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HomeLight agent review site and AgentMatch: what’s so different?

HomeLight, a real estate agent site offering agent transaction data and reviews, is backed by Google and Inman, offering a unique spin on agent reviews.

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homelight

homelight

HomeLight and AgentMatch offer agent transaction data to consumers

(AGENT/GENIUS) – Launched in 2012, HomeLight is a search engine for agents, or an agent resume, as founder Drew Uhler likes to describe it, offering a unique blend of real estate agent transaction data and consumer reviews, monetized by agent referral fees. Funded to the tune of $1.5 million by Google Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Innovation Endeavors, and unnamed angel investors, it is in the Inman Incubator program, and is to be showcased in the Startup Alley at Inman Connect in New York City in January 2014.

Three weeks ago, Inman News introduced AgentMatch, shaping the conversation by focusing squarely on the negative reactions from agents (AgentMatch is the new site by Realtor.com that provides listing agent transaction data for the last six months in a consumer search site with no referral fees for agents). In seven articles written by Inman News on the topic, primarily negative in nature, not once have they disclosed their affiliation with Inman Incubator company, HomeLight, a product that shows production levels, similarly to AgentMatch. It is possible that this is a repeated unintentional oversight by Inman News, assuming readers should already know the company’s financial relationships.

In the seven stories, HomeLight was first referenced by writer Paul Hagey as “Google-backed HomeLight,” a phrase later repeated in a story quote by Move Inc.’s CRO, Errol Samuelson, however no possible conflict of interest was disclosed by Hagey or fellow writer, Andrea V. Brambila in their stories.

In the seventh article, founder Brad Inman penned a piece called “Taking a stand on agent data,” failing to disclose his company’s affiliation to HomeLight, nor their long-term sponsorship agreement with Move, Inc. Negative reviews are a critical part of news coverage, but the problem here lies in the seven articles where no comparison was made to an Inman-supported competitor, and no disclosures offered, which is exactly how the news industry offers fair coverage and makes clear the possible conflicts of interest.

The reason we wrote about AgentMatch is not because Realtor.com sponsors a few of our events, but because it can’t be gamed by agents – the very reason we never covered HomeLight, yet another agent review site. The other reason we steered clear of HomeLight is because it is disconcerting for Google to have agent data, even if only transaction histories – imagine your entire transaction history as part of your Google+ profile or Google flips a switch on property data retrieval (they have the closing data, why not offer AVMs? or what if your productivity statistics have an impact on your search engine rankings?).

This is all pure speculation and educated guesses, and at this point Google is only an investor, but the point is that agents have no control over the final resting place of their data when entrusted to third parties, whereas Realtor.com’s ultimate responsibility is to real estate professionals under their operating agreement with the National Association of Realtors.

The angst is real

We believe that angst among real estate professionals is very real, but in large part, it is being guided by an Inman argument, and framed in a way to exclude comparison to a product with similar functionality, fanning the flames toward AgentMatch and away from Inman Incubator and Inman Connect Startup Alley participant, HomeLight. It remains curious that when HomeLight launched and Inman covered it extensively, there was no controversy or outrage from the real estate community, creating the perception that the introduction of AgentMatch was designed to incite controversy, potentially providing cover to and benefiting HomeLight.

Getting to know HomeLight

The landing page touts that you can find the “perfect agent based on expertise,” stating that they have two million real estate agents in their database, serving 34 markets, a far cry from AgentMatch’s two pilot MLSs which allows no reviews to influence their algorithm. Let’s take a photo tour of how HomeLight works. Click to enlarge any photo below, as we take you through how the site works. We walk through a search for an agent in Austin, where we are headquartered:

Searching for an agent – method 1

There appear to be two common methods for finding an agent on the site, and one method is by selecting a popular city in the footer of the main page. Here’s how it works:

homelight-1

Below features the “top agents,” and the top two are very well liked top producers in the city that happen to be team leaders. This type of result is one of the main objections agents have against AgentMatch, yet here we are, looking at HomeLight which was put in a positive light by industry news writers.

