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If you’re going to judge me, get your facts straight

Who’s Doing the Scoring?

Today Jim Duncan wrote a post on considerations for an agent score card.  It couldn’t have been any better timed for the article that I am writing now.  I completely feel him and would like to see agents more concerned about their standings in the public view.

A few days ago one of my twitter buddies asked if any of us had heard of homethinking.com.  I hadn’t and went to the page.  I found that it’s some sort of database of agents and I have no recall of signing up for the service or being made aware that I was part of it.

Get Your Facts Correct, Please

There have been several great posts written all over the RE.net in regards to online reputation and how important it is and will continue to be.  Therefore, having correct information linked to your name is very important.

Here’s what I found on homethinking.com:

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For those who don’t know, I was a Realtor-Broker until November of 2007 when I became an Education Director at a local Association.  Therefore I haven’t listed or sold real estate in about 10 months.  This webpage has me with a company that I was the Managing Broker for, about three years ago and left to work at another company from then till going to work where I do now.  It also shows that I have only sold 4 homes and that I have active listings, totally 42.  That basically makes me look like I couldn’t sell free bottled water to people eating dirt in the desert.

Does it Matter?

In this case I think it’s irrelevant what homethinking has in their database, because I am not actively practicing, it took forever to find my information and I don’t think anyone is using the service.  However, if they were it’s interesting that my wife, who is a Realtor can’t be found in the database.

I am in a unique position in this regard.  However, if I were still practicing and found that I lost a listing, because this inaccurate information makes it appear that I only sell about 10% of my inventory and that I just may have too many listings to properly care for, I would pretty sure to take action to recover that lost income.

What’s the Take-away?

If and when an Agent database site is setup, hopefully it will be a wiki site like, www.FranklyMLS.com that will allow agents to “defend” the information about them online.  I hope that there will be a live chat to the host of the website to get immediate opportunities to correct bad information and I think these sites should be required to disclose the source of their information.

I’d say that all agents should rountly Google themselves or Searchme.com, however even Googling this particular company and my name doesn’t come up.  So, keep a diligent eye out and if it matters to you (it should) take action to get correct information.

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Written By

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is TheAgentTrainer.com.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. In Honor of Sheila Lublin

    August 9, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Matthew – I’m one of those that really believes in “reputation management”, especially after falling victim to a malicious competitor. When I visited homethinking, I totally lost my patience after the 20th page of Miami Realtors and now know that it cannot be a relevant search. There is no way to search for a name and the agents are in no particular order – very disorganized if you ask me.

    I wonder if someone can come here and tell us more about this particular site

  2. ines

    August 9, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    That was me btw – just forgot to change my name from yesterday!

  3. The Harriman Team

    August 9, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Matt, you got us wondering if we’re on that site, too, so I took a look and sure enough, we’re listed not once, but several times, under different cities. If that wasn’t enough, we’re listed together (as Pat AND Wayne AND Harriman!) and Pat is also listed by herself. The clincher is, under her solo listing, Pat only has 4 houses listed, but under the dual listing, we have 11 houses listed. And all of those houses were either sold or removed from the market months ago! If this site is using an MLS feed, it MUST be being transmitted via carrier pigeon or pony express. If it was current, they would see that we have 8 listings and 2 pending, and none of them are on Homethinking’s list. I, too, would like to know where they get this info and will be clicking the contact link on their site to see WTF is up. Their HQ is in Manhattan on 65 West Broadway. If you’d like to email them, try feedback@homethinking.com. They should also probably remove the “thinking” from their name; this idea doesn’t appear to be too well though out.

  4. The Harriman Team

    August 9, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Ines, actually you can search for agents by name…kinda. If you look under Miami and then over to the left you’ll see a box that says, “Narrow Your Search”. The third link down is “Last Name Starting With”. If you click that and choose H, you’re #7 on page 4 of the agent listings. So, you’re only searching by the first letter of your last name, but it beats going through all 21,000+ agents in Miami. Hardly an intuitive search, and I would be surprised if anyone went here to find an agent, despite their having a PR5. A very maddening, shoddy, user-unfriendly site, indeed.

    Oh, and congrats on your 21 listings!

  5. The Harriman Team

    August 9, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Update: from their Terms of Service:

    “The information provided on the Site (“Content”) is generated by an automated search of structured and unstructured information sources on the internet and is not warranted in anyway as to its accuracy. It is the responsibility of the user to verify actual real estate information as the sources that Homethinking LLC searches may or not be accurate.”

    Structured and unstructured? In other words, we get it wherever we can find it and we have no idea if it’s right or not. Plus, the CONSUMER is responsible for verifying the accuracy of the information, not us. How convenient. They probably scrape the info off various sites and throw it up on their site just to say they are providing the consumer with a “decision making resource” with as little legitimate research as possible. Well, I’ve emailed them to either correct our info or remove it, so I’ll let you know what happens.

