Realtor.com is piloting a major revamp to its agent profile pages in two markets that feature unfiltered agent ratings and reviews, MLS-sourced transaction histories and a new Realtor search tool.
The real estate portal rolled out the new profile platform to consumers and agents in Austin, Texas, today and will do the same in Rhode Island on Friday. The new profiles will only be visible to devices in those markets, so for now, agents in other markets won’t be able to sneak a peek.
After gathering feedback and conducting usability testing in this beta run, realtor.com operator Move Inc. plans to officially launch the new profiles nationwide by the end of the year.
The new search tool includes a map-based interface that showcases both listing and buyer’s agents. Move says that’s where the “real innovation” of the new tool lies and will help the tool stand out from others in the space.
Red-highlighted icons mark homes currently for sale and black-highlighted icons mark those that have recently sold. When two agents show up on one home; the Realtor on the left was the listing agent and the Realtor on the right, the buyer’s agent.
Realtor.com’s new agent profiles will include ratings and unfiltered reviews, but unlike profiles for realtor.com rival Zillow Group, only those consumers who have completed a transaction with an agent can rate or review the agent on realtor.com.
Transaction histories will be sourced directly from the MLSs involved, the Austin Board of Realtors’ MLS and the Rhode Island State-Wide MLS, and updated as frequently as every 15 minutes. The pilot includes sold data that goes back six months, but the portal hopes to display two years of data when the new profiles come out of beta.
Realtor.com wouldn’t say how many MLSs have agreed to provide sold data for agent profiles. Agents will not be allowed to self-upload sold data.
Agents can opt out of ratings and reviews and displaying their transaction histories on an all-or-nothing basis.
This is realtor.com’s latest volley in its battle with Zillow and sister site Trulia for agent and consumer hearts and minds, but it comes years after its competitors made similar moves.
Zillow began offering up unfiltered agent ratings and reviews in 2010 and transaction histories, sourced from public records and agents themselves, in 2013. By July 2013, Trulia’s profiles had the same features.
Zillow Group merged agents’ Zillow, Trulia profiles in August.
Realtor.com would have been ahead of the agent profile curve if its first stab at giving consumers more transparency into agent productivity, AgentMatch, in fall 2013 had succeeded.
The portal ran the profile experiment in two markets — Denver and Las Vegas — and met with heavy agent resistance, due, in part, to a disorganized public relations campaign, obscurity around involvement from the National Association of Realtors, and its practice of ranking agents in the two pilot markets by MLS-sourced transaction data.
It shut down in December 2013.
Move is out in front of the rollout in this case. The company has been working closely with a work group of six Realtor agents for over a year and NAR’s played a big role in shaping the tool from the beginning, according to Move.
Features of the search platform will change before the official launch, the company said.
“Our primary focus with the beta is to get feedback from the Realtor community,” Luke Glass, Move executive vice president of industry platforms, told Inman.
The revamped “Find-a-Realtor” tool allows consumers to search for NAR members on realtor.com by a variety of information in their profiles. They can sort search results by:
- Most recent activity, i.e. new listing or buyers
- Highest ratings
- Most for-sale listings
- Most recommendations
- Most sold listings
In addition to geography, consumers can also filter their Realtor searches by rating level, number of recommendations, price range, whether they solely work with buyers or sellers (or both), languages spoken and certifications and designations.
The map view allows consumers to find Realtors who have done business in specific neighborhoods. As they scroll and zoom across the map, it dynamically fills in which agents have done deals at which homes.
What about non-Realtors?
The Find-a-Realtor tool is one of the standout features of the new profile platform, but only NAR members show up in the search results.
All agents can have full realtor.com profiles, complete with ratings, reviews and transaction histories, but unless agents are NAR members, they’re excluded from the realtor.com agent search platform.
That means consumers searching for agents on realtor.com likely won’t see some productive and skilled agents, potentially weakening the tool’s usefulness.
In some markets, such as the ones covered by Northwest MLS in Washington and First MLS in Atlanta, MLSs don’t require their members to be Realtors. In those markets, a lower percentage of agents are likely Realtors, making the tool less comprehensive for consumers.
Approximately 60 percent of FMLS’ 32,000 members are not Realtors, according to FMLS President Cantey Davis.
When asked whether only serving up Realtors was best for consumers, Glass said: “That’s not a question we considered. The question was never asked because this is the Find-a-Realtor directory.”
“We’re trying to live to our brand name. We are realtor.com and we really should be the go-to destination for finding Realtors,” he added.
Glass’s answer highlights a key difference between realtor.com and Zillow Group, which chants a consumer-first mantra.
The move also indicates that NAR — despite relinquishing a seat on the Move board of directors as part of Move’s acquisition by News Corp. — still bends Move’s ear. Being in the Find-a-Realtor directory is a NAR member benefit, Glass said.
Glass also suggested that consumers would not be missing much, because Realtors handle a vast majority of transactions done each year, citing a NAR statistic that estimates that approximately 90 percent of all transaction sides done in 2014 were by Realtors.
That figure may be high.
NAR built that estimate off of data from its 2014 member survey, which showed NAR each member closed a median 11 transaction sides that year, according to a NAR spokeswoman. The trade association multiplied that median number by the total number of residential-focused NAR members (780,000) and divided that from the total number of broker- or agent-handled 2014 sides (9.47 million) to get at 90 percent.
This extrapolation is flawed, according to Inman’s statistician. The final percentage would be more accurate if NAR multiplied the total number of residential NAR members by the average number of transactions each did, not the median. NAR declined to provide Inman an average.
Nashville agent Brian Copeland, who serves on the realtor.com agent profile work group, said that he considers consumers are best served with realtor.com’s tool as it is because they get access to Realtors, who, he says, have committed to a higher level of professionalism.
Non-Realtor agents will still be able to able to link to their realtor.com profiles and their profiles will show up in Google search results, just as those of Realtors, Glass said.
Buyer’s agents, new agents and teams
Realtor.com is working to help give buyer’s agents, new agents and teams ways to accurately show their work in the new profiles.
Since it pulls transaction data from MLSs, realtor.com will be able to add those transactions to buyers’ agents’ profiles.
New agents, who don’t have many transactions, can request recommendations from friends and family, which show up on the bottom of their realtor.com profiles. They can also tie their Facebook and Foursquare “check-ins” to the profile to show that they’re active members of the communities they work in.
Realtor.com has a plan for teams, too, but that might not be ready for nationwide launch, Glass said. The portal is looking to allow agents to self-report their involvement in teams and link other team members from their profiles.
Agents have to claim their realtor.com profiles by entering their MLS ID to activate the new features.
Consumers must have a realtor.com account, too, before writing a review or rating an agent. Realtor.com uses MLS data to verify that consumers worked with the agents they evaluate.
Realtor.com hasn’t decided yet if it will allow brokers, franchisors or MLSs to bulk-create profiles on their members’ behalf.
Inman Deputy Editor Andrea V. Brambila contributed additional reporting.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to note that approximately 60 percent of Atlanta’s First MLS members are not Realtors, according to FMLS President Cantey Davis.