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And if you’re an agent, you can claim your profile

In the top corner of the agent result, the system urges agents to claim their profile, like so:
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Finding an agent – method 2

The more common method is searching immediately from the front page for a city and narrowing it down. Let’s take a tour of the second method:
homelight-8

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So where do they get the data?

In order to get the data, HomeLight is partnered with brokers of record to pull MLS data, but HomeLight does not operate as a brokerage. The transaction data allows the algorithm to narrow down agents for the consumer, and appears to go back as far as 2009.

Reviews improve agents’ rankings on the site

The second part of the algorithm, and apparently a substantial part of the algorithm by all accounts, is reviews that agents receive through the site, so HomeLight is urging agents (especially new agents) to solicit reviews from all clients, which HomeLight says can improve agents’ rankings on the site. HomeLight says they verify reviews, either through the agent directly or by commenters’ claimed address, which they can cross reference with transaction data.

It is not a perfect system, however, and can potentially be gamed (Joe at 123 Main St never reviewed his agent, so an agent can go in and falsify a review, say they’re Joe, claim 123 Main St, and affirm it’s legit when HomeLight asks). Agents that disagree with the accuracy of a review can appeal and HomeLight promises to investigate the matter, which is tremendously helpful, but tricky – a pothole Yelp stepped into several years ago.

Show me the money

The monetization strategy is much like other agent rating sites, wherein referral fees are paid at closing by agents who receive a lead through the site, but the company will not publicly say how much these referral fees are, as they likely vary by market.

Like other sites that match agents and consumers, there are holes, for example, agents that focus on off-market listings (pocket listings, and sometimes new home construction) aren’t given credit and can lose out to competitors, and team leaders are often given credit for the group’s closings even though a handful of agents touched the transaction (as seen above in the list of top listing agents in Austin), and team members’ numbers dwindle in comparison.

But unlike many competitors, HomeLight offers an opt out process so agents can remove themselves from their website, but not necessarily from data stored on HomeLight servers. This highlights, yet again, the uncertainty attached to a third party being given industry data.

Our only dog in this race are members, and our policy has always been, when in doubt, we default to the consumer if the benefit to membership is unclear, and when it benefits the consumer, it ultimately benefits the membership. That said, we have never supported blindly giving data to third parties when arms of the membership (like Move, Inc.) which are beholden to members, can provide the same service.

Update: on November 29th, we redacted the phrase “labeled as news rather than opinion” from this editorial.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Paceride

    November 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    I have a big big problem with the agent review part. Apparently, I am supposed to track down my buyers and sellers and ask them to write reviews for multiple websites now? I’m supposed to do it for Zillow, Trulia, now these sites? They can’t just submit ONE review, they have to submit the reviews multiple times. I know some people send letters to my manager saying what a good job I did, unsolicited by me. Other people may not be inclined tobut i’m supposed to ask them to submit multiple reviews. Sorry, I think it’s b.s., and as usual, meant to separate me from my hard earned commission dollars.

    • RealtyMinded

      November 30, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      And these are the largest companies holding agent reviews currently, there are many other smaller sites that want agent reviews and if agents agree to play the game and eventually pay to keep profiles in all of these companies there will be many more extending their hand for a handout. Additionally they will be charging you to get your own leads for your own listings (otherwise they will sell them) as Zillow, Realtor.com and many others do currently.

  2. Morgan Brown

    November 29, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Hi Lani, we always welcome the feedback on Inman News, however I wanted to correct a few items for the record. It would be great if you could update your post with the facts.

    1. HomeLight is an Inman Incubator company but Inman News has no financial interest in HomeLight. We do not take equity stakes in the incubator companies and the incubator companies pay no fees to Inman News.

    2. HomeLight is speaking at Real Estate Connect, but so are people on the other side of the agent data issue including Mark Willis, the CEO of Keller Williams, who has come out strongly in opposition to the idea.

    3. Inman News has many customers (advertisers, sponsors, exhibitors, members and attendees of our conferences) on both sides of the agent data issue. Our coverage has been careful to balance all points of views. See below for a list of news stories over the last couple of weeks that discuss the issue in depth.

