Archive for the ‘Me’ Category

Airing of Grievances – My Top Ten

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

As promised, and in no particular order, here is my non-exhaustive list of beefs with “Find an Agent” websites presently available to prospective U.S. home buyers and sellers (and real estate agents):

1. Alphabetical contact information. Where’s the value to the consumer here? Are we to conclude that agents with “A” surnames are superior to agents with “C” surnames? These sites are nothing more than online phone books.

2. Restricted sites. Some sites limit membership to agents that have received an invite, are considered “top producers” or experienced, or work for a particular brokerage. Other sites limit the number of agents that are displayed in a particular zip code or town. Again, where’s the value to the consumer? An agent that might be the best match for me may not even be permitted to promote himself or herself on the site, meaning I may never find him or her. Insulating a select group of agents from competition does not help the consumer.

3. Pocket pickers. We’re not opposed to agents paying for referrals or leads, but don’t both agents and consumers benefit when those costs are kept to a minimum? AgentsCompared.com does not charge any referral, lead or territory fees, and has created a competitive marketplace for referral fee offers.

4. Featured placements in search results. How can a site hold itself out as an objective place to research agents when it permits agents to jump to the head of search results pages by purchasing “featured” placement and/or advertising on the site? AgentsCompared.com sticks to the issues, inviting agents to distinguish themselves on criteria most important to buyers and sellers (level of service, price, qualifications, etc.).

5. Sticking it to the consumer. To run searches and view results, some sites require consumers to pay a fee, register, provide personal information, or navigate multiple pages. Who does this benefit?

6. Hurry up and wait. Buyers and sellers of course use the Internet in part because it’s a quick way to obtain lots of relevant information. So why do some sites have consumers waiting around for an email that typically contains only generalized information about an agent?

7. Matching sites. For an important decision like who is going to represent me in the purchase or sale of a home, I don’t want somebody I don’t know, or a computer, making the decision for me. Instead I want easy access to all of the information I consider relevant so I can make the decision myself.

8. Purchased agent lists. This is all too common place now. Many sites simply purchase a list of licensed agents from the state real estate commission, or a vendor, and slap it online. Often times agents have no idea their information is on the site, and can’t modify it without “claiming” their profile and/or paying a fee. The information is often stale, useless, and can only be displayed alphabetically.

9. He said, she said. Perhaps I’m in the minority on this point, but I just don’t find sites that invite people to rate, rank and/or review agents to be very helpful. Most agents aren’t reviewed, and most former clients don’t review their agents. As for those that have been reviewed, there is no way to know who provided the feedback – a competitor? prankster? unreasonable former client? the agent himself? Why not instead insist on several recent references and actually follow-up on them?

10. Same old same old. There isn’t a single “Find an Agent” website out there that sidesteps all of these flaws and zeroes in on what will help consumers make a more informed decision when choosing a real estate agent. Until now.

What have I missed? Good or bad, I welcome your feedback.

LIFTOFF!

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Hi, I’m Michael Erdman, founder of AgentsCompared.com. For most of my thirteen year career I’ve been a business litigation lawyer here in Chicago, concentrating my practice in several areas, including competition law. I am not, and never have been, a real estate agent.

So what am I doing launching this website today?

Over the past eight years I’ve bought or sold real estate three times, and worked with different types of real estate agents – traditional and a la carte. In 2005 one of them introduced me to a group of a la carte agents scattered across the country and in need of some competition law advice.

Wanting to help, I began studying up on the intersection of competition law and real estate licensing. I started following dozens of real estate websites and blogs, looking over relevant government reports, and keeping track of online real estate start-ups. I attended a Federal Trade Commission/Department of Justice workshop on competition in real estate, and began meeting lots of interesting people in the private and non-profit sectors. Eventually I created a modest blog covering real estate competition law issues, and on occasion took calls from reporters interested in my perspectives.

In the summer of 2007 it occurred to me that consumers really had no place to go to discover and meaningfully evaluate local real estate agents. I’ll write more about this later, but existing “Find an Agent” websites seemed either entirely agent-centric or of limited usefulness to buyers and sellers.

An entrepreneur at heart, I began drawing up plans for what became AgentsCompared.com, a consumer-centric site devoted to helping prospective home buyers and sellers make more informed decisions when selecting a real estate agent.

Please take a moment to explore the site, look over this blog, and share your opinions, either here or via email at ideas@AgentsCompared.com.

Thank you for visiting.