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AgentMatch launches, objections appear to be anti-consumer

AgentMatch by realtor.com has launched to mixed responses, but much of the criticism is unfounded and based on misinformation.

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AgentMatch launches, world keeps spinning

(AGENT/GENIUS) – Recently, Realtor.com has put some of their acquired talent and technology to work in an extremely beta product called AgentMatch, piloting in the Las Vegas Valley and Northern Colorado. Performance data is fed directly from the MLS, bios are populated from agents’ SocialBios profiles, and the site unveils the top performing agents in any given area – a bone of contention for a small group of real estate professionals.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers survey, 91 percent of consumers did not directly find their agent online, a high number that has been a tremendous part of AgentMatch’s birth, the company tells AGBeat.

Ernie Graham, Director of Product Management for realtor.com said that technology has empowered consumers, especially Millennials, want to use technology to find an agent, meanwhile agents are best served by spending less time with poorly suited prospects.

AgentMatch has spent the last year in an endless loop of focus groups and use monitoring, and consumers overwhelmingly love it. Graham said, “I wouldn’t be working on this right now if I didn’t see consumers’ eyes light up.” He asserts that they are very early on in the project and are all ears to objections as well as ideas and support. In fact, they’ve already formed an Advisory Board after calling out and inviting the loudest critics to the table.

We reached out to non-realtor consumers for their feedback, and in each case, the responses were positive, even when we noted that the data may not account for teams or new home specialists. These individuals could not understand why anyone would protest it. They liked that there were not reviews, it was simply raw, unbiased data and immediate (read: real) contact information that they had been thirsting for.

Enter the objections

Upon launching, a number of Realtors took to the web to speak out against AgentMatch, and while it isn’t surprising, much of it is based on misinformation and a basic misunderstanding of how internet users use the internet today.

Any time a website launches that adds transparency to a real estate professional’s transaction history, a nuclear explosion goes off and agents lose their mind. Why? Some of them are far less busy than they feign on Twitter, while others are, in fairness, successful regardless of transaction numbers (lead gen folks, teams, and so forth). Buyers’ agents fail to study the site and instantly claim the deck is stacked against them, but in reality, it’s not just the number of homes on the market shown in an agent’s bio; the number of homes sold appears right next to it, unlike most sites featuring agents. This has been one of the more common misunderstandings we’ve seen.

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Picking bones over wording

The “Find Realtors” feature already exists on Realtor.com, but the truth is that while the bones are good, it has a lot of room for improvement, particularly when it comes to getting consumers to engage more. So, after endless testing, they launched AgentMatch, and the very word “match” seems to have set the industry off.

The landing page of the site currently reads “Sell Your Home,” then “Compare and connect with the best performing agents in your neighborhood.” The word best has been a contentious word with agents who have falsely assumed that realtor.com is playing favorites with top producers, or ranking agents – but you’ll see no stars, no thumbs up, no ratings, and no stickers with words like “top producer” or “number one agent.” The truth is that the word simply tested better and increased engagement with consumers – kind of important when consumers are vetting agents.

Not seeking to influence MLS policies

Because agents cannot upload any listings to the site, and because the data is 100 percent from the MLS, some have protested. First of all, third party agent ratings sites that allow uploads often have no way of verifying the validity, leading to inaccurate data and a lack of transparency.

Graham asserted that this product will never seek to change policy at the MLS level, and agents that wish for their transactions to be fully recorded by the MLS should petition their local board (which AgentMatch says they’ll help with if requested). It makes sense to use one and only one data source in this case, as it is truly the only reliable source when you look at it on a national level, and because rules are so different between each MLS, it makes sense for realtor.com to keep their nose out of it – if they did seek to change the rules, imagine the outrage then!

What you may not be aware of is that this product wasn’t just birthed by faceless code jockeys at realtor.com, it has been headed up by the founder of SocialBios (acquired by realtor.com), and Graham spent years as a broker and a MLS Director, so his understanding of agents’ needs and objections are first hand – yet the product still has his endorsement and his acknowledgement that influencing MLS policy from their position isn’t wise or useful for anyone.

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No charge for agent’s email to be featured up front

Additionally, AgentMatch features agents’ phone numbers and email address front and center without forcing consumers to register to get it (thus, they don’t act as a middle man, they instantly get to their agents of choice), and they don’t charge agents to feature their information on the site – a far cry from their competitors, who agents have complained for years about their featuring competitors’ information on their listings pages. None of that, just simple contact information. This fact has been wildly overlooked, particularly by the people who railed against their information being hidden or sold by other companies.

