Find My Real Estate Agent - a new service that falls short of expectation

I have recently shared a couple of posts regarding the process of choosing a real estate agent and also the recommendation to appraise your agent before you get your property appraised.

The common theme has been the recommendation to do your research and uncover who are the right agents in your area to suit your needs. Given this is so important, I therefore would have thought that a new website service with the brand name of Find My Real Estate Agent would have focused on helping people through this difficult process, sadly the website is a big let down.

The site is a purely a directory, no more valuable to be honest than the local yellow pages. The analogy is very appropriate as the site really only has one objective which is to sell agents on buying a profile for $99 a year. There are currently around 10,000 agents in NZ, sadly many have very little grasp of online, but what they lack in knowledge they more than make up for in fear of not being profiled online and this fear is what the site focusses on targeting agents rather than the sellers.

The site has spent money advertising internally within the industry to real estate agents to highlight their service and their ‘low fee’ to be profiled in the selected area where buyers are searching, however the site has yet to advertise its services to the public in general and sellers in particular. The most logical place to raise its profile would be on Trade Me Property or Realestate.co.nz given that is where buyers are, and most buyers are also sellers, however as yet no such advertising has been undertaken.

So having been so scathing, let me be more constructive in my review of the site - here are my personal view of the positives for the site and also the weaknesses.

The site does host a fairly robust portfolio of names and contact numbers of agents – currently 7,800. There are actually 8,800 active agents as detailed on Realestate.co.nz which is the most easily accessible database of agents. Agents are only profiled on Realestate.co.nz when they have an active listing, thereby making the Realestate.co.nz search function a more dynamic and relevant portfolio.

The site makes great play of the random process by which it displays the sequence of agents in an area. Yes this is honest, open and impartial. However as I will go on to highlight the lack of information to evaluate agents means this attribute is a feature, not a benefit.

The site has a simple brand name and a very clear design, although it does seem to be designed for the poorly sighted audience as it seems to like to space out the text and focus on massive amounts of blank space which means information is spread out too widely

So why do I think the site is a big let down?

The only value in the site would be if all the agents had a detailed performance history, this would, to quote the site itself, provide you with a detail of “A local specialist (who) will know the sort of buyers your home will appeal to, give an accurate price indication, and put together a smart local marketing plan”.

However this business faces the same challenge of any two-sided marketplace. What the site needs and distinctly lacks is a comprehensive and deep detail on as many agents as possible coupled with a large audience of sellers. However sellers will not use the site if there is not rich content of relevance and agents will (in theory) not be interested in spending time and money profiling themselves is there is no large audience of sellers as prospective clients.

What the site needs is more information on agents than just contact numbers. Even referrals as testimonials from past clients are not in today's more open online sufficiently credible when they are just plain text. Hard facts and data are, and should be the benchmark for assessing agents - how many listings?, what type of listings?, how many days on the market?, selling price to listing price ratio? I know that the real estate industry is very cautious about such data, but to be truly trusted and justify the commission fees charged agents need to be open to be benchmarked.