Just as you can friend, pwn and otherwise TILII online when it comes to restaurants, travel accommodations, movies and other services and goods, you can also get up in the grill of real estate agents.
Zillow's new Zillow Directory follows in the footsteps of IncredibleAgents.com, RealEstateRatingz.com and a host of other local and national web sites that let you give your friendly neighborhood real estate agent a positive, negative or middle-of-the-road shout out.
Late last year, Zillow began collecting ratings and reviews from buyers and sellers who use Zillow registered agents and weeks ago rolled out the reviews for everyone to see.
The service allows consumers to search for real estate agents, compare ratings and find agents who can be a BFF, or not, based on their competency -- or lack thereof.
Zillow was created to help people make smarter real estate decisions, and choosing an agent is one of the most important decisions a buyer or seller can make, said Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff. Agent Reviews are another huge step towards transparency for buyers and sellers. For good agents, it's a terrific way to stand out from the crowd – the next best thing to a referral, he added.
Agents rated poorly may not want to stand out so much. Web sites have been criticized, even sued by providers of goods and services who've been given negative reviews online. That's because a given consumer's review is merely subjective opinion rather than carefully researched and reported objective news. Too many online visitors too often read opinions as if they were facts. The potential for libelous comments ruining someone's reputation is also always a concern.
Zillow Directory users get search results sorted by local agents with the highest overall ratings and greatest number of reviews.
Overall ratings are based on a consumer's likelihood to recommend, running on scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being very likely and 1 very unlikely.
Consumers can compare real estate agents' overall ratings, as well as ratings across several categories of service including: process expertise, local knowledge, responsiveness and negotiation skills.
Along with ratings, qualitative reviews further help consumers understand a former client's experience with that agent, Zillow says.
Home Base, a publication of the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance and the American Homeowners Foundation, has already given Zillow's new rating service a favorable review.
Zillow is a welcome new addition (to the genre) because it is a very popular real estate website. Over 13 million people visit Zillow each month, so its inventory of consumer reviews is likely to catch up with its peers quickly, according to Home Base.
Home Base cautioned that Zillow's raters often vary widely on how they rate a given agent, reflecting differences in both expectations and experiences. Likewise real estate agents vary widely in experience, knowledge, training and commitment.
Like everybody else, some are stronger in some areas that others. If negotiation isn't your strong suit, it's wise to hook up with an agent who has received high marks in that area from former clients, according to Home Base.
Because of the differences in both the raters' experience and real estate agents skills, consumers should spend some time using, not one, but several online rating services to seek a host of ratings for a given agent, whenever possible.