Proper Dress and Behavoir of a RE Investor

I’ve been reading the interesting thread below on 'safety tips", especially for the not so good areas. A freind of ours owned properties in such areas, would go about doing business in scrungy clothes, and owns and drives an older car on purpose, to visit his rentals.

I on the other had invested, checked out, landlorded in blue collar areas or better, where homes go for $350K and up, and found that I have to look a little more professional. This is especially true going to suburban subdivisions, manicured lawns, and trying to see properties while no one is home, go see the back, without “watchful” neighbors caling the cops, and have a swat team show up.

Being a little older, with gray hair, I find wearing a white shirt, and tie, carrying a pen and clipboard as a prop, makes me look a bit more professional and less suspiciious and threatening. Some freinds feel a tie is overdoing it a bit.

What do you think??

For me, the “tie” is the thing, I might be stereotyping, but I can’t imagine a young burglar up to no good saying “let me wear a tie to go on this burglary”.

For isntance, I was on a reconaissance trip once, and an across the street neighbor noticed me, and because I was carrying my clipboard, concluded I was on some official business, maybe for the town, then came over to see if I needed help. Based on the conversation, he was on the verge of calling the cops.

But if I was in tee shirt and shorts, some neighbor feel threatened, would surely call the cops first, and if they further find firearms in the car, I’m surely in for some big problems.

Being a minority, I’m also a bit more sensitive. How about a black investor, or a Hispanic. For instance, if I see a black investor with a white shirt and tie with a clipboard, or carrying a small brief case, in a mainly whire area, I see him differently than if he was in scrungy clothes, where I might conclude he’s going to rob the place.

Putting it differently, I’ll approach someone in a shirt and tie with a clipboard and a smile, but I’ll avoid someone dressed in a tee shirt, shorts.

I live in a more mixed neighborhood in the city, but I got a rental in more a suburban setting, I would call the cops myself if I see someguy I never seem before, coming by in scrungy clothes, or driving slowly around, or come out from a car, and disappear into some back yard.

Lately, in showing rentals, I have to say I’m a little annoyed at some rental agents bringing clients wearing shorts, dirty sneakers with no socks. Frankly, I find it disrespectful. Is this “dress down” mentality going a bit far??

Or am I too old fashioned?? How about agents in your area??

This compared to 20 or so years ago when the Century 21 guys would always come by with their dark yellow jackets, and ties, and they look like an agent. These days, seems they’re coming to my place on the way to the ball game or back.

Any comments??

i think “adapting” to your various locations is a good way to handle business…
you lessen the chances of possible confrontational situations…

however, it seems as if you carry the traits of those you want to watch out for also…
i’d keep alert in strange surroundings but wouldn’t assume just based off a person’s clothing or appearance right off the bat that they’re up to no good or the like…unless i saw probable cause…

I’ve done this myself, with a notebook that looks like a clipboard and flashlight in hand…Never had any problem…Dressed in “business casual”, and I’m sure the whole effect worked…

I think the clipboard’s the key…Makes you look like an inspector, real estate agent, etc.

Wearing an old jacket (suit jacket) with or without a tie, or just a dress shirt and tie should suffice…

The flashlight is a great touch, and I haven’t thought of it.

I’m not a snappy dresser, and not that great on coordination. So just wearing a white or light blue shirt, with a colorful tie saves me a good bit of thinking. But I noticed ties are kind of getting out of style, and casual business wear is in, for the smaller businesses.

My wife’s been one that says if you want to play a part, you have to look the part. And what happened to to me when I had to go buy a new car drove the point home,

I went out one cold Saturday morning in January wearing an old ski jacket and ski cap pulled all the way down. First went into this Chevy dealer, and after 20 minutes, with no one coming by to help, I approached one salesman and asked him about the car I wanted. Just then, some customer nearby waved to him, he said “I’ll be right back”. He never got back to me and I left.

Had no better luck at the Dodge dealer I went to next. No one bothered to get up after 20 minutes, at which point I asked “can someone open the locked trunk so I can see it”. Some lady looked up and said “sorry, we lost the key”.

I got home disappointed, and my wife looked at me and said 'I don’t look like a car buyer". I said “what does a car buyer have to look like”?? We finally agreed to go after work the following Monday.

Back then, three piece suits was all the rage for junior execs. My wife also wore suits to work, and we both showed up at a car dealer after work, me with my attache case.