  6. Ines

    August 9, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    I guess you had more patience than me – I was looking for Rick under “G” and quit after the 6th page. I’m under the wrong brokerage, most of those listings have already sold and some are incorrect and my last sale was in 2006 according to their system……OUCH!!! I believe I rather they remove me from there rather than have the wrong info….that’s disheartening to say the least.

    To think we need to police these systems is absolutely ridiculous – Now let’s think of how many systems are out there that have inaccurate information (shaking head)

  7. Jay Thompson

    August 9, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    “Hardly an intuitive search, and I would be surprised if anyone went here to find an agent, despite their having a PR5.”

    Google PR has absolutely nothing to do with the quality or usefulness of a web site. And homestinking.com is a perfect example of that.

    What a completely useless waste of space.

    “Well, I’ve emailed them to either correct our info or remove it, so I’ll let you know what happens.”

    I hope you’re not holding your breath Wayne. I like ya and don’t want to see you keeling over!

  8. The Harriman Team

    August 9, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    @Ines: Not so much patience as determination. I know there are a bunch of sites like this out there with inaccurate info, not so much listings as agency info. Quite a few that pull info off the web have us listed under our last agency, which was back in 2006. Some of them you can actually go in and change, others you can’t. The common factor in most of them is that the agents in the directory almost never asked to be listed, the site just took it upon themselves to perform a “public service” and pull all the agents they could find into one database, without verifying info.

    @Jay: Not to worry, Jay. I’m not so naive to think they’ll actually Do anything. Their TOS pretty much says “What You See Is What You Get and There’s Not A Damn Thing You Can Do About It..Except Not Use The Site…So There!” So there will be no gratuitous breath-holding here, unless they actually DO do something, at which point I’ll probably pass out anyway. But if I were a betting man, and I am, I’d give odds that nothing will change.

  9. Matt Thomson

    August 9, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Dang, I’m only selling 2 houses at the moment. Guess I better tell my other sellers.

  10. Vicki Moore

    August 9, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    I’m not a realtor. So sad.

  11. Mike Taylor

    August 10, 2008 at 4:54 am

    The point is made about monitoring you online reputation, however I don’t think we need to be too concerned about this particular site. it is not user friendly or accurate…I don’t think anyone will be raving about this anytime soon.

  12. Matthew Rathbun

    August 10, 2008 at 6:16 am

    Vicki – No, you’re not a Realtor – You’re a REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONAL 🙂 Don’t be too distraught, I went thru a number of pages on this site and found that a lot of these agents who are listed, have surrendered their licenses.

    Wayne / Ines – I don’t think we can police every single site and I think it’s best to fight the battles that matter. If it ain’t found on Google, does it really matter? (Yeah, I know it does but for today I am taking a laid back approach. I honestly have bigger battles to fight.

    Mike – I completely agree that “currently” this site isn’t an issue. However, it has made me more diligent to peak in on sites that have listed my information…

    Jay – I looked at the PR 5 rating too, but think about this. If you dig through the site, there are references of data searchs on Trulia, Homegain, cyberhomes, loan.com, etc… They also have agents who have setup profiles with links to their sites. I think that’s where their PR rating comes from, but I think it interesting that even searching their name and an agents name doesn’t yield homethiking.com. A matter of fact, if I search “homethinking rathbun” this very AG post comes up as #3, and there are two agents before me that have profiles on HT, but HT itself and they entry they have for me is no where to be found. Very curious….

  13. Jennifer in Louisville

    August 10, 2008 at 6:46 am

    “makes me look like I couldn’t sell free bottled water to people eating dirt in the desert.” <–LOL

    Thats a great line. 🙂

    Does online reputation matter? Sure, absolutely. But on sites like that with grossly inaccurate information, I just don’t see it becoming a popular tool/resource for the consumer. So, if its not likely to be easily found, I just don’t sweat it.

  14. Brad Nix

    August 10, 2008 at 7:56 am

    What about new agents just entering into the profession? It seems to me a baseball card stats site would discourage buyers and sellers from using new agents. This would in turn discourage people from getting their license and ultimately hurt the industry from attracting smart and successful agents.

