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Realtor matching ends – are agents just insecure posers?

Last month, the Houston Association of Realtors was forced to ditch a map-based tool called “Realtor Match” that let consumers see which agents had sold what by ZIP code or neighborhood. Apparently, the realtors cried foul & torpedoed the tool. Why agents get so touchy about having their sales data public is beyond me.

I do have a theory though. Agents are posers. Well, not all of us, but one must admit there is disproportionate level of puffery in our business. Grab any business card and you will most likely see the agents name followed by some important sounding, albeit indefinable, title. And maybe the card will be peppered with equally vague acronyms of accreditations that frankly most people have never even heard of. Granted some realtors have indeed cultivated a niche market and have earned the right to brand themselves accordingly. However, there is just something disingenuous about inserting some abbreviations behind your name on a business card and all of a sudden you are a specialist. Wow, you pay for a weekend course about Luxury Homes, and voila, you’re luxury specialist! (Nevermind the fact that you never sold a house close to a million dollars…I mean, no one is going to ask. It‘s on your business card, so it has to be true, right?)

The same hype goes for agents’ websites & their social media. It’s almost absurd the lengths agents will go to in order to establish their cred. They drop buzz words like top producer, neighborhood expert, green specialist, local native. They post shaky flip-cam videos of their neighborhood attractions (what are we? Tour guides now?!). They regurgitate blog about some real estate article in their local paper. But what kills me is they do all this, without ever mentioning what homes they have sold.

Um, reality check: Realtors sell property. That is our job. Our sales history is probably our best asset to promote ourselves. Numbers don’t lie. One’s track record should speak for itself. If you have nothing to hide, you ought to be proud of your sales. Of the hundreds of websites I’ve perused, I can count on one hand the number of realtors who disclose their hard sales data. (and I am not talking about those agents who post “recent transactions” on their site with homes they sold half a decade ago!)

What happened to a culture of transparency? If you really are a top producer, prove it. If you really are the neighborhood specialist, show us your stats. It ain’t bragging if you can back it up. If you can‘t, then don’t brand yourself as such! Branding means squat (to clients or fellow agents) if you can’t justify it. Otherwise, it just comes off like a bunch of hot air. It’s like boasting on and on to a client about all the fabulous features of a house, but never ever mentioning the price. Your ill-fated attempt at marketing will just look like smoke and mirrors. As they say, too much window dressing is often just an attempt to hide a lackluster product.

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But that’s the rub. My aforementioned theory is that most agents can’t back it up. Or rather, the public persona they are trying so hard to project really isn’t in line with who they really are or what they have really sold. I suspect agents who weave an overly glossy version of themselves and their careers are the ones who decried Realtor Match. (Can we say insecure?). I also suspect agents who are confident with themselves & their careers have no problem with having their sales data aired publicly.

How do you feel about having your sales data posted (like it or not, it will eventually happen)?  What are your theories why Realtor Match was buried shortly after its debut? Are we just posers?

Written By

Watch Real Estate Expert Herman Chan put the REAL back in REALTY. In his show Habitat for Hermanity, Herman skewers the real estate business and pokes fun at his fellow agents, all the while empowering buyers & sellers with behind-the-scene tips & secrets of the industry! Get a glimpse beyond the glitz & glam of real estate. It's a hot mess! Featured on HGTV, House Hunters & other media outlets, Herman is the undisputed Real Estate Maven whose helpful & hilarious commentary you just can't live without! In fact, his real estate TV show has just been optioned in Hollywood!

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Erica Ramus

    August 10, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Well that didn’t take long to torpedo. Folded under the pressure, eh?

    I agree. It is a culture where $98/mo can buy you any cred you want! Check out zillow and their neighborhood expert badge. It’s a paid ad. Anyone can be a branded expert if you cough up the cash.

    • hermanchan.com

      August 10, 2010 at 9:00 pm

      erica, oh my! i haven’t heard of the zillow badge until you mentioned it. wow, so is this where the industry is headed? “pay to play”, not unlike politicians who buy their way into office. hmmm

      this doesn’t sit well with me, but it does seem nowadays “perception is reality” (the new PR). as long as you can make someone believe you are an expert, then you are…truth be damned.

  2. Will

    August 10, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    The problem with such a system is that it torpedoes any “new” agent. It clearly favours the established agent who has spent years building up their territory/team/business. And as we all know, being the most “productive” does not necessarily mean being the best provider. It is a digital version of having the most signs in the neighbourhood. I’d wager that the vast majority of agents visiting agentgenius are the younger, hungrier, proactive, and growing types.

