Are online real estate agent reviews reliable?

Joey & Gerard Virga
Published on January 15, 2018

Are online real estate agent reviews reliable?

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If you’re one of those people who won’t buy a product or use a service until you’ve checked the online reviews, then you are as pleased as we are with the proliferation of review sites.

Do you ever wonder if a lot of the glowingly positive reviews are fake? Hey, we don’t blame you – skepticism is healthy.

And, thankfully, some sites, such as Yelp, have strict policies to ensure that the reviews are from real people who’ve actually used the product or service.

It’s not as easy to find reviews of real estate agents as it is, say, a restaurant, but they’re out there.

And, when it comes to something as complicated as a real estate transaction, it’s only natural to want to learn of others’ experiences with any particular agent.

But, again – are these reviews real?

A Zillow representative says “We do have published rules and guidelines around our reviews. In addition, our general Terms of Use is also applicable.

Having said this, we are certainly very aware of and keep a close eye on techniques used for submitting fake reviews . . . We take this very seriously. . .”

I think it’s safe to say that it would be quite difficult to submit a fake real estate agent review at Zillow.

The search for representation in a real estate transaction is something that shouldn’t be entered into lightly.

Understand that who you decide to hire will be the person/people responsible for steering your transaction to a smooth and lucrative closing.

Choose the wrong agent and you open yourself to stress, aggravation and, possibly, loss of money

So, how do you find the right agent for your needs?  Starting online, looking for social proof, is a good place to start.

So, yes, read the agents’ reviews on Zillow and Yelp, but don’t stop there. Check out agents’ websites, looking for evidence of their expertise and integrity.

I also recommend that when you narrow your choices to at least three agents to interview, that you ask each one for references from past clients.

Insist that you be given phone numbers so that you can call each one and ask the tough questions about the services they received.

Ask the right questions

Determine what type of agent you want to work with – what attributes are important to you.

We’ve found that most of our clients were looking for someone who was responsive – who actually returns their calls, emails and texts within a reasonable amount of time.

They also complained about other agents who didn’t listen to them. Make a list of what’s important to you and use it as you interview agents, looking for cues that they are actually listening to you.

While asking the right questions of the agent is important, listening to the types of questions the agents ask you is equally crucial.

If you are a homebuyer, did he or she inquire about your loan pre-approval status and explain its importance? If you are selling your home, did the agents ask you about your preferred timeline?

Pertinent questions, specific to your transaction, are important signs that you’re interviewing a good agent.

It takes money to make money

I don’t know who first said that “it takes money to make money,” but whoever it was, nailed it. And it is even more important when it comes to selling a home.

Naturally you’ll want to learn all you can about each agent’s marketing plan but it’s even more important to ask about their marketing budgets.

A new or part-time agent may be (but not necessarily) operating on a shoestring and you’ll receive the bare bones in marketing services.

To properly market a home requires pulling out all the stops

It requires a balance of both innovative and tried-and-true tactics.

Since first impressions are critical, the services of a professional photographer and, perhaps a stager are a must. Marketing to multiple platforms is also crucial.

Does each agent you interview have a marketing budget to cover these services or does he or she expect you to pay for them?

Finding the right real estate agent to sell or buy a home may seem like looking for the needle in the proverbial haystack, but it doesn’t have to be.

Choose an agent with good reviews on Yelp, on social media and at the big real estate portals, such as Zillow.

During the interviews, sellers should ask the tough questions about marketing and marketing budgets and remember to pay attention to each agent’s listening skills and the questions they ask you.

But, if you are still skeptical, ask agents you interview to supply you with additional reviews from clients along with phone numbers so you can call them.

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