  15. Kris Berg

    August 10, 2008 at 8:18 am

    I don’t exist. 🙁

  16. The Harriman Team

    August 10, 2008 at 9:05 am

    I also Googled the site and my results were similar to Matthew’s , but I also found this interesting interview that Joel Burslem did at his FOREM blog back in ’06 with the founder of Homethinking.com, Niki Scevak. Some of the highlights:

    1) Site was inspired by the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross”
    2) Reaction from consumers and agents has been overwhelmingly positive
    3) They consider HouseValues to be their direct competitor
    4) “agents are able to be placed in the top three sponsored listings of a particular geography and only pay if a home owner contacts them via the phone or email”. Pay?? I saw no indication that this was a lead generating site…did I miss something??
    5) “A man’s home is his castle” is apparently a saying of Australian descent

    Well, you should just read the interview, I’m sure you’ll find it revealing. On the other hand, there’s an earlier interview that Emily Chang at eHub did in Feb ’06. I find it interesting that in this interview Scevak said the inspiration for the site was a book called “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis, not Glengarry Glen Ross.

    Lastly, there’s an entry at Trulia blogs with a link to a video interview done at the ’07 Inman Connect. There’s a comment left by Bill J. that is rather interesting. If you can’t see the video, it’s also on YouTube here. It’s a hoot.

    Once you’ve gone through all this, check out their new offering for mortgages at http://www.mortgage.homethinking.com. It looks like it does for mortgage info what their main site does for Realtors: it uses outdated data to give users a skewed outlook. Well, at least they’re consistent. I know, this is probably much ado about nothing, but I just had to dig a little deeper. Sorry.

  17. Jonathan Dalton

    August 10, 2008 at 9:56 am

    If I do exist, I can’t find it … and it’s getting too tedious to keep looking. You’re in good company, Mrs. Berg.

  18. Larry Yatkowsky

    August 10, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    This one makes me cranky……………..

    Harriman et al, it is not much ado about nothing. In fact it is much to do about everythin. It’s your business, personal reputation and your life. Quite frankly I think databases like this are BS and tantamount to painting a cross on your door?

    Maybe it’s a Canadian sense of privacy thing but this just over the top. It is a superious database that does more people more harm than good if there is any good to it at all. This type of information strikes me as being so wrong on so many levels. From the first blush it seems you’ll be spending more time defending yourself than doing business or having a life. With databases like this creates a paranoia where every step you take is one of fear and constantly looking over your shoulder.

    What’s next? Do we need to know how often you take your dog for a walk and whether you pick up the poop. Worse, do we need to know how many people you dated and what your is “I got lucky ratio”? Does this trash ever stop?

    At the least why is there no OPT OUT? More preferably, why is there no OPT IN. Who are these people to presume on your good will. Isn’t your right to privacy just as signficant as the right to the publication of this information?

    Are we to begin conducting business like book authors and use psuedonyms to protect our privacy or can we just sign the agreements as Mr. Anonymous aka Tom Jones aka Bill Smith.

  19. Matt Wilkins

    August 10, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    I gave up on finding my name in the database. However, this site brings up a very disturbing trend I have been finding. More and more clients are using the intenret to find a large bulk of their infomration (both right and wrong) before contacting a real estate professional.

    I have pretty much quit using any leads generation sites as many of them are starting to lure leads using false infomration. I also find myself spending much of my time when working with new prospects explaining the reality of the real estate market and processes as they have many times have been painted a different pictures by various sites. Personally if after a few minutes or a few emails if they still feel that their research is correct communications are normally mutually terminated and they normally find another RE professional who will just nod their head in hopes of a sale.

  20. ines

    August 11, 2008 at 8:30 am

    Check this out – our names were removed and I received an e-mail saying:

    Many thanks for your email Ines. We’ve now removed your and Enrique’s profile from the site. If there is anything else I can do to help, just let me know.

  21. Matthew Rathbun

    August 11, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Ines,

    I got almost the exact same response, except my wife’s name isn’t Enrique 🙂 I was happy to see that they were responsive.

  22. ines

    August 11, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Matthew, I don’t know if I’m happier because they removed my name or because your wife’s name is not “Enrique” 😀

  23. The Harriman Team

    August 11, 2008 at 9:54 am

    I also received a response from the founder, Niki Scevak first thing this morning. His email stated that we could log in and change any information in our profile we wished (which is not quite true). I did not recall ever creating an account here, so I tried logging in with all the various permutations of log-in info I could think of that may have been used, and it seems my lovely wife had created a profile a year ago using her email address (I’ll have to talk to her about that…). Once logged in I clicked the Profile tab which brought up a screen where you can, indeed, change your contact info, brokerage and other info. There are some things, however, that you cannot do unless you are a paid subscriber to the service, like adding your photo or a bio. It turns out that Homethinking is a lead generating site that costs $49 per month in order to receive leads. There is a 30 day free trial of the service, but of course you have to enter a credit card to sign up for the trial, something I’m not about to do. You can delete any listings from your profile that are incorrect and add in ones you currently have listed. This would probably be a tedious process if you had a lot of transactions, and I might have considered doing it if we could receive the leads without signing up, but since we can’t there’s not much sense in leaving this info out there to possibly come back to bite us later. I will be asking them to remove our profile as well.

