Real Estate Agent Reviews: What Are Clients Looking For?
Real estate agent reviews. I talk to agents about them on a daily basis. Some love them, some fear them, and some just don’t get the point. Regardless of your personal feelings about reviews, the simple fact is consumers are reading them. Many use reviews as part of their decision-making process when selecting service providers, including real estate agents.
According to BrightLocal’s 2013 Local Consumer Review Survey, 79 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
That same survey shows that 95 percent of consumers used the Internet to find a local business in the last 12 months.
These statistics state the obvious about online reviews — customers use them and trust them. As an agent, reviews provide a tremendous opportunity to highlight your skills from the perspective of the consumer.
But what are consumers looking for when they read online real estate agent reviews? What works and what doesn’t work?
Asking for reviews
Reviews work because people are looking for a real, credible and active agent. When a client reviews you, they don’t write in “marketing speak,” they write in an authentic, natural voice. People can relate to that. No marketer (and as a real estate pro, you are in large part a marketer) is going to publish, “I’m a marginal real estate agent. Sometimes I communicate well, sometimes I don’t.”
While you can’t control the specific language a client uses in a review, you can guide them to include information that other consumers might find valuable. And, giving your client a few starting points about what to include should make it easier for them to write the review.
Rather than say to a client, “I would appreciate it if you would review me on Zillow” try this:
“Reviews from clients such as yourself are an important part of my business. I would appreciate an honest review of my services, and as a recent client, you are the perfect person to review me. You can talk about things like my knowledge of the local area, how responsive I am to calls, emails and questions, and whether or not I am easy to work with. Just be open and honest about your experience working with me. I thank you for your time and consideration!”
Replying to reviews
Many review systems, including Zillow’s, also allow you to reply to a review. Many people think this is only useful in the event that you receive a neutral or bad review. Consider replying to every review you receive — it is an ideal opportunity to add more information that a potential client might like to know.
For example, let’s say Betty Buyer leaves you a review like this:
“Jay was an AWESOME agent! He always answered his phone and replied to emails swiftly. He had a really good understanding of the local market and we’d use him again the next time we buy a home. Highly recommended!”
That’s a terrific review. You can make it even better with a reply like this:
“Loved working with you Betty! First-time home buyers are some of my favorite clients to work with, and you proved to be no exception. Enjoy your new home, call me if there’s anything you need and stay in touch!”
You highlighted that you enjoy working with first-time home buyers, a point unlikely to be missed by any first-time buyers reading your reviews. You also pointed out that you will continue to work with someone after closing, something many potential clients want to hear.
Handling negative reviews
Probably the biggest thing that concerns real estate agents about online reviews is the consequences of getting a negative review. Real estate agents are the focal point of the transaction, one that has many moving parts and many players. Things sometimes go wrong and, as that focal point, the real estate agent often gets the blame even if wasn’t their fault. Ever had a client do something silly like buy a new car two weeks before close resulting in their lender saying, “Uh, there goes your mortgage”? So you get a review like, “Jay seemed to do a good job, but the whole deal fell apart two weeks before close! Two stars for you.”
Don’t worry about it, things happen. Give a tactful response, such as “Unfortunately, things can happen in a real estate transaction that are out of my control. Financing is a big part of buying a home. Unfortunately, our discussions about what not to do before closing weren’t taken into consideration. I’d be happy to help you again when you can get things squared away with your lender.”
Numerous studies show that the occasional neutral or even negative review lends credibility to all of your other reviews. While I wouldn’t suggest seeking out a negative review, I also wouldn’t be overly concerned if I received one. Reply tactfully, and review readers will take that into consideration. For more information, see 7 Tips for Handling Negative Reviews.
Think of reviews as a personal online billboard written by your fans. Think about what YOU would find helpful in a review and gently guide your clients in that direction. Over time, you can build a library of powerful client reviews that will help others decide to use your services.