Like Me, Love Me

Real Estate Broker/Owner with J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY License # 49FA1074963

LIKE ME DAMMITMaybe it started with the emperors thumbs up or thumbs down in the Roman Coliseum. Maybe it culminated with Fonzie. Or Sally Field. Or Facebook. Nobody knows, but the human fascination with rating each other is well-documented. In light of Zillow's new agent rating system, I am moved to opine on the online versions of how we rate, like, love, endorse and otherwise measure the performance of those with whom we do business, as even a Facebook remark can be liked as much as a business

J. Philip Faranda on RedfinI LIKE approval and high ratings. I love to be loved. As I have blogged before, I am a Redfin partner agent, and our ratings are very transparent on the site. I am posting a screenshot from my page, because my profile is off while I catch up with the business they have given me. I have nothing to hide. As a matter of fact, I fully expect all real estate agents to be rated very openly in the coming years. Yelp and other ratings site will only grow. Zillow is just the latest entry. It is good for our industry and good for the consumer.  

That said, I have misgivings in how it is carried out. For example, when Redfin first surveyed my clients as a condition of putting me on as a referral agent, I got lots of 10's. I also got some people asking me why I closed my company. We sorted it out, but the lesson is that the best intentioned ideas executed by really good people can still be problematic. And I have two concerns about the burgeoning industry of thumb extensions to the Heavens or Earth. 

  1. I am concerned about crackpots and haters. I live in New York, lunatic capital of the world. Not so much the wacky people who leave anonymous emails or voicemails- I am talking about the folks we occasionally run into in business who can't be pleased and have expectations that Superman can't fulfill and then blame their agent. I can't get you a million dollar foreclosure in Scarsdale for $200,000. I can't help you with that rare new construction in our area if you suddenly decide to deal directly with the builder in stealth while telling me something different. And no, I can't get you $600,000 on your $475,000 house just because you want to pay off your car and credit cards.  
  2. I am concerned about the system being gamed by unscrupulous agents. This may sound surprising, but in the Bronx, for example, many number of brokerages aren't MLS participants. Some don't cooperate. It has gotten so bad in the NYC boroughs that the Department of State has issued cease and desist orders on solicitation to the whole industry, all brokerages, for 5 years because of agent misconduct in some areas. Does that happen where you live? When you have hugely populated areas like the Bronx and Brooklyn with sparse MLS participation with brokerages behaving like it is the wild west, people will default to sites like StreetEasy, Trulia and Zillow for their property searches. With no NAR affiliate or government oversight of those websites, abuse is not just likely, the real question is how they'll game the system, not if they'll do it. 

So for me, it all boils down to how it is carried out and overseen. I don't want to pick on Zillow- Spencer Rascoff is a funny, self-effacing guy and Sara Bonert is swell; however, they never bought a house in Yonkers or Throgs Neck. I appreciate that I can respond to reviews, but what if the only way to defend myself against a flaming review were to involve confidential information? What if calling a brokerage out for bogus reviews got me slapped with a petty or frivolous grievance? 

Call me a cynical New Yorker, but remember, we actually have attorneys draw up contracts in this neck of the woods. It isn't Kansas. 

So, thumbs up to transparency, but thumbs down to abuse. And those who do provide that looking glass into ratings have a moral obligation to prevent abuse zealously due to the damage it can cause hard working, conscientious professionals who lay it all on the line daily. At any rate, to my clients, the link to my Zillow profile is right there in the sidebar. Speak your mind! 


Comments (49)

Tim Lorenz
TIM LORENZ - Elite Home Sales Team - Mission Viejo, CA
949 874-2247

I know what you mean I do not know how this will work.  Without a way to have controlls we can have other (without cause) enter bogus negatives.

Dec 03, 2010 05:41 PM
Maureen Fukumoto
Help-U-Sell Realty Pro - Mililani, HI

If someone is unhappy enough to write a complaint they should be willing to sign their name to it.  Reviews should allow the agent to publicly respond with all privacy of the complaint waived so that you can tell the public the Whole Story, not just their version of it.

Dec 03, 2010 06:17 PM
Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate

You brought up some good points. We have all had some transacitons over the years that went not so well. Ugh...they are deleted from my follow up and data base. Lets keep fingers crossed that Zillow can moderate. I know we will be able to comment back, but not interested in a war of Zillow.


Dec 03, 2010 10:13 PM
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass


I can see how this could cut both ways. I actually agree with Elizabeth and some others who point out that only people who have an ax to grind will bother to write anything.

I have seen this in other professions on the Internet where you review and rate a doctor, for example. Some doctors that I have liked a lot have people who write in some biting reviews because their problem was not solved. Ouch.

