Real Estate Agent Reviews: Decoding the Good, the Bad, and the ConfusingLori LovelyHomeLight Blog

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February 27, 2021

You’re selling your home. You need a real estate agent. Whom do you choose? Where do you even start looking? In the social media age, a referral from a trusted friend isn’t enough.

Almost everyone checks them. More than half of Americans who read them say they trust online ratings and reviews, with 84% of them trusting those reviews as much as personal recommendations, especially if there are multiple reviews. Choosing an agent with top reviews is reassuring.

A woman reading real estate agent reviews.
Source: (Surface / Unsplash)

Where to find real estate agent reviews

You’ll want to study online real estate agent reviews, but even then, you need to critically assess the value of the review site and evaluate the merits of the reviews. We tracked down the most popular review sites — here’s what you need to know.

Google

Google Business Profile reviews claim the lion’s share of viewers. 88% of consumers consult Google reviews, with 72% of them confirming that positive Google reviews makes them trust a business more. People check Google for reviews more than any other website. About 74% of businesses have at least one Google review, real estate brokerages included. You can scroll through reviews to spot client comments on the brokerage’s real estate agents for intel.

The downside to Google reviews? Google often fails to spot fake reviews and rarely concedes to remove reported fraudulent reviews. Anyone with an active Google account can post a review, leading to potential for misleading data.

HomeLight

HomeLight agent profiles include client reviews and ratings. When you use HomeLight’s Agent Finder, we won’t match you with agents based solely on reviews, though. Our system crunches transaction data to match you with agents with the strongest sales history, based on factors like their average list-to-sale ratio, days on market, and total transaction volume.

Yelp

Yelp is an established review site for everything, averaging more than 178 million unique visitors each month, second in traffic only to Google. According to an online reviews survey, 45% of consumers check Yelp reviews before patronizing a business. Yelp allows people to customize search terms, so you can find just what you’re looking for. Search for an agent by zip code, neighborhood, or price range. Making the reviews on the site even more valuable, Yelp investigates and removes fraudulent reviews.

Facebook

More than half (53%) of the 7.6 billion people in the world use social media. That amounts to more than 4 billion users; of those users, almost 55% are on Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform that boasts 2.2 billion active users each month. Because of its high membership, Facebook is now #3 in review popularity, with 49% of U.S. internet users visiting the site to check business reviews. Even Google pulls from Facebook reviews.

97% of real estate agents use Facebook to promote their business, so you’re sure to find real estate agent reviews on their pages. One benefit of Facebook reviews is transparency; everyone can see who posted a review, thus lending more credibility and accountability than websites that allow anonymous reviews. Search for a brokerage or an agent by name.

Angie’s List

Once a subscription-only service, Angie’s List is now free – and that may be part of the problem. Although the site claims to vet reviewers by requiring contact information, using intelligent software, and having moderators read all reviews, some users think the site is slipping.

Consumer Reports questions the fairness of Angie’s List for two reasons: Companies can contact the person who left the review, and the companies who run paid ads have far more reviews.

In 2020, HomeAdvisor’s parent company, IAC/InterActiveCorp, acquired Angie’s List. In HomeAdvisor’s business model, service providers pay the company to connect them with homeowners. It’s too early to know how that may impact reviews on Angie’s List, but for now, you can search a real estate agent’s name or plug in your zip code to find agent reviews.

Better Business Bureau

The old stand-by, the BBB remains a reliable source of information about businesses. Although many people think of them only in terms of filing complaints, the BBB features an accreditation system that vets a company, ensuring they operate ethically and with their customers’ best interests.

The BBB awards a letter grade based on several factors, including the company’s complaint history, how they respond to complaints, the truthfulness of their advertising, and their licensing information. A company can earn a high score despite numerous complaints against it if it addresses them quickly.

Compared to the other review websites on our list, the BBB includes the least real estate agent reviews. However, it’s still worth checking in case your agent’s brokerage is listed.

Real estate agents’ websites

It stands to reason that you’ll probably find only positive reviews on an agent’s professional website. While that doesn’t negate those reviews’ credibility, it also doesn’t give a balanced account. Many agents solicit reviews, but only from happy clients.

Brokerages’ websites

More than 90% of real estate firms have a website, but, like an agent’s website, a brokerage’s site is likely to curate reviews, selecting only those that are five-star. You’ll get a more objective picture from third-party review websites.

Making sense of real estate agent reviews

Reviews influence the decisions of 93% of consumers. “People trust online reviews,” says Brenda Bianchi, a top agent who works with 76% more single-family homes than the average Largo agent. “Even if an agent is recommended by a friend, they’ll rely on reviews. A good review makes [an agent appear] more trustworthy.”

But reading reviews won’t be much help if you don’t know how to crack the code or if you’re not digging deep for details, as Bianchi cautions.

