I have been thinking about agent reviews again because they have been in the news, well not in the national news or anything but in the real estate news. According to industry experts, real estate agents are supposed to embrace agent reviews without regard to where they are housed or how they are designed.

  • Agent reviews are all the rage. Everyone has them, and everyone wants 5-star reviews.
  • Many times, the people who review agents are first-time homebuyers or sellers, and they say that in the review. What makes them qualified to judge an agent?
  • Many agents claim that their 5-star ratings get them more business, but I have to wonder how true that is.

I have been thinking about agent reviews again because they have been in the news — well, not in the national news or anything, but in the real estate news. According to industry experts, real estate agents are supposed to embrace agent reviews without regard to where they are housed or how they are designed.

A couple of weeks ago, I recommended a few inspectors to some clients who had just made an offer on a home. The clients did some research, looked at online reviews and chose a marginal inspector who was not on my list and part of a national franchise that I would never recommend because my clients have had some bad experiences with their inspectors.

It makes sense that homebuyers would look at reviews, but most of the reviews were left by inexperienced first-time homebuyers who know little about old houses and who had never been on a buyer’s inspection before. Are these people really qualified to review home inspectors on anything other than punctuality and communication skills?

My clients liked the inspector they chose just fine, but he used the words “furnace” and “boiler” interchangeably to refer to the same central heating unit in the basement of the home. I have some other concerns because the inspection report had little on it, which is rare when an antique home is the subject of the inspection.

They often don’t know what they’re talking about

I went reading through reviews for real estate agents on Zillow and found that most agents are 5-star agents, and many of the ratings were coming from people who have little or no prior experience working with real estate agents. They put right in the review that they are first-time homebuyers or sellers.

Rating agents on vague categories, such as “local knowledge,” doesn’t seem very meaningful either. How much local knowledge does a real estate agent need? What are some examples of local knowledge?

Mila Supinskaya / Shutterstock.com

Mila Supinskaya / Shutterstock.com

Is it being able to find the houses? Is it knowing where the school is or the name of the playground near the house? How much local knowledge do most real estate agents have, and how much should they have, and more importantly, how much do they need to get a 5-star rating?

Homebuyers and sellers rarely witness agents actually negotiating yet negotiation skills is a category often found in agent ratings. How does a buyer or seller know how well the agent negotiated if they do not listen as the agent negotiates with the other party through another agent?

To the folks out there who believe agent ratings will help consumers and cull out the marginal agents, I say you are wrong. For agents, the job is really all about convincing people to sign a contract for representation, and then it’s about keeping them convinced that a great job is being done on their behalf throughout the process so that they don’t want to cancel the contract.

Let’s be real about ratings and surveys

Ratings have become all the rage for many types of businesses. As a consumer, I hate the way some businesses keep sending me surveys, and I won’t treat my clients that way even if I am supposed to.

Businesses act as though a customer survey is the same thing as customer service. I don’t see it that way at all. Satisfaction surveys are common; customer service is rare. And it seems like no one listens — they just ask for a 5-star rating.

Surveys from companies I work with rarely ask about the things that are important to me. They instead ask questions designed to find out what they want to know or publish. They will repeatedly ask about the speed of service but never ask if the job was done correctly.

Ratings and survey results are for marketing, which is fine. But let’s stop treating agent reviews like they are some resource for consumers who want to choose the right agent. Let’s not act like they are pro-consumer or even useful. They don’t raise any bars or make the world a better place.

Agents give too much credit to 5-star reviews

I know of a few real estate agents and at least one lender who are telling me that they are getting business because of their ratings. It’s hard to believe that one 5-star agent stands out in a market full of 5-star agents.

If they get more business because of those 5-star ratings, I have to wonder what happened to the business they were getting before the ratings because the result for most seems to be about the same amount of business.

It should be easy for a good salesperson to convince a client that they deserve five stars especially if the client doesn’t have enough experience to make comparisons and are satisfied with the result of the real estate purchase or sale. It also helps if categories on reviews are broad and vague.

Sure, agents should publish negative ratings, too, and some do because they figure it’s better for marketing. I read one agent’s rebuttal to a negative review, and it was longer than the review. He made the reviewer look like an idiot.

Before the reviews, there were testimonials. They could be purchased for a fee — at least I’d have to assume because you would see the same testimonials across many agent websites. Agents put those testimonials on their websites and got more business because of them. I don’t recall ever seeing a negative testimonial on an agent website.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman.

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