Real Estate Agent Ratings—A Bought-Out Market or a Positive Tool?

Real Estate Agent Ratings—A Bought-Out Market or a Positive Tool?

Being a member of Generation Y, I have grown up in a world that has been lead, motivated and held to a higher accountability due to online reviews. In an era that has seen this trend rise and rise and rise, I stumbled upon an article today that made the argument that this online system of judgment has not only plateaued but reached a point where it is counterproductive. “The Agent Ratings Ship Has Sailed” puts forth the following stances:

  • Online reviews have lost credibility.
  • Clients are better finding potential agents by meeting them face-to-face.
  • Since an agent can ‘buy’ a zip code online, the legitimacy of their marketing is weakened.
  • “Real estate and real estate licensing is regulated at the state level. Legislation is easiest and fastest way to raise industry standards.” - See more at:
  • Small business owners are disproportionately hindered by the online review systems.

As a marketing director who monitors, promotes and meticulously advocates for online performance of the agents I stimulate business for, I initially had a very visceral reaction to the above article. As I allowed it to digest, I began to understand where the author is coming from but I am nowhere near buying into the narrative.  I work in the online realm and all its facets and I think I have appropriate counterpoints to add:

  • Online reviews have lost credibility—If you search for anyone, agent or otherwise, online something will come up. This can be anything from an award to an embarrassing newspaper article. As a marketing director, I need to make sure that when my agents have their names typed in, I have some control over what the results to that search are. Reviews are a blessing in this regard. The review resources I run into in the real estate world are those on Trulia, Zillow,, etc… each of these sites have a highly rigorous and semi-lengthy process clients must go through to enter their opinion. This tediousness deters many from doing it and all I can do it encourage—I cannot go out as a fake and submit anything (some social media site do allow to enter a review unverified).

  • Clients are better finding potential agents by meeting them face-to-face—I agree with this 100%, but now that NAR reports that as far as information sources used in home search goes, the internet alone beats out agents in a 90%/87% split ( I want to know that when a potential client gets online, they find my agents rather than start looking for homes on their own. The face-to-face only comes after the hook of online marketing.


  • Since an agent can ‘buy’ a zip code online, the legitimacy of their marketing is weakened. This is true but let us put it in context. Each individual site offers a zip code purchase. These fees run anywhere from $250-up per zip code per site. An agent can buy a code, but that makes them the premier agent for that site alone and many other agents are buying the same zip code through other services. This is just an expansion of putting a business in a phone book—localized marketing. That phonebook is now online.


  • Small business owners are disproportionately hindered by the online review systems—this is perhaps the statement I have the largest disagreement with. Bozeman Montana Real is a local company and we work within in the system of online reviews very well. Not having national corporations and system wide standards, I can see where the reviews are being used and I can personally chase those venues. Bozeman’s Best for example; it is a local compilation of businesses that are known to be the top performers. That list gets out to many local hands online and in hard print. I feel online reviews disproportionality give an advantage to local businesses (or at least for here in Bozeman). Clients are honest and they spread word of mouth anyway—I would much prefer they do it online too.

The review system is a highly valuable resource for real estate venues and beyond. As a young adult, I use online reviews to assist my determination in choosing everything from dental services to coffee shops. When sending referrals to other cities, I use them to find Realtors too.

Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, Tumblr, Blogger, LinkedIn, YouTube, RSS Feeds, Flickr, Twitter, and non-social medial Local Guides—they all are a part of the online footprint an agent can passively allow to be made or actively get out there and control. Please fill in your comments on the issue below!


Comment balloon 13 commentsJenifer Lower • May 14 2013 08:09AM


You know, Jenifer... there is something to be said about the "online reviews", and their negative impact on businesses.  I really believe that we need to get honest testimonials from our past and present clients, and maybe video testimonials.  Let's face it ... the most productive lead is the "referral lead" you have generated while working with the referring party.  Excitement is contagious!

Posted by Dan Hopper, Denver Realtor / Author / Advocate/Short Sale (Keller Williams Realty Downtown LLC) almost 6 years ago

Hi Jenifer,

Your post got me thinking, and I wonder if there is a substantial difference between small markets, such as Bozeman where you live, and large markets, such as metro Phoenix, where I live.

I think online marketing, and keeping your name squeaky-clean online, are both vital to real estate agents, but it is such a quickly-evolving world that its hard to keep on top and know which way to move next. 

Maybe we'll all get some ideas from other commenters.

Posted by Ann Griffin, Realtor, ABR, E-PRO, SRES in Mesa, AZ (Coldwell Banker Trails and Paths Premier Properties) almost 6 years ago

I agree with everything you said Jenifer! The only thing is when I see bogus spamified reviews, it is so frustrating! When I have earned every happy customer and someone else is just fabricating their reviews, it is really not fair! I think it's a great way to share the great service I give and I look at reviews for everything I use/purchase!

Posted by Sinead McAllister, Broker - McAllister Homes Real Estate, Oceanside, (McAllister Homes Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

I've never felt online ratings meant much unless they were done in a filtered manner (so as to prevent non-clients from rating).  While I want my agents to get good ratings, I think it should be done via a platform where the information is controlled.

Posted by Bryan Robertson, Broker, Author, Speaker (Intero Real Estate) almost 6 years ago


So far, no system for agent ratings has been immune from manipulation. Some of the ratings are laughable.


Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) almost 6 years ago

I dislike online "ratings" due to one person who, apparently, went off his medication and said some pretty revolting things . . . and I wasn't even his agent.  Ratings are subjective and I dislike them.

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) almost 6 years ago

I think there are pros and cons to online ratings.  I will read them, however, I rely much more heavily on reading about the individuals and their experience, services etc.  The best referral is one from someone I know.   I am concerned about the effect of 1 bad review which may be totally unfair... and how one can overcome that sort of thing without looking defensive.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) almost 6 years ago

I do ask my clients to post to Trulia, but I was greatly amused to find the first review of a fellow broker to be from her own personal all goes to show everything can be manipulated.

Posted by MaryKay Shumway, Door County Wisconsin's Real Estate Expert (The Kellstrom Ray Agency, Inc. (Est. 1948)) almost 6 years ago

Jennifer - As with everything, there is good and bad in online reviews.  I still think people use them.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) almost 6 years ago

Jennifer- You bring up interesting points. One of the reasons I never trust online reviews is because who takes the time to write reviews? people who are angry..Youmay make 200 people happy andthey will not write a review.. but one person makes a crazy request and your the worst person out there for not doing what they ask..

Posted by Scott Fogleman, New Home Team (New Home Team 804-573-9592) almost 6 years ago

Thank you everyone for your reactions! I agree with the overall sentiment--there are pros and cons to online reviews. I will say that this is a constant in our profession. Even if it is just by word of mouth, those who are negative and vindictive will raise the raucous against an agent for rational and/or irrational reasons. The manipulation of what is out there online is in everything from personal agent profiles all the way through to the review process. The best thing we can do is perform the best we can and provide the resources to clients who are willing go get out there and write a review. Having that ask at the end of a transaction motivates the positive in hopes of mellowing out any of the negative that may come.

Posted by Jenifer Lower, Your Dream. Our Passion. (Bozeman Montana Real Estate .net) almost 6 years ago

Jenifer, personally I don't put much credence in online reviews. There is just too much negativity.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 6 years ago

I feel as though ratings have lost their credibility because most of those sites are taking money from agents to receive their high ratings.  These sites are not a true reflection of how an agent performs, but have become who can pay the most to become the highest ranked agent.

Posted by Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807, Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor (Good Company Real Estate over 5 years ago