    4. Neither Brad Inman or Inman News is an investor in any of the incubator companies (such as HomeLight) or any other real estate related company.

    5. Brad Inman did not endorse any of the companies that offer agent data programs his article https://www.inman.com/2013/11/27/taking-a-stand-on-agent-data/. He did endorse the idea of exposing agent performance data and his article was clearly described as an opinion piece by the publisher.

    6. Inman News takes seriously the separation of church and state (editorial and advertising). Our independent editorial team headed up by Matt Carter is always very diligent about giving no preference in coverage to companies who may advertise or do business with Inman News.

    Lani, we’re friends on Facebook, and conversed just recently about Inman’s Connect conference. You could’ve reached out to me or anyone on the team for clarification ahead the story to ensure it was factual. I would’ve been happy to answer any questions you had at that time. For future stories, feel free to reach out to us at any time when there are questions about how we operate.

    Morgan
    Inman News

    A selection of articles on Agent Match over the last two weeks:

    https://www.inman.com/wire/agent-launches-change-org-petition-to-stop-realtor-coms-agentmatch/
    https://www.inman.com/2013/11/22/franchisor-keller-williams-realty-strongly-urges-agents-to-oppose-realtor-coms-agentmatch-tool/
    https://www.inman.com/2013/11/19/realtor-com-seeks-more-agent-feedback-on-controversial-agentmatch-ranking-platform/
    https://www.inman.com/2013/11/15/can-realtor-coms-bold-experiment-with-agentmatch-survive-agent-backlash/
    https://www.inman.com/2013/11/13/neighborcity-hits-move-with-cease-and-desist-letter-over-agentmatch-tool/
    https://www.inman.com/2013/11/11/errol-samuelson-realtor-com-experimenting-with-agent-matching-tool-powered-by-mls-data/

    • Lani Rosales

      November 29, 2013 at 11:55 pm

      Morgan, thank you for taking the time to craft a thoughtful response. After further consideration, I have removed the phrase “labeled as news rather than opinion,” as I consider that a fair update as it has no bearing on this editorial whatsoever.

      I never said Inman News or Brad Inman takes an equity stake, but Inman News’ Incubator is invested in HomeLight’s success to the tune of “$100,000 in-kind promotional support from Inman News” and a bevy of other valuable assets according to the Incubator website, none of which was ever mentioned in any of the seven articles related to AgentMatch, including Brad’s editorial.

      We’ve never said Inman wasn’t fair, but in seven articles, true fairness would have been disclosing that Inman News was involved with an AgentMatch competitor that has a distinctly similar offering.

  3. franklyrealty

    December 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    “it can’t be gamed by agents” Oh my oh My. Boy can it be gamed. Might have inspired a blog post. HOW TO GAME AGENT MATCH!

    • Lani Rosales

      December 3, 2013 at 11:31 pm

      Well, the truth is, as you and I have spoken about (and I agree with you) that technically, the MLS can be manipulated by agents, so the MLS can be manipulated, but as of publication of this editorial, AgentMatch can’t directly be gamed.

      We’ve talked about it over the years that agents CAN manipulate days on market, and game the MLS; do you think there’s a way to stop it aside from continuing to fight against it in public? I hear you might have something in the works to address it in your market, but that’s just one market – what should the rest of the nation do?

      I love this topic, it’s so fascinating (and I know you and I have and can talk about it endlessly)!

      • Tennessee Real Estate

        December 4, 2013 at 12:50 am

        Lani if Agent Match gets it data from the MLS and the MLS data can be gamed it logically follows that Agent Match data can therefore be gamed. The more I think about the more I like the Houston solution. It is based on customer reviews agents can opt out but if they are in they are “all in” meaning all reviews are posted.
        As Jerry Mcquire said “Follow the money” this is not about helping the consumer or agent this is about getting hits and selling ad space back to agents.

