Agent

Agent-review sites gaining ground

More consumers going online to snoop agent reputations

If they were looking for someone to handle the biggest financial transaction of their lives, you'd think that most people would ask for something more substantial than a thumbs-up from the guy down the block. Not that neighbors aren't to be trusted -- friend-to-friend recommendations hold a time-honored place in the marketplace, and recent studies show them to be the most-often-used method of finding an agent. But in this age of sliding property values, rampant mortgage fraud and widespread angst over that former sure-thing called real estate, there's plenty at stake here. Shouldn't you snoop that real estate agent a bit more before signing on any dotted lines? After all, consumers these days routinely go online to scope out restaurants, hotels and even medical care. Real estate agent credentials and reputations are out there to be had, too, and the curious can go way beyond merely Googling a name. The real estate industry has been slow to realize how much consumers now...