Who’s Really No. 1 in Chicago? A Look at Brokerage and Agent Advertising

by James F. McClister

What Brokerages are Claiming

Chicago plays home to a veritable trove of real estate brokerages, from national companies to local and boutique firms, and each one seems to have its own claim to fame. The only problem: many claims are the same.

With little regulation, several brokerages have grown accustom to bolstering their images with ambiguous declarations of prominence. In Chicago alone, more than five brokerages, all independent from one another, claim to be some variation of No. 1, which begs the very serious question of: How can this even be possible?

The simple answer is perspective; the complicated one spin. Real estate, while hinged on social connections, is an industry swimming in data, and most brokerages, whether big or small, has some access, or potential access, to that information and works to leverage it in their marketing efforts. Even raw, the data, which can include everything from closed transactions to days on the market, represents an immense value to the brokerage that knows how to leverage it. However, many companies go beyond examining the figures for trends and establishing benchmarks, opting to instead take it as an opportunity to add a bit of glamour to their image, often twisting numbers or honing in on one specific statistic to advertise as a sort of unique attribute. You can see how ACME Realty, No. 1 Chicago brokerage, sounds better than the standalone ACME Realty.

Of course, there are brokerages that are careful to bolster claims with citations and facts, making sure that any designation they award themselves with is readily quantifiable. But the practice is hardly universal. Several real estate companies subscribe to a sense of ambiguity that allows them to tout themselves as an “industry leader” or “premier firm,” without the burden of proof. The less specific a brokerage gets, the more leeway they have to say what they’d like, which lends itself to vagaries.

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