Not expected to go live until the morning of December 02 at 9am PST, we noticed that Zillow.com launched their Realtor rating system early at around 10pm PST on December 01. The new ratings system allows consumers to rate and review agents similarly to their Zillow Mortgage Marketplace which launched two years ago and currently has over 6,500 lender ratings. According to Sara Bonert, Director of Brokerage Services at Zillow.com, lenders that have four to five star ratings in the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace recieve double the amount of contacts through the Mortgage Marketplace than lesser ranked lenders.
Currently, agents with active Zillow profiles can be reviewed via web form on Zillow and agents also have the ability to solicit reviews directly from their profile. Realtor ranking criteria include local knowledge, process expertise, responsiveness, and negotiation skills and reviewers must enter their address which only Zillow moderators and the agents see (as a measure of accountability and verification). These criteria were set based on background research, Zillow’s experience with lender ratings and according to Bonert, the Zillow Broker Advisory Board weighed in, recommending criteria that are not subjective (like rating trustworthiness).
When an agent is reviewed, they are notified and Zillow double checks all reviews manually to verify reviews follow their Good Neighbor Policy (as pictured at the bottom of this article). Agents can respond publicly to reviews or flag reviews if they’re not legitimately clients of the reviewed agent.
Screenshots of the new ratings system:
AG study of Realtor sentiment of ratings
This spring, we polled our readers on their feelings on ratings sites and found that 70% of respondents use ratings sites to look into businesses in their daily lives and 89% were already aware that some sites offered the ability to rate agents directly. When asked on a scale of one to five how they felt about consumers rating them with one as the most negative rating, 59% rated their sentiment a one, 25% gave it a rating of two, 17% gave it a rating of three and none gave it a favorable rating.
Although the 25% of respondents who had received a negative web review at some point, most responded professionally and made amends. 89% believed negative reviews online reflect poorly on an agent independent of how they handle (or don’t handle) the situation. On a scale of one to five, only 94% ranked a three or lower regarding not having control over public ratings about themselves.
Rewind to 2007, Zillow says they’ll never rank Realtors…
Although the industry accepts ratings as an inevitability and reveal that they are prepared to respond professionally and to be alert, the sentiment toward the idea of ratings is not favorable. In addition to this finding, we find it interesting that in 2007, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Zillow Rich Barton noted on SeattlePI that, “Zillow is *not* going to have numeric or star-like ratings for agents like Avvo has for lawyers. What we will have is a directory of agents full of great information provided by agents, clients, and associates, that potential clients can use to help them choose the right agent. Already, Zillow has 50,000 agent profiles that are linked to For Sale Listings, Zillow Q&A contributions, picture contributions, EZ Ads, etc. However, we have not built a UI yet to search those 50k profiles. We would be ninnies not to build that, however, and it is being worked on along with a whole host of other fun, useful, and provocative stuff.”
Zillow is not going to have numeroc or star-like ratings for agents? Hmm, I believe that is exactly what they have done. Why the change of tone? Quite possibly the pressure from outside sources, investors and the like and as we’ve been emphasizing for the last year, consumers are demanding the ability to rate and review everything from phones to pets to agents to cities.
How will Realtors and consumers react?
Because the industry sentiment trends negatively toward ratings, and certain local associations have tried ratings systems but seen major backlash from members, we anticipate initial Realtor resentment then eventual acceptance of the inevitability of Zillow ratings and in a year or two you’ll see agents praising them (the predictable cycle of real estate tech startup launches).
Benn Rosales, CEO of AgentGenius.com spoke at the South By Southwest conference this spring and ratings systems were the focus of all in attendance, they were literally salivating over the consumer shift. Consumers are demanding them and will enjoy them but Realtors are leery and many polled indicated they believe most people only review if they are angry or if they are fake.
AG is not affiliated with any companies mentioned in this article.