Real Estate Agents: Is smoking a professional liability?

3 minute read

After my last visit to Paris I vowed not to return until I could go indoors and not be smoked out.

I’ve got nothing against smokers. There are many people I love and admire who smoke.

And I recognize how incredibly hard quitting is.

However, I don’t like inhaling large quantities of smoke of any kind while in an elevator, a small unventilated café or other places where Parisians have until now been pleased to light up.

When I saw this week that France has finally banned smoking in public places—with 70% popular support–I cheered and pulled out my Paris guidebook again.

Then I got to thinking about real estate agents.

  • How many smoke?
  • Do vendors think less of an agent who smokes?
  • Has a friendly conversation over cigarettes helped any agent win over a vendor?
  • How many agents enjoy a celebratory cigarette every time they sign up a vendor?


With the increasing militancy of anti-smokers (different from just “non-smokers”) in Australia, I wouldn’t be surprised if some agents were losing money as well as life span because of their tobacco habit.

Not only that but I bet that most buyers, even those who themselves light up over breakfast, prefer a place that has not been occupied by a smoker over a place formerly occupied by a heavy smoker.

That lower level of demand could affect prices. How much? Only agents would know, but I’ll guess by about 5%.

In New York City I recall that neighbours forced a man to sell his unit and move. He was unable to keep his cigarette smoke from travelling through the ventilation shaft and into their units. A court decided he was impairing their enjoyment of their own homes.

An agent named Mimi in the USA tells this story:

“I had a listing where the home owner had a guest over who had smoked in the house shortly before we toured it…whoops! Many of the agents in my office refused to show the home again. The home was not smoked in regularly and it was a weird occurrence.”

Your Story

  • If you are an agent, respond to this post with your smoking story.
  • Has anyone ever reacted badly after smelling tobacco on your clothes or breath?
  • Have you got any tips for other smokers on how to hide your habit? Do you feel you SHOULD hide your habit?
  • Are smokers misunderstood?
  • Should agents have to disclose on realestate.com.au if a property has been occupied by a smoker? (NOTE: I’m just wondering. There haven’t been any suggestions that we require such a thing and I don’t even think it could be enforced.)

Don’t Smoke?

  • If you are a non-smoker, do you feel your saintliness gives you an advantage over smoking competitors?
  • If you’re an ex-smoker, why did you quit? How? Did quitting affect your business in a positive or negative way?
  • Post your answers below. Share as much detail as you can, but feel free to remain anonymous.

PS: By the way, does anyone smoke a pipe any more?

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  • Peter Ricci
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 9:24 am 0Likes

    I stopped smoking a pipe at 18 Dave. I really do not think it matters whether you smoke or do not smoke as long as you do not……1. Smoke in the company of customers. 2. Smell of smoke of any kind. both on breath or on clothes 3. Cough your lung up during negotiations.

  • Dave Platter
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 9:31 am 0Likes

    I think you’re right. Not coughing up a lung is a definite plus when you’re negotiating. It might just be me, but I think it weakens one negotiating position somewhat.

    Congrats on being able to quit the pipe, Peter. I hope it wasn’t too hard to do.


  • Dave Platter
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 9:34 am 0Likes

    Peter’s comment No 2. makes me wonder, is it possible to be a regular smoker and still not at all smell of smoke when you meet customers?

  • Gemma Duff
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 10:45 am 0Likes

    I don’t smoke, but the majority of friends do, so Im used to smelling it. I can see the benefit, especially as the elderly salesman at my office talks for hours with potential vendors at the window whilst sharing a smoke – especially within the european demographic. But I also notice how it seems all the buyer enquiries tend to come in whilst 3 or 4 salesperson stand out the front talking amongst themselves smoking. But then again, does it matter what car we drive? What perfume/aftershave we wear? The list is endless. I say, do as you please – at least your vendors/buyers will know your REAL.

  • Nick
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 7:40 am 0Likes

    I recently bought a block of land from an agent who smoked quite heavily. Didn’t bother me in the slightest. He was honest, responsive, and he had the product I wanted at the price I wanted to pay.