        • Lani Rosales

          December 4, 2013 at 9:47 am

          Technically, yes, even real estate data can be gamed, but you cannot log into AgentMatch directly (as of publication) and change data or upload your own. Therefore, yes, you can game the MLS, but you can’t directly game AgentMatch. Directly.

          • franklyrealty

            December 4, 2013 at 1:05 pm

            I can locally fix the issue on my IDX by calling out those that relist or drop the price a minute before going under contract (so they can be 100%). One thing Agent Match can do is focus on % of Original list and not the list price after price drops. That will cure part of the issue.

  4. Lawrence Schrenk

    May 26, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    I’m afraid that homelite.com appears to be a scam. I went through the process and was matched with 10 agents. Not one of them sold houses in my area!

  5. Rex fletcher

    February 2, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    Homelights deliberately misleading and erroneous adverts will hurt the industry…they only feature agents who pay them…so how do they speak for all agents….from their ads it seems that the top 3 agents are only the agents who they refer to people….and to insist that there is a review part to their deliberating rather than just their performance(total transactions) part is rediculous…..so to appease to lower performing agents they ask for review entry..its rediculous….they are misleading the public into believing that they have all the good agents….without telling the public that they are getting referral kickbacks…and Brokers are involved…well that stops us agents from making the decisions..its being done for us….not right

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Opinion Editorials

6 skills humans have that AI doesn’t… yet

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s not unreasonable to be concerned about the growing power and skill of AI, but here are a few skills where we have the upper hand.

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Man drawing on a roll of butcher paper, where AI cannot express themselves yet.

AI is taking over the workforce as we know it. Burgers are already being flipped by robotic arms (and being flipped better), and it’s only a matter of time before commercial trucks and cars will be driven by robots (and, probably, be driven better).

It may feel unnerving to think about the shrinking number of job possibilities for future humans – what jobs will be around for humans when AI can do almost everything better than we can?

To our relief (exhale!), there are a few select skills that humans will (hopefully) always be better at than AI. The strengths that we have over AI fall into 3 general categories: Ability to convey emotion, management over others, and creativity.

Let’s break it down: Here are 6 skills that we as humans should be focusing on right now.

Our ability to undertake non-verbal communication

What does this mean for humans? We need to develop our ability to understand and communicate body language, knowing looks, and other non-verbal cues. Additionally, we need to refine our ability to make others feel warm and heard – if you work in the hospitality industry, mastering these abilities will give you an edge over the AI technologies that might replace you.

Our ability to show deep empathy to customers

Unlike AI, we share experiences with other humans and can therefore show empathy to customers. Never underestimate how powerful your deep understanding of being human will be when you’re pitted against a robot for a job. It might just be the thing that gives you a cutting edge.

Our ability to undertake growth management

As of this moment, humans are superior to AI when it comes to managing others. We are able to support organization members in developing their skillsets and, due to our coaching ability, we are able to help others to grow professionally. Take that, AI!

Our ability to employ mind management

What this essentially means is that we can support others. Humans have counseling skills, which means we are able to help someone in distress, whether that stems from interpersonal relationships or professional problems. Can you imagine an AI therapist?

Our ability to perform collective intelligence management

Human creativity, especially as it relates to putting individual ideas together to form an innovative new one, gives us a leg up when competing against AI. Humans are able to foster group thought, to manage and channel it, to create something bigger and better than what existed before. Like, when we created AI in the first place.

Our ability to realize new ideas in an organization

Think: Elevator pitch. Humans are masters of marketing new ideas and are completely in-tune with how to propose new concepts to an organization because, you guessed it, we too are human. If the manager remains human in the future (fingers crossed!), then we know what to say to them to best sell our point of view.

Using what we know, it’s essential for almost all of us to retrain for an AI-driven economy that is most likely just a few years away. My advice for my fellow humans? Develop the parts of you that make you human. Practice eye contact and listening. Think about big pictures and the best way to manage others. Sharpen your mind with practicing creative processes. And do stay up to date with current trends in AI tech. Sooner or later, these babies are bound to be your co-workers.

