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Zillow adds Realtor ratings, how will real estate agents react?

Not expected to go live until the morning of December 02 at 9am PST, we noticed that 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, 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.

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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 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.

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AG is not affiliated with any companies mentioned in this article.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Ken Brand

    December 2, 2010 at 7:50 am

    I think the idea of “Ratings” has always been a good one. As a consumer in general, I appreciate reading them when I’m in the research mode for products and services.

    But, I’m disappointed in the fact that a 3rd Party Company is the one leading this initiative. It’s another trust take away from Realtors — meaning consumers have to turn to a provider outside the real estate industry to do their research, which subconsciously, in this case, makes Zillow appear like a welcome watchdog and a consumer advocate, protecting them from dumb ass real estate agents – who happen to send them all their data.

    It’s a smart move, consumers will love it, savvy real estate agents will Raise Their Own Bar and use this new tool to create a competitive advantage. Another benefit, perhaps crappy agents will be outed.

    I believe Zillow gets their data direct from MLSs, I wonder if individual brokers could opt out of having their data fed to Zillow?

    I don’t see how this system would benefit some of the subscription based models where agents run their business with remote-supervision and are encouraged to deliver any level of low-to-whatever service, so long as they don’t kill anyone or break any local and national real estate rules.

    One thing is for sure – The Status Quo Won’t Maintain Your Business. It’s more important that ever to stay close to your network, tribes and niches.

    • Benn Rosales

      December 2, 2010 at 2:05 pm

      I would argue that Zillow, Trulia, et al. are now synonymous with the real estate industry. They are part of the industry. These 3rd parties are 2nd parties in the minds of the consumer, a fixture within a traditional landscape.

      • Ken Brand

        December 2, 2010 at 2:35 pm

        No argument.
        Consumers see them as in the real estate business – big time – which of course they are. The bummer part, which is sorta like whining, is that it’s disappointing that they have been smart enough and entrepreneurial enough to convince the Realtor world to give them our data, so they can sell features back to us, so we can highlight our own data on their websites that only exist because we give them our data. Plus they create a better consumer experience.

        This sorta thing has happened before, it called the RELO business which brokers gladly handed over to third party companies beginning back when so they could get extra business. Back then it only cost 20 or 25%, what the big deal – except now it’s 40%, lump it or leave it. This 3rd party web business is the 2011 and beyond version of taking advantage of less organized, less funded, less motivated, less sophisticated, brokers and brokerages, just like RELO has.

        I’m sure when they figure out a formula that pleases the MLS’s or brokers, some kind of rebate or something, they’ll start selling the leads and asking for referral fees. Why not?

        My 2cents worth of cry baby blather.

  2. Mark Brian

    December 2, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Considering the accuracy of the Zestimate, why should any consumer or agent feel this ranking system is going to be accurate?

    • Rainer

      December 2, 2010 at 5:40 pm

      Most people viewing the Zestimate probably think it’s not accurate, but only because they probably already have an idea of what their home is worth. By and large, people believe user generated ratings once they get over a certain sample size…like between 5-10 ratings.

      I’ve seen stats that Zillow users are above-average in income, and hopefully that means in intelligence. It’s likely they’ll know that ratings will be slightly off with few ratings….it’s the comments about the rating that people will clue into.

      It will be doubly important for Zillow agents to respond to the ratings ASAP.

  3. Gabriel Roebrts

    December 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    This can be a frightening idea for agents, but as you point out, it’s an inevitable addition to the online real estate industry. Also, this applies only to agents with Zillow Profiles, so nobody is being subjected unwittingly to reviews.

    Thanks to the internet and sites like Zillow, buyers are increasingly savvy and empowered. Might as well embrace it right off the bat and encourage your clients to participate, as I suspect most agents will. Thanks for the informative post – love the screenshots!

  4. Rob McCance

    December 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Somebody please just go pull the plug on all the Zillow servers and call it a day already.

    I’m getting so sick of all this third party intrusion into our business. Every angle of it. And now they are going to RATE us. Any agent with a negative rating should sue them.

    And like Brand said – stay close to your tribes. 🙂

    Love THAT!

  5. Dunes

    December 2, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    As if they are actually some sort of “Rating” rather than just another make yourself look good & get leads tool presented to get Agents to use your site….

    How can I get a client to review and rate me?

    There are three easy ways. First, sign into your Zillow account, go to your profile and select “Request a review.” A form will appear where you can ask for reviews three ways:

    o Email individual clients with a link to a review form on Zillow. To streamline this process, you can pre-populate the form with the address of the home you helped them buy or sell, and fill in the service you provided (buyer’s agent, seller’s agent, etc).

    o Email multiple clients using one general form (up to 50 email addresses allowed per day). Each of your clients will get an email from you, with a link to the agent review request form.

    o Send a client a direct link to your review form. Cut and paste the URL that goes directly to a review for you.
    Agent Reviews and Ratings FAQ…

    • Rob McCance

      December 2, 2010 at 3:01 pm

      I know. That’s the FIRST thing I thought when I read that. Just contact you last 25 clients and spike your rating thru the roof.

