Why do Real Estate Agents put their photo on…

custom-real-estate-signs_splashEven though I do not have my photo on my business cards or signs at present, my clients have on occasion asked me this question when we enter a house where the agent’s picture is on the sign.
Even when the agent’s photo is not on the sign, some ask me why the agent’s picture is often on the business cards and other materials such as the home flyer.

This morning over at The Onion there is a funny post titled “I Wasn’t Going to Buy This House UNTIL I Saw The Realtor’s Headshot On the Sign”by Sam Cone.

The answer is fairly simple. There has been for some time now, a continuous struggle between Brokerages and Real Estate Agents as to whether you are going to call “The Office” or “The Agent”. For many years there was a rule called The Rule of Prominence, which is still a rule in some places in the Country. That rule required “…the brokerโ€™s name to be equal in size and more prominent than the agentโ€™s name”. (but not necessarily the agents face or photo). As soon as it was determined that the agent’s photo was not part of the prominence rule, agent’s used the photo to help insure that the prospective client or home buyer would call them vs. the Brokerage, or at least ask for them by name if they did call the Brokerage.

Take a look at the sign I used in the thumbnail photo that says, “Buy Your Next Home With Us!” …and then ask yourself who “us” is? US is obviously Century Properties, and not Cindy, given the company has the header and footer control, and Cindy only gets to customize the insert on the white background. Also the slogan would say “call ME” vs. call “US” if that were Cindy’s slogan vs. the Brokerages slogan.

Cindy wants you to call her, and the company wants you to call them. This is more of an issue in some places than others. Historically Brokerages did not have to pay for a receptionist. Agents used to “sit floor duty” on the hope of getting a new client via a “sign call”. More and more, agents began trying to be “more prominent” on the sign than the broker, to insure that they personally got the call vs the Brokerage, or that you would at minimum be enticed to ask for the Cindies of the world by name when calling the Brokerage.

From the home seller’s standpoint, would the owner rather you talk to Cindy? Probably, because Cindy knows their home better than any old body who answers the phone at the real estate company.

So it would seem that whether you are the agent or the owner of the property, those two entities are best served if you take the extra time to reach “Cindy”, than whomever happened into the office to get a cup of coffee today.

Now let’s talk about the buyer. The buyer is often NOT best served by speaking with the agent for the seller from an Agency standpoint. They may be best served by talking to the agent for the seller when they want to know things about the property, or they want to possibly try to save some money on the real estate commission by not having a separate agent. Any way you slice it, the buyer being able to tell who is, and who is not, “the agent for the seller” is of value.

The big fat face on the sign is a HUGE reminder that the person in that picture represents the SELLER, and NOT you the BUYER.

Forewarned is forearmed…and the next time you see an agent photo on a sign you might ask yourself if you want that person who represents that seller…knowing a whole lot about you, the buyer. Do you want that person to know how much you LOVE the house!? Do you want that person to know that you are worried about whether or not you can get financing? Do you want that person to know that you are not sure if you want the house, you just want to tie it up for a few days while you think about it?

If nothing else, value the big fat photographic reminder, that the smiling face on that sign…does not represent you, if you are a potential buyer of that house.

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ARDELL is a Managing Broker with Better Properties METRO King County. ARDELL was named one of the Most Influential Real Estate Bloggers in the U.S. by Inman News and has 33+ years experience in Real Estate up and down both Coasts, representing both buyers and sellers of homes in Seattle and on The Eastside. email: ardelld@gmail.com cell: 206-910-1000

25 thoughts on “Why do Real Estate Agents put their photo on…

  1. No other industry puts its pictures on business cards because no other industry is like real estate. There are a lot of agents, and each client presents the opportunity for a substantial (and often-times very, even VERY, substantial) fee. In such a system, the primary focus of agents is client acquisition. Like any other service, clients are best acquired through (a) referrals from other satisfied clients, and (b) presenting the agent as personable and skilled. Since first impressions are generally strongest, and since people tend to seek out positive relationships, “personable” is just as if not more important than “skilled.” Moreover, as Ardell has pointed out, agents market themselves as advisers who will counsel you as to intensely personal issues and guide you to what is best for you, even if you do not know it initially (such as the neighborhood you should make your home). So, in this system the “friendly face” is an essential marketing tool.

