For somebody who’s in the real estate business, Bill Petrey has a website that paints agents in a decidedly unflattering light.
"We believe in the 3 P’s of real estate marketing: Put, Put and Pray," the site promises. "Put a sign in the yard. Put it on the MLS, and then Pray someone will come along and buy it."
Or, there’s this ad copy for a home with a Dallas address:
"Must see to believe. Sells itself. Enchanted cottage. Won’t last much longer. Blah, blah, blah."
Petrey is the proprietor of ReallyRottenRealty.com, which seems to be striving for the designation of "Brokerage from Hell." But Really Rotten Realty isn’t real — it’s a parody he created as an educational tool for consumers after concluding that encyclopedic, straightforward, how-to-pick-an-agent advice just doesn’t sink in, he said.
"I was surprised to see how much stuff you can provide for people and they still don’t know how bad an agent can be," said Petrey, a Dallas real estate investor who obtained his real estate license three years ago.
About a year ago, he founded AgentHarvest.com, an agent-referral business (a real one, not a parody). Within that site, which aims to connect Dallas-area buyers and sellers with agents who have demonstrated sales records within their neighborhoods, he also blogs about the practices that he believes good agents should have.
"It’s mostly dry, long-winded stuff," he said, laughing. "I basically wanted to create something that was informative and complete."
And, he explained, would drive consumers to his lead-generation services.
But those entries, at Blog.AgentHarvest.com, weren’t attracting many eyeballs, so this spring he dreamed up ReallyRottenRealty.com, which puts in plain view many of the dubious practices that have been the bane of real estate.
Buyers, the site asks, are you worried about wasting time seeing homes that don’t meet your criteria? "We aren’t worried," comes the Really Rotten response.
"We’ll show you all of the homes that our agency is listing, whether they fit your criteria or not, so we can try to force you to buy one of our homes so we can keep all the commission for ourselves. If there’s time left over, we’ll show you a few homes in the market that actually meet your criteria."
Sellers should regard Really Rotten as the "good news agency," the site explains:
"We tell you what you want to hear! No one likes hearing the brutally honest truth about the true condition of their home or how much it’s going to cost to get your home into marketable condition. That’s why we lie to you and tell you what you want to hear."
In other words, Really Rotten embodies every bad practice that the industry would like to see stamped out — the cringe-inducing tactics contributing to the persistent stereotype that has perennially landed "real estate agent/broker" near the bottom of the annual Harris poll of prestigious professions.
Petrey said, to his surprise, he’s had few responses from those in the industry who didn’t see the humor in ReallyRottenRealty.com and suggested he was actually piling on to real estate’s perception problem.
"Every once in a while I get a knee-jerk reaction that the site is an agent-basher, but that’s because they never took the time to actually read the site," he said.
He said the site has benefited from discussions and links by other bloggers, and typically sees 50 to 60 unique visitors a day, a number that has spiked to 500 to 700 when it’s been mentioned elsewhere on the Web.
Petrey said he chose to create the parody after an Internet search turned up little in that vein in regard to real estate, other than LovelyListing.com (see: "Making fun of real estate listings"), a site founded by a non-agent in Seattle who each day dredges up unflattering or even downright embarrassing multiple listing service photos of properties for sale.
But a few other parodies are out there, including one dreamed up within the official Realtor family. In 2007, the Virginia Association of Realtors created TedTruitt.com to draw attention to the Realtors’ Code of Ethics.
Ted — who looks like a cross between Dan Aykroyd and Col. Sanders — is actually an actor whose oily character claims to be "real estate’s greatest sales legend" and was described in an Inman News story as an "ethical nightmare … who celebrates questionable behavior and mocks the best practices."
Ted poses a series of ridiculous quiz questions intended to get agents to think about appropriate responses to certain situations.
ReallyRottenRealty.com has a similar intent, Petrey said. Most of the outrageous claims at Really Rotten contain links back to more level-headed advice at his AgentHarvest.com blog. Example:
"Since we only take one picture, if any, and use the same canned phrases for each house we sell, we can get your house quickly listed on (the) MLS in a few days. If you want accuracy, then expect it to take longer," goes the Rotten sales patter.
Within that statement, however, is a link to a Petrey blog discussion of how to improve photography in order to put a house in its best marketing light.
Beyond enlightening consumers and other agents, Petrey admits that his goal is to drive traffic to the blog and to his lead-generation business.
"Really Rotten ties into the two because it shows just how bad an agent can be," he said. "The three sites work together quite well because there’s not much overlap."
Petrey became a full-time real estate investor after a career in information technology, and said he obtained his real estate license principally to gain MLS access and to represent himself in transactions.
He said he got the idea for the lead-generation business after experimenting with detailed MLS searches through his IT manager’s eye; he concluded there were ways to search for agents who had demonstrated track records in specific neighborhoods and to pass such information on to consumers.
He admitted that, as he hasn’t ever represented consumers himself in transactions, some agents might be skeptical of the depth of his knowledge about best practices in the field.
"I did buy and sell for myself — the only thing I missed out on was representing the buyer and seller," he said. "Everything else, all the meaty stuff, I did, just as if I were doing it for a client. I negotiated, bought, sold.
"But I never had to promote myself to the buyer or seller, since I was the client/agent at the time," he said.
He does have first-hand familiarity with the indifference, misrepresentation and the other deadly sins laid out at ReallyRottenRealty.com, having worked with less-than-stellar agents in the course of his investment transactions, he said.
"That part, I wasn’t shielded from," he said.
Petrey insisted his goal isn’t to tar all agents with one brush.
"I just want (Really Rotten) to be an example of what could happen if you got the wrong agent," he said. "I want (consumers) to know that agents aren’t all the same — that there are good agents, bad agents, and really, really bad agents."
He wants consumers to think before they say yes.
"You know those statistics that tell you that most people hire the first person who calls them back?" he said. "They’re surprisingly true."
Mary Umberger is a freelance writer in Chicago.