what he might perceive as viable. 

Mar 17, 2009 09:55 PM #71
Eliese Pivarnik
Colorado Group Realty, LLC - Steamboat Springs, CO
GRI, RSPS, ABR Broker, Colorado Group Realty

As a mortgage broker, you should judge the client by the credit score, not his beach attire. 

An example:  When looking for renters, I make sure they fill out a credit app.  One very nice, well-dressed lady drove up in her BMW.  I checked her credit and it was full of bankruptcies and no-pays.

The next potential tenant drove up in his pick up truck and had on jeans.  He had stellar credit and was a perfect tenant.

The only thing nice clothes prove is that people like to shop and are concerned about their appearance.  It does not reflect their character.

Mar 18, 2009 04:36 AM #72
Robin Turner
Happy House Real Estate - Cocoa Beach, FL
Robin Turner

I met  a a nice but rather grubby lookin guy in a motel lobby. I was thinking he might be a candidate to buy a mobile home I had. He had an "XXXXX maintenance" logo on his shirt.

As we walked outside there was a huge new boat in the parking lot of the hotel, probably about $400,000 worth. On the side was the same "XXXXX maintenance" logo. Yes, the guy owned the company and was off on a week long fishing trip. So much for appearances.

I didn't think about it until after he left but he probably would have bought the whole mobile home park....

Mar 18, 2009 06:41 AM #73
Joetta Fort
The DiGiorgio Group - Arvada, CO
Independent Broker, Homes Denver to Boulder

I never thought about dressing for a loan interview. I'll add it to the advice I give clients. I heard once that dressing nicely adds confidence too, and that can't hurt a first-time, nervous buyer.

Mar 18, 2009 05:49 PM #74
Wayne L. Brown
Franklin Advantage Inc. - Alpine, CA


Always enjoy your work. You never mince words, and you're a straight shooter.

Best Regards,


Mar 23, 2009 04:46 PM #75
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