Zillow creates broker reviews

The real estate data website Zillow.com has launched a new program that allows clients to rank and review real estate agents on a one-to-five scale in categories like “local knowledge,” “process expertise” and “responsiveness.” While Zillow is keeping the rankings relatively quiet as they cull more reviews from users, the feature is familiar territory for Zillow: The site’s Mortgage Marketplace, which allows borrowers to review lenders, has a database of roughly 6,500 user reviews.

Amy Bohutinsky, vice president of marketing with Zillow, said that she’s optimistic the feature could be a boon for top agents.

“For good agents, public reviews and endorsements by past clients can be a powerful tool to grow their business,” Bohutinsky said of the feature, which will only include those agents registered with Zillow.com.

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“Reviews of local agents can be an incredibly useful tool for consumers,” Bohutinsky said. “Knowing the experience that others had with a particular agent is valuable information for the consumer to have.”

Traditionally, the real estate industry relied on old-fashioned word of mouth and hush-hush client references, but that’s changed as websites like Yelp and CitySearch, and even search engines like Yahoo, enter the business of consumer reviews.

Zillow saw a record 12.5 million unique users in November, up 64 percent from the same time period a year earlier.

“Zillow’s goal has always been to help people make smarter real estate decisions by providing access to as much information as possible,” Bohutinsky said.