The attractiveness of a real estate agent spills over into the property they are selling, making it more attractive in the minds of buyers, UNSW research shows

“Attractive real estate agents do achieve substantial price premiums” says UNSW Business School Senior Lecturer Robert Tumarkin. “Our research shows that that the degree of attractiveness of an estate agent iinfluences the amount of money they receive from buyers.”

The research examines what is called the ‘standard deviation increase’ in real estate agents' physical attractiveness. For every step up the attractiveness scale, the final selling price of a property increases by 2.3%.

“I was curious about why in Australia there is so much emphasis on the estate agents, and not on the property they are selling. There’s a huge incentive to be as rational as possible when buying a home,” Tumarkin says.

The groundbreaking research, with UNSW Business School colleague Joakim Bang, expands on existing research that shows people make poor decisions on small transactions when they are influenced by a person’s looks. He says, “it's known as the ‘halo effect’ and it's where a person’s overall impression of something affects their evaluation of its individual aspects”.

The researchers' results, arrived at by matching the photographs of estate agents, who had been rated on attractiveness in independent tests, with property sales where the average investment was half a million dollars, showed that good-looking agents were achieving substantial price premiums.

“If I overpay for a DVD I can live with that, but if I get overcharged $50,000 on a house, I’m going to be upset,” says Tumarkin.

“This is a unique feature of the Australian market where selling agents show properties directly to buyers. In the US, for example, the buyer and seller agents represent each party's interests; selling agents almost never meet with the buyer."

Indeed In the US, some states such as Washington have banned “lookism” or the act of discriminating against someone because of their appearance, while in the UK laws like the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 prevent much of the property advertising we see in Australia. “There it is rare to see photographs of the agent, and the property is presented just as it is.”

Read the full story at UNSW Business Think.

Media contacts: Robert Tumarkin 02 9385 6730 or 0426 237 096Julian Lorkin, UNSW Business School Media, 0405 805 365