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A Better Approach to Agent Ratings

January 28 2013

thumb up thumbs downThere is a long and dismal history of online rating of real estate agents. With so many of us chasing so few transactions — the average agent only has about three per year — we agents eagerly search for ways to stand apart from our colleagues.

Many agents boast about their "Five Star Real Estate Agent" rating from a prominent Denver magazine. However, you won't find either the program or the agents on the magazine's website. Why? Because it's not the magazine's editorial product, but rather an advertising feature in which agents pay different rates for different size write-ups (basic listings are free). Once published, agents routinely claim they were "named a Five Star Agent" by the magazine. But that's not quite true.

Years ago, I lost a listing in Wheat Ridge, CO to another agent. The seller cited the agent's Five-Star rating by that magazine as one of the reasons for selecting her. Since I hadn't heard of this agent, I checked the MLS for her transactions over the past three years. She had had no listings and had only had three buyer transactions in the last three years, yet she had been selected as a "Five-Star" agent. I was stunned.

If you Google the phrase "rating real estate agents" you'll find many websites claiming to recommend highly rated agents. Since I know the top agents in my area, it is amusing to search on sites like Zillow or Angie's List for my area's "best" agents. On Angie's List, the agent with the most reviews when I searched "Golden" had 10 glowing reviews, all dated November and December 2012, but on the MLS, I found only two sold listings in the last 12 months, both of them in Park County, and nothing in the metro area.

On Zillow, I didn't even recognize the names of most of the top 20 agents listed for Golden, CO, and didn't find myself or the three other top listing agents for Golden among the top 50 agents listed.

Many websites that help you find the "best" agent in a geographic area are really just referral sites. They sell your contact info to the first agent they can find who will pay for the lead, usually asking 30% of the commission earned by the agent. I used my wife's name to test one such website, and she got a quick referral to an agent in Denver who has been on the buyer side of 15 sales in the last 12 months, but not one in Jeffco, much less Golden. (When that agent spoke with Rita on the phone, he claimed that he was one of Golden's top real estate agents!)

I had given up on the idea of online rating of real estate agents, but last month, the Denver Metro Association of REALTORS® (DMAR) was invited to participate in the REALTOR® Excellence Program, or REP. DMAR is the first and, so far, only REALTOR® association in Colorado to sign up for REP. Starting in 2013, members like me will be able to use REP to send post-closing surveys to every buyer and seller client and have the results appear on the website RatedAgent.comRatedAgent.com. If you want to see what the ratings will look like, go to that website and search in California, where it's already up and running.

The biggest brokerages in DMAR have already signed on to REP, and my company will definitely sign on, too.

The way it will work is that on the 15th of each month, an email survey will be sent to every client who had a closing in the previous month. If no email address is provided, a printed survey and return envelope will be mailed to the client. We won't be able to exclude any client — all will be surveyed.

Both the agent and his (or her) broker will be notified of each returned survey, and once more than one response is received, an overall rating (with comments) will be posted on RatedAgent.com, unless the agent opts out.

In addition to providing a useful — and accurate — guide for consumers, REP could help us agents improve our professionalism thanks to the detailed feedback received from our past clients.

RE Technology Note: The REALTOR® Excellence Program is also available to members of the California Association of REALTORS®, the Maintstreet Organization of REALTORS® (Chicago), the St. Paul Area Association of REALTORS®. Additional partnerships are in the works.

Interested individuals not part of the above organizations can also contact RatedAgent.com directly to get started.

To view the original article, visit Jim Smith's blogJim Smith's blog.