I attended the Presentation in Austin this week announcing the Beta rollout of Realtor.com’s new Agent Profiles. Austin is the only city in the US with this live, though it will soon also be turned on in the state of Rhode Island.
Though not fully baked, I’ve set up my profile. The “Sold Listing are not yet populating, but should be on the map by mid October. There will also be a Team Profile. Here is what it will look like when viewing a map of Sold Listings in Austin.
Pretty cool, right? Are Realtors happy about this? Many are not. The Realtor online forums are ablaze with ignorant complainers, moaning and griping about this, and how it’s “unfair” to populate Realtor profiles or Sold Maps with actual closed sales because it makes the Newbies and part timers look bad.
Those of you agents complaining are missing some important data points. Namely, consumers want this. That is a settled question, supported by research and surveys of consumers. Realtor Reviews are here, whether we like it or not.
It was gross neglegence when the real estate industry fought online listings back in the late 1990s/early 2000s. It was the height of stupidity to do so. The void was instead filled by portals. Thus we have the useless but popular Zillow.
Zillow is not consumer-friendly. It exists for one purpose only, to sell advertising space to Realtors so they can appear next to listings they know nothing about. That does not create an informed consumer, nor connect a consumer to a “good” agent in their area, nor is it supposed to. Zillow is NOT consumer friendly. But consumers like the entertainment value Zillow. It’s fun to surf and look at houses.
Realtor.com can be way better for the serious consumer though, as its data comes directly from MLS feeds, and now instead of finding an “Advertiser” agent, you’ll be able to quickly rule in those agents who are actually active and relevant in the area in which you live or wish to live.
Just as it was dumb for the real estate industry to resist online listings, it would be equally stupid to ignore the consumer landscape and the desire for a better way to find, evaluate and hire a Realtor. Just as consumers wanted to see online listings, they now want to see online reviews of Realtors. Period. Get over it.
Consumers want a way to identify and differentiate productive, successful agents from part timers and dead wood. And we all know there is a vast sea of dead wood agents out there. So thick we could walk across the floating debris of agent incompetence. It plagues our industry, as made plainly clear in the DANGER Report, which concludes:
“Masses of Marginal Agents Destroy Reputation”. It finds that “the real estate industry is saddled with a large number of part-time, untrained, unethical, and/or incompetent agents. This knowledge gap threatens the credibility of the industry.”
So let’s not cry crocodile tears if we start taking that problem seriously by giving consumers a direct, data driven look at the production history of the Realtors they consider hiring. And if a lot of deadbeats wash out of the business, good riddance. This will be a good thing for consumers. And it will result in fewer instances of the experienced Listing or Buyer agent having to essentially take care of both sides of a deal when one of the agents, often in a way not apparent to their client, is a dimwit know-nothing being carried through the transaction by the knowledge and experience of the other agent.
The Realtor.com solution is brilliantly conceived with it’s two pronged method.
1) Ratings and Reviews tied directly to actual closed listings and MLS number. When you read these, you’ll know it was an actual sale, and the actual buyer or seller writing the review and giving the 1-5 “star” rating.
2) “Recommendations”, which are not tied to a direct closed sale, but which, if properly executed by Realtors and used by consumers as a compliment to the production ratings, will be highly useful to consumers as well as the Realtors wishing to be found by them.
The star “Review” will be unique in its authenticity with the tie-back to actual closed MLS sales. This promotes both buyer and listing agents. While I am in concept against having an asset as valuable as our company reviews hosted on a 3rd party real estate advertising portal site (see recent news articles on Inman.com of agents losing ALL of their Trulia Reviews in the Zillow merge), the Realtor.com platform is the only Real Estate portal with which I can begrudgingly trust those reviews to remain accessible and available to consumers permanently, with no monkey business. And consumers will know that this is actual vetted data, as the client writing review can only be someone involved in the verified transaction. No other site will offer this level of credibility.
Meanwhile, we at Crossland Team will continue to use Yelp as our main review host, but our Crossland Team Yelp reviews can be now extended and cross-posted to Realtor.com as “Recommendations” with a link straight back to the Yelp source. This will help our “Recommendations” stand out as authentic, while many other Realtor Recommendation will be obviously written by family and friends, for agents with no closed transactions. This is allowable. But consumers will see both types – Reviews and Recommendations.
Also, like a lot of old timers, me and Sylvia have an entire three ring binder full of the old paper reviews we used to mail out after closings with a return envelope. These “testimonial” assets have been collecting dust as there is no clean and easy way to show them anymore. But now I can scan each page as a photo image and upload into the “Recommendation” platform and bring those older reviews back to life by surfacing them in the new RDC Recommendations sections where consumers can read what our actual clients said (and it’s not all good, as should be expected) about working with us.
Finally, to those Agents complaining that a production-based Realtor review tool is not fair to Newbies and Dead Wood Agents, it’s not the job of our industry to “level the playing field” for Newbie and/or Dead Wood Agents. Quite the opposite. Those marginal and non-producing agents and hangers on should be encouraged to leave the business.
Newbies will still have a viable path to success, but it may look a bit different as they should in fact come in under experienced Broker/Team operations, be mentored, and properly learn the business.
Our buyer agent Joe did this with the Crossland Team, and less then two years later has an impressive record of successful closings and happy clients that would have been all but impossible to achieve as a solo Newbie Agent starting from scratch. And all of his clents have been supported in the background by his and their access to both me and Sylvia as knowledgeable backup to his efforts. That’s how every new agent should start, and it’s how the Broker/Agent (Mentor/Mentee) licensing scheme intends it to be. But in reality, that’s not how it works for most new agents.
That said, solo Newbies with true talent and potential can still use traditional methods to personally build a sphere and get business through prospecting, networking and advertising. Getting found on an online profile at a search portal isn’t the end all. It simply compliments and supports other ways of getting new business, such as referrals.
But, yes, this new Realtor.com platform does clearly provide a valuable new tool for consumers to more easily find those of us who’ve been practicing our professional craft for 20+ years, and use that information to make a more informed agent hiring decision. I don’t see how that is a bad thing for consumers.