By Paige Tepping
As consumers continue to become increasingly savvy and demand more from real estate professionals, the need for a reliable real estate rating system is more important than ever before. While the World Wide Web offers no shortage when it comes to ratings and reviews of the real estate industry and the professionals who work on behalf of their clients, much of the information is undependable, at best. However, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is hoping to change all that with the introduction of the REALTOR® Excellence Program.
Funded by the Center for Specialized REALTOR® Education—an NAR subsidiary—the pilot program is currently being implemented by the following REALTOR® associations (at press time): Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®, Illinois; St. Paul Area Association of REALTORS®, Minnesota; California Association of REALTORS®; Denver Metro Association of REALTORS®, Colorado; Atlanta Board of REALTORS®, Georgia; the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS®, Minnesota; and the Hampton Roads REALTOR® Association in Virginia.
According to Laurie Janik, NAR’s general counsel, one of the main goals of the REALTOR® Excellence Program is to improve the professionalism of its members while enhancing the member’s value to the consumer as their trusted advisor. “Not only is this a great way to ratchet up the professionalism of our members, it will also help when it comes to increasing the public’s perception of real estate professionals.” Janik goes on to say that the program will act as a good risk reduction tool as well.
Based on customer surveys that are sent via email to buyers and sellers after the transaction has been completed, the program affords clients the opportunity to rate both the transaction and the agent, providing information that creates a win-win for everyone involved. “For today’s consumers, one of the biggest benefits is the fact that they can voice any concerns they may have regarding the buying or selling process and the agent who represented them throughout the transaction,” says Janik. “And they can rest assured that the information will be seen by both the agent and the broker, enabling prompt follow up.”
Additionally, agents can choose to have their ratings hosted on a public website—after closing five transactions—providing a reliable source of ratings for consumers at large. “This program is set up so that it can’t be gamed. It’s real buyers and sellers rating the agent they worked with and a transaction that has closed, therefore, the ratings have validity,” adds Janik.
The REALTOR® Excellence Program is also a great tool for brokers when it comes to establishing a baseline regarding a particular agent’s strengths and weaknesses. “Not only do the surveys give brokers good insight into the level of customer service being provided, they also offer an early warning if there’s a problem that needs to be addressed,” adds Janik. Brokers can then tailor the education, training or mentoring they provide to help the agent improve in an area where they may not be as strong. In turn, this gives the agent the opportunity to develop certain skills that will help them feel more confident when working with clients in the future.
“From the association standpoint, it’s always a good idea to raise the level of professionalism of real estate agents/brokers because it will ultimately increase the consumer experience,” concludes Janik. “Anything you can do to make the member more professional, enhance the consumer experience and reduce the number of unhappy people is a good thing.”