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Rate-a-Realtor is for Ding-a-Lings

Techie agent types have probably googled their name (or the name of a competitor) only to find a agent review website that says something like:

Barbie Baker is a San Diego real estate agent. Barbie Baker has no reviews. Click here to review Barbie Baker.

If you’re uncommonly lucky, you’ll hit an agent with a review:

1 person has reviewed Barbi Baker. Phoenix Rand said the following about Barbie Baker: “Barbie was a fantastic agent to work with and helped us find the right house! Wow!”

Now, if you’re an agent, you’re saying to yourself “I wish they had a phone number at least,” but if you’re a consumer with half a brain, you’re saying to yourself “One rave review – I bet Barbie wrote it herself.” And, no offense to San Diego Realtors, but odds are she did. It’s easy and jeez – who’s going to catch you?

Everyone likes to compare real estate to other industries (travel anyone?), and the clear direct comparison here is business / restaurant review – sites like City Search / Urban Spoon / Yelp / Menuism. But the comparison is only valid in the most superficial sense.

How many customers will write a review?

Take one of my favorite lunch spots: Kau Kau in Seattle. Say they serve 10 people an hour from noon until 8. That’s 80 people a day or 29,200 people a year. Urban Spoon has four reviews of Kau Kau. Menuism has two reviews of Kau Kau. That’s one review for every 7,300 or so transactions on Urban Spoon and twice that many on Menuism.

That means that the average agent should not have a single review – even Russell Shaw does not do that many transactions per year. And agents who have more than one review are suspect. They’re either reviewing themselves or they’re sitting down with their favorite clients and “helping” them write a review.

Do you see value in these sites for consumers?

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  • 9 comments

    9 Comments so far

    1. Sue September 11th, 2008 7:53 pm

      Galen, this is an interesting topic. I think reviews are important and good to have on your site. They aren’t easy to get…I have to keep asking and/or emailing, but I have had several clients tell me they made their decision to work with me based on the review..”testimonials” that they read. I always post the reviews with my clients first and last names and their town. I think they’re valuable.

    2. Russell Shaw September 11th, 2008 10:09 pm

      Damn you, Galen Ward – now everyone will *know* I don’t do 7,300 deals a year. Damn you!

      (LOL)

    3. Matt Fox, AZ Insurance Guy September 11th, 2008 10:34 pm

      Galen, I find this interesting. I use testimonials very actively in my insurance agency and marketing. When I get a testimonial and use it in an ad, I have to keep proof the customer actually gave me the testimonial and gave me permission to use it. If not, I could have false advertising claims brought against me and my company.

      I think testimonials are critical to any business.

      However, third party sites like what you mention lack credibility. As you said, any Realtor can leave their own positive comment. Along those lines, my neighbor can post a negative comment because I looked at him funny this morning when leaving my home.

      Without recourse from incorrect content I think they’re useless. However, the average consumer probably doesn’t realize the lack of merit in these sites.

      On the other hand, how many service providers have you Googled recently?

      Chances of it hurting your business are probably pretty small. Which means the chances of it helping your business are small too (unless you have positive comments and then point your customers to the site and say “see how much I’m loved”).

    4. phillyrealestate September 12th, 2008 5:35 am

      I must be doing something right ;-) Most of the testimonials on my site were just sent to me without asking. I always felt slightly awkward asking for that letter of recommendation but now if we are linked on LinkedIn I just ask them to post one there. So far I’m batting 50% okay okay 1 out of 2.
      Janice

    5. jaybird September 12th, 2008 5:53 am

      Speak for yourselves. I’ve got 28 reviews at that site for me 25 of which are quite positive.

      just kidding.
      j

    6. Todd September 12th, 2008 6:59 am

      I am always amazed by this is such a debate – why are real estate agents so feverishly, almost violently, against their performance being publicly reviewed?

      Insert “…thou doth protest too much, methinks.” quote here.

      I am being sincere, and really do want to understand the justification behind the entire world welcoming constructive criticism EXCEPT real estate agents.

    7. Galen September 12th, 2008 9:45 am

      Todd, I’m not an agent. I’m not protesting. And as such, I can call a spade a spade without getting the “you’re just afraid” non-argument back at me.

      Me: Agent review sites are not valuable to consumers.
      You: Why are you scared of agent review sites?

      I think most professional review sites are pretty useless – lawyers, accountants, doctors, etc, but real estate agents are even more useless – they deal with far fewer clients every month than most professions and, as such, it is abundantly easy for them to scam review sites.

    8. Galen September 12th, 2008 9:47 am

      And when I said “real estate agents are even more useless,” I meant to say “real estate agent review sites are even more useless.”

      Many real estate agents are useless or worse, but definitely not all.

    9. Rhonda Porter September 12th, 2008 5:52 pm

      This is the same reason why I think Zillow Mortgage’s loan originator rating is flawed. Not to mention that anyone can ask anyone to rate them–there is no quality control or verifying that the rater ever did business with the ratee.