Sometimes you read something that just doesn't sound right, so you read it again and are even more astonished. J. Philip Faranda published a post Zillow Agent Reviews: A Request for Sanity in which he described his surprise about an email he received from Zillow about a consumer who wrote a negative review about Phil. Zillow wrote this to Phil
...we are extending you a “Free Pass” and will not publish this review on your Zillow profile. Please note that this is a one-time courtesy and that you will not receive a “free pass” for similar reviews submitted for you in the future.
But this wasn't a simple case of someone who had a bad transaction. The consumer complained that Phil didn't respond to his inquiry. They never had any contact and yet this consumer gets to submit a review?
I was very surprised at the tone...who is Zillow to give a "free pass" to a paying advertiser?
And then today a bigger surprise. On the Zillow Advice site Phil's post is now being discussed. A Zillow representative named Kristin Acker writes this:
"We connect a lot of buyers with agents, we think if we have unresponsive agents, then we shouldn't encourage buyers to contact them. The reason we went with the "Free Pass" described above, was a way to give agents a chance to start responding to consumers Zillow sends them.
If you see a review on the live site for not responding, that agent has been reviewed TWICE for not responding (we reject the first one we see and send an e-mail to the agent). We believe consumers should be able to find out that this agent may not respond to you.
Even I could argue the other side, but at the end of the day, we want buyers & sellers on Zillow to have a great experience and find a great agent. That's one who responds to their inquiry."
Now I've gone from surprised to shocked. Zillow sells advertising space to agents and brokers. Zillow presents listings that brokers pay to syndicate to the site. Zillow does not "encourage" the use of one broker versus another, except by virtue of offering paid space on their site. And since when did "a great agent" get defined by how fast an inquiry is responded to?
I have supported Zillow as an option for clients to get information about houses and markets. I have never feared that Zillow could replace my expertise in pricing a home. Heck, I even put the Zillow mobile app as a choice on the tablets we give out to buyers during their home search.
When agent reviews were first rolled out on the various aggregator sites, I remember many discussions here on ActiveRain about the possibilities for abuse by disgruntled consumers. We were assured by representatives from companies such as Zillow that there would be checks and balances in the system to make sure that agents were protected from irrational complainers.
But apparently that policy has changed at Zillow.
Now Zillow sees itself as the gatekeeper to finding a great agent. Apparently that agent is:
- a member of a brokerage who pays to have listings syndicated to the site
- and/or pays for advertising space
- and manages to dodge any and all disgruntled consumers, even ones with whom no contact was made or services performed.
Just yesterday I was telling someone that I have never, and would never write a post criticizing a single firm like an aggregator or a lender. This situation, however, bothers me enough to break my policy. I refuse to sit back and watch Zillow, or anyone else, disingenuously claim their support for a better real estate industry while they attack the very firms and agents who pay for their existence.
No rational person will agree to this.