Realtors ready to be rated?

ReportCard I’m a big fan of ratings — it’s part of the whole "transparency" thing, whether it’s Consumer Reports or Angie’s List or product reviews.

Now the Houston Association of Realtors is starting the "Client Experience  Rating Program." It allows clients to — obviously — rate the their Realtor. [cue dramatic music]

Clients may rate their REALTOR® on how well they performed in each of the following categories.

* Competency – Explained process clearly, ensured paperwork was correct, use of technology, negotiation skills, attention to detail, represented and protected my interests

* Market Knowledge – Knowledgeable of market, neighborhood and community

* Communication – Kept me updated, responded timely, communicated based on my preference

* My Experience – understood my needs, personal attention, made me feel valued, on time and prompt

Client ratings, which can include comments, will be displayed on with Realtors’ profiles.

By the way, HAR includes a cop-out clause: Realtors can choose whether to display their ratings or not. (One thing isn’t clear: If a member initially opts out, accumulates some good reviews, and then opts in, will those good review be published? Or only reviews after the opt-in date?)

So, is this a good thing — a way to keep Realtors in line (so to speak)? Or it it fraught with danger; one unhappy client can ruin a reputation? Or are most people savvy enough to discount the rare disgruntled client?

Will a Realtor who opts out be ‘punished’ by potential clients ("What does she have to hide?") or will it be like the Better Business Bureau, where membership is a plus, but non-membership doesn’t hurt?

What do you think? Should VAR consider something like this?

In truth, VAR already has something like this through our relationship with QSC. Click here to browse Virginia Realtors (by city) who have voluntarily consented to have consumer reviews posted online.

About Andrew Kantor

Andrew is VAR's editor and information manager, and -- lessee now -- a former reporter for the Roanoke Times, former technology columnist for USA Today, and a former magazine editor for a bunch of places. He hails from New York with stops in Connecticut, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Roanoke.
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29 Responses to Realtors ready to be rated?

  1. I think this would be such a great thing. I hear so much complaining out there about the quality of Realtors, but yet people really don’t interview Realtors on the buy side and on the listing side many still don’t seek out quality. Yet there is complaining and casting all Realtors in a negative light on the bad performance of literally hundreds of thousands of part time agents.

  2. Tony Arko says:

    I proposed a ranking system be adopted by VAR in 2007 during a brainstorming session of the VAR convention that year. I thought it would be a great RE 2.0 application. I thought it would also give consumers a way to critique their agents and other agents they encountered. I felt it would be good for the agents that were professional and would force the other agents to get better. My feelings were not shared by others.

    Any proposed ranking system would never be approved by the members and was a non-starter. And by members I assume the old school brokers and other powers that be that have been doing business since the beginning of time and don’t feel the need for any change.

    But it seems that Houston has a group of progressive brokers willing to do the unthinkable and let their agents be ranked. I am all for ranking the agents. And I think agents should be able to rank other agents and brokers on a private system unseen by the public.

  3. mary dykstra says:

    I think it is a great idea, and I totally agree with James about our reputatiion resting on the actions of part timers, no timers and the plain old rotten apples! Let’s follow Houston’s lead and be at the front of this movement in Va. What are we afraid of?

  4. Jim Duncan says:

    As if often the case on VB, many of us reading and commenting already agree with the post …

    If those who disagree choose not to comment, why shouldn’t we go ahead and implement a ratings system?

    Where are the contrarians?

  5. Tony Arko says:

    It has been my experience that the people that must okay policy changes and other industry improvements do not use computers very often much less participate in RE 2.0. And if they did have an understanding of 2.0 they would choose to not participate for fear of being identified.

  6. I think a ratings system is worthy of consideration. My concern as I have voiced on other blogs about other topics is folks posting ratings/comments anonymously. If a person is willing to identify themselves before posting the rating good or bad, then I am all for it. My feeling is there are too many people out there that write on blogs things they would never say to the person face to face. By having to identify themselves, folks would be more careful about what they wrote.

  7. mary dykstra says:

    Hmm, Tony- if what you say is true (and I am not sure I agree), we need the folks that do participate in R.E. 2.0 to become decision makers and policy leaders. Change is difficult and given the average age of our industry, maybe harder for real estate than other professions. But, I maintain that if we don’t make the changes ourselves, and manage that change, the public will be sure to do it for us!

  8. This is NOT VAR’s role, but it is a great idea on a local level. This should be done by local associations and MLS’s. If VAR has a role, maybe it would be to develop the system that could be implemented on the local level.

    Consumers want this information and SOMEONE is going to give it to them. Might as well be us.