Some advice for deciphering reviews:

  • Read between the lines. A reviewer may claim that an agent is nice, Bianchi says, but you need to know more. “Why is the agent good? Do they negotiate well?”
  • Take the extreme reviews with a grain of salt.  Better yet, throw out the best and the worst reviews and concentrate on the mid-range reviews.
  • Quantity counts — the more reviews, the better. There is power in numbers. The more reviews you read about an agent, the more well-rounded understanding you’ll have about their service. About two-thirds of consumers consider online reviews important in their decision-making process.
  • Recent reviews are more relevant. “Look at the dates,” Bianchi advises. An agent may have improved their skills since a client left a bad review years ago. On the other hand, if an agent has only positive reviews, she would be suspicious. “It looks fake; you’re going to have negative reviews.”
  • Look for skills, not stars. Average star ratings provide a general overview of client satisfaction, but written reviews explain the rating, using examples. Details of an agent’s performance enable the next homeowner to make an educated decision.
  • The devil’s in the details. Look for reviews that weigh pros and cons and include specifics.
  • Look for trends. If several reviews comment on the same thing, it sounds like a legitimate issue. On the flip side, if many reviews highlight a positive quality, the agent is likely consistent in that area.
  • Take notice of the tone. Anger, name-calling, and vulgarity signal a case of sour grapes. Spelling counts, too; it indicates whether or not the reviewer took time to write a thorough, well-thought-out review. How (or if) an agent responds to a negative review can also provide some insight into the agent’s problem-solving skills.
  • Prioritize. Look for reviews that comment on aspects that relate to you.
A street where a real estate agent works.
Source: (Tyler Gooding / Unsplash)

What to look for in a real estate agent review

Don’t get distracted by flowery language. There are certain qualities you should seek in a real estate agent. Here are a few things to look for:

Communication

“The biggest complaint [about real estate agents] is lack of communication,” Bianchi says. Communication is vital to the whole process of selling a house, so it’s an important trait. 

Response time

Related to communication, response time might make the difference between scheduling a showing and losing a buyer. A white paper by WAV Group that sampled 384 agents in 11 states indicates that the average response time in 2014 was 917 minutes or 15.29 hours – and 48% of buyer inquiries were never responded to at all! 

Local expertise

Real estate is local. Knowing the local market enables an agent to take advantage of pricing and timing to get the seller the best possible deal. An agent who knows the area like the back of his hand can develop the most effective marketing plan.

Digital marketing skills

Not only is this the digital age, but it’s also a COVID-19 era. Going virtual is becoming second nature. The first step for 43% of home buyers was to look online for available homes for sale.

You want an agent who:

  • Embraces user-friendly apps
  • Runs a popular blog
  • Hosts virtual tours
  • Has a dynamic website
  • Executes eye-catching social media campaigns

Team support

If an agent has a team, find out if you’ll be working directly with the agent or a rotating roster of staff. But don’t shy away from an agent with a team. That extra support helps get your house sold, and, as Bianchi points out, many of the team members may be working behind the scenes on marketing or other tasks.

Are bad reviews ever good?

As Bianchi says, everyone gets bad reviews. If they don’t, it’s a reason for suspicion. A 2017 study revealed that more than 80% of people specifically look for negative reviews and believe that negative reviews prove credibility.

Remember, unhappy clients leave reviews 21% more often than happy clients, so a few negative reviews are to be expected. Don’t worry about a few, but if you see more than a few, it’s cause for concern. 

What’s more indicative than a bad review is how the agent responds to it. A 2018 study shows that 53% of people expect a response to negative reviews within a week, and 45% of them are more likely to do business with a company that responds to negative reviews because it indicates that the business listens to its customers. Furthermore, another study reveals that 33% of Yelp reviewers will improve their review if the business responds within 24 hours.

How an agent responds to negative reviews is critical. Bianchi advises agents to apologize – “even if you’re not wrong.” An agent should address the problem and be cordial. Remember: You can’t please all the people all the time … but you can try, and that’s what counts.

A coffee cup used while reading real estate agent reviews.
Source: (Annie Spratt / Unsplash)

Final advice

Read reviews on multiple platforms to get the best overall picture.

Learn how to spot fake reviews and revenge reviews. Inflammatory language and emotional testimony may indicate a disgruntled client with an ax to grind. Similar wording in reviews on multiple platforms may be a sign of a phony or of a paid review. You can use one of these free apps to identify fake reviews in real-time.

Check out the reviewer: Is she or he affiliated with the brokerage or related to the agent? Objectivity is paramount.

After completing your due diligence in deciphering the online reviews, remember to interview your final candidates to ensure they’re a fit for you.

Header Image Source: (Aleksandra Wantuch / Unsplash)

Find the best sites for real estate agent reviews and learn how to read between the lines to get honest and relevant information.HomeLight Blog

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