searching by blue lilac

Avvo is a new site that just launched to try and take the guess work out of finding a lawyer. The premise of the service really struck a chord with me.

Why is there no such service for real estate?

As a someone who’s getting ready to buy a house, I find it interesting that there is no clear way to go and get find a real estate professional online and be able to judge their competency – before picking up the phone.

Sure, sites like IncredibleAgents.com and HomeThinking.com (for more on HomeThinking read Real Estate 2.0 Market Leader: Homethinking.com) try to do this, but truthfully, I’ve found their search criteria limited, their rankings woefully inadequate (4 or 5 stars doesn’t tell me much) and their databases largely incomplete (at least in Oregon, anyway).

I guess it begs the question then, is it even possible in an industry that sees as much turnover as real estate, to create a comprehensive database of agents and come up with a fair rating algorithm?

Avvo, by way of example, allows you to search by practice area and assigns each individual in their database a proprietary, unbiased Avvo rating. In addition, you can read their complete disciplinary sanction history as well as user-generate ratings and review from past clients.

Surely, in this industry, there should be a similar way to filter an agent search somewhere based on their specialty (condos, or luxury homes, for instance) or length of time in the industry (I want a seasoned vet or young go-getter) or last year’s production, for example.

On the flip side however, as a Realtor or real estate professional – how do you grapple with an online landscape where everyone can now be a critic? I find the issue of online identity utterly fascinating (see How Do You Measure Your Reputation?) and have written about this issue before (see The Rise of the User Review).

But the crux of the issue is this; one negative review on a site like Avvo could sink your entire practice, and if you weren’t listening – you’d be none the wiser.

I had a chance to talk with the guys from MerchantCircle.com again today (see my initial review at MerchantCircle Launches Social Networking for Business) and they’ve since released a whole slew of tools that help small business owners (including Realtors) get a handle on their web presence.

One of the tools I found particularly useful, was their Reputation Management system which aggregates and tracks your profiles on a number of sites (Yelp, Yahoo Local, CitySearch etc.) and informs you when a new rating has been posted about you or your business.

In this day and age, definitely a useful resource.

[Aside: I am working with Charles Turner of the Portland Real Estate Blog, with whom I am very happy – this post is more a general musing.]

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