  9. I am going to be contrary here and I hope that no ones takes it personally.

    It’s not the Association’s (national, state or local) place, in my mind, to support any endeavor that would promote one member over another, so long as they all pay the same dues. This was one of my arguments against production awards.

    The Association’s roles should be to produce, create and maintain services that help the agent conduct their business and promotes the best interest of the consumer. Frankly I’ve yet to see any Association, state, national or local who has mastered it.

    The Associations are becoming so fractured in their “services” and interests that they aren’t doing any one thing well. We need to stop spreading out into all these areas.

    There are a number of these types of “rating” sites out there and the all suck. I’ve haven’t sold a home in almost two years since coming on staff at FAAR and one site has me rated in the top 5% producers for my previous market.

    I don’t see a rating system really working, unless appropriate staff are employed to maintain the credentials of the data. QSC (heavily promoted by VAR) is suppose to do just what is being suggested here and it’s not that great. Frankly, all these systems are easily manipulated. No scoring system can tell me if a client and I are going to be a good match. Only connection and interaction will tell.

    The only people who will benefit are those who know how to work the system. Knowing how to work the system does not translate into being good agent. Generally speaking that will be newer agents with related backgrounds. The experienced agents who are wise in many other areas may lose business, that they deserve.

    Beyond any issue with a “rating system” is the fact that Associations should not take efforts to promote one member over the other.

    I respect everyone here who jumped in, but I just disagree…

  10. Tony,

    The mere fact that leaders choose not to engage in social media or “2.0” does not negate their ability to be a good leader.

    More often than not “2.0” idiots just tick me off. Really…. Do you think the knuckle-heads on ActiveRain would be good leaders because they can post content?

  11. Tony Arko says:

    Matt, My response was to the question posed by Jim regarding the contrarians. But the fact that our industry is perceived in such a poor light is a direct reflection of our leaders. Leaders of our brokerages, leaders of our associations and leaders of our governing bodies. The people that can make a difference in our industry chose to maintain the status quo and the status quo means we will continue to be viewed as substandard when compared to other professions. That you cannot disagree with.

  12. Tony,

    I do agree that followers are typically reflection of their leaders, but in the past 100 years of the Realtor Association, the leaders were first followers. I just don’t know where this cycle stops, but I think the pool of those desiring to take the lead is diminishing.

    Those who go into it leadership with the best of intentions and ideals are quickly darkened by the fact that “their members” (who voted them in and may or may not vote them out) are still really in control.

    Us “radicals” who think that dual agency is bad, educational requirements should be increased and Brokers should be more accountable are ignored. I think there have always been those that think as you, Jim and I do – but we remain the minority.

  13. Wow! Tony, I know many leaders or our brokerages, associations, and our governing bodies that would take great exception to your most recent post. I am a leader of my company and our local association and would hope that I am not seen as someone maintaining the status quo. Therefore I must respond that yes, I can disagree with your statement. Putting all in one box which such a generalization is never a good idea.

  14. Tony Arko says:

    The only true judge of our profession is how it is perceived by the public. Period. All other measurements of our profession are meaningless. What we think of ourselves is a ridiculous measurement. What I think of myself is even worse. The fact that you think you are a good leader and you know other good leaders in the business is worthless. It is what the consumer thinks about our business. It is the rank we are given by our constituents, not the rank we would give ourselves.

  15. Tony, you need to hang out with better leaders. I agree with Michael that it is not a good idea to slam folks with such a mass generalization. I know MANY fine leaders who want to change the industry in great ways. Matthew points out that the followers are really in control and they are hard to herd in the right direction.

    Matthew, I never cease to be amazed how tech savvy people (yourself included) tend to poo poo tech savvy ideas such as rate your realtor. The rating systems work really well at Amazon and other sites. What is so different about selling real estate?

    The only problem I see is that many agents will not have very many ratings on which to base their score. OSC requires 5 ratings before your score shows up. For many agents, that could take a while.

  16. Jim Duncan says:

    Dave –

    Why would we want ratings systems to be so localized? The segmentation and turf wars are one of the major reasons that we don’t have a regional/state/national MLS. Technology is easy. It’s the politics that kill us.

    An issue with the current system is that the leaders who have diligently served and worked to get to where they are now often and too-frequently do not engage in the spaces where current Realtors are existing. We have two echo-chambers – change and status quo – running on parallel tracks that rarely intersect.

    Those echo chambers are evidenced by the fact that rarely, if ever (and please correct me if I’m wrong), do VAR Leadership speak up on these forums. Two rare exceptions of the perceived “establishment” (not meant necessarily as a pejorative – take it for what it’s worth) that come to mind (and they aren’t part of “Leadership”) are Lem Marshall and Schaefer Oglesby who have commented here.

