The roots of many real estate tech startups can be traced back to experiences that left sour tastes in the mouths of their founders. That makes the origins of 32Best somewhat unusual.
It sprouted from a real estate success story.
Deidre Stevenson says not so long ago she and her husband analyzed Zillow and Trulia reviews, social media and search results to track down an agent who helped them sell a “generic” home in a generic neighborhood in just three days.
Their method of rating real estate agents worked so well for the couple that they decided to build a business around it.
San Diego, Calif.-based 32Best, which Stevenson launched last year, scores agents based on the criteria Stevenson and her husband used to pinpoint their listing agent, and then publicly displays all of those agents who exceed the company’s “threshold score.”
For every market, up to 32 of the agents who make the startup’s list can pay $19 a month to “claim” their profile. The site has about 300 paying advertisers so far, she said.
32Best doesn’t indicate that agents pay to appear prominently with photos and biographical information. (Non-advertisers appear further down without photos or information.)
But Stevenson said all agents who appear on the site — advertisers or non-advertisers — are cream of the crop.
Screen shot showing two of 32Best’s agents in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Advertisers appear prominently on the site with a photo and profile.
32Best’s algorithm weighs Zillow and Trulia reviews the most, with both volume of reviews and average rating affecting an agent’s score.
Agents also earn points for having a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and ranking high in results for real estate-related search phrases.
Stevenson concedes that 32Best’s algorithm might not give some agents a fair shake.
But she argues that, in an age where many people don’t eat out without consulting Yelp first, having a strong online presence matters very much to many buyers and sellers.
And it’s not like a common factor used by some other agent-matching sites — transaction history — tells the full story about an agent either, she said.
She added that a high number of online reviews tends to correlate with a high level of experience and interpersonal skills.
“The ones that go above and beyond are the ones that prompt us to write a review,” she said.
32Best claims to have assessed about 100,000 agents so far, with about 8 percent making its list. In the last four months, the site has measured 15,000 clicks on the agent profiles, phone numbers or agent website links that appear on the site, according to Stevenson.
The startup covers mostly midsize cities, but has plans to expand into larger ones. It’s managed to rank impressively high for some “long-tail” search phrases relating to real estate.
Type “best real estate agents in Indianapolis” into Google, and only Zillow appears before 32Best.