Few people would hire a lawyer or consult a physician based on the way they looked on their business cards. But in real estate, it’s common for agents to include headshots on their cards. What’s the ideal look for a real-estate portrait?
In the case of Matt Tavener and Molly de Mattos, aka the Matt & Molly Team of Keller Williams in Asheville, N.C., it’s a dual headshot. When Mr. Tavener and Ms. de Mattos joined forces five years ago, they created a shared business card. They have updated it a few times as their look changed, noted Mr. Tavener. But the partners made sure to keep their look “natural and casual,” said Mr. Tavener, who is depicted in their most recent card wearing a casual shirt and a slightly more formal jacket while Ms. de Mattos is attired in a summery yellow shirt.
When Alison Ziefert of Maplewood, N.J., was a sales agent for Coldwell Banker, her business card featured a formal portrait, posed in a studio in front of a neutral backdrop. When she moved to Keller Williams, she chose a more casual look. She employed the services of a local photographer and had her picture taken outdoors, in a local park. “I think the card should reflect me—what I do and the towns I work in,” she said.
Leslie K. Mills, a real-estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Walnut Creek, Calif., has a business card with a photo that she said is “probably about four years old.” But updating her card requires the participation of her professional partner, Debra E. Smith, with whom she shares a card. Their joint card shows the women dressed in a similar style—in print blouses and pants—with equally wide, approachable smiles.
Academics have weighed in on the subject. Professor Sean Salter, associate professor of finance at Middle Tennessee State University, studied the use of photography in real-estate sales materials in a 2013 research paper published in Applied Financial Economics. He found that, “everything else being equal, attractive agents are going to have an edge.”
But, as with online dating photos, it’s important that business-card portraits resemble reality.
That’s a point that California-based real-estate coach Tom Ferry makes to agents who choose to include a picture of themselves on their cards: “If you choose to use your headshot on your business card and marketing, make sure it is up-to-date and resembles what you actually look like in real life.”