How Should You Dress For Your Loan Application?

Real Estate Mortgage Broker with San Diego VA Home Loans/858-777-9751

Apparently, looks matter when you’re seeking a loan.  From a Rice University study:

People who are perceived to be trustworthy are more likely to have a higher credit score and pay lower interest rates on loans, and are less likely to default, according to the study by Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Even when hard facts such as credit scores are available, people rely on an assessment of trustworthiness to decide whether to make a loan.

dudeI’ll admit that I am not immune to this bias.  Much of my business is local and I “pre-judge” the intent if not the credit worthiness on the effort put forth.  Let me give you an example.  Two (different)  people made appointments, the day after Thanksgiving, 2008, to go through a pre-qualification.  Both needed counseling about how to pay down debt and improve their credit scores so that they could buy a home.

The first, an accomplished young man, arrived in like he was headed to the beach; shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops.  While this is the “standard uniform” of a San Diegan on his day off, his documentation reflected his cavalier dress.  We met for 45 minutes, outlined what he could do to prepare for home ownership, and concluded the meeting with a promise to “touch base” after the first of the year.  His dress, behavior, and attitude was “What can you for for me?” I didn’t take his inquiry seriously.

The second, an equally accomplished young lady, came to the appointment dressed to do business.  Her dress, while casual, reflected her solemnity and determination.  She read my article about how to prepare documentation, opened up a notebook, and took copious notes.  Within 30 minutes, we developed a detailed budget and a plan businessto pay down debt while saving for a down payment.  She requested three follow-up phone calls to gauge her progress towards her goal.  Her dress, behavior, and attitude is “How can you help me to help myself?”.  Obviously, she got me to “buy in” to her.

Successful Online Mortgage Shopping- Do You "Dress For Success?"

How might a borrower do this online? Borrowers would do well to understand that a loan originator is “interviewing” you as much as you are “interviewing” them.  I have been persuaded to take on difficult, time-consuming, loan transactions because I felt a sense of mutual respect from my discourse with the borrower.  Borrowers who referenced an online profile, where I could see their picture and resume, received 2-3 times the attention as those who didn’t.

Sounds unfair, doesn’t it? The Zillow Mortgage Marketplace would seemingly eliminate such subjectivity and democratize a borrower’s chances for the best loan terms.  I won’t argue against its efficacy for the “pristine” borrower.  Pristine, however, is becoming subjective as valuations decline rapidly.  Your “numbers” might not be enough to attract the most talented mortgage consultants in the country but… your picture might help.  From the aforementioned Rice University study:

“There is an array of information that you can get out of the pictures,” Duarte said, adding that borrowers use photographs ranging from family portraits to snapshots of their pets.

“The pictures are revealing something about the behaviour of these people that is not taken into account in the credit score model,” Duarte said.

To make sure that the evaluators’ prejudices did not skew the results, the researchers controlled for race, age, gender, obesity, attractiveness and education, as well as financial factors like employment status, income and homeownership.

Understanding what determines trustworthiness may be relevant to the current economic crisis and be the key in restoring trust in the markets, Duarte said.

Trust.   It’s the cornerstone to a healthy banking system. If “old skool” is now vogue,  pay heed to your grandfather’s advice; wear a tie to your loan applcation.  Online, a profile picture is your tie.

If your face is trustworthy, why hide it?

Part Two:

Successful Online Mortgage Shopping- Do You "Dress For Success?"


Re-Bloggged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Isaac E. Chavez 03/16/2009 05:51 PM
  2. Donald Bradbury 03/16/2009 07:53 PM
  3. Maya Thomas LLC, Broker 03/16/2009 10:21 PM
  4. Mirela Monte 03/19/2009 10:15 PM
Spam prevention

Accessibility option: listen to a question and answer it!

To submit the form,
drag the scissors to the circle on the side.

Type below the answer to what you hear. Numbers or words, lowercase:

Mortgage / Finance
Everything California
First Time Homebuyer
San Diego Mortgage Network
SAN DIEGO Real Estate Agents & Loan Officers
Southern California Real Estate Forum

Comments 74 New Comment

Anonymous #71
Ann Gravel, Pat Bennett Realty, New Hampshire

Hi Brian,  your post has brought some interesting responses.  Up here in the Northeast we have been taught at an early age to dress neatly when trying to impress and also to watch manners and language.  I agree that it matters in what part of the country you do business that it makes sense to go with flow, but your mannerisms and personality say a lot as well.  As far as online applications go, or any business conducted online, I have had an immediate phone call that has given the person on the other end some idea of whom they were dealing.  I do like Jeff Belonger's response especially his statement on the credibility of the client.  He has insight and knows life can deal us some very bad circumstances, but that does'nt mean we are down for the count.  I also agree with Andrea Moore re: best dressed and penny pinching, I've dealt with many of those.  It all rests with the person behind the desk in what he might perceive as viable. 

March 18, 2009 04:55 AM
Eliese Pivarnik
GRI, RSPS, ABR Broker/Owner Colorado Group Realty
Colorado Group Realty, LLC

As a mortgage broker, you should judge the client by the credit score, not his beach attire. 

An example:  When looking for renters, I make sure they fill out a credit app.  One very nice, well-dressed lady drove up in her BMW.  I checked her credit and it was full of bankruptcies and no-pays.

The next potential tenant drove up in his pick up truck and had on jeans.  He had stellar credit and was a perfect tenant.

The only thing nice clothes prove is that people like to shop and are concerned about their appearance.  It does not reflect their character.

March 18, 2009 11:36 AM
Robin Turner
Robin Turner
Happy House Real Estate

I met  a a nice but rather grubby lookin guy in a motel lobby. I was thinking he might be a candidate to buy a mobile home I had. He had an "XXXXX maintenance" logo on his shirt.

As we walked outside there was a huge new boat in the parking lot of the hotel, probably about $400,000 worth. On the side was the same "XXXXX maintenance" logo. Yes, the guy owned the company and was off on a week long fishing trip. So much for appearances.

I didn't think about it until after he left but he probably would have bought the whole mobile home park....

March 18, 2009 01:41 PM
Joetta Fort
Independent Broker, Homes Denver to Boulder
The DiGiorgio Group

I never thought about dressing for a loan interview. I'll add it to the advice I give clients. I heard once that dressing nicely adds confidence too, and that can't hurt a first-time, nervous buyer.

March 19, 2009 12:49 AM
Wayne L. Brown
Security National Mortgage Corporation


Always enjoy your work. You never mince words, and you're a straight shooter.

Best Regards,


March 23, 2009 11:46 PM

Brian Brady

VA Home Loans/San Diego
Ask me a question
Spam prevention

Accessibility option: listen to a question and answer it!

To submit the form,
drag the robot to the circle on the side.

Type below the answer to what you hear. Numbers or words, lowercase:

Additional Information