'So glad that no one has ever been annoyed with me.:) 

Dec 03, 2010 10:44 PM
Fernando Herboso - Associate Broker MD, & VA
Maxus Realty Group of Samson Properties - Clarksburg, MD
301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA

Unfortunately the new age revolution will be about the public ratings for all types of services. .people will share and ignore the glitzy commercials. .

When I book a hotel room, I want to see these comments, they only thing that is real before I make my decision.

Dec 03, 2010 11:32 PM
Susan Mangigian
RE/MAX Preferred - West Chester, PA
Chester & Delaware County Homes, Delaware and Ches

Phil, how will we know, if no names are issued, if it's not another agent with sour grapes?  I wonder if we will be able to opt out of it as we do with online reviews of our listings?

Dec 04, 2010 01:47 AM
Craig Daniels
Tech Training for You! - Staten Island, NY
Technology Instructor/Project Consultant

I look forward to see how all this works out. Zillow moderating the reviews sounds like it will help. Time will tell. I appreciate reviews on things I am looking to purchase... it only makes sense to be able to see what other people are saying about an agent that I am considering to work with - somebody that will help me with one of the largest transactions I will make in my lifetime. When you go to for example and read the reviews, you often easily spot (and disregard) the reviews that are "off" - "ummm, did you actually look at the instructions before you messed it up and now are berating the object?"

Dec 04, 2010 02:09 AM
Todd & Devona Garrigus
Garrigus Real Estate - Beaumont, CA
Broker / REALTORS®
J. - I am a little unclear. Is this something agents opt in for? As for me, I would not opt in because of the reasons you stated. If the system has problematic flaws, and other agents and brokers can "game" the system via fake reviews for themselves and slanderous reviews for their competition, it doesn't seem worth it. Not to mention the unfair reviews of clients that expect you’re first born! Don't get me wrong, I love the transparency idea, I just don't think it’s ready yet, and I won't allow my business to take a beating for it.
Dec 04, 2010 03:28 AM
Todd & Devona Garrigus
Garrigus Real Estate - Beaumont, CA
Broker / REALTORS®

By the way, excellent post! I am re-blogging it! (Sorry for the multiple comments.)

Dec 04, 2010 03:29 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC

Hi Philip!  Okay, I personally went out to Zillow and sent a couple of clients requests for reviews.  I was copied on the emails that Zillow sent my clients and found that I could click through as though I were the one receiving the evaluation request.  It's a pretty straight forward request and a relatively simple form.  I also inquired about other agents submitting reviews on OUR clients' behalf and here is what I found...


  • They compare names to sold properties--even though the names do not appear on the review (to protect the clients)
  • They compare and verify addresses of the properties--also, the address does not appear for the same reason as above.
  • They also moderate the submitted review and will be checking IP addresses, etc.
If someone has an ax to grind, I feel confident that our relationship with Brad and Sara will allow us to request a moderation from Zillow, should one be necessary.  I know that we've all had those clients that you simply CANNOT make happy but, for the most part, this is 'the way of the world' in which we live, whether we like it or not.  Don't we all look at the reviews before making dinner reservations at a new restaurant; don't we check out the reviews on Amazon and Zillow, who already provides reviews for mortgage brokers that we can view?  How many of us are Yelp! members?  I am and I utilize the site for honest opinions and evaluations so that I can weigh the good with the bad.  

I don't mind being evaluated as our firm mandates that we are QSC certified so, I am accustomed to preparing my clients that a review will be requested of them.  I've had one that I prayed would not respond because despite my getting him quick, multiple offers, thus a sales price OVER his list price (and this year, mind you!) and negotiated a tough Repair Request, got us Closed on time and everything was as smooth as smooth could be, at least from the perspective of 99% of the sellers out there.  However, this seller was a miserable, nasty, rude and constantly complaining man--if the showing service phoned him one minute before 9:00, he complained; if an agent showed up 1 minute late, he complained and heaven forbid, if the agent and his/her buyers didn't show up at all!  It wasn't just one call to complain and allow me to calm him down, it was a constant barrage of calls and emails from this nasty seller.  Believe me, I prayed hard, and thankfully he didn't respond to his survey!  I'd be willing to bet that if we have the same type of scenario and the client gives a nasty review, if we phone Brad or Sara, they'd go out of their way to take care of moderating that comment!  In the case of the example that I sited, I have documentation to prove exactly what I said--the multiple Offers, the original Repair Request, as well as the nasty emails for every little thing (with my detailed responses).  I believe that they would take one look at the information and hit their big review "Zelete" button!!

These changes are coming our way through NAR as well as other sites and I think that our best approach is to embrace it--as much as we hate change, we've all learned to adapt to much worse in recent years!  Just MHO.

Debe in Charlotte  


Dec 04, 2010 04:16 AM
Melina Tomson
Tomson Burnham, llc Licensed in the State of Oregon - Salem, OR
Principal Broker/Owner, M.S.

