NAR-backed agent ratings pilot program in California, Illinois, Florida fizzles

Low participation points to agents' fears of tarnished reputations

An agent ratings pilot program backed by the National Association of Realtors has ended without being renewed after reportedly low adoption rates by agents and lack of support for the program at the national level.

online poll by Opinion Stage

 

Fizzle image via Shutterstock.
Fizzle image via Shutterstock.

In August 2012, survey-based agent rating service Quality Service Certification Inc. signed an agreement with NAR’s Center for Specialized Realtor Education (CSRE) to offer the pilot, dubbed “the Realtor Excellence Program,” through several state and local Realtor associations.

Agents and brokers who sign up to use QSC’s service agree to have every client with a closed deal sent a feedback survey, via email or U.S. Postal Service, asking questions such as “Did your sales associate contact you after closing?” and “How satisfied were you with the assistance your sales associate provided in negotiating the price/terms of sale?”

Only clients verified by agents and brokers as clients may provide feedback. Real estate pros can choose whether to display the customer satisfaction ratings, statistics and comments generated from the surveys on QSC’s recently revamped public-facing website, RatedAgent.com.

QSC also offers marketing widgets that agents can put on their websites displaying the agent’s customer satisfaction rating and providing a link to their full ratedagent.com profile.

“It’s scary for agents. I think the biggest problem — especially with those naysayers — is when they think of agent ratings, they think ‘Random people are going to be able to trash me’ ” — which is true with almost every other service, said Kevin Romito, QSC’s president and chief operating officer.

The big three listing portals — Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com — have all beefed up agent profile pages in recent months to give consumers more tools for finding and evaluating agents.

If agents choose to display the QSC survey results, it’s all or nothing — they can choose not to display a certain category of results, such as comments, but once they choose to display they cannot pick and choose which comments or stats to show and cannot alter their customer satisfaction rating.

Not allowing agents to manipulate the data is critical to QSC’s credibility as a third-party verification service, according to Romito.

Whether or not agents choose to have public profiles on RatedAgent.com, real estate pros can use the surveys as a way to identify areas where agents need improvement. About 20,000 of QSC’s 60,000 or so active users have chosen to activate public profiles on RatedAgent.com, Romito said.

RatedAgent.com home page, recently revamped with responsive design
The recently revamped RatedAgent.com home page features responsive design.

The pilot ended in March. It was not renewed because CSRE — whose funds come from its members and not all Realtors — decided it was not appropriate to keep paying for it, said Ralph Holmen, NAR’s associate general counsel.

“We were hoping for a plan from QSC to make the program self-sustaining over the long term and there wasn’t one,” he said.

Romito disagreed. “There certainly was a plan. There was no one to submit it to. No one was willing to pick up the flag and be the sponsor of the program” after Laurie Janik, NAR’s former general counsel, retired at the end of November 2013, Romito said.

Holmen acknowledged Janik was a supporter of the program, which she saw as a way to help raise professionalism in the industry, but said he’d “rather not comment on the internal dynamics of what was happening here.”

Romito said he thought agents’ vocal objections to realtor.com’s AgentMatch experiment, which shut down in December, likely were also a factor in NAR’s decision not to renew the pilot.

After AgentMatch, “I could kind of understand why nobody wanted to be involved in a project like that,” Romito said.

But Holmen said the two were “completely unconnected.”

“The program really wasn’t about agent ratings at all,” he said. Rather, NAR’s focus was to provide brokers with consumer feedback that they could then use to provide their agents with additional training and help them be better performers, he said.

“The ratings was completely collateral. We probably would have done the pilot even had it not had the ratings feature,” Holmen said.

The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors recently devised a “report card” for 10 sites that offer agent ratings, scoring them based largely on how friendly they are to agents. RatedAgent.com, Zillow and RealSatisfied got top marks.

Low adoption

Associations and MLSs that participated in the pilot included four “charter” associations: the California Association of Realtors, the Denver Metro Association of Realtors (DMAR), the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors (MORe), and the St. Paul Area Association of Realtors (SPAAR). Other participants included My Florida Regional MLS, the Atlanta Board of Realtors, the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, the Hampton Roads Realtor Association in Virginia, and the Coastal Association of Realtors in Maryland.

Romito declined to provide adoption rates for associations or MLSs participating in the pilot program.

“Not that it’s terrible. But in this industry it’s always going to sound terrible because you’re never going to get a 50 percent adoption, not that I know of,” he said.

“There are a lot of people out there that just hate agent ratings and will glom onto anything. Even if we said 50 percent adoption rate, they would glom onto that and say, ‘Look, only half of them.’ “


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