Commentary • February 21, 2024

How Online Reviews Have Impacted Real Estate Agents

Back in 2009, I was approached by Redfin to help them enter the Westchester real estate market as a referral partner. They did not have employee agents here, so referring clientele to other brokerages would be a win/win arrangement to start. I was eager for any new source of business, and took a closer look. Part of their vetting process was to survey my past clients, which was fine, but to also publish my client’s reviews online.

My reviews were very nice, which was gratifying, and for the few years I acted as a Redfin referral partner agent I compiled more good ratings. It was all within their ecosystem, and while it was a tiny bit nerve wracking to wait for the responses, they were all positive.

Enter Zillow.

In late 2010, Zillow announced their own agent review platform, and it was different. Unlike Redfin, which surveyed their own clients’ transactions, Zillow’s reviews would be open to anyone. This concerned me. I wrote in the linked post a worry that the integrity of the reviews could be compromised by competitors and people gaming the system with bogus reviews, among other things.

Well, Zillow did the right thing and ensured that controls would be in place to prevent fraud. And here we are 13 years later and agent reviews are ubiquitous- Zillow, Google my Business, Facebook, and Yelp, to name the most recognizable names. These days we train our agents to get as many reviews as possible. How far we’ve come from the time when 20 reviews was considered a high amount, and my Zillow profile just got my 400th review.

The public now expects reviews for agent just as they do on Amazon products, Uber drivers, or restaurants. Looking back, I think the angst was more about the pain of change than worries that we’d get bad reviews. Real estate is a funny business- anytime transparency is introduced, the address, price or marketing history, and these days the agent commission, people worry that we’ll lose our value proposition. But we’ve never been good gate keepers, and more people use agents to represent them than before the Internet became prominent. The truth has never been our enemy.