  2. Craig:

    A lot of professions do the same thing as an agent – acquire clients, oversee the transaction, and ultimately use their reputation to get future business. Many also deal with much larger sums of money than agents as well. Most lenders operate almost exactly the same as agents but very few tend to put their pictures on business cards. I would cringe if I got a business card from an Attorney with their face plastered all over it. Same for any other professional.

    Agents put their pictures on their business cards because they are told that is what they should do when they first get in the business. It is just an ingrained habit.

    If it is done tastefully, I don’t really have an issue with it. However, while I have seen some super sexy agents in my time, most are no where near fashion models and would be better served promoting their name and not their image.

    Here in Chicago, I have seen agents with everything from an old mid 80’s picture with mullets to gay guys with their shirt open posing like they are in a high fashion mag on Realtors business cards. Some of them are down right comical.

  3. Russ,

    I got them once, when they were the new thing. These days I do not believe it is appropriate to overly entice people to call “The Agent for the Seller”, when the person they really need to call is an agent for them, the buyer. Especially here in WA where every agent represents the buyer except the one who represents the seller whose face is on the sign.

    Still if the big face had a big reminder under it that said “Agent for the seller of this home”…I might like that as a disclosure.

    I once knew an agent who used the back of the flyer at the house to promote all of her other listings.

    – I don’t think it’s right to use someone’s house to promote my business elsewhere.
    – I don’t think it’s right to use an Open House to nab new customers vs trying hard to sell that house in those three hours.

    If the only training in real estate was about how to represent each client well, vs how to promote oneself, I would be a very happy girl.

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day Everyone!

  4. I have often been asked “are you ‘the’ agent”, when showing a property. Someone drives by or walks by and asks me that. I answer “I am “AN” agent but not “THE” agent who represents the seller of this home.”

    In our business where some agents represent the buyer and one agent represents the seller, it’s not a bad idea to see the face of the one that represents the seller, so the buyer does not reveal things to that agent that they would not say to the seller himself. This is not true in CA by the way, where everyone from the office works for the seller.

    If readers get nothing else from this post, they should get that the name or face of the agent on the sign = Person who represents the seller…and not you.

    Agency is one of the most important facets of real estate and who represents whom in a real estate transaction. That changes from State to State. I don’t think that is remotely true in the lending industry, so for Rhonda and Russ it is a non-issue.

    Anything at all that will help the agents understand who they do and do not work for (like themselves) is of benefit. If looking at your own face on the sign helps you remember that you do not represent the buyers who call you from that sign…great. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Rhonda and Ardell would look great on a sign or card. I feel at ease looking at them and quite comforted.

    Craigs face and mine on a sign would have a very negative effect.

  6. Ray,

    Odd thing when I met Craig. He is much taller than his face suggests. Not sure how a face can suggest height. But I always imagined him much shorter than he actually is. He is very tall. Same for Courtney Cooper who is also very tall, possibly as tall as Craig ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I have my face on my business card because I’m egotistical. But in reality if people notice it they usually exclaim something like ” My God. Look at him. They’ll give real estate licenses to anybody.”

    • Ardell- Avatars are fine but I’d like to see a really nice picture of you. We’ve had a lot of back and forthing over the past year or so but have never met face to face. I think your many other readers/fans would also appreciate same. J-

  8. Kim and I have this “argument” all the time. When I’m meeting a new client who called me (from blogging) he asks if I have a card to give them. I don’t. I don’t understand why I would give a card to someone who already called me.

