Unattractive Real Estate Agents Achieve Quicker Sales

I am trying to sell my house at the moment in a particularly hot local housing market. The market isn’t the only thing that is hot. So is my agent. It turns out that her attractiveness could be very good news in terms of the price the house is sold for, but bad news in terms of how long it is on the market.

Research published last month finds that the personal characteristics of real estate agents matter to house prices and the length of time a house is on the market, even after controlling for the quality of the house.

In their analysis the researchers control for age of the property, size of the house, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, location of the home and, as controls for quality, whether or not the house has hardwood flooring, brick siding and granite countertops.

It turns out having a male agent is bad for the selling price of a house. Both male listing agents (those acting on behalf of the seller) and male selling agents (those acting on behalf of the buyer) are associated with lower house prices than their female counterparts. The gender of the agent, however, has no effect on how long a house is on the market.

Being attractive, for both listing and selling agents, is associated with higher final sale price for a house, with the effect on house prices of having an attractive listing agent is about twice as large as that of an attractive selling agent.

Where homeowners lose out on having an attractive listing agent, however, is in having their house on the market for longer. The attractiveness of the selling agent has no effect on length of time on the market (which makes sense since, presumably, the characteristics of the buyer’s agent only matter when the house is finally sold).

Attractive agents don’t necessarily earn more annually than less attractive agents. The houses they sell go for a higher price, but they sell fewer houses than do less attractive agents (presumably because each house is on the market for longer).

The study also finds that non-white listing agents are associated with lower final prices and both non-white listing agents and selling agents are associated with longer times on the market.

The authors argue that this evidence of higher house prices and longer time on market for attractive agents is suggestive of two theories. Either attractive agents use their physical beauty to compensate for low productivity (i.e., they don’t actually work that hard to sell the house because their attractiveness helps get a higher price). Or they use their beauty to attract better listings that command higher prices but are no better (or worse) at selling them than other agents.

The authors of this paper side with the second explanation – that agents don’t actually use their beauty to sell properties more successfully, but rather are better at attracting listings that they can sell for higher prices.

If my agent read this piece I suspect that she would think to herself: I wonder if anyone has every done a study on the relationship between having an economist as a client and the length of time a house spends on the market? I have to admit to feeling a bit badly about how analytical I have been about the whole thing. The good news is, though, that the combination of being patient (which I am) and being attractive (which she is) appears to be a winner. Here’s hoping!

References:

Sean P. Salter, Franklin G. Mixon Jr & Ernest W. King (2012). “Broker beauty and boon: a study of physical attractiveness and its effect on real estate brokers’ income and productivity.” Applied Financial Economics, vol. 22(10): p.p. 811-825

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice
popular

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less