    Such a system sows seeds of doubt in a prospective client from choosing someone who may be a very good fit for them while pointing them towards the establishment. As we all know, the 80/20 (or 90/10) rule says that 80% of the business is done by 20% of the agents. Well, I suspect that the other 80% of the agents didn’t like another advantage being given to the successful 20% and shot it down. And I’d wager that the 20% voted to keep it as it further entrenched their “value”.

    It’s not about posing (despite how hard the industry appears to make it so with their mismanagement). It’s about an unfair system that negated the value of an agent trying to grow their business in the face of an estabilshed colleague.

    If they really want to statistically demonstrate an agent’s value they should do what Redfin does with their agent feedbacks from actual clients. Now that is a site and a metric worth exploring.

    • hermanchan.com

      August 10, 2010 at 8:36 pm

      will , you bring up a great point about feedback from clients. some prospects really do care about testimonials. realtors w/ yelp.com pages leverage that kind of direct public feedback to bolster their reputation too.

      speaking of testimonials on agent’s websites, don’t you find it puzzling when you see an self-described top producing veteran ……with only like 2 testimonials! if i were a client, i would think “what is wrong w/ that picture?”

  3. BawldGuy

    August 10, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Gimme a break.

  4. Dan Connolly

    August 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    I get kind of exasperated with posts like this that make sweeping disparaging statements about Realtors. Painting a picture about Realtors who make stuff up just reinforces a negative stereotype that, in my opinion, is talked about by Realtors way more than by consumers.

    I think it is entirely possible that someone could be fairly new to the business and spend a lot of time studying the active listings and the sales in a neighborhood who could become a neighborhood expert without selling a single house. The could be able to recite from memory the days on market, square footage and sales price of all of the last hundred sales and bring some knowledge and expertise to the table that would allow him to legitimately advertise as a neighborhood expert. They could have taken an appraisal course, a staging course and have enough sense to hire professional photographers. They could have enough common sense to write professional ad copy and enough internet expertise to get it online.

    Raw numbers of how many sales you have doesn’t tell the consumer about ethics, common sense and ability to actually return a phone call in a timely manner that will make the difference in a transaction.

    I don’t think that you really want to promote a system that puts Realtors who have been around for a long time (like me for 24 years) at the top of the suggested list just because they can point to a lot of closed transactions. It should be about individual performance in the present tense. Lots of young hungry agents do a much better job for the client than the old farts who are ready to retire and spend all of their free time at the lake.

    • hermanchan.com

      August 10, 2010 at 10:29 pm

      hey dan!

      don’t get exasperated! a healthy discussion is always a good thing

      “Painting a picture about Realtors who make stuff up just reinforces a negative stereotype that, in my opinion, is talked about by Realtors way more than by consumers.”
      well, i think that is partially my point, consumers don’t talk about it b/c they aren’t made aware of it.

      “I think it is entirely possible that someone could be fairly new to the business and spend a lot of time studying the active listings and the sales in a neighborhood who could become a neighborhood expert without selling a single house. ”
      i wholeheartedly agree. the system has always been slanted to top producers, who have more money, more farms, more contacts, than newbies….but every year, newbies enter the business, and some to great success. remember, even top producers at one point were newbies. everyone starts somewhere. the playing field has never been level, but that is no excuse for someone not to try to join our terrific industry.

      “Raw numbers of how many sales you have doesn’t tell the consumer about ethics, common sense and ability to actually return a phone call in a timely manner that will make the difference in a transaction. ”
      very true dan. but all things equal, wouldn’t it serve the client best if they knew an agent’s track record? ….at the very least in the spirit of transparency. also, ethics, common sense and response time are not mutually exclusive to a great sales record.

      at the end of the day, you are right, it is about the individual. if you are a great agent (new or seasoned), success will find you, regardless of realtor matching or not

  5. teralmc

    August 10, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    I have to agree with Will in that this type of advertisng is not fair to the newer agents who have staying power but haven’t racked up the sales yet. I also believe that there’s a lot of bashing among agents right now primarily because there is not enough selling going on for everyone to stay happy.

    • hermanchan.com

      August 10, 2010 at 10:32 pm

      there will always be a new way of advertising, so realtor matching is just a convenient excuse for some ppl’s lack of success. and you make an excellent point about bashing! there is quite a bit of “hateration”. nothing like a downturn to bring out the worst in ppl. Thank goodness we are all positive

  6. Elaine Reese

    August 10, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    First let me say I agree with Dan regarding trashing the industry. Sales volume can mean nothing as to an agent’s performance. It can also mean nothing as to the income they put in their wallet. Plus, there is the volume of a team of 8-10 agents being compared to a single agent. An agent in a luxury market can sell two homes and have higher volume than one that sells 10 to lower-income buyers. Does that make the luxury agent better?