    The only time I use business cards is to leave them at houses I show, per mls rules. Otherwise I just say Google “ARDELL Seattle” phone number, or email, or any topic, and it will pop up ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Ardell- It’s always better to give out too many business cards rather than too few. People may lose track of the number they had used to call you the first time. I’ve always collected lots of cards of various suppliers, contractors, sub-contractors. As a residential architect I’ve come to appreciate more and more my long-gone sales manager father and what he taught me under his roof. J-

      • The Times They Are A Changin’, Jerry. All you have to do is google “ardell seattle phone number”. No more “rolodexes” full of “business cards”. My phone number will pop up on the first page of google at least three times.

  9. I am a Realtor and a former Attorney. As a professional, I find it quite silly that so many agents plaster their photo on everything. I try to take the higher ground and market my skills, rather than my face.

  10. While I don’t have a photo on my business card, I think there is a very valid reason that photos on real estate agent cards are helpful: a photo on the business card does show a seller who is home that the face matches the card – a form of ID.

    Over the years I have had several home seller clients worry that the person knocking on their door might not really be an agent. While a photo on a card isn’t full proof, it could be helpful.

  11. As much as realtors and politicians like to self promote and plaster their faces everywhere, the reality is that they are hurting themselves. For every one person who chooses a realtor because of they way they look, 50 more DON’T choose them due to the picture.

    Do you really want a client who chooses you because of your picture? I’d rather find a client who agrees with my buying or selling principles, taglines, mission statements, then a cheesy self portrait.

    Here’s an example. There is a person of Indian descent running for congress. He does heavy advertising with great taglines and has a real sense of what people want. a month before the election, he starts including a self portrait of himself in traditional Indian turban and beard. He looks like a terrorist and losses a big portion of his supporters. Now he has taken his face off his ads again. but it’s too late.

  12. I sold real estate for 43 years in the MLS that covers 7 counties in Washington State. I loved to sit Sunday Open House. I usually sold my OPEN HOUSE; because I knew what I was talking about. The role of a sales agent is to bring about a meeting of the minds between buyer and seller. This business of who represents the seller and buyer contest merely create suspicion between buyer and seller and creates ill will. I love for the seller to remain on the premises where I sit open house. Never had a problem. Wrote many offers on the kitchen counter. I remember when the first Flyer Box was planted on a FOR SALE home. My broker groused it will only make the agents lazier than they already are. He was so right. The computer age will let you write a sale while still in bed. -Feature this: A former buyer called me, told me to meet a family of Asians who spoke no English; except the prospective buyer wanted to live near her mother on the same street. The buyer son flew in from San Francisco to Seattle and he had the authority to sign for his mother. So, I met the family at the door, entered where the seller remained. Everyone bowing and exchanging words of which I had no comprehension. I wrote the deal on the kitchen counter, signed sealed delivered. I asked the Buyer where they would secure financing. Buyer said: “Off the internet.” I asked about Escrow? Buyer said: “Off the internet.” -15 days later I got my commission. -Easy money! Hummmmm? You think the computer is going to eliminate the middleman and middle-woman. Answer: Only if the seller don’t need a keybox access. -Actually, what could eliminate the middle folk is an insurance company that objects to a keybox on a FOR SALE door.

  13. An Exclusive Listing Agreement signed by the Seller is, by association, a commitment by the MLS agencies to serve the Seller. -The Buyer does not have such a commitment. If an agent creates a commitment to serve the Buyer, then the agent is serving in conflict with the MLS commitment to the Seller.

  14. That is not true Noel, and clearly not true in the State of Washington. Only the listing agent serves the seller and usually as a single agency relationship with the seller. That agent’s Designated Broker, not Brokerage or the other agents of that Brokerage, may represent buyer and seller as a Dual Agent, if one of the other agents in the office represents the buyer. All other agents of any company including the listing brokerage represent the buyers they are assisting. This per WA Agency Law.

    In no State or MLS that I am aware of does an mls “serve the Seller”. They serve their membership…the brokerages.

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