A couple of weeks ago, my mom bought a new car.  This particular brand has been doing things with their designs that seem to have a polarizing effect on people.  Some people love the design cues, and others think the designs are awful.

What does the exterior design have to do with the driving characteristics of this particular model? What does the exterior design have to do with the interior features?  In my opinion, the exterior design has nothing to do with the rest of the car.  I think the car looks great, drives well, and the attention to detail is off the charts.  Imagine my surprise then, when I looked online at the reviews.

The reviews for this car are all over the place.  I can’t help but think that some of these reviews are based on the polarizing exterior design and have nothing to do with the main part of a car.  That would be it’s ability to get you from point a to point b.

These negative reviews on a car that really don’t warrant it got me to thinking about other experiences I’ve had with reviews.

When I got married, the photographer asked for a google review before they even finished the pictures from the wedding.  Then, every couple of days or so, we would get an email asking for a review.  “Don’t forget to write a review, the emails would say” As if that is something I would forget.

I have no doubt that the online reviews mattered to this photographer.  There are hundreds of wedding photographers, and it’s almost impossible to tell one from the other.  However, begging your reasonably pleased clients for an online review seems somewhat cheap and undignified.

Have you ever shopped on Amazon?  How many purchase decisions have you made based on the reviews of a product.  Did you know that many of them are fake?  Does that matter?  I’ve seen some economists praise the review system because it weeds out bad players in the marketplace, but what happens when honest people conducting businesses end up with the customer from hell?  The online review system is pretty one sided for the most part, although there are exceptions.

Have you ever used TripAdvisor?  Have your experiences with the places you’ve been lined up with the reviews?  I went to a restaurant this past week on a road trip that had been highly rated on TripAdvisor.  I wouldn’t have fed the food I got to my dog.  What happened?  There were lots of positive reviews for the restaurant.  It turns out that TripAdvisor has issues with online reviews too.

A lot of people swear by Yelp.  I have a good friend that is a jeweler in South County.  We purchased my wife’s wedding ring from the store and the experience couldn’t have been better.  I’ve known this family and their business for more than 20 years.  Imagine my surprise then, when I went online and saw only one review on Yelp.  It just happened to be a negative one.  Apparently, this isn’t unusual.

Online Reviews In Real Estate

I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at real estate agent reviews on sites like Zillow.com, Trulia.com, or Realtor.com.  As of right now, our real estate brokerage and our agents don’t have any.  Is this a bad thing?  I don’t know.  I can’t tell you how many people have called us even though we have no reviews.  What I do know is that I am skeptical of the entire online review process based on the things I’ve seen in my own life.

Online Review Issues As A Real Estate Agent

I’m skeptical of online real estate agent reviews because the very act of buying or selling a house has a ton of people involved as well as lots of emotion.  If anything goes haywire, you can bet it’s going to be a negative review for a real estate agent when it’s probably not warranted.  Let’s look at a few examples.


  1. The sale that doesn’t happen on time. Just this past week, I was working with a home buyer who was buying a home for sale in Mehlville.  The seller of the home had to sell their home before they could buy another home.  This transaction was all supposed to happen the same day.  We have a buyer buying a home, with the sale of that home funding the purchase of a different home.  My buyer just happened to lose his job during the job search.  Imagine the carnage if my buyer didn’t close on time for the agent representing the seller?  Do you think the reviews for her as a real estate agent are going to go swell?  What did she have to do with my client losing his job?


  1. The bad house purchase. When I start working with buyers, they usually assign some arbitrary number for the amount they are willing to pay for a home.  This is without them ever looking at what is available at this price point.  For example, a buyer will tell me they won’t pay anything more than $100,000 in Sunset Hills for a home.  Have you seen the homes available for $100,000 in Sunset Hills recently?  You aren’t going to be getting much.  As the buyer’s agent, I can inform my client that prices have gone up, and the pickings will be slim, but at the end of the day, if they are convinced that they need to stay at a certain number, I can’t do anything about it.  This happens on the reverse as well.  Assume a buyer sees a home for sale that has an asking price that is $200,000 less than the house next door.  Do you really think that house is going to be a bargain?  Some buyers will actually buy that house and be surprised that nothing works and it needs thousands of repairs.  Is that the fault of the real estate agent?  Will it create a negative review?


  1. An item missed on home inspection. No matter what any home inspector says, if you read their contract it says that they are not liable if they miss something.  I can’t stand most home inspectors when I’ve representing home sellers, and when I’m representing buyers, I know their limitations.  However, when you are a real estate agent working for the buyer, and 5 years down the road the homeowner finds something that the home inspector missed, who do you think is going to get the blame and then negative review?  That’s right, the real estate agent.

Can Online Reviews For Real Estate Agents Be Better?

Because we seem to place so much value on online reviews, even though they can be fake, or manipulated, perhaps the best question to ask would be the above.  Can we make them better?  What would that look like?  Here are a few suggestions I have to make the online review process a little fairer for everyone involved.


  1. To leave a review, you have to have actually purchased the product, and your review can only come from that purchase location. As an example, it’s common practice for manufacturers to have reviews from their sites go to other sites.  So if you bought a lawn mower from Home Depot, you should leave the review on the Home Depot site.  That review should not be on the manufacturer site.  What you tend to see otherwise is someone that has a warranty issue or is upset with a purchase reach out to 40 different review sites and flame a product.  That doesn’t seem to help anyone other than show you are kind of a jerk.


  1. To leave a review, you must leave your name and contact information. Pretty scary stuff, huh?  When whambazzle2335 leaves a bad review for a product or service, are you really taking that into consideration on your purchase?  You probably shouldn’t be.  If you don’t have the ability to leave your name and contact information, how do we know anything about the individual leaving the review, good or bad?


  1. All of your reviews across all review sites are part of a digital profile. Some people are miserable human beings.  They will complain when the sky is blue, and they will complain when it is raining.  It’s too hot, or it’s too cold.  They are just miserable people.  In the interest of fairness, let them post their negative reviews, and then have the ability to see the other reviews they’ve posted across the internet.  That would go a long way into knowing when a review is legitimate or iffy at best.


  1. No matter what the review, good or bad, the company has a chance to respond. Some sites, like the BBB already do this.  When you write a terrible review, the company should have a chance to respond.  You shouldn’t be able to trash a business or an individual without giving them the chance to respond.  What if you are leaving a negative review for a company and you mixed up the names?  Should a business be punished for your own mistake?  This doesn’t seem right.

Perhaps You Should Be Skeptical Of Online Real Estate Agent Reviews

Given what we know about the online review process, I think it’s pretty safe to say that perhaps you should be skeptical of online real estate agent reviews.  I know it can be very difficult to find a good real estate agent in St. Louis.  I’m just not sure that reading some blind review is the way to go about choosing an agent.  When potential clients are looking for an agent, I offer contact information from some of my former clients.  That way, they can talk to a real person who I’ve worked with and at least know someone had a decent experience.  Is that the best way to find a real estate agent?  I think it’s best to get to know your potential clients more than anything else.  This can go a long way towards a positive real estate experience for everyone.

How Does Deerwood Realty Look At Online Real Estate Reviews

Our real estate brokerage could pay for services that will manage our online reputation.  We could pay each review site to advertise with.  However, we don’t do any of that and I don’t think we ever will.  If one of our clients would like to leave a review somewhere, they are welcome to do so.  We do give our clients the opportunity to give us testimonials, which we compile on our testimonials page.  We don’t pay for the testimonials.  In this way, we show our biases up front.  To me, that’s the best way forward.