    My main beef to your proposal is that few other industries publish their sales volume. Have you ever seen an CPA advertise how many tax returns they did? Our volume is like our salary. How many people discuss their salary to the general public? It’s a private matter.

    • hermanchan.com

      August 10, 2010 at 10:17 pm

      hi elaine,
      interesting note about the salary. i hadn’t thought about that angle. would you feel any different if only the addresses were disclosed (and not sales price)?

      either way , i have no qualms about what I earn so i am indifferent. although it might actually help ppl to know what agents make…some ppl have this notion that we are swimming in dough. knowing what agents really take home would really curtail clients demanding rebates and the like.

  7. Bruce Lemieux

    August 10, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    From the consumer’s perspective, it seems to me that providing sales stats would only be a good thing. Right now, it’s impossible for a consumer to find any data to backup an agent’s supposed achievement as a ‘top producer’, ‘top 1% in sales’, etc.

    Publishing these stats wouldn’t necessarily lock-in the high-volume agents. Many of these are actually large teams managed under a single rainmaker. New, on-the-ball agents can develop their expertise, emphasize their association with a good brokerage, and emphasize their exceptional, one-on-one service. As they do more business, their hard work would be rewarded by having more sales.

    The big benefit would be to shine a bright light on the ocean of mediocre agents who don’t do much business and don’t work very hard. These guys would have a lot to lose — and rightly so.

  8. Broker Bryant

    August 10, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Well I like the system. But I can see where it would pose problems. Not only would it harm newer agents but also agents that work on teams where another team members gets all of the credit.

    I’ve been giving potential sellers a list of my solds for many years now. It is a very strong listing technique. Sellers want results. It’s hard for them not to hire you if you just sold 10 houses in their neighbor hood.

  9. Matt Carter

    August 10, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    For the record, HAR pulled the plug on the Realtor Match capabilities that agents were objecting to back in April — just days after the tool was launched (and not in July, as stated above).

    When using HAR.com’s “Find a Realtor” seach tool, consumers can no longer see the number of transactions and listings agents have in a particular ZIP code or neighborhood. Agents can still choose to make MLS data showing their past transactions available on their profile page.

    BTW, you can still take Realtor Match for a test drive and see its full capabilities at a URL that HAR hasn’t publicized: search.har.com/realtormatch/

    • hermanchan.com

      August 10, 2010 at 8:25 pm

      thanks for the correctifying the timeline as well as the shadow URL, matt!

  10. Byron

    August 10, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Great article! I’m enjoying all the comments and different point of views.

  11. Matt Burrus

    August 10, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    As the chief communications officer for HAR, I have very much enjoyed reading all of the comments about the REALTOR Match program, which was developed by HAR through funding from NAR’s Game Changer Awards. As background, the program was vetted through HAR’s Technology Advisory Group and Board of Directors (both 100% member bodies) during a six-month period of research and development.

    One problem with the launch itself is also evident in the comments here–a lack of complete information. The REALTOR Match system was not purely based on MLS sales data. It also incorporated HAR’s Client Experience Rating, which was launched more than one year ago and has since sent out about 50,000 surveys to previous clients, with a 49% response rate. (Someone above said they thought client feedback/ratings should be used–so you can see we agree.) This means that REALTOR Match took into account both quantitative (sales data) and qualitative (rating) aspects of the prior transactions.

    As for the system favoring established, experienced agents, the list of results from the criteria selected by the consumer listed the agent with the most recent sale or listing at the top, with the remainder of the list in reverse chronological order. It was not in order of the most transactions or listings. Granted, an agent would have to have a transaction or listing to be included in the search results, but I very much think there are plenty of other sources for clients aside from this one tool. Referrals from friends, neighbors and co-workers or prior experience with the REALTOR are consistently the number one and two responses in our annual consumer surveys, and they will continue to be the dominant ways people find their REALTOR. I have used my personal REALTOR prior to even joining the staff at HAR. He happens to be one of the top 10 REALTORS in Houston, but even if he wasn’t I would still ask him to help me sell my house or buy a new one because I’ve known him for years and trust him.

    Additionally, with REALTOR Match consumers could select whether they were in the market to buy or sell. This was one of the few times when buyer’s agents were highlighted, as the listing agent usually receives all the exposure. During its brief existence, we had consumers who used the search and specifically didn’t want a REALTOR who had 50 listings because they said they wanted someone with two or three so they would receive more personalized attention. Still others said this program was merely part of their overall search process and would be one factor in their decision about who to choose. Clearly, not everyone wanted the agent who had the most listings or most sales. Others also said they actually wanted someone who wasn’t as experienced (read younger) because they thought they would know more about technology and social media as marketing tools. Everyone seemed to have different ways to view the same list of results. Not all consumers are the same, nor do they act in the same way.

