Survey quantifies industry discontent with realtor.com’s AgentMatch

57 percent agree with statement that agent-ranking platform is a 'terrible idea'

Portraits image via Shutterstock.Portraits image via Shutterstock.

AgentMatch, the pilot agent-ranking platform that rates agents based on productivity stats from multiple listing services, client recommendations and other information, has been hotly debated by agents from the moment realtor.com unveiled it, in early November.

A new survey from the popular “Raise The Bar in Real Estate” Facebook Group, which is made up predominantly of residential real estate agents and brokers, quantifies some of the sentiments that have been expressed in discussions so far.

More than half of the 414 respondents (57 percent) agreed with the statement that AgentMatch, currently in pilot form in Las Vegas and Boulder, Colo., is a “terrible idea.” Another 20 percent said they “don’t think it’s a great idea,” while 13 percent were undecided. Just 10 percent felt it was a “great” (5 percent) or “OK” (5 percent) idea.

The survey’s multiple choice questions did not attempt to identify the specific reasons that brokers and agents object to AgentMatch.

But when asked, “What questions would you like realtor.com to answer about AgentMatch?” the open-ended responses echoed concerns that agents and brokers have voiced about AgentMatch in social media forums and in comments to news stories. Those concerns have centered around worries that agent performance statistics may not be the best foundation for measuring of an agent’s ability to provide services to consumers.

“As a Realtor who works primarily as a buyer’s agent (which is not well-understood by consumers), how will my high volume of transactions but very few listings be reflected with AgentMatch?” said one survey respondent. “What will be done to prevent inaccuracies with the data provided by the MLS?”

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Another respondent reposted comments from a social media discussion thread by an agent who said she “would most likely benefit from the AgentMatch program” but harbored concerns that it might discourage new talent from becoming real estate agents and mislead consumers by focusing on volume.

"As a Realtor who works primarily as a buyer's agent, how will my high volume of transactions but very few listings be reflected with AgentMatch?"

“By developing a program based on volume, (realtor.com) … is virtually testifying that volume and numbers are the weight and measure of an agent’s skill and ability,” that agent said. “They are not. An agent can enter a hundred well-represented transactions and have a percentage of those fail due to inspection, mortgage, job loss, etc., at no fault of the agent. The closing of the deal is not a measure of skill and expertise. This is not like selling copiers.”

The survey didn’t prompt respondents for their take on the accuracy of MLS-based agent rankings, but 74 percent were concerned that rankings based on MLS stats would not take into account off-MLS deals.

Michael McClure and Leslie Ebersole, the moderators for the “Raise The Bar” Facebook Group and the makers of the survey, acknowledge the survey’s imperfections but stressed that they wanted a way to quantify some of the reactions to AgentMatch they were seeing online.

“There were so many different conversations about AgentMatch going on all at once, dispersed across so many different sites and groups online, that we wanted to attempt to get a snapshot of the industry response in one centralized location,” they told Inman News.

The survey also reveals that many brokers and agents question whether the National Association of Realtors, which licenses the realtor.com trademark and domain name to Move Inc., is looking out for their best interests in allowing realtor.com to offer the AgentMatch tool.

More than 81 percent of the respondents felt that it is somewhat or completely “inappropriate for realtor.com to provide an agent ranking system.”

Nearly 3 in 4 respondents (74 percent) said that for realtor.com — billed as the “official site of the National Association of Realtors” — to display agent or broker sales data was either a “significant conflict” (58 percent) or “quite a conflict” (16 percent) with NAR’s stated mission to support all members.

An overwhelming majority (91 percent) of respondents felt that realtor.com “has a very real responsibility to Realtors” and is not free to act in an independent fashion like Zillow and Trulia.

Realtor.com has positioned AgentMatch as an effort to get ahead of the curve in providing information that consumers will come to expect as agent performance statistics become more widespread. By leading the charge instead of following it, realtor.com hopes to reclaim some of the market share the site has lost to Zillow and Trulia in recent years.

While realtor.com may have lost the leading position it once enjoyed with consumers, 73 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that “realtor.com should be more industry-focused and not differentiate between Realtors.” On the other hand, 16 percent of respondents agreed that realtor.com “should be consumer-focused and provide agent and brokerage sales statistics.”

Realtor.com President Errol Samuelson, who introduced the AgentMatch platform to the real estate community in early November at NAR’s annual convention in San Francisco, has argued that by being ahead of the curve in surfacing agents’ sold stats and presenting them in an industry-friendly way, realtor.com will regain relevancy with consumers, giving real estate pros an opportunity to shape the next trend in online real estate: the discovery of an agent through the Web.

NAR’s latest survey of homebuyers and sellers showed that 89 percent of homebuyers used the Internet to search for a home, but only 9 percent said they found their agent online. That discrepancy will not hold, Samuelson said. Consumers will demand more information they can use to evaluate agents on the Web.

Others, including tech-focused Redfin and the Houston Association of Realtors, have tried to publish consumer-facing agent-productivity metrics, but pulled back after brokers and agents raised objections.

Realtor.com’s experiment with agent rankings powered by MLS stats is an ongoing one. The site’s operators have created an advisory board of 16 real estate professionals to help shape the AgentMatch platform. The advisory board’s first meeting, at 1 p.m. Pacific, 4 p.m. Eastern today, is open to all who want to listen in live or via a recording.

While 23 percent of the respondents said that the introduction of AgentMatch had no impact on their desire to do business with realtor.com, 72 percent said it has made them “somewhat less likely” or a “lot less likely” to advertise with the portal.

If brokers and agents pull away from realtor.com because of AgentMatch, it could prove costly for the site and Move, which generated approximately 78 percent of its third-quarter 2013 revenue of $58.8 million from real estate pros’ advertising on the site, according to Move’s most recent quarterly financial statement.

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