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Should agents be graded?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis March 20, 2013 07:02 AM

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Well why in the world not? Why shouldn't real estate agents be graded online, with ratings and comments, caustic as well as glowing, for all to see?

After all, this is a business with a low barrier to entry, with some really skilled professionals getting lots of business supported by a small army of the less successful, committed and competent.

It's a glaring need in the market, but filling it has not been easy given a strong push back by the real estate industry.

Redfin was forced to ditch its Scouting Report after various MLS systems refused to let it access data for its ratings.

Even Google-backed Homelight, a start-up which simply tries to play matchmaker between buyers and agents, has run into a similar problem.

Now along comes the National Association of Realtors, which is planning to offer its own ratings survey.

How interesting!

Now if you are not at least a little suspicious, well I then I don't really know what to say to you then.

An NAR subsidiary is running the whole effort, relying on questions sent to past home buyers and sellers an agent has worked with, Inman News reports.

Clients will be quizzed on an agent's haggling and communication skills, as well as how long it took to sell their home, the real estate news service reports.

The big catch is that whole thing is voluntary and agents who take part don't have to reveal any of the findings to the public. They can also keep comments private, though it's an all or nothing proposition - you can't cherry pick.

It's not hard to see how the only thing the public will ever see is glowing reviews of seemingly dedicated real estate professionals.

But in fact the service is being pitched more as a business enhancement tool than as an aid to consumers. Basically, it is being sold as a way for brokerages to keep tabs on how agents are performing in the field and exerting some effort at quality control.

And better service equals fewer lawsuits and lower insurance premiums!

Here's how Inman News decribes it:

If a broker with several hundred agents has access to survey data, they'll be able to get a handle on which agents are falling short on customer service -- and what kind of issues they need to concentrate on, Janik said.

"Even if someone's a top producer, if they're not providing the kind of service I (the broker) want to provide, I can provide training that's tailored to the confidential feedback" from client surveys.

That agents also have the option of making survey data available to the public is an additional bonus, Janik said. But NAR sees the main benefit of the Realtor Excellence Program is its potential to raise the level of competency and professionalism. Boosting customer satisfaction could not only heighten the public's perceptions of Realtors, but reduce the number of lawsuits filed against agents and their brokers.

That could not only reduce the legal liabilities of agents and brokers, but might even translate into lower premiums for "errors and omissions" (E and O) insurance policies.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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