My wife and I wanted to try something new for dinner. Someplace we'd never been to before. Something different. We discussed this place and that place and nothing really caught our interest. So, I picked up my smartphone and clicked on Yelp to search restaurants. As we scrolled through the findings, we decided upon one restaurant: Health's Kitchen. Why that particular spot? It was a brand new business serving healthy foods and it had already garnered 85 reviews with 4.5 stars on Yelp and 44 reviews and 4.8 stars on FaceBook. Let's face it. Who wants to try something new unless someone else has gone before, survived and lived to write all about it? In fact, how many times have you needed a mechanic for your car, or a plumber or electrician and asked a friend for a recommendation? We do it all the time. And where do we typically do it? Online! Yep...that's where we now go. That's why it's so very important to have those reviews readily available for the consumer to access.
It's no different with my Real Estate business. The need and importance of online reviews is non-negotiable. Especially since nearly 90% of all customers search online before ever contacting a Realtor. Having satisfied clients boast about you helps make that first contact with the client a little less worrisome for them. But first, you have to have satisfied clients. And second, they need to be satisfied enough to take the time to post a review online.
The typical Realtor makes cold-calls and does the door-knocking to obtain new clientele. Many Realtors hate doing it but it's a necessary part of the business. I'm not the typical agent. I don't make cold-calls nor do I door-knock for new business. What I HAVE done since 1996 is strive to be the most trustworthy, honest and ethical Realtor I can be and make sure my clients are happy with the service I provide so they will tell others. My business is 90% referral based. Therefore, those online reviews are super important to me. So...where are they?
Recently, Zillow merged profiles with Trulia to take the 2 most powerful Real Estate search portals and make them into one! In doing so, Zillow decided to make some changes in the way they post agent reviews. Gone are the very valuable 5-Star reviews like Trulia presented. And also gone are many of my actual reviews. In fact, many of the reviews that remain no longer even provide the name of the reviewer which really annoys me because I had a few local famous people who provided reviews. Yes...that's a little self-serving but c'mon...so are reviews. And by removing the name of the reviewer, I believe that removes some of the trustworthiness of the the review. Out of 26 total reviews, I now only have 9.
Zillow announced that their process of approving reviews has "strict review requirements" and that many previous reviews didn't meet the criteria. Zillow spokeswoman Katie Curnutte recently stated that although the reviews are posted by real clients about real transactions, many reviews were eliminated for 2 reasons.
1. Any Trulia review that didn't have a star rating was removed. Therefore, any Trulia review prior to 2014 was eliminated since they didn't start publishing star ratings until that year. That really hurt because I am (was) a 5-Star Agent on Trulia
2. Zillow removed any reviews that focused on the agent's character instead of the level of service. So apparently, "Ray sold my home" is way better than "Ray is the most honest, trustworthy Realtor and has more experience and integrity than anyone I know." Really? Gee...that's too bad!
Zillow has already garnered a sour taste in the mouths of many Realtors. They take our listings and then try to sell them back to us with advertising. They promote their "Zestimate" as an estimate of home values when it is notoriously incorrect. But this one issue really irks me. I don't bug my friends and family with calls and emails about my business so these reviews are uber crucial to my business. So, if you're a Realtor, I suggest you join me and many others in bombarding Zillow with the question: "Where Are My Reviews?"