The man behind Brooklyn’s Brownstoner real estate blog has created a new Web site that allows visitors to rate real estate brokers in the five boroughs of New York City.
Brokerate.com, which launched Friday, allows visitors to assign a score of one (poor) to five (great) in each of three categories: knowledge, courtesy and effectiveness.
Brownstoner’s founder, who is secretive about his identity and chooses to remain anonymous, said Monday that there are about 110 brokers who are rated at the site. Site users can also remain anonymous and can leave comments in addition to the numerical ratings. The site spells out some basic rules of conduct: “be polite even when providing negative feedback; tell stories and tell the truth; give brokers the benefit of the doubt; avoid profanity and name-calling; (and) report bad behavior to the administrator.”
Brokerate.com is an example of a site that relies and thrives on user-generated content, and it’s part of an emerging wave of new interactive real estate Web sites that cater to consumers. The site was in development for about three or four months, said the site’s creator, who will be referred to in this article as “Brownstoner.”
“I wanted to involve the consumer more in the process,” Brownstoner said. The goal is for the users to develop a sense of community with the site, he said. “It will hopefully make people feel like jumping in.”
Brownstoner said he has plans to improve the search capability at the site so that visitors can search by rating, by last name, and by company name, as an example. “After I’ve made all of the … functional improvements, I could see rolling it out on a more national level,” he said.
The ratings site is not the first attempt to develop a destination for consumers to post ratings or comments about their real estate agents. Other examples include HomeThinking.com (see Inman News article), RealtyRators.com (see Inman News article) and Realty Baron (see Inman News article). Another company, Quality Service Certification (see Inman News article), works with real estate brokerage companies to survey consumers about customer satisfaction following real estate transactions.
A key issue for any site that features consumer ratings or reviews is to build up a large enough audience to have meaningful results — one poor comment or one great comment may not be representative of an agent’s typical performance, for example.
Brownstoner noted that there will always be the occasional visitor with an axe to grind, and the site does not require any sort of user registration or verification. “Certainly there are plenty of pitfalls. Most readers have pretty good (nonsense) detectors. Hopefully we get enough people voting and commenting that (the rating) becomes pretty clear.” Ultimately, he added, the site is an effort to help consumers “separate the wheat from the chaff.”
How will brokers react to the site? Brownstoner said he was talking with a broker at a recent dinner party, and the broker jokingly said, “Oh s***, I hope I don’t get put up there.” Brownstoner said that brokers have an opportunity to comment at the site, too, and the site may actually serve to facilitate a dialogue.
Brokerate.com could eventually make money through advertising, Brownstoner said, though for now the site includes ads for two blog sites: Brownstoner.com and UnderTheCounter.net.