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Opinion Editorials

Questions you wished recruiters would answer

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Job searching is anxiety inducing, and not getting feedback can be tough. What can job seekers, recruiters, and HR do to make it easier?

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Two men interviewing at a table, job searching.

Job searching can be frustrating and stressful – not to mention anxiety-driven – but also sometimes filled with hope and excitement for a new opportunity on the horizon. Most people aren’t huge fans of multiple interviews, constantly selling themselves, or the uncertainty of when an exciting offer will come their way. Here are some considerations to try to put it in to a healthy perspective.

Yes, you will feel stressed and anxious. If you can, allow yourself to accept these feelings as part of your journey in life. Take note of what can you do to move forward, and hopefully it will propel your energy into time and space that is well spent.

Just know that you are not alone on a myriad of questions that no one has really answered for you. That is mostly due to the other side of the table which usually includes Human Resources and a Hiring Manager.

Question: What is the status of my application?

Answer: It really depends. Did you apply online? Is it sitting in an ATS (Applicant Tracking System = software to track job applicants and open job requisitions)? Has anyone looked at it? Have you gone through a recruiter and are waiting to hear back? Have you sent it to a friend or former colleague who works at that institution? Do we know if this position is still open?

Ideas to move forward: If there is anyone you can get in touch with about your application, do it. Send a polite email to them asking if there’s any chance if the position is still open and/or if your application has been reviewed. If there is no one to get in touch with, keep moving forward in your job searching. ATS’s are GREAT for the employer. They help track applicants and scan for keywords. The challenge is they may not be great for the job seeker and might be sitting in a black hole. Consider that 300 job searching applications are sitting there with yours.

It’s not that you are not good enough. And it’s not that you don’t have what it takes. It’s that your resume is combined with a lot of other information and may not even have been reviewed. They may have also filled the position and didn’t take the posting down.

OR, clients change their minds all the time – maybe they are going in a new direction with this role. See if you can find out the status first. And if you can’t, move on. You can learn more about ATS here from Jobscan.

Question: May I have feedback from my interview(s)?

Answer: Most likely, no. They may give you some simple answer “You didn’t quite have the experience they were looking for” or “We’ve hired an internal applicant.” Without getting into too many details and legal guidelines (that I’m not even sure I’m aware of), company representatives often cannot give too much feedback to an interview for fear of being sued. They don’t want to be sued for ageism, sexism, etc. so it’s easier to not give any feedback.

Please excuse the gross oversimplification here, but also think about the company. They may be trying to recruit new employees for 100s of positions. If they interview even 3-5 people per position, they just don’t have the time to give detailed feedback to every interview. Try to think back to a time that maybe you had a crush on someone and or were dating and it just didn’t fit or feel right. Did you want to have to give a detailed explanation or did you just hope you (and they) could move on? Move on if it’s not a right fit. NEXT.

Question: If not a fit for this role, am I fit for other roles within the organization?

Answer: You can certainly ask this if you are given a rejection (and not ghosted). The truth is, the team (or people) you were interviewing with are most likely not concerned with too many other roles in the organization. They may not have been briefed on what others are looking for nor care – going back to the time thing, they just don’t have a lot of it.

However, it could be worth asking on the off-chance that Jim from another department did mention to them he was looking for someone like you. However, if you don’t hear back on that, definitely do not take it personally. They likely have no clue and it may take you applying to another position or another person in your network helping you to identify this other role during the job searching process.

Question: Why did the recruiter ghost me?

Answer: Honestly, I’m sorry that they did. It’s crappy and doesn’t feel good. It’s disrespectful and really doesn’t leave a good impression. I don’t have an excuse for them other than to say that they’re busy working to fill roles. It’s unlikely that they are on a 100% commission basis but if they are, think about how they need to move on to the next thing to keep food on their table. And even though most get paid a decent base salary, each role does lead to commission for them. It is part of their job responsibilities to find and hire the right talent. Recruiters have a lot of metrics they need to hit and they only have so much time in the day like everyone else. They may not have the luxury of time to follow up with every person that is not the right fit.