I have a flip side approach to this.  We deserve this for failing to regulate ourselves.  Most other professionals don't have online reviews because they make their entry standards hard.  They have tougher ethical standards for licensure than agents do.  Real estate agents have demoted themselves to the ranks of the best book on Amazon, by failing to monitor and train within our ranks.  We have failed to protect consumers from our poorly trained agents and as such, the consumers are demanding a way to protect themselves.  This is one way to do that.

Yes, there will be abuse and bogus reviews. I can also tell you that I have bought books that had bad reviews by some or used businesses that had a bad review because MOST were good.  The good thing about online reviews is that consumers have a history with them.  They know that not everyone will be happy at the time.  I read a negative review and see if that persons concerns would be mine as well.  Consumers will do the same.  Agents will have to work hard to get their happy clients reviewing them so that when the inevitable negative and hateful review comes up, you have enough positives to counter act them.


Dec 04, 2010 04:36 AM
Erby Crofutt
B4 U Close Home Inspections&Radon Testing ( - Lexington, KY
The Central Kentucky Home Inspector, Lexington KY

And then there are those that submit fake reviews such as on Google Maps.  One of my competitors hired Main Street Host for doing his website and SEO.  Later, I found pictures of my inspection vehicle on his google review page and the reviews were obviously fake.  The same person also reviewed other businesses all over the United States.

What do you do?   Life goes on.

Dec 04, 2010 04:53 AM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

This avenue can be manipulated too easily....a good agent is a good agent whether Zillow or anyone else says so or otherwise....Potential Client and agent meeting Face to face with serious dialog brings results all the time...every time. I wouldn't start believing everything you see and read online anymore than something being in the newspaper is the gospel

Dec 04, 2010 05:17 AM
Mitchell J Hall
Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Phillip,  You received some really great comments. As a skeptical New Yorker myself, I will only add:

No Such Thing As Bad Publicity

"The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."
-Oscar Wilde
Dec 04, 2010 05:23 AM
Justin Dibbs
Fairway Independent Mortgage - Ashburn, VA
Mortgage Advisor

Funny, I had the same initial thoughts when I saw this.  I like reading reviews as much as they next guy but all it can take is one crackpot to write some crazy review.

Dec 04, 2010 06:48 AM
Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities
Charlemagne International Properties - Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A.

I had better zip over to Zillow and see if I have any ratings.  No chance anyone will game the system and have friends and family post glowing reviews, is there?

Dec 04, 2010 07:16 AM
Brad Andersohn
Retired Executive Director of Education at eXp - Boulder Creek, CA
ActiveBrad - 707.646.1876

"obligation to prevent abuse zealously due to the damage it can cause hard working, conscientious professionals who lay it all on the line daily."  We are and will continue to moderate.  Reviews may also be flagged if in question.

Remember that Zillow has already been doing this for over 2 years on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace and has a great deal of experience in this arena.  I think folks should't worry so much about the gaming as they should giving good service to their clients and getting awesome reviews and endorsements for that service.  Success breeds success.  :-)

I know every rose has a thorn, but I hope folks won't miss the beauty of what's available here and already blossoming.

Dec 04, 2010 08:56 AM
Sara Bonert
Zillow - Atlanta, GA
Real Estate Internet Marketing

Hey Philip - I'll take 'swell' anyday!  :)  Nice to meet you in person today at Triple Play!  You know we'll stay on top of all of this and continue to monitor and be on the look out for the things you address as concerns. 

Dec 07, 2010 01:18 PM
Spencer Rascoff
Zillow - Seattle, WA

Hi there,

Well this is an exciting first for me! I don’t think anyone has ever called me “funny” before, so that’s kinda cool.

We are indeed reviewing every single rating and review manually before we post it to the website. That is a very expensive undertaking, but we decided that it’s the right thing to do. As Brad (#47) points out, we have had ratings, reviews and endorsements for lenders in our Zillow Mortgage Marketplace for more than two years, so while I’m sure our system won’t be perfect you should definitely understand that we have already dealt with these issues before.

The early results are, as expected, very exciting. First, the endorsements skew overwhelmingly positive, as you’d expect. That’s because the way we designed the feature, most of the ratings and reviews are created because agents ask past clients to leave them. True, a disgruntled former client could come and post a review on his/her own. But the way we built the feature, we think it’s much more likely that reviews will come about because agents email clients and invite them to leave feedback. There are already reports of agents with good endorsements on Zillow getting more clients from Zillow, and I expect that will become even more common in the coming weeks as more reviews get posted to the site.

Dec 08, 2010 10:39 AM
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY

Sara, it was nice to meet you as well. 

Spencer, I believe you are being humble, because you were very funny at NY Raincamp. I do hope that it works out well for everyone, and I am glad you appreciate where I am coming from here. 

Dec 10, 2010 02:34 AM