What agents protesting this site have missed is that consumers are more sophisticated today than a decade ago, and they have diverse goals. Agents, so often wrapped up in the mentality of the industry, assume that consumers only want an agent who has the most listings in town, but the truth is that many look to the agent with a smaller number, assuming they’ll get more attention and have more time devoted to their listing. Consumers aren’t stupid and there is an inadvertent belief under agents’ breath that they are. Without being guided, the consumers we spoke with all deemed the anti-AgentMatch agents to be anti-consumer. Ouch.

I’m not 100% a fan. Yet.

Although we partner with realtor.com on a select number of events, they are not past scrutiny, so let me be clear – there are holes in the product, and the creators can blame the MLS, but the holes remain. Agents that specialize in pocket listings are out of luck, and brokerages that focus on new home builders’ listings (which sometimes don’t ever touch the MLS) are not accounted for. That’s a meaningful chunk of the industry.

Another hole, and a big huge fat one, is that there is currently no way to opt out of being featured – Graham tells us they would consider it if users requested it, but for now, agents cannot opt out. That probably should have been built in from day one and made easy for agents who object.

In addition to the holes, I have to jump in to say that this is not that big of a deal. It’s one website. It’s a simple tool in a buyer or seller’s massive toolbox. The few outraged agents remind me of real estate professionals who were wildly opposed to lockboxes going digital or the MLS going online.

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What the industry must do

The industry must be more consumer-driven and quit giving the opportunities to third party sites that don’t have industry affiliations. If real estate technology innovates at the pace that some of the naysayers prefer, the MLS would still be exclusively on paper. If the few loud objections overrule the potential national launch of this tool, it will eventually be mastered by a third party company that has no industry affiliation, no ramifications for not following the rules, and no requirement to follow the Code of Ethics.

While AgentMatch is actively listening, objections should be aired, but what is presently making the rounds is riddled with misinformation, and honestly, is actually anti-consumer. People want to research agents, and realtor.com has met them where they’re looking.

My fear is that the industry is going to wail about this and miss an opportunity to provide something meaningful to consumers, letting third parties find a way to make it happen and then charge agents to be featured or get leads, and the next generation of agents will then scream at realtor.com for not doing this in the first place. #backfire

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. egraham2

    November 22, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Great post Lani. Thanks for shining a light on the big gaps in the public discussions. The “off-mls solds” (e.g. pocket, new homes) issue is a good one…and it varies widely by market. Like every other data accuracy/consistency/gaming concern, I believe it’s a local issue that should be solved by the local agents with their mls. This is nothing new, this is what MLS’s “do”, and I think they do it better than anyone else. A good example of this are MLS’s that import non-mls solds into their systems from public records to provide agents a more complete data set for doing CMA’s. If agents want “credit” for these transactions, why not find a way to get them in the MLS?

    • Sam DeBord, SeattleHome.com

      November 22, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      That’s a great point. If the MLSs include and regulate this off-market sold data, it will create an even larger, more accurate feed to a portal.

  2. Marc Davison

    November 22, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    In the grand history of the real estate industry, nothing to my knowledge has displaced the agent. Not the Web. Not Google. Not eBay. Not Microsoft. Not Zestimates. Not new models such as Redfin. Not even the great economic disaster of the last 6 years.

    As you stated Lani, hysterics occur when new things hit the market. When anything launches that attempts to move the real estate needle forward and present itself in the most progressive manner to the consumer.

    Not sure why. It just is. And probably will be for years to come. It’s the nature of this industry.

    But history has shown us that all worst fears and staunch objections never pan out and don’t stop progress. Like all those things, AgentMatch will be refined and improve and takes its rightful place as a different color thread in the overall fabric of the industry.

    Nice coverage Lani.

  3. Daniel Bates

    November 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    LOL, Your basic argument for why not to sweat it is that NAR / Realtor.com aren’t very good at driving traffic anyway, which is true, Love it! :-p It sounds like you got to speak with Mr. Graham, did you happen to ask him what their long-term plans were for the site? How long before they start charging due-paying members to be included in this service? How long before they start allowing agents with lower numbers to pay to be “featured” in the top 5? How long until agents can just send them a suitcase of money and ask for their contact info to be switched with a member of their choice? Those are my concerns as NAR has proven time and time again that they only care about bringing in more bucks for themselves.

