The COVID-19 pandemic heralded a new way of working. Thousands of people who once worked solely from an office were suddenly forced to work from home as social-distancing guidelines were enforced.
This meant that, apart from Zoom meetings where team members may have dressed more professionally - at least from the waist up - employees working from home could wear whatever they wanted to all day. After all, clients on the other end of the phone had no idea if they were talking to someone in a smart suit or a person in Power Ranger pyjamas.
Although lockdowns were lifted and offices slowly started to reopen, social-distancing guidelines were still in place and, with high-risk employees having to shield or self-isolate, many offices operated with a skeleton staff. These half-empty offices had the effect of a more casual approach and relaxed regime being adopted.
This more casual approach didn’t do the industry any damage though and as all agents will be aware, the UK is currently experiencing a huge property boom with the number of potential buyers far exceeding the number of properties for sale.
So, taking all this into account, should estate agents still wear suits? Or are suits an archaic, anachronistic and old-fashioned relic that should be left in the past?
‘You don’t get a second chance to give a first impression,’ the saying goes. And that’s certainly true. After all, someone’s home is their most valuable asset, so why would they trust it to an estate agent who rocks up in ripped jeans, trainers and a scruffy t-shirt?
On the other hand, why would anyone trust an agent who strolls up in a shiny suit looking like a dodgy door-to-door salesman? Of course, if you do deliver your marketing leaflets yourself instead of using a flyer and leaflet distribution company, you won’t want to be getting all sweaty in a suit as you pound the pavements. That definitely isn’t a good look.
‘Know your audience,’ is another saying that rings true. While jeans and trainers might work for excitable first-time-buying younger clients, older clients are more likely to raise a greying eyebrow at an estate agent who turns up for an appointment dressed like they’re there to burgle the property rather than sell it.
So, perhaps agents should use their discretion and common-sense when it comes to meeting potential clients. There’d be no harm in dressing down a bit for their younger customers while erring on the side of caution for the older generation.
There’s no doubt getting dressed up for work in a suit and tie can psychologically help people feel more professional and confident. If someone’s dressed smartly, they’ll feel more confident and if they feel more confident, they’ll act more confident and the customer will have more confidence in them. A win-win situation you might think? Or, to put it another way and to quote yet another saying, ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’.
Are the suits putting off the fresh young talent though? After all, there are countless trendy, cutting-edge start-ups they can go and work for that don’t involve sitting around in a suit, tie and shiny shoes all day.
These job ads are luring the potential estate agents of the future elsewhere with promises of spacious offices with bars, games rooms and a permanent dress-down policy without a tie in sight.
With this in mind, perhaps something in between could be implemented, such as getting rid of ties at least. One estate agent in London went as far as banning ties from the office and even made the grand gesture of cutting his team’s ties in half at a sales meeting.
There are undoubtedly arguments for and against estate agents still wearing suits. On the one hand, no one can disagree that a suit looks professional but on the other hand, are suits really necessary in this day and age?
This debate is sure to rumble on for at least another decade but one thing’s for sure - suited and booted may be old-fashioned, but dressing professionally will never be out of date.
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