As we walked in the door, two salesmen rushed towards us, with one guy tripping over the other as they did that. My wife had a good laugh, and as we sat down, joked “did any salesmen jump up like this last Saturday”??

After this, I try to be more aware of how people react to how I look and dress.

During the summer, I wear a shorts, tennis shoes, and a Hawaiian shirt (to cover my handgun). During the winter, I wear jeans, tennis shoes, and a hooded sweatshirt. I always drive my pickup truck when I meet tenants or tenant applicants. Driving a nice car is like putting a lawsuit bullseye on your chest.

In short, I agree with your wife. Most of my rentals are in working or lower class neighborhoods. I want to fit in with the people in the neighborhood. Wearing a tie in the areas with some of my rentals would be too much.


You’d be a robbery/shooting target for sure.

You know, Joe Girard, the world’s greatest salesman — covers this in his books. Proper dress & appearance is common sense to some people, but NOT common sense to many people.

Wearing a tie & jacket is great - you can’t go wrong with that. When in doubt, dress conservatively. For me I prefer country club attire. I wear 100% genuine ralph lauren polo shirts all the way - nothing but the original. They look good, stylish, timeless and are very comfortable.

And for da’ guys who don’t know…think of the basics. Do business deals clean shaven, wear NO earrings / jewelry / necklaces, have a nice haircut, wear limited or no cologne, and don’t have or show off any tattoos. Plus don’t smoke, drink, or be foul around customers. And if you’re in the real estate game you need a NICE & CLEAN car.

And if you are trying to impress a client - a Rolex and a luxury car will work wonders. But if your client is someone you are NOT trying to impress forget that last part…exactly as Mike and the others above said. But still dress well. :wink:

Years back, when I was involved in “international financing”, doing multi million dollar financing packages, a field where “suit and ties” are required, I was going to the office and business meetings in the Phillipines with my “suit and tie”.

The local manger took me down to have custom Philipine style shirts made, as I recalled called a barong, and told me that I would look like a Philipino on business, rather than a Japanese banker. I asked why that was so important. They said local gangs target foreign businessman, for robberies and kidnappings, and I’ll blend in better as a local.

It was funny that a Canadian expatriot working there came down to lunch with us in with white shirt and tie, and I said “what can we do about him”?? The manager said that a caucasion guy would look ridiculous in a barong, and stand out more, and better off with a shirt and tie.

I’m more “dressed down” when I visit my rentals. In some cases, I owned the rentals for many years, and neigbors know me, and I have legitimate business there.

On the other hand, I’m a little more cautious doing reconaissance walking down streets in neighborhoods of 350K or more homes, just to do a look see, or what you might say "marktet research sitting across from a local shopping strip watching the goings on. People in these neighbohoods immediately know if a car or a person does not belong there, and it appears safer just to look like an RE agent or town inspector.

My wife took a masters degree in urban planning at the University of Pennsylvania, and one of the projects was to do a “traffic study” in downstown Reading PA. It involves stationed at a downtown street corner for hours. In was summer time, and she was dressed somewhat casually.

Police were called on a number of occasions after receiving reports of hookers taking over a street corner. She explained to skeptical officers, dressd as she was, on a street corner, that she was only counting cars!!

Then, I had a coworker, while in the IT field, dark skiinned from Cypress, and sports a beard, as many do in this field. He was complaining that he likes to dress casual going thru airports, and with increased security, even the early 90’s, was given a hard time compared to others. I frankly told him he looks like a 'terrorist" dressed in a scruffy outfit, beard and all. He should either be clean shaven, or else, dress more professionally.

I told him that when I used to travel thru the Phippines often, I put a tie on getting off the airport in Manila, going thru customs. He asked why. I told him that to alleviate overcrowding, custom officers often come down the line, I noticed they come by and chalk mark suitcases of professionallly dressed people, and would hand them a pass, saying, you’re OK to go.

Then, at Bangkok airport, I traveled with a company sales rep to see a customer. He had a large case of samples, and I had an attache case to present a financing package. While going through customs, he asked if I can carry the samples thru for him. I asked why, He said they’ll just wave me thru, since I had a shirt and tie on, and an American passport. I asked “how about you”?? He told me to just watch.