      Two words:



      How about we “rate” Zillow. Ok: F

    • Ken Brand

      December 2, 2010 at 3:21 pm

      My cry-baby from Ken – Actually, I do think consumers care. We’re living in a trust starved, show-me, don’t tell me world. And ratings work, look at Amazon, etc. Consumers trust them, and even if you get your clients to spike it through the roof, what’s the downside or what’s wrong with that. Should’t every agent have their happy clients write, email or video and letter/note/record of recommendation and satisfaction. Of course they should, even if they have to ask for one. That’s smart business.

      Here’s the cry-baby part, it’s the insidious genius of the thing.

      1. Consumers like and want ratings – The Realtor Community won’t do it well.
      2. Millions turn to TruZillow, etal to search and get their questions answered.
      3. Launch a ratings system. If you don’t play, you look lame and unproductive. Do play and you can leverage your ratings to help you attract and close more business.
      4. The more agents that get rated, along with the other stuff, the more people will visit their site instead of my site or your site. The more you don’t play along, the further behind you might become.

      Damned if you do, damned if you don’t is a pretty good strategy. All the while they get stronger. Genius. I’m only pissed because I can’t figure out how to do it myself.

      In any event, like I said, stay close to you people, or someone or something else will.

      • Rob McCance

        December 2, 2010 at 3:34 pm

        I hear ya but I just don’t participate because at the end of the day, the large national sites are our competition.

        Competing for visitors, registrations and leads. I’m NEVER going to buy leads from any of these sites so I’m not going to fuel them in any way.

        Also, I disagree with the overwhelming sentiment that they are somehow now part of our industry fabric.

        I have little more to go on other than this:

        If you pulled the plug on them tomorrow, there would be ZERO impact to our industry.

        They are adding no real value, critical or otherwise. They are simply one more hand trying to get a piece of the real estate transaction….any way they can.

        If you consider that all things real estate are ultimately paid for out of RE commissions, no matter how far removed, you will get it.

        I say the comms go to the ones who are doing the work, humping around in their cars and making it all happen. And again, it’s all going to happen w/o Trulia trying to scrape off their share for “what they do.”

        Lastly, how have they helped the consumer? Ridiculously inaccurate zestimates? Really poor cludged together IDX data? How does this really improve things for the consumer, or “empower” them as someone else stated?

        A lot of folks give these folks way too much credit. LOL

  6. MH for

    December 2, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    It’s easy to see why agents would be wary, but let’s face it – they really shouldn’t be. People love to rave about good experiences as much and maybe even more than they love to rail against bad ones. Any entry on Yelp will tell you so.

  7. Rob McCance

    December 2, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Oh and watch the Realtors line up in droves to become part of the rating system. NEVER any shortage of that behavior.

    Just like the ones that will ad the zestimates widget to their sites, and the widgets..and….and.

    • Ken Brand

      December 2, 2010 at 3:23 pm

      I hear you man, damned if you do, damned don’t. A sticky wicket.

    • Darrell

      December 2, 2010 at 4:01 pm has widgets?

      • Rob McCance

        December 2, 2010 at 5:17 pm

        They have some little thingy they want Realtors to add to their sites, yes. It’s like a news thing or something. It prominently links back to of course.

        Saw it in Realtor Magazine last issue.

  8. Dunes

    December 2, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    “even if you get your clients to spike it through the roof, what’s the downside or what’s wrong with that.”

    Beyond being the type of person who will game a system to intentionally mislead consumers for business…heck is a person who will mislead people to get business
    (I know it’s just good marketing lol)…Downside?

    Maybe add to the rather large amount of Lack of Credibility Agents already have….Maybe be a little hypocritical with Blogging about integrity and those Agents that give us a bad name and honesty and professionalism and how Zillow sucks..maybe be a BSer when it comes to espousing those ideals/thoughts ?

    Man that really sucks, man that’s really bad yadda yadda yadda,,,,hey I gotta run and get some ….

    • Ken Brand

      December 2, 2010 at 4:30 pm

      What? How is asking your satisfied clients to share the good experience considered “gaming the system”. It’s not gaming (imo), it’s using the system for what it was intended for and what consumers want — which is instead of listening to an agent yammer about how great they are, they’d like to hear what paying clients have to say about an agents performance.

      Now if someone is making up fake names and fake ratings, that’s fraud and gaming the system. Otherwise, it doesn’t give a bad name to agents. More likely consumers think ill of agents who are fearful of having their performance.

