Zillow Advice and Trulia Voices: "Do Consumers Get Qualified Answers?"

By
Real Estate Agent with Fathom Realty West Sound WA State 52404

O don't-answer-questions-from-outside-your-area-of-expertisever two years ago, I wrote a post entitled, "But I did Stay at a Holiday Inn Express!"

If you're not familiar with this series of TV commercial spots by Holiday Inn Express, it shows guests who attempt extremely difficult or complicated jobs (brain surgery, rodeo clown) because they got such a great night's sleep at the Holiday Inn Express.

I've been accessing Trulia Voices and Zillow Advice for the purposes of engaging consumers who ask questions in my market area.

Historically, ActiveRain has had a 'Question & Answer' feature on their Home Page, but it tends to get cluttered with questions from other members or SPAM from various solicitors.

Earlier this evening, I received an email alert from Zillow Advice where a homeowner down in Port Orchard WA asked the question:

"Is now a good time to sell or should we wait until summer when it shows better?"

Someone else had already responded to the question - a real estate agent in Minnesota. He began his answer with "I am not familiar with the market in Washington State, but"...

"No, I'm not a Brain Surgeon, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night!"

Unfortunately, on some of these platforms, members are awarded points for the questions they answer. The more points they earn, the higher up in the pecking order they are (gee, sounds familiar, huh?) So their motivation in responding to questions isn't always because they can offer the best, qualified answer. It's so they can earn more points.

I penned my response to the homeowner's question, but prefaced it with a short comment to the Minnesota agent. I simply said, "If you're not licensed in Washington State or familiar with the market here, then please extend the professional courtesy 'NOT' to answer.

A short while later, a Zillow 'ALL-STAR' added the following comment to the stream:

Minnesota Agent: Thanks for an excellent answer!

Rich: your spam and violation of the good neighbor policy has been reported to the moderators.  (PS. I do live in Washington state and there is no policy that one must be a local spammer to answer questions).

Excuse me? Good Neighbor policy? When did I access the State Farm website?

I quickly shot back my volley response:

With all due respect, my 1st comment was directed towards the agent in Minnesota, and it in no way constitutes any form of spam or violation of the 'good neighbor' policy. I was simply expressing my concern that he was rendering an opinion that was outside of his ability to answer accurately. We owe the consumers who ask these questions the value of our expertise and knowledge within our respective markets. He even begins his comment with "I am not familiar with your market"... Real estate professionals who frequent this platform should refrain from answering questions outside of their market area, especially questions that are specific in nature.

The points or recommendations that I made in the Holiday Inn article still hold true today:

  • If you're not licensed or regularly doing business within a particular State, DON'T respond to questions there.
  • If the question subject matter deals with a topic/issue that is outside your area of expertise and knowledge, DON'T respond.

ACTION POINT:   Do you utilize Trulia Voices or Zillow Advice? What has been your experience? Do you feel it's permissible to answer questions from outside your market area?

~     o     ~     o     ~     o     ~     o     ~     o     ~

kitsap-county-wa-real-estate

An avid blogger since 2005, Rich has published over 1000 articles, most related to real estate. He enjoys using the tools of social media to brag/boast about the quality of Life on the picturesque Kitsap Peninsula in scenic WA State. He is a licensed real estate professional providing knowledgeable empowerment and relentless representation for his clients of residential properties and vacant land throughout all of Kitsap County WA and portions of Pierce, Mason, and Jefferson Counties. You can also find him at KitsapLife.com, SOUNDBITEBLOG, Crabbing in the Hood, Everyday CK, Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail:  kitsapagent@gmail.com

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Rich Jacobson is a REALTOR® and licensed Broker with Fathom Realty. He's a Crab Hunter, Clam Digger, and Oyster Shucker, skilffuly vanquishing anything in a shell! He is the Social Media Evangelist for Life on the Kitsap Peninsula & The Western Puget Sound in scenic WA State.

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Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Broker Nick 01/16/2010 02:15 AM
  2. Oikos Realty 01/17/2010 01:02 AM
  3. D B 01/18/2010 05:00 AM
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Rainmaker
76,453
Natalie Langford
Realty Negotiations - Winchester, VA
Winchester, VA Real Estate

I've attended a couple of risk management classes the past two VAR Conferences.  It is my understanding that agents/brokers answering real estate questions outside ones area of license is a VIOLATION! 

I've had agents giving advice for short sale response time and other topics in my area of Virginia who are located outside my state.  I wish there was some way agents were prevented from harming themselves so much.  One day, it'll all catch up with them.  Any regulator who wants to clean up and bring in some income via fines could easily graze on these sites. 

Jan 17, 2010 06:19 AM #86
Anonymous
Daria Kelly Uhlig

I only answer local-to-my-area questions on Trulia, but I'm not particularly bothered by answers from distant agents. The answers--mine and theirs--speak for themselves. 

