AgentMatch, the new offering from realtor.com, has agents in a tailspin thanks to realtor.com’s close ties to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In a beta testing phase now, and only available to limited markets, the system uses data, not word-of-mouth, to recommend agents to home sellers. The product is decidedly for the customer, and agents are in an outcry that the service will hurt, more than help, their real estate businesses. Has NAR betrayed agents with AgentMatch?
NAR owns the realtor.com website and “Realtor” trademark, and licenses both exclusively to Move Inc. (a company in which NAR is a minority stakeholder), under the terms of a 17-year old operating agreement. Many agents are now questioning why NAR would support this move by realtor.com when the end result is not in their best interests. NAR’s official mission is to “help its members become more profitable and successful,” after all. Giving certain agents a potentially unfair advantage does not fit that mission.
AgentMatch is a consumer focused website that allows home sellers to search for creditable agents in their area, based on MLS data. The system begins by asking the user to enter their home address. Using this address, it compiles a list of all real estate agents in the area.
It then analyzes the number of homes currently for sale, each agent’s average sold to list price, the number of homes each agent has sold, and each agent’s average days on market for the past six months. Using these statistics, AgentMatch presents the active selling agents in a home seller’s area, providing a view into the details and past recommendations, which realtor.com says will “help you choose the agent that’s right for you.”
NAR’s stakeholder relationship and close ties with Move have left many agents with a bad taste in their mouths, and the belief NAR is condoning a service that will negatively impact their ability to do business and attract sellers. Real estate, after all, has long been a business about relationships, not statistics. And the qualitative data provided by AgentMatch is said to be restrictive and unable to provide the full picture of an agent or account for high quality agents who are new to an area or the field of real estate. What’s more, the system favors agents who work as teams.
“Ranking purely by production alone doesn’t come close to reflecting the professionalism and level of customer service an agent provides. Our agents are in a customer service business. No other service industry is rated on numbers alone,” says Keller Williams President Mary Tennant, who has been vocal in her opposition of the experimental agent ranking platform.
This isn’t the first time an MLS-powered agent ranking system has been launched. Redfin, a Seattle-based brokerage firm, put the brakes on its attempt in 2011, citing inaccuracies in MLS data and concerns that rating agents solely on MLS data created an incomplete picture. The Houston Association of Realtors met with the same result a year earlier, after experiencing agent backlash and outrage.
Launched first in Boulder and Las Vegas, realtor.com President Errol Samuelson expects the service to expand, at least, to an additional five or six markets, and has told media that people’s fears will go away as they “start to understand what we’re doing.” AgentMatch, he says, is realtor.com’s bold step toward maintaining relevance and attracting customers from away from sites such as Zillow and Trulia.
Former attempts to modernize service to consumers have also been met with negative agent feedback, but Samuelson quoted NAR statistics that show 89% of homebuyers used the Internet to search for a home, but only 9% find their agent online, and said, “That discrepancy will not hold.”
Not so, say agents across the United States who now see NAR as a competitor, even though they are forced to maintain paid NAR membership as part of their state licensing requirements.
One Virginia-based agent has gone so far as to launch a petition on Change.org urging NAR and Move to disallow the syndication of agent statistics.
Realtor.com has responded to criticism in an official statement that “everything from the algorithm to the data to the presentation all the way to the copy are being tested and then redeveloped — based on response from consumers and feedback from local board memberships.”
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