Re/Max, Realogy execs voice support for consumer access to accurate agent performance data

Keeping consumers in the dark would only harm industry

Portraits image via Shutterstock.Portraits image via Shutterstock.

NEW YORK — Consumers should have access to agent performance data and ratings, if they can be delivered in an accurate and consistent manner, according to two prominent industry leaders — Re/Max Chairman and CEO Dave Liniger, and Realogy Franchise Group President and CEO Alex Perriello.

Liniger and Perriello let their thoughts be known on the controversial matter in candid, one-on-one interviews with Inman News Publisher Brad Inman at Real Estate Connect New York City.

“The more we try to deny information to (consumers), the worse it is for (the industry),” Liniger told the Connect crowd. “We should just be right out, open and let them have it.”

Perriello had a similar take.

“I don’t think keeping anyone in the dark in this day and age is a good strategy,” Perriello said.

“As long as the source is credible, it’s consistent, it’s monitored and it’s accurate — all of that has to exist, but then the consumer needs to see it.”

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Liniger and Perriello weighed in as the real estate industry continues to struggle to come to grips with realtor.com’s recent experiment with AgentMatch, a tool that allowed consumers in two test markets to search for agents and rank them using performance statistics sourced from multiple listing services.

I don't think keeping anyone in the dark in this day and age is a good strategy." --Alex Perriello

The AgentMatch pilot tests generated resistance from a contingent of vocal agents and brokers who objected to the tool, and realtor.com suspended the pilot tests in December.

Similar backlash from agents contributed to the demise of attempts by tech-focused brokerage Redfin and the Houston Association of Realtors to rank agents using MLS statistics.

For the approximately five months it was tested, AgentMatch ranked agents in two test markets by their MLS performance data with stats like number of homes recently sold, number of active listings, average days on market for homes sold, and list-to-sale-price ratio.

When AgentMatch testing was suspended, realtor.com President Errol Samuelson said the portal’s next experiment with helping consumers find an agent won’t be so heavily dependent on raw MLS data.

“Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story, either,” Samuelson wrote in a public letter explaining realtor.com’s suspension of AgentMatch. ”And yes, metrics matter, but we need to expand the ways that Realtors can highlight their other dimensions, many of which cannot be neatly captured by a number,” he continued.

Rather than abandoning the project, Samuelson said realtor.com intended to continue to innovate around agent profiles.

“We intend to create the most accurate and complete resource for consumers looking for a Realtor online, and to continue moving the industry forward with innovative solutions,” Samuelson said at the time.

That’s a course that could address criticism leveled at AgentMatch by another franchise giant, Keller Williams Realty. In late November, Keller Williams sent an email to agents urging them to petition their MLS not to participate in AgentMatch. Using data from the MLS, “will result in rankings that are completely arbitrary and create lopsided opportunities for some,” the franchisor told its agents.

Keller Williams President Mary Tennant shed further light on the franchisor’s position in a Dec. 10 Inman News guest column.

“Keller Williams is staunchly in favor of transparency and reviews — it’s the flaws in the data that is currently being used for agent rankings on sites such as AgentMatch that we take issue with,” Tennant wrote. “As countless agents and brokers have said, the agent data shows only ONE piece of the picture for an agent’s ability to serve his or her clients. As many have pointed out, there will be inconsistencies in the data and the reporting that could harm agents who deserve to win business.”

Some of AgentMatch’s critics questioned whether agent performance data fairly represents the quality of services agents provide to buyers and sellers. Team leaders may get credit for work done by other agents, for example. “Pocket listings” and other sales handled outside of MLSs won’t be factored in, they said.

Days on market and list-to-sale-price ratios can be affected by factors that are beyond agents’ control. And sometimes agents do short sales or foreclosures, which may bring down their average sale price.

While anyone seeking to serve up agent performance data to consumers may face many political hurdles, the solution could lie in providing them with additional tools and contextual information that would help them make sense of it.

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