    * I would like to note that of the commenters here, three are from Charlottesville. Virginia rocks, but Charlottesville *really* rocks. :)

  17. Dave,

    It’s because of my level of technical proficiency that see the failing of a system of 1’s and 0’s to judge the relevance of a human being. It’s failed logic…

    The BlogBrawl is a prime example. There were people with better content and site design than myself, but I made it to the final four because I had a large sphere of influence – period. It’s doesn’t mean my production was better, just my ability to generate votes.

    In addition, I (maybe I’m crazy) never use Amazon or eBay’s ranking system. I typically purchase books because of personal recommendations or because I’ve thumbed through it in the store or previously have read the author and trust their ability to captivate me a second time.

    Even if I were in support of a rating system – I would not support a trade Association supporting such an endeavor.

  18. …man I do love healthy debate with smart people.

    I would submit that a number of the leaders (locally and state) do read these posts, blogs etc… but are not inclined to comment. A, you’ll rarely win an argument on a blog and B I’ve never read anything in social media that I hadn’t heard first in committee in regards to proposed direction of the institution or ways to change.

    The thoughts aren’t new, just the mechanism by which we relay them.

    I’ve served at various levels of Association leadership and have gone through VLA, as some others. I “think” that I have a moderate level of respect from some in the If I were to stop blogging and twittering tomorrow, would that mean that I would no longer have respect or my finger on the pulse of the industry? I think not…

  19. Jim,
    Ratings do not have to be localized, at least in theory. From an organizational standpoint, my thought was that you could get more buy-in at a local level. On the technology standpoint, I think ratings need to be tied to the MLS system. When a sale happens, rating requests are sent out from the MLS. That seems to make practical sense.

    I do not care who implements it, I just want someone to do it. VAR, in my opinion, would not be the right place. NAR, maybe. I have pitched this to NAR leadership personally more than once and have been talking to Bob Hale in Houston about their system.

    The Realtor organization (including MLSs) are the only ones who will be able to pull the sales data quickly enough to facilitate the system. That might be able to be worked around, but I’m not smart enough to figure it out.

    And yes, Charlottesville ROCKS!!

  20. Tony,
    if you read what I wrote, I said, “I would hope” not that “I am” a good leader. As far as my company goes, at the end of 2008 we started sending our surveys to everyone that buys or sells from us. I am grateful to say that almost 99% of those surveyed said our work was either very good or excellent and that they would use the agent again. Nonetheless,
    Using your logic, What makes you think you know what the consumer wants or desires as it relates to rating us? Is it quantifiable or just what your perception is of what your constituents want.

  21. Tony Arko says:

    No Michael, you said that you are a leader and “hope” you are not seen as maintaining the status quo, not you “hope” you are a good leader.

    Now how is it that almost all agents say they have a 99% approval rating from their clients yet the industry ranks just above used car salesmen? That is because the surveys are flawed. These types of surveys are indicative of the status quo. They are not true indicators of our profession or our leadership.

    A professional survey writer could easily write a survey that makes your approval rating drop to below 50% if he wanted to.

    As for the ranking system, I have no idea but if you want me to write one it won’t be one that real estate brokers would ever use and will make 90% of the agents look bad.

  22. Personally, I think a ranking system would be great. Whether the local, state or national Realtor association should handle that is up for debate.

    As for the question of whether or not a Realtor association would be “promoting” one Realtor over another by having a ranking system…that’s a bit far-fetched (imho). The only people that would complain about not being “promoted as much/as well as others” are those that are crappy Realtors and get bad reviews from their clients.

    It’s amazing how organizations/companies love to implement rating systems and push things such as JD Power rankings to the public when they rank high yet, they don’t want to go near such a system when they know they’ll rank low… That’s playing to the lowest common denominator (crappy Realtors) and punishing the good and great Realtors.

    I’m sick of playing and catering to the lowest common denominator. To the Realtors that get bad reviews and make up excuses such as “unfair promoting” I say, “step up your game, earn good reviews and stop complaining”.

  23. Tina Merritt says:

    I think I’m officially on the fence on this one….

    Rating a real estate agent is much different than rating a product on Products on Amazon are purchased by many and reviewed by many – one bad review doesn’t completely screw up the numbers like it would for an agent who has 5 reviews. I am not a manufactured product, I am a professional and do not want to be “ranked” like a product. Look at sites like TripAdvisor that have had their review system hacked up by disingenuous reviews. Real estate may be too emotional of a transaction to get accurate rankings/ratings.