 

Jan 17, 2010 09:35 AM #87
Ambassador
588,132
Rich Jacobson
Fathom Realty West Sound - Poulsbo, WA
Your Kitsap County WA Real Estate Broker

Boy, who would've thought this post would garner such attention and comment? Guess it just goes to show how common or prevalent this issue is on various platforms.

Thanks to everyone for their valued opinions. We need to remain focused on what is the most important and primary purpose for frequenting such forums - to provide knowledgeable, experienced, and expert advice on our respective markets.

Jan 17, 2010 09:40 AM #88
Ambassador
1,554,836
Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

I answer questions that I have knowledge about! Recently there was a question about disclosures and seller liability. An out-of-state agent made a comment that was absolutely untrue about our state. So I recommended that the consumer not listen to out of state agents on this....they meant well, but were just wrong. The flood of opinions just went on from there.

Jan 17, 2010 10:19 AM #89
Rainmaker
131,417
Mike Henderson
Your complete source for buying HUD homes - Littleton, CO
HUD Home Hub - 303-949-5848

LOL.  My business plan was to spend more time on these sites.  After reading this I'm not sure that's still the right plan.

Jan 17, 2010 11:10 AM #90
Ambassador
1,726,851
Alan May
Jameson Sotheby's International Realty - Evanston, IL
Helping you find your way home.
I've attended a couple of risk management classes the past two VAR Conferences.  It is my understanding that agents/brokers answering real estate questions outside ones area of license is a VIOLATION!
~~~~~~~
you missed a very important part of that statement in risk management classes ... as long as you're very clear about where you're licensed, there is no violation in giving generic real estate advice outside of one's area of license.  And on Zillow and Trulia both, your licensed area is printed directly below your photo and name.

and often, I will start a comment with "I'm not from Kentucky, but in Illinois..." thereby clarifying it even further.

 

Jan 17, 2010 12:11 PM #91
Rainer
117,860
Beverly Femia
BlueCoast Realty Corporation - Hampstead, NC
Broker Realtor Stager - Greater Wilmington, NC Are

WOW!  Once again, I pick up information to advance my knowledge base,

Jan 17, 2010 01:53 PM #92
Rainer
34,869
Chad Boyers
The Danberry Co.- Toledo, Perrysburg, Sylvania, & NW OH - Toledo, OH

I have and continue to answer questions on Trulia, typically in my local area.  I do periodically answer general questions that are out of my geographic area, but that is only on occassion.  I don't answer any questions that I feel I don't have the proper knowledge or expertise on, local or not, that just causes more trouble than it's worth.  I have picked up a buyer from Trulia, so it can be a good marketing tool if used properly. 

Jan 18, 2010 02:47 AM #93
Rainer
8,990
Bob Sweazy
Prudential A. S. de Movellan Real Estate - Lexington, KY

I wasn't familiar with the Trulia Q&A until I read this post. Very interesting comments.

Jan 18, 2010 03:13 AM #94
Rainer
79,247
Michael Ford
San Diego, CA
California+Hawaii+Oregon

i've participated in trulia q&a's and found most to be informative.  certain of the questions require some assuming but the thread usually gets to  the meat of the matter.  i like that there are a far better mix of agents and laymen who chime in...it makes the thread more well rounded.  i pay no attention to  the point system...even here.  really, who cares?

i disagree completely that only a local agent can speak with authority on an issue...MOST questions are general in nature and make good reading for all interested parties. 

zillow?  not so much.  i had to advise one client not to feed those trolls who seemed to me to be very anti-agent and strangely willing to speak on any topic w/o regard to knowledge.  that was a full year ago, it may be different now.

Jan 18, 2010 08:36 AM #95
Rainmaker
1,431,717
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

I tend to only respond to local questions.  I am too busy to be involved in everyone in the country's business.

Jan 18, 2010 12:21 PM #96
Rainmaker
549,730
Martin Kalisker
Greater Boston Association of REALTORS - Boston, MA
Professional Standards & Legal Assistant

I still like to read through the AR questions and answers, but I do fully embrace your point about "if you aren't the neighborhood expert, and if the question is a local question - - -then don't answer!!!"  We're talking about relevance.  I think AR, Zillow and all the rest would do themselves a favor by having a "voting" button for the responses.  If the answer is not relevant or useful, then the reader should be able to affect the respondent's ratings by indicating if the response was helpful or not.  This should quickly eliminate the riff-raff "know it all" agents from wasting everyone's time and increase the relevance of the question and answer forums.

Jan 19, 2010 05:09 AM #97
Ambassador
2,081,669
Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor

Personally, I stay away from both of them. A couple of years ago I checked them out but was not impressed at all. I have remained away -

Jan 20, 2010 12:53 AM #98
Rainmaker
107,991
Dana Devine
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Apollo Beach, FL

