Online reviews are a common part of the process when you are shopping for just about any service or product. That includes buying or selling a home. Reviews help you create a list of prospective real estate professionals for your mission, yet you should know that not all reviews are true or accurate.
Recent court cases have shown that fraudulent reviews on sites like Yelp are not uncommon.
ZipRealty reports that nearly three quarters of over 2,500 homebuyers they surveyed would most likely do an Internet search for more information on an agent who was recommended by a friend, family member or co-worker. More than 60% of the people surveyed said they would contact an agent they found online if they found positive reviews that were obviously written by real clients.
Sites like Angie’s List and Yelp are popular sites for people seeking listings for real estate agents. Bankrate points out that you will get better information by looking at other sites like LinkedIn, the business networking site that provides real estate agent’s resume, connections and reviews.
This Bankrate article also suggests that you read online reviews skeptically. That doesn’t mean you should only be wary of positive reviews that look like they may be set up by the agent being reviewed. Competitors might also write fake negative reviews or ask others to besmirch the competition for them.
So, how do you tell if a review is fake? First, find out whether the person doing the review is an active reviewer. On Yelp, for example, you can see how many businesses a person has reviewed. If that person has only reviewed the real estate agent you’re checking out you’d be right to question whether they were really there to write a legitimate review. But if the person has also had things to say about local restaurants, stores and salons, you might be able to get a better sense of how accurate the reviews are. In fact, you may have even been to one of the other businesses they’ve reviewed and formed your own opinions, which you may use to evaluate the review of the agent or realty you are considering.
Another way to judge a review is to evaluate how believable the writing is and what it tells you. The review – or testimonial – should be helpful as well as believable. Obviously, it shouldn’t sound forced. Hopefully it also provides some insight about the way the agent does business, solves problems and communicates. If the review or testimonial simply says, “I loved working with so-and-so agent so much; I would recommend him to friends,” then it doesn’t tell you much. However, a review that says, “so-and-so agent went out of his way to resolve unexpected issues quickly and kept me in the loop during the entire process,” you immediately get a feel for how responsible the agent is.
Likewise, a scathing review may be real and not be helpful. Most agents have had at least one unreasonable customer who perceives that his or her real estate agent did a bad job. He or she may vent this anger in an online review. While, it may be a “legitimate” review, it is not going to be very helpful if the person doesn’t explain the dissatisfaction. However, if the review details a reason for dissatisfaction, and you’re still interested in hiring the agent, you can actually use the review to your advantage. In the interview, ask the agent about the review. The agent’s reaction and response will reveal true character.
When you evaluate online reviews for real estate agents be sure to read between the lines of each review and make your own decisions about how much you trust the reviewer’s point of view. If the review or testimonial is on the agent’s own site, you may certainly ask if the reviewer is a reference you may contact personally.