If you are a regular listener, you may be familiar with my views about an Australian company called Open Agent. Well, Mark Armstrong from Rate My Agent – a similar site – has heard what I have had to say and will join me shortly to talk about why he says his company is different and they can’t all be lumped in the same basket… more on that soon.
Kevin: You know the old saying, “Oils ain’t oils”? They’re not all the same. We’ve been guilty in this show of branding all of the third-party sites the same. I’ve been a particular critic of sites like Open Agent and even Local Agent Finder, for the main reason that they report to being something that they’re not or that they say that they will do something for the consumer that they don’t.
In the process of putting this spray out and carrying a lot of material, we also mentioned Rate My Agent. In my opening, I said oils ain’t oils. It’s been pointed out to me that Rate My Agent is not the same as the others. The CEO for that site, Mark Armstrong, joins me.
Good day, Mark.
Mark: Good day, Kevin.
Kevin: Oils ain’t oils, and you pointed out to me that your site is different. How is it different?
Mark: The major difference is that Rate My Agent is not a referral website. Our business model is to never ask agents to share their commission with us and essentially, sell leads to agents. There are two fundamental reasons why we will never ask agents to share their commission with us.
The first one is that we don’t want to be in competition with real estate agents. We’re here to complement the industry and help promote good agent and good agency practice. We’re not here to compete with agents. If we asked agents to share their commission with us, we would simply be in a competition with them to get to the vendor first, and that’s not our job.
The second reason – probably more important for us – is independence is our greatest asset. If we were to ask an agent to share their commission with us, we would cease to become independent in the eyes of a consumer. We’re not here to compete with agents, and we’re 100% independent in the process.
Kevin: This is the problem that I have – and I’ll say it again – with Open Agent. They purport that they’re going to put the consumer in touch with the best agent in the area, when in fact, it’s the agent who has agreed to pay them a 20% commission. I know that they’ll vehemently deny that, but it is, in fact, the case. And not all agents want to be a part of that particular site.
Let’s set the record straight here. If you don’t, therefore, ask agents for a percentage of their commission – you’re not a referral site – how do you monetize the site?
Mark: Our website uses what we call a freemium model. It’s completely free to claim your profile, request reviews, update your sale results, make your profile look as accurate as possible, and to set up a data feed through your listing feed provider. That’s completely free.
If an agent chooses to – they have no obligation to do so, but if they choose to – they can subscribe to higher levels of features, which include a premium profile, which allows them to brand their profile and have their reviews cross-promoted across the site.
They can use our social media manager. We’ve had around about 60,000 social media posts of agents’ reviews, listings, and sale results go across social media this year alone. They can use our review widgets, which allows them to take their reviews from Rate My Agent and automatically flow them through to their agency website.
Lastly, they can use our listing reports. Our listing reports allow them to take their reviews out of Rate My Agent, present them in either a printed format or a digital format, e-mail or SMS to a prospective vendor, just to show the prospective vendor the experience that they’ve put in that market. Not just showing them their sale results – which are important – but the greatest tool that a real estate agent has to win more business is customer feedback.
All of our products are about collecting customer feedback and allowing agents to use that customer feedback as a marketing tool to win more business.
Kevin: Mark, I can understand how your site populates to the agent when they get a listing because you’re obviously scraping all of the portals and you’re getting a good handle on what listings are actually coming on the market. It seems to me that the majority of the gripes that I’m hearing from agents are at the other end of the equation. That is the number of properties they sell is not accurate. What’s your reaction to that?
Mark: Most of our data actually comes directly fed through the agencies, through PortPlus, Box+Dice, or MyDesktop, and all of those listing portals or the backend portals. The vast majority of our data comes through that source, which means we get the listings as soon as they’re listed. As soon as they’re sold and they’re reported, it updates our system.
Agents and agencies always have the ability to set up a data feed. It’s absolutely free to do that. Then they can ensure that their data is 100% accurate. It also allows them to send through off-market transactions or development stock, so they can have a really accurate profile.
For agents who don’t have a data feed, you’re right, we collect as much information from the public domain as possible. But agents can then, once again, claim their profile for free, come into the back end of our system, and if they have sold a property that we don’t have the result for, it takes them literally 30 seconds to update the system, report the result.
Once they’ve reported the result, our system prompts them and says, “Would you like to request a review?” If they’d like to request a review, they type in the vendor or the buyer’s name and e-mail address, a brief message, and push “Send.” It’s as simple as that.
Kevin: Of course, all of these sites are only as good as the information they provide to the consumer and how accurate it is. Can you give me an idea as to how many agents do actually engage and feed that sort of information back into your site?
Mark: There’s well over 20,000 – I think it must be close to 21,000 agents now – who have engaged in our platform. Those agents sell around about 75% to 80% of all real estate across the country. When we look at the number of properties that they sell, we have the vast majority of the market at around, as I said, 75% to 80%.
The interesting point is that most of the agents or a large group of the agents now also request their reviews through Rate My Agent. We currently get a review posted on Rate My Agent every three to four minutes.
There are around about 170,000 reviews that have been posted, and currently, that represents a review for one in four properties sold across the country each month. So 25% of all properties that are sold each month, Rate My Agent gets a review for them.
It’s really important that everyone understands that these reviews are what we call verified reviews, because the only way to get a review on Rate My Agent is for the agent to come into our system, confirm the property has been sold, and then request the review through our platform, which means that every review that’s posted is linked to the transaction.
That clearly shows the property that the review relates to. It clearly shows whether it’s a review from the vendor or the buyer. And then that review is instantly indexed by Google. It’s shareable through social media. It can be shared on their website. They can use it in any way they like.
Kevin: Mark, thanks very much for joining us today. I appreciate you coming to me and, through your people, pointing out that we had made an error. It’s good to be able to clear it up.
Mark Armstrong has been my guest. He’s the CEO of the website Rate My Agent. Jump in, have a look at it, and join those agents who are making sure that their data is up to date and accurate for the consumer.
Mark, thanks very much for your time.
Mark: Thanks, Kevin.