    I think Bill Hicks summed it up when he said “I smoke, if this bothers anyone I suggest you take a look at whats going on in the world around you and shut the **** up.”

    of course… he also died of cancer.

  • Steve
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 11:57 am 0Likes

    With the sheer volume of information documenting the catastrophic effects of smoking upon the human body both from 1st and 2nd hand smoke, the argument that a person who thinks smoking is of anyway beneficial be considered anything other than completely stupid is just that; completely stupid.

  • Andreas
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 6:43 pm 0Likes

    I can now smoke whenever I want in my own home-office. No more sneaking out the building, standing 20 meters clear from the building – It’s about personal freedom, to smoke while I’m making business- calls. So smoking is good for business and I’m not bothering anyone else. I recommend it! Earn money over the internet and do whatever you please.

  • Dave Platter
    Posted January 18, 2008 at 2:23 pm 0Likes

    Andreas, I appreciate where you are coming from. I have always loved working from home. You smoke and you like to smoke on the phone and at home it doesn’t bother anyone.

    Gemma, you raise an interesting point about productivity. Do smoke breaks create lost opportunities and are they a waste of time? Or are they a necessary release from the pressures of the office that let people come back recharged and more productive than ever?

  • Nick
    Posted January 31, 2008 at 6:29 am 0Likes

    Its suddenly acceptable to attack someone else’s choice to smoke all of a sudden? Jesus last time I checked, Hitler lost didn’t he?

    I smoke, drink, stay up all night, party, eat food I drop on the ground, drive fast cars and have a bloody ball in the process… Sorry to dissappoint y`all – haven’t even caught a cold in 4 years.

    Sadnly, however, at 60, 70, 80 or maybe even 90 – I’m going to drop dead… its a damn shame, but its true… come to mention it, so are you – so have as much fun as possible in the mean time and quit stressing about something as utterly meaningless as if someone happens to smoke or not. I’ve seen Real Estate Agents do FAR uglier things than light a cigarette.

  • Dave Platter
    Posted January 31, 2008 at 10:32 am 0Likes

    Nick, great thoughts and very well put! I hope you’ll post more often.

    Let me run this by you, as much as I appreciate everyone

  • Don Nairn
    Posted February 1, 2008 at 1:10 pm 0Likes

    I will suggest that as long as an agent is discrete most clients would not know about their smoking habits.

    As a non smoker an long as they respect my choice not to smoke I think it is a trivial matter compared to how contentious they are.

    Some real-estate agents in Adelaide Australia at least couldn

  • Kathy
    Posted March 14, 2008 at 9:12 am 0Likes

    I would respectfully like to know if it is more difficult to sell a home where smokers lived, or if it affects the value of it in any way. My sister, who is a smoker and trustee of our parents’ California estate, is currently living in the home they occupied for over 30 years. (They also smoked heavily, which, very sadly, killed both of them.) With California having the second-highest adult non-smoking rate in the nation, and since 91 percent of California women are non-smokers, is the value of the house now undermined? If so, is it possible to mitigate the damage in any way prior to its being sold? Thank you so much for your input.

  • Dave Platter
    Posted March 14, 2008 at 11:54 am 0Likes

    Kathy, I’m sorry for the loss of your parents.

    You raise a good question. I haven’t been able to find any statistics on whether a smoker’s house sells more slowly or for a lower price. However, the anecdotal evidence suggests you could have a problem.

    The good news is, it’s fixable. What matters to buyers is not whether or a smoker lived there (because really, they have no way of knowing) but whether the place smells of smoke or has other smoking-related issues, like nicotine stains on the walls.

    I had a friend who was a heavy smoker and her walls were yellow with nicotine-except for the white squares where pictures had been hung.

    So, if you can clean the house up, get rid of the smell and perhaps even repaint, you should be in good shape. Also, I’d suggest removing ashtrays, lighters and other cigarette related paraphernalia before showings.

    Best of luck.

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