Marketing

Should real estate agents drive fancy cars?

Upscale cars may project success, but they can also rub prospects the wrong way, agents say

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“I was shocked a few months ago when a past customer emailed me and told me they were going to list their house but not with me because my car was too dumpy to be carrying customers in (2007 Accord),” said Andrea Hatton.

That was a post in a discussion on the Facebook group Raise the Bar in Real Estate, where participants debated whether real estate agents should or should not drive flashy cars.

Real estate agents put in a lot of miles on the road, and the car they emerge from to shake hands with new prospects or use to ferry buyers from listing to listing may influence how they are perceived by potential clients.

Some argue that agents should drive upscale cars to project success. Others caution that broadcasting wealth can alienate some prospects, and even prompt them to seek a discount. And then there’s the just-be-you camp: They think an agent’s car doesn’t count for squat.

“This business is very image-oriented in my opinion and you attract what you project,” said David Fresquez, one of many who, in a recent discussion on the Facebook group Raise the Bar in Real Estate, contended that driving a top-shelf car can earn you points.

“When you’re charging the same thing as a newbie agent, it’s not about how much you charge — its about how much you’re doing,” chimed in Greg Lyles. “People want to do business with successful people.”

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“I have a friend here in Atlanta who drives his Ferrari to see clients,” he added. “He sold over $143 million last year.”

Some agents described cases where buyers and sellers explicitly stated that they evaluate agents based at least partly on their wheels.

Hector Chinea says that people in Miami are image-conscious and cast at least some judgment on others based on their appearance and vehicle.

Some cash buyers he’s worked with have said that they ditched past agents because they “looked scrubby.”

But rolling around town in a car that screams privilege can also rub some buyers and sellers the wrong way, and potentially even lead them to ask some agents for a discount, agents said in the conversation on Raise the Bar in Real Estate.

One woman who lost her home made it clear to Valerie Crowell that it “hurt” to see the agent who sold the woman’s home drive by every day in a black Mercedes.

Brendan Clemmens thinks an agent’s car may partly influence how much money a client decides they are ready to cough up.

Some think, “You make too much, give me a rate reduction,” while others, he said, believe that “if you can drive that, you’ve gotta be good; you’re hired!”

The best choice, some agents say, is a car that reflects success but doesn’t smack them over the head with that message.

“I think I’m going to get an Acura next,” said Dawn Brenengen. “Good mix of successful, but not overpaid.”

The takeaway may be that the best car for an agent depends on their market and what types of buyers and sellers they want to attract.

“If you are working with distressed clients and drive an Escalade, it could affect your credibility with them,” said Mary Jo Quay.

But, she added, “If you are working upper-bracket clients, driving a beater shows that [you] either take Warren Buffet very seriously or that you can’t afford a better car.”

Jeff Boyd says that “you have to play to your demographic.”

“I’ve seen a Bentley roll up to a bread-and-butter house in Lake Forest and the clients were off-put, but cruising around Newport Coast or Beverly Hills it would be expected.”

In Detroit, what might matter most is that an agent’s car is American-made.

“Not as often as we used to, but as recently as two years ago we have lost high $$$$ listings because we did not pull up in a domestic,” said Brandon Kekich.

Another group of agents dismisses the idea that the type of car an agent drives matters at all.

“I drive what I drive,” said one commenter. Added another: “Frankly, don’t care what my clients drive or what they think of my wheels since I am the one driving and want comfort and reliability.”

Some cited cases of agents closing big deals while driving cheap cars.

“Love that I sold an 8 figure home last summer while driving a rented Kia!” said Karen Coney Coplin.

“Doesn’t matter what you drive,” said Lori Winterhalter.”It matters how you treat people!”

Email Teke Wiggin.