      Yeah, I don’t like how 3rd party companies have out smarted some of the industry giants, but to prove my point I’m not going to go on a pointless hunger strike. What I will do is figure out how I can do the best job I can – serving my clients and creating new opportunities to help new clients. Which includes using technologies that consumers want, even when I don’t love it philosophically. Which in my opinion doesn’t make me hypocritical, it makes me client centric and successful – Zillow gets what they want – more content + more eyeballs. The consumer gets what they want – Agent Ratings from a paying past client. I get what I want – A way to showcase that I’m not a Chest Beating, I’m #1, Yammering-Dig-Me agent, I’ll let my clients and their perception of my performance speak for me.

      The end…maybe. Probably not.

      PS. Actually as a sales manager I don’t have any past clients and can’t use the system. But I will encourage our team members to take advantage of opportunities where we find find.

      • Mark Brian

        December 2, 2010 at 4:40 pm

        Ken, Zillow gets what they want but the consumer is only getting what they think is an honest rating system.The Zestimate is regarded by many RE professionals as being inaccurate, so will this rating system IMHO. Sadly, some consumers are unaware of the problems with inaccurate data they find online.

        I am sure right now, somewhere, an agent is creating fake positive reviews for themselves. Just as the inaccuracy of the Zestimate is of no concern for Zillow since they still get the traffic and revenue they want, the inaccuracy of this rating system will also be of no concern to Zillow in my opinion.

        • Ken Brand

          December 2, 2010 at 4:58 pm

          I agree that the Zestimate is more likely way off than close, especially here in the Houston area. And I agree that there will always be gamers and people who abuse a system, which is true for Amazon, Yelp and all manner of online consumer rating systems. Never the less, consumers do want them, they do like them and they want to rate things. It’s not practical and actually adds to consumer distrust (imo) if an industry in general ignores them and basically sez, we aren’t going to empower you, we have people who will game the system. When that happens, 3rd party companies like Zillow, etal will fill the need. And here we are with no industry standard, or alternative for agent ratings.

          I also agree that most for-profit business are most concerned with satisfying their clients. In this case, from what I can see, Zillow attracts lots of viewers, they must like it. So where’s their motivation to improve accuracy? Apparently only a few thousand agents care, the MLS who provide the data don’t care either or they’d do something about it.

          We’re sorta on our own my friend, we’re like guerillas in the real estate jungle, which is way better than a victim running down a dark alley in dangerville.

  9. Texas Land Man

    December 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    People love to bash more than they love to praise. I think its great for the consumer to be as informed and educated as possible, but cluttered and inaccurate zestimates have the potential to confuse the consumer even more to a point where they can’t trust anyone and they lose sight what they want!

    Personal relationships with your clients are as important as ever! And yes, if you are a good realtor push your clients to praise you on whatever platform they wish. Whether you want to play the ‘game’ or not, it doesn’t do any good to sit on the bench. Consumers are wise, aggressive, and won’t settle.

    3rd parties are nuzzling thier way into every industry. It’s the consequence of information overload and the ease of the internet. Stick to your guns and treat your clients right and educate them about the workings of these sites, what these reviews mean or don’t mean, and the best way to be an informed consumer!

  10. Dunes

    December 2, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    The Consumer gets what they want??????????

    au contraire..The Agents & Zillow get what they want, another BS tool to use to fish for leads…

    The Consumer just gets some BS Agent Rating …. that’s not what they want no matter how many times ya say it is…
    They want a Legit Rating system and apparently that’s something the RE Industry in incapable of providing for whatever reason

    And it’s obvious I don’t understand the successful Marketing approach used that has created such a positive image, so much Business activity and Credibility for the RE Industry…I’ll just head back to the couch for more Chips

  11. Kelsey Teel

    December 2, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Wow, good debate going on here…I have to say I agree with Ken’s point of view. Embrace the change or don’t. It’s a personal choice. Zillow made a smart move by filling an empty void in the market and providing consumers with something they want.

  12. Fred Griffin

    December 6, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    Savvy Realtors will quickly learn how to Game the System.

    Will Zillow become the Yelp / BBB of Real Estate, where High Pressure Telephone Solicitors promise a “Better Rating” for spending more $$$ money on Banner Advertising and Listing Upgrades?

    Can Attorneys find an new Niche, representing Realtors in Libel Suits against Zillow?

    It remains to be seen – but the fact that Zillow broke its 2007 promise does not bode well. “You Lie, You Die”. Good luck with this one, Zillow.