    If any of you attended the Inman News Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco last month, there were several companies that have services just like this one in the works. The question becomes whether REALTORS want consumers going to third parties to search for a REALTOR or would prefer their own association, with pro-REALTOR messaging and pro-REALTOR policies and guidelines to administer it. For the moment, the answer seems clear. When others launch their own programs, we’ll see if the answer doesn’t get a bit hazier.

    Matt Burrus
    Chief Communications Officer
    Houston Association of REALTORS

    • Bruce Lemieux

      August 11, 2010 at 12:41 pm

      I have to say, I’m very impressed that HAR took this on. Adding transparency would ultimately only improve our profession. Knowledgeable, ethical and *professional* agents should not fear something like this. And, if any organization should do this, it’s the local professional Realtor board — not someone else.

      We shouldn’t avoid giving consumers more real information about our performance just because professional organizations representing doctors, etc don’t attempt to do the same. Imagine working in a profession that’s respected for placing the needs of the consumers ahead of everything else.

      I hope that HAR will persevere with this program and ultimately provide a working model for the rest of us.

    • hermanchan.com

      August 11, 2010 at 5:31 pm

      hey chief

      wow, thank you for such a well written post! very informative. Hopefully, agents who read this will finally understand this is not to be feared. embrace the change….b/c like you said, it is going to happen. it can originate from the realtor community or outside source. whether agents admit it or not, the public are starved for this info, especially in this info-hungry internet culture. and some company is going to fulfill this need, so why not let it be us.

  12. Fred Griffin

    August 11, 2010 at 12:37 am

    Herman, you are no stranger to controversy!

    First, about those designations… They make an impression on fellow Real Estate Agents, but John Q. Public is thinking “What is this?”.

    Designations that require actual sales or experience, okay… but the ones that can be obtained by shelling out $345 and sitting through a class for a week or two – so what?

    I know of one designation (tact will not allow me to name it) which implies that Agents are Technology Experts… but get serious! A one week course that implies years of expertise? Uh-uh.

    As far as Solds, etc. – I use personal Testimonials – not purported quotes on my website from “J. Smith, Anytown, USA”, but telephone numbers of satisfied Buyers or Sellers given to new prospective leads. All the letters in the Alphabet cannot top a live recommendation from a happy client.

    • hermanchan.com

      August 11, 2010 at 4:33 am

      “Herman, you are no stranger to controversy! ”

      well, i will take that as a compliment. in fact just last wk someone called me the Kathy Griffin of Real Estate. LOL!

  13. Matt Thomson

    August 11, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Curious as to where Realtor Match’s data came from. In our MLS (NWMLS serving greater Seattle) the selling agent wasn’t even a tracked statistic until June of ’09. Even now, only about 65% of the listing agents enter the selling agent info (the rest just enter the selling office). The listing agent is the only one who can input that.
    I’ve closed $6.2M this year. If you search me on the MLS, though, I’ve only closed $4.8M. I don’t have a problem with my stats being published, but I DO have a problem with inaccurate stats being published about me.

    • hermanchan.com

      August 11, 2010 at 4:31 am

      matt, that is a valid question. i suppose the success of a tool like realtor match really is dependent upon how the data is culled by MLS….

  14. J Philip Faranda

    August 11, 2010 at 3:49 am

    The full Monty is unthinkable to many licensees, and with good reason. The accolades they still trade on from the Reagan administration are past their expiration date. They might be exposed as not being a primary bread winner who is in fact subsidized by their spouse. They might not get as much mileage from tethering themselves to a large office with big producers.

    I’m all for transparency in the results. If I am getting my gall bladder removed, I want to know that the surgeon has done this many times.

    It amazes me that we have the largest trade organization in the USA, yet we still haven’t been able to get the public to ask the question “How many homes like mine have you personally sold in the past 12 months?” What is so unreasonable about that?

  15. Matt Thomson

    August 11, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Another thread I’m surprised hasn’t been brought up. This is in no way unique to our industry. Ford, Chevy, Toyota, and Kia all claim to be America’s #1 selling car company. Crest, Colgate, and Aim all claim to be preferred by more dentists. 6 of 11 HVAC companies in our yellow pages claim to be Gig Harbor’s #1 choice. Countless businesses claim to be the best in the West.
    Claiming to be #1, a top producer, or a specialist isn’t unique to Realtors. It’s up to the consumer to do their research and make the agents prove it.

  16. Anthony Rueda

    August 11, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Like some of the comments stated above, I do believe this kind of data puts a newer agent at a disadvantage and gives experienced agents more of an advantage. I think the general public would like access to realtor statistics, but I think ultimate control of making an individual’s sales statistics public information should be with the individual, not the association.

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