There is nothing worse than being bad-mouthed by a client online and not being able to respond — unless it’s seeing a scathing review about your business when you didn’t even close a transaction with the client. In a bid to give the rating system some kind of oversight, for two years the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors (PAR) has been rating the rating sites on whether they are doing as good a job as they should for both consumers and agents.

  • Realtor.com and RealSatisfied were followed by RatedAgent.com and QSC in this year's PAR agent-rating system report card.
  • PAR has encouraged its members to update their profiles on realtor.com after the site based its ratings and reviews on NAR guidelines for professional evaluation.

There is nothing worse than being bad-mouthed by a client online and not being able to respond — unless it’s seeing a scathing review about your business when you didn’t even close a transaction with the client.

In a bid to give rating systems some kind of oversight, for two years the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors (PAR) has been rating the rating sites on whether they are doing as good a job as they should for both consumers and agents.

This year, PAR added realtor.com to the sites reviewed, but it did not include Brokur and Social Bios — which no longer exist. This left PAR with a total of 10 sites, including Zillow, realtor.com, RealSatisfied, Trulia and RatedAgent.

How the ratings work

The association used a 10-star system this year and asked a total of 10 questions. For example, if a site didn’t allow agents to remove a profile, the site received no star for that question, while if a site identified Realtors, it received a full star.

Yelp, which was given 5 out of 10 this year, lost a star because anyone in the general public can post reviews with no verification that the reviewer is a client.

RatedAgent, meanwhile, lost a star for not allowing agents to respond to reviews.

Top performers were:

  • Realtor.com and RealSatisfied with nine stars
  • RatedAgent and Quality Service Certification( QSC) with eight
  • Zillow with seven
  • Stik and Trulia with 6.5
  • Yelp and HomeLight with five
  • NeighborCity with two

Building the report

In this year’s report, PAR looked at factors including, “Is there an opportunity for an agent to get back and explain their story?” said Hank Lerner, director of law and policy at PAR.

“It’s not self-serving to provide better information for consumers,” he added.

Hank_Lerner

Hank Lerner

A combination of open-ended questions and closed-ended questions were useful, said Lerner.

“How did your agent do?” is not going to be helpful for consumers, he said. If the consumer got the house at the price they wanted, they are just going to say: “The agent was great,” Lerner argued.

Better questions to create a quality agent rating include: “Did your agent use technology? Did they communicate in a way that worked well? How was your agent’s market knowledge?” he said.

“The whole point of the rating system is to present as much as possible in a reasonable, truthful and forthcoming view,” Lerner added.

The PAR director learned at a National Association of Realtors (NAR) session this year that a number of studies had shown that consumers who use these sites give a lot more credence to a 3.5 or 4-star rating out of 5 rather than a 5-star one.

Making one ratings site work for you

A lot of agents and brokers get involved with one site or another and make it work for them, said the PAR director.

“That’s why we have done this rating,” he explained. “If you hitch your wagon at a brokerage level with a site, you should have an idea of what they do. If you lodge yourself with a site that does not do a very good job, then you end up doing a disservice to your agents.”

PAR held off this year with its report until realtor.com launched its new review system at the NAR conference in November.

Realtor.com announced it was adding content from QSC, RealSatisfied and Testimonial Tree to agent profiles on realtor.com, becoming the first online real estate website to offer a consolidated view of reliable information for consumers researching potential agents online.

Realtor.com is also the first online real estate destination to base its ratings and reviews on guidelines for professional evaluation established last year by NAR. Unlike competitors, realtor.com rules require that agent ratings and reviews come only from clients who have closed a transaction with a particular Realtor.

“At the state association level, we are trying to be agnostic, but we have been encouraging folks to update their realtor.com profile,” said Lerner.

The 10 questions for this year’s report were:

  • How is the agent profile created?
  • Can the agent remove the profile?
  • How is the agent information added?
  • What are the site’s advertising policies?
  • Can brokers collect and analyze data?
  • Does the site identify Realtors?
  • Who can post reviews?
  • Does the site ask close-ended questions?
  • Does the site ask open-ended questions?
  • Can agents respond to reviews?

Email Gill South.

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