With consumers putting increasing stock in online reviews, agents ought to be leveraging this growing opportunity to create a positive public image.
Establishing and maintaining a good reputation throughout one’s community is a top priority for real estate agents, and many agents find word of mouth goes a long way for their businesses.
While clients will readily talk with their family and friends about their real estate agents—recommending them if they had a good experience or warning them if things did not go well—clients can also leave far-reaching feedback online.
While some FORCE agents told us they don’t really focus much on online reviews and tend not to put much stock in them, consumers nationwide seem to be paying heed. Research demonstrates that online reviews can help build an agent’s reputation by making him or her appear more likable and trustworthy.
The Importance of Online Reviews
Word of mouth goes a long way for real estate agents, and some FORCE agents say this is one of their main sources of new business. However, Internet presence also has a far reach, and a recent survey found 80 percent of Americans trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations—as long as they don’t suspect those reviews to be fake.
In the same survey, conducted by Bright Local in 2015, 92 percent of respondents said they read online reviews. About 68 percent said positive reviews make them place more trust in a local business, and just over half—51 percent—said they will choose a business if it has positive reviews.
How To Encourage Good Reviews
Tracie Peltier, Associate Broker at 3 Tier Real Estate, LLC, in Sterling Heights, Michigan, encourages clients to leave positive reviews on her Facebook page and on Google. Michael Morris with William Raveis Real Estate in Ridgefield, Connecticut, also encourages his clients to review his business. After completing a sale, he sends out a closing email to thank his client. Included in that email are a list of local resources, such as lawn care and other services new homeowners may need, and an Internal survey in which the client can offer feedback. Additionally, Morris encourages clients in his closing email to review him on Zillow and other sites.
“We look at what they thought of the company, their impression of the showings, the speed of communication, the type of communication, their experience with our admins, and we use that feedback,” Morris says. If necessary, he will address any complaints with his office staff and will adjust office policies to better meet clients’ needs.
Learning From Client Feedback
Jennifer Ruspini of Ruspini Realty in Westport, Connecticut, takes client relationships very seriously. From their first meeting, she tells her clients their relationship will be like a marriage, so they need to make sure it is going to be a good fit. At their first interview, Ruspini offers each client a packet of information with a survey for them to complete at the end of the transaction.
She asks her clients to be honest in their review. “That’s how I grow,” she says.
What To Do with a Bad Review
While Morris has not received a negative online review, he has a plan in case he does encounter one in the future.
The first thing Morris would do in the case of a bad review is reach out to the client to see what his office could have done better. If there was a misunderstanding or he is able to resolve the complaint, he will ask the client to change or clarify their review online. He might also post a reply to the client on the website alongside the negative review.
Peltier likewise has yet to receive a negative review online, but she says she would take a similar approach to that of Morris. She would call the client directly to see what she can do to remedy the situation or change his or her mind. She might also offer a gift card or other offering to end the interaction on a positive note.
However, agents shouldn’t fret too much over one or two negative reviews. “[H]aving some negative reviews is normal and helps give your company a believable identity on a review site,” according to the article, “10 Ideas: How to Fix a Damning Business Review,” on the website, Search Engine Land. The article also suggests counteracting negative reviews by encouraging clients to leave positive reviews on the site where you have a negative review.
Focusing on local reputation in one’s community is a worthwhile endeavor, but so too is pursuing a stellar reputation online. As homebuyers and sellers increasingly use the Internet throughout their real estate transactions, an agent’s online reviews become more visible and more pertinent.