Michael Wurzer and the Ridiculously Complex

While I came up with the idea for AgentsCompared.com during the summer of 2007, a blog post I read the following spring helped to crystalize some of my thinking. Below is an excerpt from that post, written by Michael Wurzer in March 2008 and posted on his FBS Blog. It was the second in a two-part series on how consumers choose Realtors(R).

[I]s it possible to synthesize [consumer feedback] into a “score” or “rank” in order to provide the consumer with a recommendation? This is what I’ll refer to as the tyranny of the ordered list. Whatever the method is for the agent search, the output is an ordered list, with someone coming out [on] top, just like we see with Google search results. The search algorithm is designed to bring the “best” match to the top. Even leaving aside the fact that many of the sites linked above have revenue models that create conflicts of interest to place certain agents near the top of the search results (or at least to the side like Google AdWords), the reality is that matching a specific consumer’s needs to a specific agent’s qualifications remains ridiculously complex.

Are these ranking sites really helping consumers? They are providing more data but is the data useful? The power of a ranked list is daunting, because it provides an easy short-cut. Why look at agent two or three when there is a number one? Yet is that ranking really anything more than arbitrary given the complex factors involved? Does the ordered or ranked list cut off due diligence when it really should just begin?

In the end, modeling the consumer selection of an agent on-line is tricky business at best, and the personal referral is likely to dominate for some time to come, and, in many ways, I think this is a good thing. I consider, for example, brokers like Jay Thompson who just went independent and is building a great brand on-line through his blog and other sites the cream of the crop as to how an agent can communicate their value proposition to consumers. That value proposition will be very difficult, if not impossible, to measure or rank, but the web makes it possible for consumers to connect anyway.

As a non-Realtor(R) trying to supplement (not replace) the referral process by helping consumers evaluate and compare real estate agents online, these were my takeaways:

1. Be skeptical of algorithms and resulting efforts to list, score, or rank agents.
2. Avoid models that cause real or apparent conflicts of interest.
3. The best agent for you may not be the best agent for me. There is no objective “best”, so everybody needs to do their own homework.
4. Realtors(R) should fully exploit the Internet to present their value propositions to consumers.

You can see that these lessons found their way into my mini-manifesto.

Don’t forget to check out the comments beneath Michael’s post, which include contributions from some smart people like David Gibbons, Louis Cammarosano, Russell Shaw, and Brian Larson.

One Response to “Michael Wurzer and the Ridiculously Complex”

  1. Greg Viti says:

    I look forward to working with you on the business development committee!

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