There was a great article on Inman News about the backlash from realtor.com’s new AgentMatch progam.
AgentMatch, currently aimed at sellers and available only in Las Vegas and Boulder, Colo., is designed to identify top agents in a consumer’s search area through an algorithm based on recent sales, list-to-sale-price ratio, average days on market of homes listed, recommendations and other information.
The article, not surprisingly garnered a lot of action in the comments section from people in the real estate space. The reaction isn’t surprising. As an industry we are incredibly “other directed”, reacting to industry events that we perceive might impact us rather than being proactive and creating events in our market that will impact our business. But I digress….
The first backlash was not about the program, but about its being promoted on realtor.com as opposed to some other portal. Many members of NAR seem to feel that realtor.com – should have a different set of business rules than Zillow or Trulia, when realtor.com, like the other two is essentially a publishing platform for advertising that has to compete for the eyes of consumers. Though I understand their reaction, its really a bit unfair. None of the portals are operated for the benefit of the real estate professional. They are businesses with their own commercial goals, operated to make as much money as possible for the shareholders and executives – as they should be. Oddly there was less discussion about the platform itself than there was on Facebook/
Two , Facebook groups began to buzz about the new program and the backlash being generated about the program as the Inman article was shared by Michael Mclure and Chris Smith on Facebook groups they moderate. Concerns were expressed about how high volume agents might show up that do corporate or REO work when consumers were looking for more traditional agents. Then the conversation shifted to the off-MLS listings or FSBOs that might be represented, and how that might make the data less accurate. And of course, the issue of teams was brought up, since a team leader may seem to have done far more business than their actual personal production.
In a recent article on Motley Fool, Patrick Morris quoted a survey conducted by Imprev in which 80% of the brokers responding stated that less than 20% of their new business came from the three portals, and that 67% of their business came from websites, referrals and past clients – and though I have no hard data to back it up, I would imagine that most agents who have been in the business for a while would say that an even greater percentage of their business came from those three sources – none of which would be impacted by this type of promotion.
Which leads to the inevitable conclusion that most of the aforementioned concerns shouldn’t concern any individual real estate professional. It doesn’t matter if the data is great or the concept is “fair” or person shown first is or isn’t the best agent there. This is advertising and promotion – and consumers know advertising and promotion when they see them.
It is the electronic equivalent of someone advertising that they are the number one agent in their market, or the Top Agent in their office, or the Number One Investment Consultant in their area. Even the third party nature of the “endorsement” (if it can be considered that) isn’t going to change consumer behavior that much. People tend not to act on a single point of data. They gather a lot of information before they make the decision to list their home or sign a buyer agency contract. At best, this matching system, like any other ad or promotion, might generate a contact with a consumer, which is an opportunity to earn a relationship as opposed to actually establishing a relationship.
I really wanted to add some pithy or insightful comment about how AgentMatch will impact the average agent, but I keep coming back to the same thought. – If an agent redirected the time they spend worrying about influences outside their control that might impact their business and used that time to work on their business by calling FSBOs or working expireds, or contacting their sphere of influence, they would probably impact their income more than AgentMatch ever will. Maybe a little old school, but I’m thinking Teresa Boardman would approve.