    I think there is a place for rankings/ratings; however, I would like to see them placed alongside proven credentials such as years in the business full-time, hours/classes of continuing education, designations (along with what they stand for), etc.

    I do have a concern for the agent who works her tail off and does everything right only to have unhappy clients due to the actions of a co-broke agent (we have all seen this happen). What about the sale that gets delayed at the last minute due to a title issue out of the buyer-agents control? If the entire transaction was in the agent’s control, ratings might make more sense…or if all parties in the transaction were employed by the same company who had control.

    I have my QSC – it’s ok….not great, not bad.

  24. Doug Francis says:

    I think this is one of the dumbest ideas that I have heard in a long time. The fact that these rankings can be manipulated should be considered by everyone, and it would act as a roadblock to virtually anyone trying to get established in the business.

    It would take about 5 minutes for someone to plan a case on how the REALTOR Association (not just VAR) is restricting fair trade.

    Let independent parties do this hogwash and keep your distance.

  25. Wow, there are some very well written comments here!!! I can see valid points on both sides. I must be one of those “followers” because I’d be satisfied with either outcome. My beef would be with the structure & management of the rating system. Even our local Rookie of the Year award is fake. They give it to the agent who has a balance of sales and new initials after his/her name to represent a balanced agent. (Having a buddy on the nominating committee seems to help as well). All snarkiness aside, I’m in favor of something that’s black and while with very little room for error or manipulation. Of course, manipulation by superior service which results in high scores is certainly legit.

  26. I have to say that my perception is different. I see no benefit or value to the association in regards to amount of the members dues and staff man-power it would take to run it. The politics alone would eat the entire day away.

    When the membership shrinks and the leadership has to look at reducing services or increasing dues; which would you rather have-lower annual dues or a ranking system? Think about it, this ranking system will be no different than the fundamental thought process about recognition for production awards or being called a “top producer”.

    Now, how would you implement this? Would the points be for designations (useless unless the person actually learned something in the training), production, client feedback, years of experience, number of blogs they contributed to, activities in the Association, etc….

    Think about this, if I had 20 years experience and offered my past clients a financial incentive for good feedback, carried a lot of REO inventory, had designations that I had gained 15 years ago and sat as an Association chair; I could clean up on this type of ranking system.

    Frankly, in my experience, the REO agent with lots of listings and 20 years experience have been the most arrogant, difficult and secluded agents I’ve worked with. They are typically not current in their knowledge and do little by way of customer service, because of their business model and proximity to retirement. Lots of agents survive this long, when they have a spouse with good income to help during the hard times or other sources of funding.

    You couldn’t apply the mentality, where only the four agents on the design committee (who think alike) get to be ranked well.

    How do you handle different business models, that may have a listing fee of a few hundred dollars. If the house sells, of course their sellers would be happy.

    How would you handle the potential Anti-Trust issues?

    Look, I think this is first thing that I have ever been less-than-openminded about, when it comes to ideas on

    If we want to put money and effort into developing a mentoring program like the appraiser 2000 hours, or making the pre-licensing programs harder or Associations hiring staff to police practitioners since the members don’t seem interested in doing it – I’m all for working toward these types of goals to actually improve the industry and not just try to alienate competitors.

    When it comes to reducing a human to a number, I”m not interested in participating.

    This isn’t self-interest. I feel pretty confident that on paper I would most likely rank high compared to many (especially since 80% of agents don’t make enough to be considered higher than poverty level) – that doesn’t mean that I am the best agent for every consumer. Frankly I hated being a buyer agent; so what would a number really tell a consumer who was looking to hire a buyer agent?

    I’ve just never needed a number or award to justify my value to a consumer. To those who do….QSC is looking to take your money.

  27. Before anyone gets too irritated… I consider most everyone on here friends and some of the best that the industry has to offer. I’m not trying to be an instigator – just giving rational for my position.

  28. OT: Has there been a post on the new move to have a special certification or separate licensing for commercial agents? (VAR?) I’m all pumped up about that and look to follow the developments and would like to see how Jane Normal can get involved with the “debate.”

  29. Tony Arko says:

    I think that discussions on topics like this are the very healthy for our association. It gives me different perspectives and makes me think outside of my own world. A lot of times I take the most controversial position just to engage other readers and commenters. Without these types of discussions on an open forum for all to participate, there would be no hope for getting past the status quo.

    This discussion is much more productive than a behind close doors committee meeting by brokers who have chosen to be policy shapers and not revenue generators. IMHO.

    I think that VAR has been at the forefront of great ideas (VARBuzz being one of them) that were once controversial but have proven invaluable to agents who use them. A Ranking system for agents is one of these forward thinking ideas that I believe could be great.

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