this is tooo funny....however, i have always felt trulia and zillow were anti-Realtor and i dont go there maybe if EVERY REALTOR  felt the same  and stayed away from them, then they would go out of business along with the hundreds of sites that suck agents into false pretense that  if you pay us  a fee then and  all the buyers cometo our web site to search for a Realtor...BS...if they were out of business then buyers and sellers would come to the experts...us...Realtors and no be going to a 3rd party to find us

Jan 21, 2010 02:17 AM #99
Rainer
17,145
Jeff Stone
Douglas Elliman - Port Washington, NY
Seniors Real Estate Specialist

It depends on the question, whether it's general or specific. If the question is about the market in a specific area, I will sometimes answer with 'check with your local Realtor'. If it's a specific question about my area, I will of course answer the question. General questions can be answered by most Realtors in a general way. Basic rule of thumb, be an expert in your area, people will become attracted to you.

Jan 27, 2010 09:05 AM #100
Rainer
30,836
Bruce Bills
RateWindow (Powered by RealEspace) - Plano, TX

Mr. Alan May, Coldwell Banker, response number 32, addressed the issue perfectly, and I am quoting Alan below, directly from the text of his answer:

I spend a lot of time answering questions on Trulia.  I don't limit my answers to local questions.  There are plenty of questions that can be answered by any agent, anywhere in the country.

* What is Earnest Money?
* Should I do an Inspection?
* Why should I use a Realtor?

and my personal favourite:

* What is the standard commission in [fill in the location]?

You don't have to live in the local community to be able to explain what earnest money is, nor the importance of an inspection, and how using a Realtor can help your transaction.  You can also explain that there is no standard commission (until you're blue in the face, because this question just won't die... there's always some agent who pipes up [often local] and says "our standard commission is 6%!".  D'oh!?  How do you spell "Sherman Anti-Trust"?)

I don't answer questions that are truly local. (what's the market like in Farmingham?, is 1234 Sherman still for sale, what's happening with the development at the corner of X & Y)... I leave those for the local agents.  But if the question is one that I have the expertise to answer, and I have an interest in the subject matter... I answer it.  My reply doesn't prevent any local agents from responding, they're free to agree, disagree, or come up with a response all on their own.

I don't use my replies as solicitations... i don't put my entire resume at the bottom of my reply... nor do I end with "pick me... pick me... pick me...!"  If they've liked my answers, and the way I respond, they can click on my name, and my profile will pop up with all of my contact information.

Bruce Bills

www.ratewindow.com 

Feb 03, 2010 03:49 AM #101
Rainer
30,836
Bruce Bills
RateWindow (Powered by RealEspace) - Plano, TX

Mr. Alan May, Coldwell Banker, response number 32, addressed the issue perfectly, and I am quoting Alan below, directly from the text of his answer:

I spend a lot of time answering questions on Trulia.  I don't limit my answers to local questions.  There are plenty of questions that can be answered by any agent, anywhere in the country.

* What is Earnest Money?
* Should I do an Inspection?
* Why should I use a Realtor?

and my personal favourite:

* What is the standard commission in [fill in the location]?

You don't have to live in the local community to be able to explain what earnest money is, nor the importance of an inspection, and how using a Realtor can help your transaction.  You can also explain that there is no standard commission (until you're blue in the face, because this question just won't die... there's always some agent who pipes up [often local] and says "our standard commission is 6%!".  D'oh!?  How do you spell "Sherman Anti-Trust"?)

I don't answer questions that are truly local. (what's the market like in Farmingham?, is 1234 Sherman still for sale, what's happening with the development at the corner of X & Y)... I leave those for the local agents.  But if the question is one that I have the expertise to answer, and I have an interest in the subject matter... I answer it.  My reply doesn't prevent any local agents from responding, they're free to agree, disagree, or come up with a response all on their own.

I don't use my replies as solicitations... i don't put my entire resume at the bottom of my reply... nor do I end with "pick me... pick me... pick me...!"  If they've liked my answers, and the way I respond, they can click on my name, and my profile will pop up with all of my contact information.

Bruce Bills

www.ratewindow.com 

Feb 03, 2010 03:50 AM #102
Rainer
327,079
Matthew Bartlett
Hill Top Real Estate/BRE Lic. #01353034 - Glendora, CA

Points well made. I have seen this many times myself. Another problem I have come across is individuals portraying themselves as Brokers or Agents and answering questions and or attacking agents and the industry as a whole. A good rule of thumb is if the question is market specific and you do not specialize in that market then do not answer the question.

Feb 10, 2010 03:57 PM #103
Rainmaker
434,656
Adam Brett
The Adam and Eric Group - Fullerton, CA
The Adam and Eric Group, Fullerton's Finest

Good post Rich. Very well put. 

May 26, 2010 11:24 AM #104
Rainmaker
434,656
Adam Brett
The Adam and Eric Group - Fullerton, CA
The Adam and Eric Group, Fullerton's Finest

Good post Rich. Very well put. 

May 26, 2010 11:27 AM #105
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