  13. Erica Ramus

    December 8, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I have mixed feelings about it. I don’t object to RATINGS per se. But I think it’ll be gamed. For example, the Zillow premier agent status can be bought by anyone — whether you really do serve that zip code or not. All you need is the $$ to spend and the title is yours. The Zillow estimates are wacked and not accurate. What makes anyone think the ratings will reflect the good vs bad agents? I don’t think it’ll happen.

    THe active agents will solicit ratings from clients they know were happy. That is understandable. The ratings will be over rosy. Unhappy clients are not likely (in my opinion) to log in and rate bad agents.

    And the public won’t know the system is flawed or skewed — just like they think zestimates are the word of god.

  14. Erica Ramus

    December 8, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    I have mixed feelings about it. I don’t object to RATINGS per se. But I think it’ll be gamed. For example, the Zillow premier agent status can be bought by anyone — whether you really do serve that zip code or not. All you need is the $$ to spend and the title is yours. The Zillow estimates are wacked and not accurate. What makes anyone think the ratings will reflect the good vs bad agents? I don’t think it’ll happen.

    THe active agents will solicit ratings from clients they know were happy. That is understandable. The ratings will be over rosy. Unhappy clients are not likely (in my opinion) to log in and rate bad agents.

    And the public won’t know the system is flawed or skewed — just like they think zestimates are the word of god.

  15. Jon Kolsky

    April 7, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Zillow needs to fix it’s problem of agent bashing, and unethical behavior.

  16. Jon Kolsky

    April 8, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    This is what goes on inside zillow, it’s what zillow does not want you to Know.

    in zillow By Michael Emery
    Lady Spamalot has returned!
    Looks like Zillow is frying up some Spam for lunch.Anyone wanna piece?

    Oh lordy lordy!An agent of 13 years has posted the question ‘what is a short sale?’ I am so sorely tempted to say ‘oh honey, don’t you know?’This place doesn’t need a moderator, it needs a lion tamer with a whip and a chair.

    Over the weekend I got in a ‘discussion’ with another agent about whether or not their inclusion of a link to their website was informational or spam.I checked tonight and his link has been removed. But I don’t feel like being the cop on the block either. There’s got to be a better system to inform agents as to the proper way to post on Zillow. With the market in a decline, I fear the recent wave of desperate measures from agents is just the beginning.

    I flagged a couple of the phantom postings that were left over from when that broker was shown the door. In some cases his photo floats in space but with no contact information or name. And of course the spam and spamlicious links are still there. Very irritating.

    This whole dustup reminds me of ‘another’ person who reappeared on Zillow today while I was trying to make a living. He had made comments towards me that would stand up in court as libelous. Fortunately I caught them early and was able to get Zillow to remove them. Unfortunately the legal department opted not to bounce this poster from Zillow. It reminds me of the time I was shopping in WallyWorld and I overheard a store manager making disparaging comments to her employees. The comments were so corrosive that I assumed she was kidding. She wasn’t. Fortunately she didn’t last in that store. As professionals, we need to be keenly aware of how the outside public views us and how disrespectful or abusive behavior hurts not just us personally, but the profession as a whole.

    Why in Gods green earth would anyone buy something from Faux Pasadena? I can’t imagine the level of immaturity of someone who comes onto a website, purloins another persons identity and then makes comments that are more appropriate for a 12 year old boy out on the school playground.Whomever you are, knock it off or you will end up selling potato peelers at the state fair.
    January 05
    I think that instead of deleting the comments as whole, they should notate with:These comments were made by john doe123 main streetanytown USA(555) 555-1212If you are going to make childish comments, you should bear the brunt of your actions and not hide like a little girl behind your mothers skirt.And I apologize to those folks who sell potato peelers at state fairs. Even those folks don’t deserve to be associated with such a putz.
    January 05

    I’ve had some rather intelligent conversations with my grey cat. I think I’ve gotten further with her than I have with some folks on Zillow.What’s nice about leaving comments in reference to ‘him’ is I know Zillow will zap all the comments away but my bean counter keeps going up.4890!

    • Michael Emery

      April 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      Dear Jon

      Get a life.

  17. sierragreen

    March 21, 2012 at 3:40 am

    If you think Zillow’s agent reviews are genuine, try posting a negative review about an agent who advertises on Zillow and see where it goes – nowhere!

  18. Outandabout1001

    July 4, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I live in the Huntsville, AL area and I have a realtor that goes off on the deep end to many times but since he is my neighbor I continue to for give him. My property was just shown and the people that were looking said they didn’t like the fish in my backyard pond. My realtor told me to get rid of them. These are kio fish costing a great deal of money. Do I tolerant this.There is NO CONTRACT, NO OFFER and my realtor wants me to get rid of these beautiful fish because of one look that didn’t like them????? What do I do????

  19. Outandabout1001

    July 4, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    But, where else would you go to fined a RATING on a Real Estate Agent?????

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