    This tool COULD actually be a good thing if it served the roll of educating the public and helping our customers make educated and informed decisions about who they work with. Inform the general public that quantity isn’t everything in this business. Make an argument about choosing an agent that is a good match for you. How about educating them on what DOM and Sold / Ask Price actually mean (nothing in my opinion). I worked pretty damn hard this year and I too am shocked at how few homes I’ve got to show for it. I don’t mind the public seeing that at all, but it’s be nice to show more than the numbers and make an argument for each of our unique services. I am more than my SOLDS, I’ve helped people make their dreams come true.

  4. Russ Bergeron

    November 25, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    It doesn’t work. I contacted an agent whose average price point was $1.2 million. I figured I could get $1 million for my home. But they said it was only worth $300,000. Forget about it.

    My brother needed to sell his house quickly so he picked an agent with the lowest days on market
    numbers. It took 30 days longer than average to sell his house. These numbers just don’t help.

    Of course I am being facetious. But what any of the ratings sites never offer is a true picture of each and every transaction – because they are all different. And cold, hard numbers only show just that – there is nothing to grade the responsiveness or professionalism of the agent or the broker. Nothing to gauge the effectiveness of all the other players involved in each transaction – title, escrow, legal, lending, etc.

    And what happens when an agent changes offices – their past performance has been wiped out and they have to start over.

  5. Sam DeBord, SeattleHome.com

    November 27, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Many of us are open to more transparency, but glossing over the MLS issue doesn’t change it. Yes, it’s a problem. No, you can’t produce a downstream product based on that data and say “Well, the MLS was inaccurate, so we’re displaying an inaccurate product to the consumer but it’s still good.” Accountability and truth are not created by displaying inaccurate data to the consumer. That may be frustrating, but it’s the truth.

    • agbenn

      November 27, 2013 at 10:57 am

      You’re right Sam, which is why I said, if you’ve got MLS inaccuracies then you have the responsibility of addressing it directly with your board. If the mls is not accurate, again, your region has an even larger problem, it’s the only tool that separates you a R from just an A – It has to be right 24/7.

      • Sam DeBord, SeattleHome.com

        November 27, 2013 at 12:52 pm

        Two problems with that. First, the MLS doesn’t separate an R from an A. Many MLSs allow both, and some, like mine, MLS aren’t even Realtor-owned.

        Second, an MLS board has no responsibility to change its data for a 3rd party who’d like to create a product for it. The data is accurate in its current intended form: tracked MLS sales for agents’ and brokers’ use. Now, a portal wants to change that data’s use as a consumer education project, and to do so correctly it will need the MLS to add off-MLS sales to its database.

        The MLS can absolutely do that if it sees value, but to insinuate that they have a responsibility to a portal’s new product is just incorrect. It’s backwards, in fact.

  6. Bill Fowler

    December 2, 2013 at 10:35 am

    I don’t completely grasp the counter point here. MLS data will create arbitrary rankings? A seller simply wants to know who has experience and a track record of success in a given area. What other means besides the numbers that express actual performance (MLS data) could provide a good snapshot of who is good and who isn’t? OK, so there are holes. Well, let’s fill them with data from other sources if necessary.

    Reviews are a part of the consumer’s research process – for any purchase. It’ a fact of life. Transparency will ultimately win here just like it has in other industries. I’d think that more real estate people would be willing to engage realtor.com on this point and help shape what they feel is broken with AgentMatch instead of an outright boycott.

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Opinion Editorials

Shady salary transparency is running rampant: What to look out for

(EDITORIAL) Employees currently have the upper hand in the market. Employers, you must be upfront about salary and approach it correctly.

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Man holding money in the dark representing false salary transparency.

It’s the wild wild west out there when it comes to job applications. Job descriptions often misrepresent remote work opportunities. Applicants have a difficult time telling job scams from real jobs. Job applicants get ghosted by employers, even after a long application process. Following the Great Resignation, many employers are scrambling for workers. Employees have the upper hand in the hiring process, and they’re no longer settling for interviews with employers that aren’t transparent, especially about salary.

Don’t be this employer

User ninetytwoturtles shared a post on Reddit in r/recruitinghell in which the employer listed the salary as $0 to $1,000,000 per year. Go through many listings on most job boards and you’ll find the same kind of tactics – no salary listed or too large of a wide range. In some places, it’s required to post salary information. In 2021, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act went into effect in Colorado. Colorado employers must list salary and benefits to give new hires more information about fair pay. Listing a broad salary range skirts the issue. It’s unfair to applicants, and in today’s climate, employers are going to get called out on it. Your brand will take a hit.

