Does Sex Sell in the Luxury Real Estate Market?

Xavier De Buck
Published on February 23, 2017

Does Sex Sell in the Luxury Real Estate Market?

Does Sex Sell in the Luxury Real Estate Market?

How sex sells in the luxury real estate market

How Sex Sells in the Luxury Real Estate Market

With the way advertising in general has been moving, here is a question that you can’t get away from: does sex sell in the luxury real estate market? 

We want accelerated sales, and there is nothing with gaining an edge in our sales process. 

So, if one can introduce some sexy into the marketing process of luxury real estate, which will assist the sale, then everybody wins, right? 

But this question immediately opens a lot of grey areas:

For one, everyone has a different definition of what ‘sexyis actually all about. 

Then again, there has been some debate over whether sex actually sells. 

And we’re not just talking about the niche of luxury real estate, but for marketing in general. 

The aim of my article is to cut through all the grey areas and settle this question once and for all. 

Too ambitious, you say? Let’s see! 

As I go along, I will dispense my best advice for both real estate agents and luxury real estate clients (buyers/sellers). 

In the end, I want to make sure you have that edge you’re looking for!

‘Sexy’ is in the eye of the beholder 

Being sexy in the luxury real estate market

Being sexy in the luxury real estate market

Let’s start rather simple: get as many potential luxury home buyers together in one room as you can. 

(Let’s say you can squeeze in twenty)

Now ask them what they consider to be sexy in marketing. 

I bet you will get twenty different opinions!

Now picture a mental ruler: on the left is what appears as repulsive; towards the middle, what is ‘just meh‘; what is attractive will be on the right; and finally, on the far right, red hot. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that very seldom will two people’s rulers be identical at all points!

So, how can we begin to prepare for the widest possible common denominator? 

Heck, is it even possible to present a sexy, attractive marketing campaign in luxury real estate to all luxury home buyers? 

For one, you can and should avoid going too far, into the realm of being sleazy“, “slutty or extremely cheap“. 

It is generally agreed that the defining characteristic of porn is that you know it when you see it. 

Needless to say: don’t cross that line!

When it comes to luxury marketing materials, it is best to keep it professional and clean. 

This portrays the real estate agent or seller as competent and worth dealing with. 

You don’t want to look shabby, or downright dodgy!

We all know sex sells… but wait, what? It’s not actually true?! 

Think back to the time of vintage adverts from decades past: ads featuring smiling pinup girls in polka dot miniskirts holding the product of the day. 

From that time onwards, marketers have been trying to create connections between their products and sex. 

And we all know that they’re seriously pushing their luck as those links can sometimes be tenuous at best! 

For example, when the model is holding a soda loaded with sugar, which is anathema to her rigorous diet that helped her get that slim figure in the first place. 

Or, advertisements for cigarettes which decimate the health of the user!

Yet, ironically, those ads feature adventurous, healthy attractive young people. 

So, why bother trying to create these links? 

Well, the urge towards sex is one of our most primal, biological urges. 

To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld: We see the car, we see the girl, we think, man, I gotta get that car.

So, the more you can link the product to the idea of sex, the better? 

Is it time to hire a number of models to feature in outrageous poses as a ‘lifestyle component‘ of your listing shots? 

Not quite!

Studies, such as one produced by the American Psychological Association, have proven that bringing sexual content into your advertising can have no link whatsoever to brand memory. 

In fact, in certain instances, it hurts brand memory! 

Specifically, that means that the sexual content can actually distract buyers from the product. 

An advert can succeed in titillating the audience, without converting to increased product knowledge or sales!

Other studies showed men and women responding in different ways to sexual content, which I believe to be more relevant to this article’s topic. 

In real estate, (let’s not kid ourselves, men) remember that the decision makers in the buying process are often the ladies!

Without sounding too general, women do tend toward homemaking more than men. 

Plus, (yes, I’m generalizing again) they are savvier when it comes to home styling. 

So, you can surely imagine that creating an ad campaign which objectifies women is likely to lead to outrage in the primary market?!

Hereby hurting sales & the bottom line!

All things considered, on this point (as on the first), it pays to keep it professional. 

That means keeping the property as the spotlight of your advertising, rather than a sexy model. 

Agent appeal 

You can rage against the system!

You can throw your toys! 

But that won’t change the facts: in general, attractive agents will close more sales than their ‘plainer’ counterparts. 

Plenty of social science studies have proven that point. 

So, we could close the case here and move to the next angle, but that’s not all there is to say this part of the story. 

Keep two things in mind here: once again, there is a line here that you shouldn’t cross. 

It doesn’t mean that as a real estate agent, you now need to start showing more skin, sporting shorter skirts and lower-cut blouses (I was referring to the ladies here, but men, if you feel the need to do so, feel free, I’m not judging anyone). 

On a more serious note: a professional approach will win out in the end every time!

Agents who promote themselves with a flirtatious or sexual approach often put off as many potential buyers as they attract – or more!

You might think it got you a few more clients thus far, but in the long run, it’ll more than likely hurt your business. 

I used to have this colleague who was the biggest flirt, and even though the client meetings went well and were filled with ample of laughter & giggles, more often than not, I heard people (either husband or wife) complain afterwards about his behavior. 

