A five-star future

Do ratings and reviews have any meaning in real estate?

It’s a question that comes to mind as I browse Zillow looking at agents in my neighborhood, noting that the agent that sells the most around me has the fewest reviews.

The other thing that jumps out is that nearly every agent has five stars and almost no one has a current local listing.

It’s one of those situations where the real-world, on-the-ground reality doesn’t seem to match what we see online.

This begs another question: if ratings don’t accurately reflect the real world, then what is the point? Why are they important?

The answer is twofold:

1. Digital footprint

The top agent in my neighborhood can still succeed today without a lot of ratings and reviews on Zillow. But at some point, I have to believe this will change – that being there and being bulked up with a high number of ratings and reviews will be, like it or not, a necessary part of her business.

It’s likely that in the future the absence of ratings or reviews will be a red flag, raising questions in a consumer’s mind. Even though many people may still find their Realtor offline by referral, they will still go to the Internet to see what they can find on a person before engaging. We’re trained to do this now with all other things.

Whether or not ratings and reviews have any meaning is irrelevant. The value is in simply having them as part of your digital footprint. Smart agents should prepare for this by soliciting reviews and ratings as much as possible now.

2. Highlighting bad players

Ratings do have some value in spotting bad apples. While they may not help consumers find the best agents, they can work as a sort of middle manager that helps to suss out the bad ones.

Turns out, this is the only real value for ratings in other industries that rely on an independent contractor workforce (e.g., Uber, TaskRabbit, Handy). For instance, when an Uber driver’s ratings drop below a specified level, they are suspended from the platform. Poof.

For years, we’ve heard many in the industry complain about bad agents – those who don’t know what they’re doing and bring down the reputation of the real estate profession as a whole. Perhaps one day soon ratings and reviews will be used to highlight these agents and either force them to do a better job or find another career.

Five little stars

If you’ve ever looked at agent ratings, you see the pattern: pretty much everyone has 4 or 5 stars and glowing reviews.

And that’s exactly the point: In the not-too-distant future every agent is going to need to have public reviews and ratings, and they better be good. Not having them, or having bad ones, isn’t a viable option. It’s already happening in other industries.