Consumers love to rate the products they’ve bought, the movies they’ve watched, the restaurants they’ve eaten in, even the doctors they’ve visited.

realtor logoThe National Association of Realtors is testing a program that allows homebuyers and sellers to review the real estate agents they’ve worked with. Those reviews would be used internally by companies and could be available to the public as well.

The trade group is piloting a new agent rating initiative called the Realtor Excellence Program, and is hoping individual companies will adopt the program as a way to increase professionalism in the industry while lessening problems that can lead to litigation.

“I’m general counsel,” said Laurie Janik, who is heading up the initiative for the national group. “I’m looking at reducing liability. I want happy sellers and happy buyers.

“Right now we measure agent performance based on how many deals they did,” she added. “But was (the transaction) a train wreck?”

Online reviews aren’t anything new, and consumers have come to read them with more than a grain of salt.

Some online review sites, particularly those with negative opining on service providers like hotels and restaurants, have come under fire because readers are never sure whether a truly dissatisfied customer or just a jealous competitor is penning them.

The Realtors’ organization and Quality Service Certification Inc., the third-party technology company handling the surveys, thinks it has found a way to prevent any “gaming” of the system.

If a realty firm, or an individual agent, decides to participate, QSC will receive all information on closed sales, including contact information of the buyers and sellers.

QSC will then email or mail those customers a survey to fill out that includes 34 data points on topics like the agent’s negotiation skills, how long it took to sell a property and follow-up communication.

A realty company’s executives can then go into a password-protected online system to view returned surveys and see how the company, individual offices and individual agents are performing.

“That’s been a really flawed metric for excellence — how much business do you do,” said Larry Romito, QSC’s chairman and CEO, who recommends that realty firms require all agents to participate.  “We really need a balance of how much business do you do and how do you do it.”

Realty agents, Romito said, will improve the service they offer to customers because they know they’re being reviewed on so many metrics.

In addition to the internal system, agents can opt in to have their personal ratings performance put online for the public at QSC’s consumer website, ratedagent.com. While agents can decide what types of information they want displayed, it’s then all or nothing.

In other words, if agents choose to have customer comments displayed, all of them will be displayed, both good and bad.

Janik thinks the timing of this kind of review process is overdue but she understands the hesitancy of agents to have their reviews made public.

“For many agents, public ratings are like the third rail,” Janik said. “I think agents are scared to death of being rated.”


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