Earlier this week, Zillow “a popular real estate listing portal, home value estimating, forum wielding, data containing, subject to much assault from real estate agents web site” announced they were implementing a real estate agent review component to their oft-visited web site.
You know, a place where you can give a real estate agent a “five star” (or one star) review. Ostensibly a place where folks pondering buying or selling a home could go and find an agent, and by looking at reviews from past clients be privy to whether or not an agent was worth a damn at what they do. Or should be doing.
Within minutes of the announcement, the whining commenced
Good grief, you’d think by the reaction of some in the real estate community that this agent review system was the first of its kind, the genesis of a new way for real estate consumers to find more information on an agent. Some would even lead you to believe this is all some sort of vast conspiracy to steal databases and put real estate agents out of business.
Please. Take off the tin-foil hat. Wake up and welcome to commerce in the 21st century.
LOTS of people that use the internet look at reviews. Reviews of places, products, services, movies, books, service providers ”“ and real estate agents clearly fall into that last category. LOTS of people base their buying decisions, and their choice of service provider on consumer generated reviews.
I’ve done it. I suspect you probably have too.
What, you’ve never bought a book (or not) on Amazon based on the customer reviews? Never been looking for a new place to eat, drink or shop on Yelp and said, “This sounds good (or nasty), I think I’ll try (or avoid) it?” Never looked at a review online for hotels in an area you are travelling to?
Well if you haven’t, rest assured that many have.
Zillow adding agent reviews is far from innovative, new or original. There are many real estate agent reviews sites already in existence. Here are just a few that took 5 seconds to find via Google:
- Incredible Agents
- Agent Scoreboard
- Rate My Agent
- Agents Ranking (regional ”“ MN, MO only)
- Rate Your Broker
- Neighbor City
- Quality Service Certification
- Redfin (if you are a Redfin agent or partner agent. Our example as a partner agent)
- Houston Association of Realtors (the best agent review implementation, in my opinion)
There are more”¦
In addition, there are many review sites that aren’t real estate specific, but have real estate agent review areas such as:
- Angie’s List (Phoenix example)
- Many local newspapers (Phoenix example)
- Yelp (our example)
- Yahoo Local (Phoenix example)
- That little site called Google (our example)
There are more”
Get over it. Real estate agent review sites are out there, like it or not.
So why all the negative waves about Zillow’s foray into agent reviews? There seems to be two primary concerns floating about: 1) people will game the system; and 2) it’s a ploy by Zillow to drive additional traffic.
Regarding gaming, sure it can happen. Probably will to some extent. Zillow says they be taking precautions and vetting reviews, but any system can be gamed by someone willing to take the time and make the effort. The gaming concerns generally fall into two categories ”“ agents will create fake positive reviews for themselves and agents will create fake negative reviews on competitor’s profiles.
Personally, I have far better things to do with my time than research who bought what property from what agent, create a fake profile under that persons name, and submit a fake review flaming that agent. Not to mention that it makes far more sense to just not worry about bringing down another agent, but instead step up your own game. Tearing down the competition to elevate yourself is just stupid.
Is Zillow simply trying to attract more traffic, or are they genuinely trying to help real estate agents?
I have no idea. I suspect it’s some of both. Zillow makes money selling advertising – advertising that agents buy. So they have a vested interest in both driving traffic to their sites AND in helping agents. More traffic = more eyeballs = ability to charge higher rates = better revenue for Zillow and their investors. Helping agents = potentially more customers buying ads = better revenue for Zillow and their investors. Yeah, the end result in both those equations is more revenue for Zillow and their investors. Well duh, that’s why they are in business.
Since Launch of Zillow Day One, agents have expressed concern and fear over Zillow. They are “the enemy”. They are going to put us out of business. Their Zestimates suck. Some are now proclaiming Zillow’s new agent review is designed to “steal our databases”.
Steal our databases? Yes, you can “invite” a client to review you on Zillow. This entails an email address. And yes, the client has to create a profile on Zillow in order to leave a review. This is hardly a “database of your clients”. And really, what exactly would Zillow do with a client database even if they had one? Zillow sells ads to real estate professionals, not home buyers and sellers.
Go ahead, wish hope whine all you like about Zillow and agent review sites
Agent review sites aren’t going away. Zillow isn’t going away. Love or hate either Zillow or reviews, but the fact is consumers want information. They want to look at homes. They want to see reviews of agents. Don’t want to be reviewed on Zillow? The solution is simple, don’t create an agent profile there (or delete the one you already have). No profile, no review. Don’t want your listings on Zillow? Don’t send them there. Blame your broker for sending them there? Find a new broker. Blame your MLS? Opt out of syndication. Don’t want to buy ads on Zillow? Don’t write them a check.
You can pretty much do the same on the large non-real estate specific review sites. Don’t put your businesses on Google, Yelp, Yahoo, etc. That’s no big deal anyway. After all, who goes to a place like Google to find you? /sarcasm.
But the existing real estate specific review sites? You may already be there. Don’t believe me? Go look. Many of these sites pull public information to create their agent databases.
Welcome to 21st century consumerism. You probably need to embrace this stuff, or get out of the way.
Here’s some additional information on agent ratings (and Zillows new offering)
Video of “Embracing Consumer Generated Reviews” session at 2010 National Association of Realtors Annual Conference.
Speakers: Bob Hale, CEO Houston Association of Realtors, Larry Romito, President / CEO Quality Service Certification, Inc., Margie Dorrance, HAR Chair, yours truly, and Larry McGee, Broker Berkshire Group. Moderator Todd Carpenter, NAR Social Media Manager.
Yes, it’s 1.5 hours long. But there is great stuff in here. Picture kicks in at about a minute. If nothing else, listen to Bob Hale in the beginning. He shares a lot of data on agent reviews.
Zillow announcement on Active Rain by Sara Bonert, Zillow Director of Broker Relations