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Referrals, Realtors and Rating Systems

by Chicago Agent

By Brian Salgado

OVERCOMING NEGATIVE REVIEWS
There are countless websites where users can post their reviews of any business, establishment or service imaginable. But the reason Craig Easly began asking his residential property clients to rate his performances on Angie’s List is the transparency the site offers by not allowing anonymous posts.

“Angie’s List is not anonymous, and that makes it more valuable to its members – knowing that a real person has vouched for a vendor and has attached their name to it,” says Easly, a Realtor with @properties. “Being a customer of Angie’s List, I knew that other customers would be looking for a solid value and excellent service.”

Unlike the Realtor-review section of Zillow and Quality Service Certification (QSC), Angie’s List and its review system is about as close to a personal reference an agent can get online, according to Easly. Since most of his business is based on referrals, it was an easy decision for him to join Angie’s List in 2007.

“I haven’t put as much energy into other rating systems because I run my practice based upon referrals,” he says. “This is as close to a personal referral as I can get.”

To say Easly has had plenty of success through Angie’s List would be an understatement. Ninety percent of reviewers have given him an “A” since 2007. However, not everyone was completely satisfied, and in a business like real estate, an unsatisfied client could shut down a steady stream of revenues.

Easly doesn’t spend much time focusing on the two negative reviews out of a total of 22 posts on his profile on Angie’s List. In the case of the first negative review, a person called for advice, and Easly gave candid responses. The person thanked him, and said they appreciated the time he spent researching their case. Then, the person wrote an inaccurate and, he says, false review on Angie’s List. He posted a response visible to other members laying out the facts of the situation from his position.

With the second negative review, he started the listing process with a seller in December 2009, gave detailed advice for them to prepare their north side condo for the market, and showed competing properties to give a sense for what buyers would see alongside their property. The seller wanted to list for a price much higher than the market suggested, even with identical properties on his street priced at $100,000 below his asking price. Easly said he’d be wasting time at that price and that he owed him his candid opinion supported by clear market data indicating a different price. The seller then sent an angry email, and Easly released him from the listing, absorbing the company’s transaction cost of $350 as a courtesy. The seller wrote a negative review on Angie’s List seven months later, and Easly wrote a rebuttal.

In both instances, Easly posted rebuttals with specifics of each situation, and adds that the negative reviews did not impact his referrals since Angie’s List users typically are savvy enough to sift through all postings to find the right match.

“I can’t think of a more accountable business than real estate,” Easly says. “If you’re not considered capable by someone who’s willing to tell others about you, you’ll have a hard time surviving for a long time in this business. I’ve had the good fortune to have fantastic clients for the past five to six years, entirely through referrals.”

Ready for Ratings
Utilizing the Realtor review portion of Zillow.com has been nothing short of the perfect recruiting tool for Matt Laricy. The broker’s associate, who works at his father’s Americorp Real Estate business, has used Zillow’s rating service since it launched a few years ago. Considering 30 percent of his business is based on referrals, he encourages all of his clients to rate him.

As soon as Zillow announced it was adding a rating system to its website, Laricy says he knew he wanted to be heavily involved with it. By the time the Realtor ratings portion of the site was launched in December 2010, Laricy had 10 clients ready to post their reviews from past transactions.

“Not as many people visit LinkedIn or our own personal websites, but a lot of buyers and sellers go through agents specifically,” Laricy says. “Since they often find those agents on Zillow, I wanted to get as many clients as possible on there.”

The system definitely is working in Laricy’s favor so far. He has been reviewed 29 times and boasts a perfect 5.0 overall rating, along with five stars in the categories of local knowledge, process expertise, responsiveness and negotiation skills.

He also landed the biggest sale in his six-year career through the Zillow rating system. With 20 reviews in place and a perfect rating at the time, a client reached out to Laricy as he was seeking an agent. Laricy ended up making his largest sale to date to that client, and the client since has referred other buyers to Laricy, as well.

“After seeing my page, he said, ‘Why wouldn’t I want to work with you?’” Laricy says.

With so many benefits to his sales numbers, Laricy recommends taking full advantage of Zillow’s rating system to every agent who asks his opinion on the service. The biggest obstacle to overcome, Laricy says, is asking clients to review on the site. It is a small inconvenience for them, according to Laricy, but if they’re happy with the performance, their positive reviews makes it worthwhile.

“You have nothing to lose by asking people to do this for you,” Laricy says. “It might get intimidating to ask them for this because it sounds like a pain. But I am always following up and always saying how much I appreciate that they cared enough to take some time to do it, too.”

He adds he doesn’t offer any incentives for clients to rate him, either, but still, his clients rate and review him. “I assume they review me to help me because they’re satisfied,” he says. “I think I satisfy most people’s needs because I’m the most passionate person about real estate that they meet. If they appreciate how satisfied they are with me, I ask them to give me a second of their day for this because it would really help me out.”

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