Whether it’s a true problem for agents and brokers or simply the perception of a problem, the image of the hard-partying real estate pro is one that’s firmly embedded in the public’s consciousness.

When we talk about a “drinking problem,” we usually use the phrase as a euphemism to mean that someone’s drinking is totally out of control and it’s negatively impacting their life. 

When we ask whether the real estate industry as a whole has a drinking problem, we’re probably talking about something more like a stigma – or the public perception of the industry and the way it’s associated with too much high-flying, hard-partying behavior.

Whichever word you choose — stigma or problem — there is a clear association between alcohol and the real estate industry. What’s more, it’s being actively perpetuated by agents and brokers alike. Especially with the growth of social media, it seems that more and more real estate figures at all levels are playing up a kind of “naughty” reputation, perhaps seeking to emulate some of the drama they see on real estate-related reality TV shows.

‘But we want to be treated like professionals’

One of the things you hear real estate agents and brokers talk about all the time when they’re justifying their commissions and the respect they feel they’re owed is a comparison with other professional figures like attorneys, CPAs and doctors. Many Realtors believe that what they do is so important and has such a big impact on their clients’ lives that they deserve to be treated like — and compensated like — other professionals.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time that I saw a law firm post their partners playing drinking games together in someone’s backyard. I can’t remember the last time I saw my doctor posting memes joking about drinking while seeing patients.

When I think about a bunch of middle-aged people getting together and drinking until they’re sloppy, I think about the Real Housewives or some vaguely sad folks at a high school reunion. But many real estate professionals routinely promote this image without any irony or embarrassment.

I’ve even seen people brag about writing contracts with a drink nearby. If I were a client — and I hope you know those clients are watching your stories and posts — I would be livid.

Controlling your intake as a competitive advantage

I remember when one of my agents was in a heated negotiation with an agent from another brokerage. Suddenly, they were unable to get a phone call through to the agent. All kinds of worrying scenarios started going through our minds — Was there another offer on the table? Had the sellers changed their minds?

One look at the listing agent’s Instagram told me all I needed to know as I saw them taking tequila shot after tequila shot at lunch and ignoring their texts, emails and phone calls. Who do you think had the advantage in the negotiation after that lunch?

Have you ever answered the phone or written an email after a drink or two? How sure were you that everything you said in that conversation was accurate and in the interest of your client? Maybe it didn’t come back on you then, but next time it might.

I’m not saying that everyone in real estate needs to be a teetotaler, but I am saying that there needs to be a delineation between work time and party time. Especially when so much money, so much secrecy, and so much discretion is at stake. Many people pride themselves on always being “on” and always working. Doesn’t that mean they should always be fit to work, as well?

I’m well aware that a lot of people will accuse me of being a literal buzzkill for saying this, and that’s fine. Let them do what they do and hope to the real estate gods that they don’t screw up somebody’s transaction because they weren’t operating at 100 percent.

But if you want to be better, be better. 

Take your job as seriously as other professionals do. Think about the way you present yourself to clients and colleagues. You’re not in college anymore, and partying on social media doesn’t make you cute or cool. It makes you a liability, and it makes you look unprofessional.