I still believe they should let you know, but chalk it up as something out of control, do your best to move on.

Request to HR/Recruiters

If there is any way at all that you can make sure you keep in touch with your job searching candidates (even if it’s to say you don’t have new updates), you will really help their anxiety and help them balance timelines and possibly other interviews and offers.

As this article from Evil HR lady shares, if you are unable to give them feedback regarding their rejection for a position, consider offering a couple things you feel they could approve upon. Your advice may not even be job specific but here are some ideas to consider that may be helpful to the job seeker:

  • Make sure you answer the phone with enthusiasm and not sound like I interrupted you or you just woke up.
  • Be sure to do company and role research for every single interview.
  • Dress to impress – even if it’s a virtual interview (and don’t forget to test your camera and audio before).
  • Turn off your phone and IM notifications when interviewing to minimize distractions.
  • Thank you emails or snail mail are still more than welcome and a nice gesture.
  • Google yourself and do a quick look at what a recruiter might see if they Google you – are impressive and professional details coming up? If not, you may want to work on pushing out some thoughtful content.
  • Tread lightly with insincere LinkedIn connection requests.

You cannot control the process so you must hold onto your hope and continue to make efforts. Hopefully this help shares some insights and helps to normalize this process.

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Opinion Editorials

Woman fired for premarital sex, raises questions of company culture

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) This unfortunate circumstance for a former David Ramsey employee has raised the age-old conversation of how to enforce a company culture.

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Company culture being established around a meeting table with dark colored drinks and notebooks.

America, the land of the free, and the opinionated. And in company culture, this is no different.

Over the years the US has grown and changed. A nation that over the centuries formed from the amalgamation of beliefs and cultures. Now let us be frank, there is a majority in certain beliefs and practices. Those groups can also sometimes come with rather large mouth pieces as well, but that isn’t always a bad thing. People’s moral and cultural compasses influence the world around us. Ultimately, we can create cults or communities. We can be harmful or helpful with how we choose to influence those around us.

When you combine that with economics, though, that’s when things can get tricky. The difficulties of mixing the cooperate world with morals and beliefs can get expensive. There are numerous instances of companies being sued for wrongful termination. Currently, Dave Ramsey’s company has recently come into the spotlight due to a lawsuit being filed against them by a disgruntled employee. The company culture has strict rules against certain extracurricular activities. Now usually people would think they would mean recreational drugs, but not in this case. As of March 8th, Ramsey Solutions has reportedly fired 8 employees over the last 5 years for engaging in premarital sex.

Caitlin O’Connor is the latest employee to deal with this situation. Now, while some of us may have seen this company culture and decided to just keep life and work separate, there’s another difficulty here. Ms. O’Connor has recently become pregnant, which leaves no doubt about her outside of work activities. Now there is a number of different emotions that happen here. A woman who is now pregnant is losing her job. This may be a person who has no desire to get married and now she’s thrust into unemployment for doing nothing but enjoying a part of life. It is a frustrating situation to say the least on her side.

In that frustration on the part of Ms. O’Connor, however, there are also similar issues on the part of the company. While they have set up this company culture and laid down rules for all their employees, they now have to uphold and find a replacement for this resource completely unexpectedly. It was not only clearly laid out in their company guidelines that they do not condone this behavior, nor its implications, but Ms. O’Connor openly admitted that she was aware of the implications of her actions as well. This company has built a community with expectations and is willing to uphold them. That is their right.

I remember growing up there was a cake shop in Colorado that refused to create a cake for a gay couple based upon their religious beliefs. It was back in 2012. In 2018 the Supreme Court ruled that the shop had the right to refuse service based on their beliefs, which to be honest was my expectation. However, in the process of this that particular his business has not flourished. Ultimately one has to decide whether they want to follow their beliefs in the face of economic hardship. It’s a true show of faith of course but also, is it practical.

Living your life, your way, is the point of this country. We have to remember to share that space with those who believe differently. Bringing no harm to others is one thing, but can we truly be a common people if we refuse to go outside of our own beliefs and morals?

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