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Transparency or Trickery?

Lisa B looks at the reliability of agent ratings and review websites.

WHEN WE think of any kind of review sites, the first one that springs to mind for me is Trip Advisor. It’s huge. It has the volume, it has the traffic and it has the credibility in numbers. A user generally has enough information to be able to assess the reliability of the reviews. They can weed out the company’s competitors, pick who the whingers are and then decipher who is writing the more accurate comment.

However lately a number of agent review sites have popped up under the guise of ‘transparency’ and ‘authenticity’.

But the full picture of ‘transparency’ is really a business model whereby you start a website, attempt to get everyone on it and then upsell on profiles and advertising space.

Now a few agent review sites come to mind. There’s Product Review, Rate My Agent and REISA (the new site). Then there’s Google Business Pages.

Firstly let’s look at myreiagent. com.au. The way this works is that REISA will email a vendor at the end of their sales agency agreement, and ask the vendor for feedback on the agent. Gasp! I can hear you taking a deep breath. Yes, this one is about contacting real vendors about real agents, about real business dealings. Granted, there are probably still some agents who will work their butts off for three or four months but score a bad result. That’s to be expected. Perhaps over time it will balance out. Some agents won’t like it. Some will say that if you’ve done a great job, you shouldn’t be concerned, and others say it’s not necessary.

The next site is ‘Rate My Agent’. This is where an agent gets the opportunity to invite people they choose (anyone they want) to give them a review. If it were me, I would invite people who I thought would give me a great review, but perhaps that’s not the point either. This site asks the agents to ‘claim their page’ and then they are supposed to update their details and make sure their sales are complete. The site does not fully populate the page, in that if an agent does not disclose a sale on REA or the other sites they feed from it won’t appear. If an agent doesn’t know about the site, their details may not be correct. The site gives agents a ranking; it lets users know if they are the ‘top agent in town’. If the agent hasn’t disclosed all their sales, they won’t be the ‘top agent’ on that site.

The next is Google Business Pages. Anyone can write a review on an agent’s Google Plus page; you just have to create a Google account. An office I know had a situation where a competitor wrote something negative about them. They could prove it was another agent, but it didn’t matter. Google told them they would not remove the offending comment because ‘the competitor did not break the law.’ It’s like the issue of whether something is classed as freedom of speech or a warped public opinion.

Recently, a well-known industry leader/trainer slammed an agent referencing a Product Review site. He said that even though the agent had won awards for being ‘the best agent’, he clearly wasn’t because of what the Product Review site had to say. When I visited the site, it seemed to me that there were competitors making comments about a very prominent, active agent. I contacted the agent, who said that he had wind of competitors making comments on the site, and then when they were in a listing presentation against his office, they were directing potential sellers to this Product Review site.

Now, in the guise of authenticity and transparency, surely these sites verify the details? After all, they are claiming transparency in their information. They surely must check that what the person is saying in their review is true and that it is verified? They could ask the person commenting to include details of their transaction – not publicly, necessarily, but so that if the agent has a bad review written about them they can challenge the authenticity of the comment. Surely it can’t just be based on hearsay, can it?

Yep, it is. I logged on Product Review and made my comment. All I needed to do was put in my hotmail account and a name and it was done. I had the option to connect it to my Facebook account, but I declined.

My comment was displayed after about half an hour. I wrote a lovely review, but have never used this agent.

I’m not sure what can be done to improve the quality of reviews online, but what I am sure of is this: it certainly does pay to keep on top of what people are saying about you so that you are truly prepared if the subject ever comes up from a potential client or vendor.

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Lisa B

Lisa B is a real estate coach, trainer and professional female speaker. For more information visit lisab.com.au