  24. Holly White

    August 11, 2008 at 10:16 am

    I don’t exist either Kris. What a pathetic site and complete waste of time. Good grief. If an entity could come up with a concise and accurate site for reviewing agents, I would be all about it. The idea about a wiki type sounds good though Matthew.

  25. The Harriman Team

    August 11, 2008 at 10:28 am

    We have already been removed from the site, 17 minutes after I sent the request. They are responsive, I’ll give them that much.

  26. Todd

    August 11, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Should we actually be aiming the blame at the National Association of Realtors? They do not provide any means to manage your professional reputation, so companies like this fill the void.

    If it helps, managing one’s online reputation is a white hot subject for everyone, not just real estate agents. Here’s an Information Week article from last year that goes over the basics:

    https://www.informationweek.com/shared/printableArticle.jhtml?articleID=199900170

  27. Matthew Rathbun

    August 11, 2008 at 11:17 am

    “Should we actually be aiming the blame at the National Association of Realtors?” – No

    NAR shouldn’t be tasked with the agents responsibility to maintain their own profiles. Should NAR be tasked with investigating gossipers in your office?

    If members would like NAR to manage this issue, what tools other than Google would they use? No one can put out every fire on the internet. It’s too vast. If the federal government can’t stop software piracy on Limewire and from Torrents, how can anyone else act on all these small startup sites?

    I think I understand you question. I think that NAR should help bring more awareness to the issue and perhaps offer training tools, but I wouldn’t want my dues dollars going to pay investigators to check the validity of every website with information about 1.2 million Realtors.

  28. Candy Lynn

    August 12, 2008 at 9:20 am

    I’m with the wrong firm – in wrong location. A few are current listings & a few are OLD. Emailing asking to be removed. “garbage in – garbage out”. Bad, incorrect information is worse than NO information!

  29. Candy Lynn

    August 12, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Here is the removal email I sent:
    Please remove me from your data base.
    Your information is:
    1. Out of date
    2. Has me with wrong firm
    3. Location incorrect
    Incorrect information is damaging to the real estate business.
    I suggest you either verify your information or change your tag line from “Homethinking: make better decisions” to something that better reflects the accuracy of your information. You are misleading the public with this website.
    Also the bottom tag line: “REALTOR is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics” implies that you are approved by NAR.
    https://www.homethinking.com/1781033-Candy-Lynn-Valley-Of-Virginia-Realty.html

    Thank you for your prompt response.

  30. Paul Francis, CRS

    August 17, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Thanks for the heads up on this new site.. I played around on it to see the purpose of it’s creation (to make money obviously), the method being used (uploading a bunch of questionable information from Somewhere?? hmm..I’m on a team for example and I see teams with 15 agents under one name, etc..) and contemplated what the big business plan is to try to gain an understanding of what direction the creators have planned..

    The site is obviously new and the creators have come up with a way to stroke the Real Estate agents ego (get the information correct as you’ve clearly pointed out), want them to update the information and add some promotional text to let everybody know how great they are (free 30 day trial — $49 a month afterwards) and use it to attempt to provide something that any consumer would want… a ranking service. A consumer reports tailored to the real estate industry for example..

    Next will probably come some testimonials on how great the service is for the couple of agents already on there sponsoring placement (right at the top of the page with an easy contact button for the consumer to click). Along with some widget for those not so bright with egos to link back to their profile. (Link to the site with some “Featured on blah, blah, blah” widget.)

    And then… Money made will be used to further promote the site… and more traffic.. and higher subscription rates. Or.. partnerships with third party listing sites that are already on the site in question.. (WATCH OUT.)

    Just because the current PR is not that high or the site is not too easy to pick up in the SE’s right now.. does not mean it has no future capability. (Sorry — I always get a good laugh from “experts” who comment on this like a site starts with a PR 5 or something and it’s not worth considering until it does…)

    Trulia Widgets and the recent attention they got after they started showing up in key rankings is a perfect example of this. Their tactics were put in place well over a year before anything was even mentioned about it on the significant sites.

    …. In other words, somebody put a lot of time and data on this site in question so I would not be blowing it off.. (And for the record.. I’m not a fan of it because I see the intention.)

  31. Paul Francis, CRS

    August 17, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Oops… did not see the linking part so I thought I would throw it in:

    “We appreciate that you are considering linking to us. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us at anytime. That said, you don’t need permission from us to link to our pages but here are a few suggestions to get your mind started.”

    How nice of them 🙂

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