Over the past few months, some visitors to this blog have posted comments about specific properties, often negative, usually about the value or lack thereof. I’ve removed those posts. Its not because I’m a rah-rah Realtor who only wants nice things said about properties and wants to censor anything negative. Ultimately, I’m responsible for this blog, and negative comments about specific listings puts me in a difficult position.
Sullivan County is a small community. Realtors here generally have good relationships with each other. Clients who’ve worked with Realtors in other areas often comment on how well we seem to get along. The cut throat backstabbing that you hear about in other areas is very rare here.
Sure, the Realtor Code of Ethics prohibits making false or misleading statements about our competitors. Of course, many of us have opinions about different agents, but we don’t do much badmouthing in public. By tradition, that sort of extends to trashing or flaming listings. The Code of Ethics doesn’t really deal with that specifically, so I could probably get away with flaming individual listings on this website, but it just feels tawdry and a little uncouth. Even if I’m not the author of the comment, by providing a forum for that, its kind of the same thing.
I do personally believe, however, that consumers do want a way to get more opinions on properties on the market apart from the often-rosy descriptions posted by listing agents. Real estate, as marketed through multiple listing systems, remains one of the only large consumer purchase categories without a feedback loop or independent reviews. The information model is hierarchical, moving in one direction, from the seller/listing agent (who’s job is to position a property in the most favorable light possible) out to the consumer, with little or no opportunity for a consumer to provide feedback on the property. A feedback loop is common in many consumer purchase systems, like product reviews on Amazon, movie ratings on Netflix or hotel reviews on Tripadvisor. Other categories, like mutual funds or automobiles, may not feature consumer reviews but do offer independent expert reviews or ratings that are helpful to consumers when shopping.
I’m a strong advocate of opening up the listing system to include some sort of review feedback loop. Its a hot topic in real estate circles. Redfin, an innovative and somewhat controversial agency primarily on the west coast, hired independent reviewers to review new listings and post them on a blog system tied into the MLS Search on their website. They were a little ahead of the game, and got into hot water with the Northwest MLS, who said that the reviews violated MLS rules. Faced with losing their MLS affiliation, they pulled the review site down.
I do think its coming. Consumers want it, and competition from non-MLS real estate marketing sites like Trulia will increase the pressure for the Realtor-owned MLSs to include it. But I’m not ready to go there right yet, and want to keep good relations with my colleagues here. So, for the time being, I’d appreciate it if visitors would refrain from making specific comments on specific listings. Thanks.