If you are a real estate professional that either has a tattoo or is considering getting one, you may wonder if you can or even should have one.

This question may be even more relevant to Millennials than other generations because it’s the generation with the most tattoos compared to the others, as you will later learn in today’s article.

So, can real estate agents have tattoos?

In a legal and in-person sales and persuasion context, you generally can have tattoos as a real estate agent.

However, based on various psychological studies, for the latter, you shouldn’t have tattoos if you want optimal results (sales conversions).

Would you like to find out how I came to this conclusion? You are invited to read the rest of my article, which covers…

  • The psychology of tattoos: reasons for getting them and how they are perceived
  • Tattoo policies in real estate and other legal aspects
  • The dance between professionalism and individual expression: tattoo effects on real estate sales situation


The Psychology of Tattoos: Reasons for Getting Them and How They Are Perceived 

Let’s start with some scientific facts about the psychology of tattoos, why people get them, and the effects of getting them.

During my research, I found several interesting studies from the perspective of the person getting a tattoo and how they are perceived by the outside world.

The latter will become important when we analyze whether a real estate agent can or should have tattoos.

The first study states that…

  • At least British residents feel less dissatisfaction and anxiety right after getting a tattoo.
  • Participants felt and reported greater self-esteem, body appreciation, and a self-ascribed uniqueness three weeks after getting a tattoo.
  • With women, the situation is a bit different since they report more social physique anxiety after getting a tattoo.
  • In general, satisfaction with the new tattoo decreased notably after three weeks. Despite that, the participants will likely get a future tattoo.

Various studies and statistics about tattoos published in Medical News Today come from a slightly different angle.

They focused on health-related outcomes and risky behaviors and found the following:

  • Having tattoos was more common in married or divorced people.
  • If you have a tattoo, you are more likely to have sleep problems than those without (36.6% vs. 27.6%).
  • Risky behaviors were also more common in tattooed people without translating into health issues.
  • More than half of the people (55.2%) in jail had a tattoo.

I also found additional surveys discussed in Psychology Today, and this statistic with additional interesting results.

It was interesting to learn why people didn’t get tattoos.

The main reasons were:

  • Social and cultural factors (often religion, with 11%).
  • Disapproval from family and friends.
  • A potentially negative perception of them at work.

It gets interesting when we get into the nitty-gritty of the external perception of tattoos and tattooed people.

In one of the studies from the articles above, participants were asked about their opinions of tattoos and tattooed people. 

The majority (54%) had a favorable opinion, 18% had a mixed view, 13% had a negative, and 15% had no opinion.

However, this situation changed when they were asked what other people thought about tattoos.  

Here, most participants (39%) estimated that people had mixed opinions, and 35% thought people had negative feelings.

By the way, Millennials have the most tattoos (41%). Let’s keep that in mind for later.

The last study I found (see source above) was by researchers Kristin Broussard and Helen Harton.

This study found that although tattoos are significantly more popular among Millennials, tattooed people are viewed negatively.

While these are, of course, biased perceptions, tattooed people are often associated with…

  • Having negative personality characteristics
  • Lower levels of competence
  • Lower levels of inhibition and sociability
  • A higher level of promiscuity
  • Getting a lower credibility rating

The problem is that while many of these perceptions can be biased and prejudiced, they are still perceptions, and marketing or real estate marketing and persuasion is a “perception game.”

The article above from Psychology Today also mentions that tattooed individuals are often at risk of being discriminated against in the workplace

Finally, and also important to remember for later when we discuss real estate lead generation and marketing strategies, is that the same study participants with tattoos had similar negative opinions about tattooed people.

This was also surprising for the researchers since they expected that there would be some sort of in-group preferences (tattooed people like tattooed people).

Let’s summarize some of the above findings that are likely relevant for real estate agents in the context of marketing and persuasion:

  • Within the first three weeks of getting a tattoo, you will likely feel a boost in self-confidence which may help in a real estate sales situation, provided you belong to the male sex (you may run out of space if you want to keep that up), women don’t get the same benefit.
  • By having a tattoo (as a real estate agent), you at least risk being perceived with some negativity, with negative personality traits, and as less competent (including from tattooed individuals).
  • You will likely be perceived as less credible.