Well. as he said, I the inspectors spent less than a minute waving me thru, glanicng at me and the passport. As I watched, he was there explaining himself for over ten minutes, and they looked into his attache case a few times. I asked what was in his case. He came with me for a two night stay, and arrived with only 2 pairs of briefs in an attache case, nothing else, as I carried a huge bag of samples thru.

wow…you have definitely upped the ante in conversation how the dress/appearance affects other people’s perceptions…

I’m a t shirt and shorts kind of guy. Hell, a lot of my shirts don’t even have sleeves! Good this is that I don’t deal with motivated sellers so I don’t have to look “professional”. Of course when I go see realtors or have business lunches I wear a shirt with a collar (and yes, sleeves) so I don’t look like a total slob. Like Mike said, I don’t want to pull up in a Beamer looking like a pimp in a blue collar neighborhood.

Dress up, Dress down. In this day and age, makes little difference. Yes, it’s true that people still do ‘judge the book by it’s cover,’ but not as much.

And yes, common sense dicates that you should know how to dress in certain places and certain situations.

That said, I’ve seen every “rule” on dress and style broken, so my take is that it’s how you function more than how you look.

Local agent in my company gets the best clothes that money can buy…from Wal-mart. Drives an early 90s model POS (but it’s clean) 2 door. Sells luxury homes and makes a ton of $$$$. HUH!!!

Years ago, there was a local lady that was R-I-C-H, but still dressed herself in hand-me-downs because that’s the way she was brought up. Drove an old beat up station wagon and one day, decided to trade it in on a nice new BMW. The sales guys laughed at her. Openly laughed. So, this nice lady decided to simply buy the BMW dealership. Yep, the whole dealership. Why? Just so she could fire every one of the salesmen. Think that they still judge the book by the cover?


did she really buy out the whole dealership and fire everyone?

that’s hilarious if that’s true…

That’s awesome.

I knew a guy that was stupid rich, inherited $170mil when his father died. You know what he drove? A 15 yr old pickup and a 4-5 yr old Honda Accord. He wore clothes he’d probably owned since 1967 and he used to climb into trash cans to get the soda cans out of the bottom for the 5 cent deposit. He was in his late 70’s/early 80’s so he’d only known how to save, not spend.

The funnier story was how Howard Hughes got to be a big landholder in Las Vegas, and then. how Las Vegas got to be a gaming town.

Story was, Hiughes moved a few times, the Bahamas, Mexico City, then next decided on Las Vegas. Needed the whole top floor of a hotel for privacy. He was turned down becuase the hotel already took reservatiions, which they refused to cancel.

He reportedly found the owners of the hotel, paid several times what the place was worth, they promptly sold him the place the next day, then cancelled the reservation, and moved into the whole top floor.

Talk about a motivated seller!!

And because he can’t sleep at nght, the neon signs down the strip was bothering him, he bought those properties as well, to shut off the signs at night, so he can sleep.

Before the days of VCR’s, he didn’t like the shows on the local station at night when he couldn’t sleep. and they wouldn’t show his favorite cowboy movies, so he bought the TV station too!!

After a while, figured since he’s in Las Vegas, he might as well go into the gaming business. Back then, licenses were granted to individuals, who must be interviewed by a state commission. Story was, by then, he looked terrible, and didn’t want to be seen in public, so had the law changed so the license is granted to a corporation, rather than to an individual, with the state checking out it’s officers, who can front for him. Because of this change, corporate capital poured into the business, making Las Vegas the place that it is today.

And as it turned out, and because of the so much land he bought. and right smack in the center of town, it created a land scarcity that drove prices up.

Funny thing was, he became a land baron, and gaming mogul, quite accidentally, because he looked terrible, wanted privacy.

Guess he didn’t really want to wear his suit and tie out.

Well, I was a kid when that happened, but everybody in town talked about it. I remember the lady, too. Classic scrooge case. Frugal and MEAN. So, I’ve no doubt that she did it.

Point is, how you dress today is less important than what you can accomplish. It’s still fundamental that you dress properly, but a suit and tie to look “professional” isn’t necessary.

An above post mentioned what you need to do to “impress” a client. Something about a rolex and a luxury car. Well, that good, but you need to decide WHAT impression you’re trying to make on them. Do you think having that will make them think you’re successful? When a real estate agent pulls up in a luxury car and designer clothes to show me property, I think, “Great! another showoff that has more credit card bills than brains! Now, I’m going to have to hear how great they are and how successful they are and how much they know about RE and that I don’t know anything. What a waste of time!” This type of agent is going to be a high pressure sales person. They have to be to pay for all that stuff.

