The real estate industry has a PR problem. 

Don’t believe me? Google “Real Estate Agent vs. Used Car Salesman” and grab some popcorn.

This perception probably stemmed from the standard Realtor “uniform” back in the day  (think gold jackets and name tags).  But it became the stereotype because many believed that agents would stop at nothing to close a deal—sleazy tactics and all. 

Today, the image of real estate agents has shifted away from the used car salesperson and into the reality TV persona. Shows like Million Dollar Listing and Selling Sunset have reduced real estate agents to fancy clothes and office drama, or, at the other end of the spectrum, house flippers. 

The underlying theme of these shows is the promise of making millions quickly in real estate. This has contributed to the damaging perception that real estate is all about getting rich overnight, eroding the professionalism and integrity that agents bring to the table.

The PR Problem

The issue with these perceptions is that they’re formed long before buyers and sellers even meet a real estate agent. These shows make it seem like real estate is a walk in the park, focused more on lifestyle than the complex work agents actually do. 

Unfortunately, this skewed image also persists online. A lot of the industry’s social media content focuses on showcasing luxury properties. Rather than sharing their knowledge and expertise, many agents take on the role of a show host, akin to Vanna White displaying a glamorous living room.

So, while today’s image problem started on reality TV, some agents have continued to perpetuate it by playing into the image online. While luxury home tours are certainly entertaining, it’s really only relevant for a handful of markets. 

In addition to this, countless “influencers” promote programs with the promise of enormous earnings with little work, and news headlines are filled with stories of agents embezzling money or engaging in fraudulent activities. These cases only solidify the public’s perception that the industry lacks integrity and professionalism. 

These aren’t just anecdotal observations—consider the class action lawsuits the industry is facing, including the Sitzer/Burnett trial currently taking place. There are enough people out there who, even after going through a transaction with an agent, misunderstand the process so much that they are able to form class action lawsuits.

These cases are putting a spotlight on the main cause behind the industry’s PR problem: most industry professionals do not clearly communicate their value. 

Strategies to Enhance the Real Estate Agent Image

It’s unlikely that industry organizations will save the agent’s image. So, what can agents do? The solution lies in rebranding and shifting the focus from reality TV  and “get rich quick” stereotypes to becoming trusted, professional advisors who prioritize their clients’ financial well-being. Here are three ways you can make that shift in your own community. 

#1 – Avoid Clichéd Images and Reality TV Portrayals

Remember, you can turn people off without saying a word. Your presentation matters. Most consumers are not looking for agents who live a glamorous life on screen. They are seeking trusted advisors to guide them through the purchase or sale of a home. 

We’ve all seen social media posts that fall prey to industry clichés, such as the agent who shows up for a closing and then goes on a shopping spree or listing videos with the agent pulling up in a different $100,000 car every time. Consumers don’t think these are awesome—they are collectively suing the industry right now. 

This means it is critically important to present yourself as a professional. After all, you are dealing with people’s biggest financial transactions of their lives and, in turn, their net worth. Think about the image that comes to mind when you think of a financial advisor or wealth manager. Rather than showing up as the reality TV star, consider presenting yourself in that light. 

#2 – Showcase Market Knowledge and Expertise

I fully believe that every home buyer and seller needs a skilled real estate agent to guide them through a transaction. When Lionel Messi moved to Miami, you know he had professional representation to negotiate on his behalf. Agents provide the equivalent during real estate transactions, yet many consumers still think all agents do is show homes. 

The core of an agent’s value lies in their market knowledge and understanding of investments—a message you need to repeatedly convey to consumers through your expertise. 

At BAM Camp last month, Tom Storey’s presentation stood out to me because he clearly communicates his value and deep understanding of the market. On YouTube, he does this by focusing on four different types of videos:

  1. List Videos (i.e., 5 Reasons why [Market] is the best place to live)
  2. Market Updates
  3. News Headline Debunking Videos
  4. Long-form Educational Videos

With this mix, Tom is able to reach a wider audience than if he just did listing videos, for example. And when people visit his YouTube channel, it’s clear his real estate expertise runs deep. 

#3 – Promote Long-Term Financial Success for Your Clients

You know a closed deal is one way to help increase your clients’ net worth. So instead of highlighting success stories that revolve around closing deals (which is often code for, “I got my commission check!”), shift the narrative to emphasize how agents help clients build generational wealth. 

This can include discussing the savings your clients will get from tax breaks, the accumulation of equity, and the overall growth of their wealth. Agents should be seen as trusted financial advisors, not just transactional experts.

Balance Professionalism with Personality

While professionalism is essential, it’s equally important to maintain a human touch. After all, clients want to work with real people, not robots. 

As you work to infuse your brand with market knowledge and educational content, mix in the things that make you, you. If that’s showing a multi-million dollar home with Drake playing in the background, go for it. But balance it out with information your consumers need to know to make smart real estate decisions. 

When you showcase your value and add in your unique personality—that’s the winning formula for a compelling and reliable real estate professional.