I wonder how many deals he lost because of that?

So, what’s important here is that you ‘clean up’ and put your best foot forward!

Keep good hygiene, take care of your physical appearance, dress presentably, and try to remain professional when words start coming out of your mouth!

Any relationship guru will tell you that what is most attractive is confidence (not arrogance). 

Which brings me to the second thing: competence. 

It doesn’t matter if you can compete with George Clooney in the looks department; if you don’t know what you are doing, buyers will very soon pick up on that!

Now, if you are personable AND knowledgeable, how about that for a dynamite combination! 

It will boost your confidence (and thus your attractiveness, as we’ve shown). 

So, before investing in plastic surgery and a flashy wardrobe, make sure you know your trade!

This is critical for making sales. 

On a side note: the “Fake it ’til you make it” mantra might work at times in lower-priced real estate, but it will definitely get you burnt really fast in the luxury real estate market! These clients will figure out really quickly what’s happening here and hate to have their time being wasted!

Marketing appeal 

Using sexy marketing in luxury real estate market

Using sexy marketing in luxury real estate market

When it comes to sex in your luxury marketing materials and videos, I’ve already touched on the facts: it’s better to keep it professional. 


Have there been cases where scantily-clad models in the advertising have helped luxury real estate sales? 

To be honest, the (sad) answer is yes. 

Trust Australia to have the overwhelming majority of dodginess in their ads (my apologies to my friends & colleagues Down Under, but these are the hard facts speaking). 

Australian ads have featured lingerie models and naked men in property marketing campaigns!

We all remember seeing this Hollywood-style action movie where a scantily dressed lady gets “taken hostage” and rescued by SWAT?

I cannot imagine how I would even angle this with my seller? 

“Listen, Mr/Mrs Seller, in order for me to properly expose your home to the market, I need to have a few Coyote Ugly models hopping around your poolside!”

(If you’re an Australian real estate agent reading this, please educate me on that presentation point!)

Here’s the thing: the NSFW element hasn’t exactly led to quicker sales, but it has created a lot of buzz where listings had stalled. 

So, there may be some (small?) merit in adding these elements to your marketing campaign. 

However, the fact remains: if the product is no good, consumers stop buying. 

It doesn’t matter what kind of scenes you film in the house if the house is run down and unsellable. 

So, it’s my verdict that one should rather invest in added value than in added sexiness in the marketing campaign. 

Think sound real estate principles like proper pricing and staging! 

And what about sexual features in the property itself, you may ask? 

Nude sculptures in the garden area, nudes in the wallpapers or bathroom frescoes, that sort of thing? 

These features often appeal to a very limited set of luxury home buyers. 

While they don’t necessarily hurt sales, they could be the first things that most buyers remove or renovate upon moving in. 

So, if you are able to renovate before moving out, to increase the appeal of the property, aim for more neutral décor choices. 

This allows potential luxury home buyers to visualise themselves in the space while viewing the property. 

And it’s been proven to increase sales!

A rose by any other name…

Lastly, let’s consider: what’s in the wording? 

When you’re marketing luxury real estate, does it help to slip in some sexy language? 

Marketers seem to think so. 

The point of good sales copy is to use impassioned and emotive language to set your product apart as unique and desirable. 

As it turns out from this 1.6 million listing analysis, in the upper levels of the luxury real estate market, words like ‘romance’, ‘seductive’, and ‘sexy’ are featured more often than ‘love’.

‘Love’ and ‘lovely’ feature more in middle-tier and entry-level houses on the market. 

So, if it works for houses priced in the multiple millions, why not spice up your language a little in the sales copy? 

It doesn’t cost you anything!

And in case you didn’t see the pattern already, we would caution you against going overboard here. 

Don’t use any language that would make your mother blush. 

How can we conclude these findings? 

It would seem that the goal of luxury real estate marketing is to project an attractive experience: the house, the marketing campaign and the agent should all be as presentable and inviting as reasonably possible. 

A desirable lifestyle depicted in the marketing materials is useful. 

But, as mentioned, if any point in the process is overtly sexualized or objectified, it can cut across your own marketing efforts. 

The buyer is distracted from the property itself, or worse, they are put off altogether. 

And, by far the most important goal is that substance always wins over style. 

That is, a great property means more to the sale than a great body somewhere in the marketing campaign! 

And a great agent is more important than the agent’s great smile!

Other Selling Luxury Real Estate Resources:

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Have you been thinking about selling your luxury home in Johannesburg, South Africa? How does one go about marketing and selling luxury real estate? I would love the opportunity to personally explain what the entire process entails, and more importantly, what top luxury real estate agents such as myself will bring to the table with their customized marketing plans to get your luxury home sold!

About the author: The above article “Does Sex Sell in the Luxury Real Estate Market was written by Xavier De Buck, your top-producing Johannesburg real estate agent. Xavier has been nationally recognized and awarded for providing service excellence, exceptional property sales, whilst exhibiting the highest level of professionalism. With over 15 years combined experience as a real estate agent and real estate investor, if you’re thinking of buying or selling luxury real estate in Johannesburg, Xavier would love to share his property knowledge and expertise.

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