For real estate agents, being well dressed, attractive and offering up a string of superlatives may not necessarily ensure success according to a study by the American Real Estate Society (ARES), that thinking may be off the mark.

The study, published by ARES, was conducted by Michael J. Seiler, of the College of William & Mary; Aaron Arndt and Mark A. Lane, both of Old Dominion University; and David M. Harrison of the University of Central Florida.

“Seiler’s work in experimental real estate is ground-breaking, as we can now begin to see buyers’ decision-making process for the first time and how it influences transaction outcomes,” said Ken Johnson, real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business, ARES publication director, and co-developer of the Beracha, Hardin and Johnson Buy vs. Rent Index.

The researchers investigated whether customers’ overall impression of online property listings can be influenced by the real estate agent, and whether this influence depends on the customer’s demographic characteristics.

A sample of 1,594 potential homebuyers took an online audio/visual tour of a typically priced home in their area. Subjects were shown one of eight conditions in which the researchers varied agent gender, agent attractiveness, and pathos (enhancing the verbal description of the property with superlatives).

The results show that segments of customers are drawn to different real estate agents, but contrary to expectations, customers were not necessarily drawn to similar agents or more attractive ones.

The study found that targeting customers with the same demographics is not necessarily an effective marketing strategy, that agent attractiveness does not entice customers in a way that is consistent with the customer’s sexual interest, and that there was no significant difference by gender or marital status.

Enhancing the verbal description of the property with superlatives influenced some subjects positively and others negatively.

“Our study shows that an agent’s physical attractiveness, similarity to the prospective home buyer, and use of pathos influences the overall impression of the home, but not in a consistent enough way to specifically instruct agents to adopt a certain strategy,” Seiler said. “Importantly, adopting the incorrect strategy could very well work against the agent.”

The study results are not dissimilar to results of National Association of Realtors poll of its members detailing key attributes of a real estate agent.

According to 144,000 members surveyed, the most important skills needed for a successful career in real estate, specifically residential, are people skills at 86 percent, self-motivation at 84 percent, and negotiation skills at 73 percent.

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