It’s a well known fact that when home buyers and sellers are looking for a real estate agent they often turn to friends and family members for recommendations. Quite often they get one recommendation from one acquaintance and they’re good to go. But why on earth would you make a decision like this based upon a single data point when there is a wealth of information out there from multiple clients on several realtor review Web sites? And I know that people are not looking at this information because there are some top producers with awful reviews that still get a ton of business. I think people may actually put in more effort choosing a restaurant than choosing a realtor.
However, the main challenge in finding realtor reviews on the Web is that they are spread out over multiple Web sites and different agents have the bulk of their reviews on different sites. So just because you can’t find many reviews for an agent on one particular Web site doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot somewhere else. And then there can be nuances with each of these sites as well. Therefore, I thought I would help you use these valuable resources by providing an overview of the top 6 realtor review Web sites and what they offer.
Oh…one other caveat that applies to pretty much all of these sites. They make their money off of advertising so if you search for “real estate agents” in Chicago you are likely to first get hit with the list of agents that paid handsomely to be placed at the head of the class. After that who knows how they sort the list. That’s why I personally think this resource is best used to decide between real estate agents that are already on your consideration list as opposed to generating a list, though you could in theory use it to create the list also.
Generally speaking Yelp contains very helpful realtor reviews and I personally think it’s one of the best sites for this purpose. The great thing about it is that they really try to ensure integrity in the process so if someone writes a bogus review that gets posted and the business owner can convince the Yelp folks that it is indeed bogus then the review will be removed. Also, the reviews get reviewed and that flows into a review of the reviewer. Also, the reviewers look like they have real identities on Yelp – real names, photos, etc – and you can actually connect with your friends and see what they think about various service providers. And because it’s a broad review platform (restaurants, car repair, whatever…) you can use it as a resource for any service provider and don’t need to learn how to use a specialized Web site.
The biggest downside of Yelp is that, in an attempt to maintain the integrity of the Web site, they have created a robot that supposedly identifies suspicious reviews and buries them. The only problem is that their algorithm totally sucks. They might as well be throwing darts against the wall. So, any service provider could have half their legitimate reviews buried.
There is a way to work around this flaw in the Yelp system but they throw obstacles in your way. You go down to the bottom of the “Recommended Reviews” (that’s what they call the ones their robot approves) and you click on the link that says “x other reviews that are not currently recommended”. They gray it out so that you won’t see it as easily so look carefully. Then it comes back with a video that you are supposed to watch about how their all-knowing algorithm can detect fraud. Below the video they throw a couple of the missing reviews followed by a link to “Continue reading other reviews that are not currently recommended”. If you click on that link you’ll see the rest of the hidden reviews. What a crock…
The biggest advantage of Zillow’s Realtor reviews is that the platform is specifically designed for real estate agents. They have separate star ratings for attributes like local knowledge, process expertise, responsiveness, and negotiation skills. In addition, they break out the reviews by zip code though, frankly, why should that matter? Like a real estate agent would perform differently from one zip code to another? If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know I don’t subscribe to that myth.
The downside is that the reviewer has to create a Zillow account just for this purpose (whereas you may already have a Yelp account for example). On the one hand that should cut down on fraud but on the other hand if you look at the agent reviews many are from users with names like bsmith438 or zuser7845. It appears that all you need to do to write a review is to create an account using something that looks like a legitimate email address and then tie your review to a specific property address. Then, once you submit the review it does get reviewed by someone/ something. However, it’s not at all clear what their review process consists of and it’s actually pretty easy to create a bogus review with a bogus email address and have it approved.
Trulia is now owned by Zillow and, as you’d expect, it appears that the reviews are identical. Therefore, I’m not really counting this as a separate realtor review Web site but simply pointing out that it’s out there and basically a copy of what Zillow has.
In many ways Google reviews are like Yelp reviews – You can review any business on their platform. The only catch is that you have to have a Google+ (Google’s feeble attempt to compete with Facebook) account and not many people do – not that it’s that hard to set up but many people won’t bother.
To find the reviews for a particular realtor you simply Google that realtors name and a “listing” for that realtor may appear on the right side of the page, right next to the search results. Right under the name of the real estate agent you may see a star rating with the hyperlinked words “x Google reviews”. You can click on that hyperlink to get the detail behind the rating.
However, there are two problems with Google reviews. First, Google has no employees. It’s a company run by robots apparently. So anyone can create a bogus review and nothing will be done about it. However, you can often tell by what is written that it’s bogus. On the other hand, just like Yelp, they have some kind of robot running around randomly burying legitimate reviews. Kinda sad.
One other noteworthy item…when you google a realtor their Yelp page will also show up in the results along with their average star rating so you can have ready access to both sources.
You’ve probably heard about Angie’s List. They’ve been around for quite a while – they may have actually been the original service provider review Web site – much like Yelp but before Yelp existed. In addition to all sorts of service provider reviews they also have reviews of real estate agents. They allow users to rate all service providers along 5 attributes: Quality, Price, Responsiveness, Punctuality, and Professionalism, which are good attributes for realtors except many home buyers and sellers don’t know that some realtors compete on price.
There used to be a fee to join but good ol’ American competition got them to drop that notion. That inadvertently creates an integrity problem. When people had to pay for their membership you knew that whoever wrote a review actually gave Angie’s List their credit card information at some point so there was an implied legitimacy to all their reviews. Now that is gone since anyone can join with made up information. Also, as far as I can tell the reviews appear anonymous.
Realtor.com abandoned an ill-fated real estate agent ranking concept about 2 1/2 years ago. Now, like everyone else, they are relying simply upon user reviews. Since their Web site is dedicated to real estate they have created rating categories specific to real estate agents such as overall rating, market expertise, responsiveness, negotiation skills, and professionalism and communication.
Unfortunately, this site suffers from the same problem as many of the other sites do: anyone can set up a bogus account and create fake reviews – good or bad.
Many realtors have a business Facebook page and those pages allow people to submit reviews. The nice thing about using Facebook for that purpose is that you can probably be certain that you know who wrote the review – unless it’s one of those fake profiles. The downside is that the system totally lacks integrity. Anyone can write a review on any business whether or not they’ve actually been a customer and the business has no recourse against bogus reviews – or they can have all their friends generate bogus reviews. Again, see Size Does Matter below.
I’m going to write a separate blog post on Homelight after I gather a bit more information on their process. Allegedly they do all this analysis on agent performance and they have a matching algorithm (a la computer dating) but I’m suspicious that this is nothing more than a thinly veiled lead generation system for agents that line their pockets.
Size Does Matter
As you can see from the above discussion the integrity of the reviews is a big issue. Consequently, it’s best if you take the star ratings with a grain of salt and actually dive into the writeups for a more detailed picture of how the real estate agent conducts themselves. Sure, they might have gotten a single star review but when you read the details it may become apparent that the reviewer has “issues”.
Another thing you will notice as you peruse the reviews of real estate agents is that some reviews are real short and others are really long. That tells you something really important about the quality of the review. When someone writes a 1000 word 5 star review about how great a realtor is you should certainly weight that a lot heavier than the two sentence 5 star review that looks like it was begrudgingly written. Chances are that the latter review was coerced somehow. Yeah, that happens.
#RealtorReviews #Realtors #RealEstateAgents
Gary Lucido is the President of Lucid Realty, the Chicago area’s full service discount real estate brokerage. If you want to keep up to date on the Chicago real estate market, get an insider’s view of the seamy underbelly of the real estate industry, or you just think he’s the next Kurt Vonnegut you can Subscribe to Getting Real by Email using the form below. Please be sure to verify your email address when you receive the verification notice.