It may seem like a tough ask to reverse the public’s poor opinion of real estate agents, but a new business is attempting to tackle the task.
Launched in June this year by former Sydney agent Michael Jackson, Rate that Agent uses social media technology to provide ratings and reviews on real estate agents for homebuyers and vendors.
Jackson talks to StartupSmart about fostering trust in the industry via the internet.
What does the business do?
Rate that Agent provides consumers with an online system to search for real estate agents and see what their past clients have to say about them.
Essentially, Rate that Agent is a resource ratings and review website for the real estate industry, where vendors can leave feedback, good and bad, available for public display.
Operating similarly to eBay or Tripadvisor.com, Rate that Agent utilises third party referrals, reviews and ratings to deliver honest feedback about real estate agents throughout Australia.
This, of course, will have an effect on the researching and vetting criteria that vendors and buyers will use when searching for a reputable agent.
With 80% of homebuyers and sellers beginning their search for a real estate agent or property online, Rate that Agent provides a large portion of the market an opportunity to make better choices by researching agents in their neighbourhood and their professional history.
Consumers can make better decisions by comparing a real estate agent’s overall rating across key categories of service and also view qualitative reviews to help them further understand an agent’s past client experiences.
They can also reward or expose real estate agents, one review at a time.
What inspired the idea for the business?
The motivation to create the site was to establish a national resource to shine the spotlight on top real estate agents, and caution unsuspecting homebuyers and vendors about the poor ones.
Having worked as a real estate agent for eight years, I had a desire to help consumers by giving them an online system and the confidence to make better real estate decisions – and choosing a real estate agent is one of those decisions – in an industry that lacks accountability.
The second reason was to champion and support expert, experienced local real estate agents.
How did you fund the business?
The site was only recently launched and up to now has been funded by my own resources. The start-up costs, including my time, are around $175,000.
How many staff do you have?
Besides myself, there is one other person, with plans to increase.
How did you build awareness of the business?
Initially, we plan to create awareness through social media, PR and other focused initiatives.
How do you generate revenue?
The service is free to use for consumers.
Agents can choose a free basic package, allowing them to upload their profile containing contact details, past client ratings and reviews, right of reply, interaction on the site’s social media platforms and an opportunity to spotlight client endorsements.
Alternatively, they can upgrade to increase the interaction on the program to include eight specialist suburbs, blogging, photos, videos, current listings and sales, featured property, accolades, SEO, etc.
What are your revenue projections for 2011/12?
2011/12 is our first year and we’ve budgeted for $1 million.
Is there anything you would have done differently in the start-up phase?
Hindsight is truly a wonderful thing and looking back, I would have implemented stricter disciplines and quality control procedures in respect to building the site.
I have learnt that building a dynamic website is not for the fainthearted.
What’s the biggest risk you face?
I have 100% faith that we are in the right space and the biggest risk we face is the time it will take to achieve critical mass.