Tattoo Policies in Real Estate & Other Legal Aspects

During my research, I couldn’t find any laws that specifically prohibit real estate agents from buying or selling properties. So, legally, you can have a tattoo as a real estate agent.

However, this situation can change should you enter an employee relationship.

As an employee, you are generally not protected against discrimination by appearance if it isn’t related to race, sex, or color (source).

So, this doesn’t include tattoos. Some states and municipalities, however, also protected employees from discrimination based on appearance, including tattoos.

But these existing policies are obsolete for real estate agents.

Why? Because real estate agents are usually not considered employees but rather independent contractors under the supervision of a real estate broker.

So again, in the context of policies and legal aspects, a real estate agent can have a tattoo.


The “Dance” Between Professionalism and Individual Expression: Tattoo Effects on Real Estate Sales Situations

Now we know why individuals get a tattoo, including real estate agents, how they are likely perceived by the public (this includes potential buyers and sellers), and whether you can legally have a tattoo as a real estate agent.

But one aspect also needs to be discussed: what are the likely effects on persuasion in general (e.g., real estate sales situations, such as personal meetings, showings, etc.)?

And there are four things from the studies and statistics from above that would worry me a bit, namely that you risk being perceived with some general negativity, such as having negative personality traits, being less competent, and being less credible.

Well, unless it’s your brand and you position yourself as the tatted real estate agent serving only tatted Millennial clients (mostly buyers), it won’t negatively affect lead generation.

With a neck or face tattoo, you may want to avoid video calls, though.

But once things get further down the sales funnel (my article), and you have a personal meeting, open houses, a listing presentation, showings, etc., the potential risk of a tattoo may get real.

There are many factors informing the persuasion of others. Robert Cialdini studied and researched this field in psychology and social influence.

He is the author of the book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” which I mentioned in my article about real estate marketing books here

So, two of these factors are likability and credibility.

Likability, in this context, means that a potential buyer or seller is more likely to be persuaded by someone (you) they like or perceive as similar to themselves.

Here, we get into the first conflict with the above findings about people with tattoos: being perceived with some general negativity and having negative personality traits.

That’s not a good premise to get liked. At least a real estate agent without a tattoo may have a better head start. A good head start is also crucial because first impressions often frame the rest of a (sales) conversation.

Tatted real estate agents using it as a brand may think they can mitigate this risk by assuming that other tattooed sellers or buyer prospects may like them because of the similarities.  

Remember the study from above? 

Unfortunately, even tattooed individuals are negatively biased toward other tattooed individuals. So, making tattoos, your brand may not turn out as well as thought.

And finally, there is the persuasion factor of credibility.

This field was deeply studied by Carl Hovland and Harold Weiss and published in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology in 1951 under the title “The Influence of Source Credibility on Communication Effectiveness.”

The above research has shown that credibility plays an essential role in persuasion. 

Researchers Hovland and Weiss found that messages delivered by a credible source were more effective in changing people’s actions than messages from a non-credible source. 

So, based on the above, this seems to be the nail in the coffin of having highly visible tattoos as a real estate agent.

At least, there is not much reward to the risk of having them visible during a personal sales situation.

If you want to mitigate this risk and increase your chances of success in in-person real estate sales (e.g., converting buyer or seller leads into clients), you either don’t have tattoos in the first place or have them in places you can cover.

And agents from Florida and other warmer states… this includes tattoos on the forearm and lower legs unless you want to wear long shirts and pants in temperatures above 86 degrees.

Should it be too late and you already have tattoos in visible places, you can try to cover them up with special tattoo cover-up makeup that often comes in different shades, so it matches the skin tone or compression sleeves and tattoo cover-up sleeves.

So, based on all the studies and research above, my final verdict is that in the context of in-person sales and persuasion, you can have tattoos as a real estate agent, but rather shouldn’t if you want optimal results.

This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.

Tobias Schnellbacher