Don’t obfuscate wage information

Every employer likes to think that their employees work because they enjoy the job, but let’s face it, money is the biggest motivator. During the interview process, many a job has been lost over salary negotiations. Bringing up wages too early in the application process can be bad for a job applicant. On the other hand, avoiding the question can lead to disappointment when a job is offered, not to mention wasted time. In the past, employers held all the cards. Currently, it’s a worker’s market. If you want productive, quality workers, your business needs to be honest and transparent about wages.

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Opinion Editorials

3 reasons to motivate yourself to declutter your workspace (and mind)

(EDITORIAL) Making time to declutter saves time and money – all while reducing stress. Need a little boost to start? We all need motivation sometimes.

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Clean work desk representing the need to declutter.

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few years. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to identify and minimize ‘invisible’ work in your organization

(EDITORIAL) Often meaningless, invisible tasks get passed down to interns and women. These go without appreciation or promotion. How can we change that?

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Women in a meeting around table, inclusion as a part of stopping gender discrimination representing invisible work.

Invisible work, non-promotable tasks, and “volunteer opportunities” (more often volun-told), are an unfortunate reality in the workforce. There are three things every employer should do in relation to these tasks: minimize them, acknowledge them, and distribute them equitably.

Unfortunately, the reality is pretty far from this ideal. Some estimates state up to 75% or more of these time-sucking, minimally career beneficial activities are typically foisted on women in the workplace and are a leading driver behind burnout in female employees. The sinister thing about this is most people are completely blind to these factors; it’s referred to as invisible work for a reason.

Research from Harvard Business Review* found that 44% more requests are presented to women as compared to men for “non-promotable” or volunteer tasks at work. Non-promotable tasks are activities such as planning holiday events, coordinating workplace social activities, and other ‘office housework’ style activities that benefit the office but typically don’t provide career returns on the time invested. The work of the ‘office mom’ often goes unacknowledged or, if she’s lucky, maybe garners some brief lip service. Don’t be that boss that gives someone a 50hr workload task for a 2-second dose of “oh yeah thanks for doing a bajillion hours of work on this thing I will never acknowledge again and won’t help your career.”  Yes, that’s a thing. Don’t do it. If you do it, don’t be surprised when you have more vacancies than staff. You brought that on yourself.

There is a lot of top-tier talent out there in the market right now. To be competitive, consider implementing some culture renovations so you can have a more equitable, and therefore more attractive, work culture to retain your top talent.

What we want to do:

  1. Identify and minimize invisible work in your organization
  2. Acknowledge the work that can’t be avoided. Get rid of the blind part.
  3. Distribute the work equitably.

Here is a simple example:

Step 1: Set up a way for staff to anonymously bring things to your attention. Perhaps a comment box. Encourage staff to bring unsung heroes in the office to your attention. Things they wish their peers or they themselves received acknowledgment for.

Step 2: Read them and actually take them seriously. Block out some time on your calendar and give it your full attention.

For the sake of demonstration, let’s say someone leaves a note about how Caroline always tidies up the breakroom at the end of the day and cleans the coffee pot with supplies Caroline brings from home. Now that we have identified a task, we are going to acknowledge it, minimize it, and consider the distribution of labor.

Step 3: Thank Caroline at the team meeting for scrubbing yesterday’s burnt coffee out of the bottom of the pot every day. Don’t gloss over it. Make the acknowledgment mean something. Buy her some chips out of the vending machine or something. The smallest gestures can have the biggest impact when coupled with actual change.

Step 4: Remind your staff to clean up after themselves. Caroline isn’t their mom. If you have to, enforce it.

Step 5: Put it in the office budget to provide adequate cleaning supplies for the break room and review your custodial needs. This isn’t part of Caroline’s job description and she could be putting that energy towards something else. Find the why of the situation and address it.

You might be rolling your eyes at me by now, but the toll of this unpaid invisible work has real costs.  According to the 2021 Women in the Workplace Report* the ladies are carrying the team, but getting little to none of the credit. Burnout is real and ringing in at an all-time high across every sector of the economy. To be short, women are sick and tired of getting the raw end of the deal, and after 2 years of pandemic life bringing it into ultra-sharp focus, are doing something about it. In the report, 40% of ladies were considering jumping ship. Data indicates that a lot of them not only manned the lifeboats but landed more lucrative positions than they left. Now is the time to score and then retain top talent. However, it is up to you to make sure you are offering an environment worth working in.

*Note: the studies cited here do not differentiate non-cis-identifying persons. It is usually worse for individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.

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