Real Estate Agent Ratings—A Bought-Out Market or a Positive Tool?
Being a member of Generation Y, I have grown up in a world that has been lead, motivated and held to a higher accountability due to online reviews. In an era that has seen this trend rise and rise and rise, I stumbled upon an article today that made the argument that this online system of judgment has not only plateaued but reached a point where it is counterproductive. “The Agent Ratings Ship Has Sailed” puts forth the following stances:
- Online reviews have lost credibility.
- Clients are better finding potential agents by meeting them face-to-face.
- Since an agent can ‘buy’ a zip code online, the legitimacy of their marketing is weakened.
- “Real estate and real estate licensing is regulated at the state level. Legislation is easiest and fastest way to raise industry standards.” - See more at: http://www.inman.com/2013/05/09/the-agent-ratings-ship-has-sailed/#sthash.0BZsP17T.dpuf
- Small business owners are disproportionately hindered by the online review systems.
As a marketing director who monitors, promotes and meticulously advocates for online performance of the agents I stimulate business for, I initially had a very visceral reaction to the above article. As I allowed it to digest, I began to understand where the author is coming from but I am nowhere near buying into the narrative. I work in the online realm and all its facets and I think I have appropriate counterpoints to add:
- Online reviews have lost credibility—If you search for anyone, agent or otherwise, online something will come up. This can be anything from an award to an embarrassing newspaper article. As a marketing director, I need to make sure that when my agents have their names typed in, I have some control over what the results to that search are. Reviews are a blessing in this regard. The review resources I run into in the real estate world are those on Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com, etc… each of these sites have a highly rigorous and semi-lengthy process clients must go through to enter their opinion. This tediousness deters many from doing it and all I can do it encourage—I cannot go out as a fake and submit anything (some social media site do allow to enter a review unverified).
- Clients are better finding potential agents by meeting them face-to-face—I agree with this 100%, but now that NAR reports that as far as information sources used in home search goes, the internet alone beats out agents in a 90%/87% split (http://www.realtor.org/field-guides/field-guide-to-quick-real-estate-statistics). I want to know that when a potential client gets online, they find my agents rather than start looking for homes on their own. The face-to-face only comes after the hook of online marketing.
- Since an agent can ‘buy’ a zip code online, the legitimacy of their marketing is weakened. This is true but let us put it in context. Each individual site offers a zip code purchase. These fees run anywhere from $250-up per zip code per site. An agent can buy a code, but that makes them the premier agent for that site alone and many other agents are buying the same zip code through other services. This is just an expansion of putting a business in a phone book—localized marketing. That phonebook is now online.
- Small business owners are disproportionately hindered by the online review systems—this is perhaps the statement I have the largest disagreement with. Bozeman Montana Real Estate.net is a local company and we work within in the system of online reviews very well. Not having national corporations and system wide standards, I can see where the reviews are being used and I can personally chase those venues. Bozeman’s Best for example; it is a local compilation of businesses that are known to be the top performers. That list gets out to many local hands online and in hard print. I feel online reviews disproportionality give an advantage to local businesses (or at least for here in Bozeman). Clients are honest and they spread word of mouth anyway—I would much prefer they do it online too.
The review system is a highly valuable resource for real estate venues and beyond. As a young adult, I use online reviews to assist my determination in choosing everything from dental services to coffee shops. When sending referrals to other cities, I use them to find Realtors too.
Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, Tumblr, Blogger, LinkedIn, YouTube, RSS Feeds, Flickr, Twitter, and non-social medial Local Guides—they all are a part of the online footprint an agent can passively allow to be made or actively get out there and control. Please fill in your comments on the issue below!