And I’m not in the minority on that thinking. Times have changed. Clients don’t pushy sales people. They want an agent that works for THEM to get them the best deal.

Look at CENTURY 21, since it was brought up. The Gold jacket was the standard for them for years before it went out of style. Now, they are reviving the jacket to try to make a better impression. However, they updated the look (thank God). Not a juit jacket anymore but more of a casual blazer. No ties, but polos and/or T-SHIRTS under (watch the commericals).


OK, here’s another side of this to throw into the mix…

Regardless of what clothes you wear, how you look, etc. a tenant will still trash your place, leave when you least expect it owing you money, and have a divorce with their wife/husband leaving the other in the lurch for the rent, when they will eventually leave you holding the bag.

That’s rental life. They will also have issues with their neighbors, call you every hour of the day to tell you the plumbing is blocked, the water heater just exploded, and Joe across the street is on drugs and is threatening everyone with his new revolver.

Having said that, does it really matter if you wear a tie or not?

Fact: Rental tenants are more interested in the cost per month of rent than your attire. And if you show up in a suit & tie, then expect them to think they can’t afford to live in your place.

Fact: Your relationship, as much as you would like it to go on forever, won’t. They will find a better place, bigger or smaller, move to another city, etc. and you’ll never hear from them again. This is a short term relationship.

Fact: Regardless of how you dress, you must abide by the residential tenancy statutes of your region, which clearly doesn’t say “Landlord must wear a tie in order to rent to a tenant”. As I said to my wife last night, “At the end of the day, I don’t have to answer to my tenants. I have to answer to the judge when I have to evict them”. Its at the time when I go down to the court house that I wear a suit and tie.

Not before.


Actually, i said I wasn’t in the habit of wearing a “tie” when managing rentals, but when looking at properties in higher end areas, doing a driveby, walking down the street, and walking into someome’s back yard, yes, I feel I should give the neighborhood the proper respect that it deserves.

In some higher income towns in LI, rentals are few, and homeowenrs are fearful of investors like me renting to riffraff. So here I come in scruffy clothes, and if some nosy neighbor stops to ask what’s going on, mention that I’m an investor. The very impression I give off by the way I dress is I will rent to tenants that trashes the place.

I was in business with some guy that installs alarms for homes and small busineses. In this league, it’s common for the owner to be in tee shirt and jeans, since it’s common for the type of customers he serves, and often, he has to step in and help with the work.

He tried for a while to go upscale, as large companies were opening offices and warehouses, and got nowhere. So a meeting was called, and it was decided if customers come, or if we’re on a business call, a shirt and tie is required.

When asked why, said he’s been told that he and his staff, gave the image of a small company, not that professional, because the customers correctly surmised that the staff was thin. What was needed is the IMPRESSION that the guy with the shirt and tie is in charge, with adequate staff to handle the problems.

I read an aritcle written by Bill Gates in Fortune magazine about the time he went to meet IBM, a meeting that made history. Gates, with Balmer, now the president of Miccrosoft, and another staff member was shocked that Gates was in the car with them not wearing a tie, let alone a suit. The meeting was for 10:00am, and these two insisted they stop in a mall to buy him a tie. Gate finally relented.

Unfortunately, they got to the mall at 9:45, and found that the mall didn’t open till 10:00. Somehow, they called with an excuse they’ll be late. The funny thing was, Gates didn’t know how to knot a tie, and Balmer did it.

Even Gates learned that when you go upscale, you’re no longer dealing with the little rinky dink customers that he served.

What I’m saying if go to look at upscale neighborhoods, I don’t want to look like someone that buys properties, and then rent to riffraff that trashes the place.

But if I invest in areas filled with drug dealers, the reverse is true.

Are you making any money investing in high income areas?


It’s funny…I remember that most of the top professors I had in grad school were the sloppiest dressed!..If you saw them walking down the street you’d figure they had a career working at Wal Mart or something…In reality they’re highly paid and top experts in their fields…Other people have told me the same thing about their schools…

YES, you’ll make a good deal of it from appreciation, if you buy right, at market bottoms.

The last market bottom here is NYC was in 1993. Two family REO’s sold for 150K to 220K now sells for 850K. At 220K, such properties cash flow from day one. If you buy it now at 850K, it will not cash flow.