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Realtor.com Scraps Agent Matching Service

by Doug Pitorak

News

Realtor.com does not yet have the winning combination for an online ranking platform for real estate agents. Like Redfin and the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) before it, realtor.com  recently stopped its attempt to accurately rank Realtors in a way that appeals to consumers. Still, in a letter to the real estate community in December, realtor.com President Errol Samuelson promised to work with Realtors until a proper, sustainable service is conceived. After all, he wrote in his letter, realtor.com is obligated to assist Realtors in a constantly evolving digital world.

Samuelson’s letter, published Dec. 12, 2013 on realtor.com, announced the conclusion of the AgentMatch experiment, a six-month pilot period for the site’s Realtor ranking system. AgentMatch tested in two markets, Loveland, Colo., and Las Vegas, which started in July 2013.

According to a Dec. 12 report from Inman News, AgentMatch enabled homebuyers to search Realtors by location, and then narrow the results according to the following: the agent’s number of listings; homes recently sold; the average time those homes spent on the market; and the list-to-sale-price ratio.

The inspiration behind AgentMatch comes from realtor.com’s desire to innovate on behalf of real estate professionals, Samuelson wrote. His letter reasserted realtor.com’s belief that more and more homebuyers will choose their agents online. A June 2013 National Association of Realtors (NAR) report supports that idea; according to NAR, the Internet accounts for 90 percent of the information sources used in a home search. Samuelson admitted that referrals are necessary to a Realtor’s business, but added, “in an age of reviews, ratings, big expectations and small attention spans, we wanted to create a service that would place facts, and Realtors, front and center.”

Despite realtor.com’s intentions, however, AgentMatch upset many industry professionals, and after reviewing six months of feedback, realtor.com put the service on hold indefinitely. Similarly, Inman News reported in July 2010 that HAR shutdown its AgentMatch counterpart, Realtor Match, and that Seattle-based online firm Redfin terminated Scouting Reports, a platform similar to AgentMatch, in 2011. After these three attempts fell short of expectations, one might ask, “What went wrong?”

The Big Picture

Much of the feedback Realtors provided about AgentMatch was that its rankings were misleading. Many Realtors believe that AgentMatch relied too heavily on MLS numbers. Some Realtors feared that the overall service an agent provides would not be accounted for; only the numbers would matter to consumers.

Furthermore, as Inman News reported, Realtors believe the rank of an agent who leads a team would be artificial, since many agents might be working under the lead agent’s MLS ID. Not only would the lead agent’s rank be inflated, but the other agents’ hard work would not be reflected in their individual rankings.

David Hanna, who served as president of the Chicago Association of Realtors from 2006 to 2010, told Inman News in Nov. 2013 that AgentMatch fails to capture an agent’s entire body of work.

“I don’t think NAR should do this at all,” Hanna told Inman, adding that NAR should “create and maintain a business environment that we could all work with.”

Another popular complaint made against AgentMatch was that the service presented yet another hurdle for new agents to overcome. That is, if homebuyers became accustomed to selecting Realtors based on their MLS-dependent AgentMatch ranking, new agents with less of a foundation on the MLS would be overlooked too often.

Paul Scheufler, the CEO and managing broker of Expert Realty Services, Inc., told Inman News that AgentMatch’s “emphasis on production” favors the experienced agent. He argued that AgentMatch makes it harder for young, talented Realtors to settle in to an already difficult industry.

“It is tough enough earning a living as a Realtor,” Scheufler said. ”Why would the association that represents us want to make it tougher?”

Realtor.com received negative feedback like this from many Realtors, and the company learned from it, according to Samuelson’s letter. AgentMatch isn’t done for good; Samuelson vowed to keep the service offline until a better program is created with the help of Realtors.

Moving Forward

Samuelson acknowledged the issues with AgentMatch in his letter, and took note of what needs to be changed in the next version of the platform.

He wrote that numbers can indeed be misleading, and realtor.com needs to reconsider the inclusion of numbers such as days on the market and list-price-to-sale-price ratio. He also wrote that a machine cannot compute the match of a Realtor and a client.

“We learned that using an algorithm to match consumers with Realtors is misguided,” Samuelson wrote. “Our next generation of software will eliminate the idea of matching or ranking agents. A computer cannot find the best Realtor for someone, just like a computer cannot place an accurate value on a home.”

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