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Meet My Agent Blog

Wednesday 18th January 2012

Estate agency comparison site Meet My Agent answers our questions in today’s blog.

Liya Fateh, 24, and former agent Ashley Alexander, 26, are both directors of the business.

 

Q: What does your site do and how will it benefit estate agents?

Liya: MeetMyAgent.co.uk is an independent review website which allows home owners to find the best local estate agents based on reviews from previous clients. Valuations can be requested with any estate agent listed directly from the site, so it will provide warm leads from consumers who are actively searching for an estate agent to instruct.

Ashley:As consumers would already have read past client reviews before making a valuation request, agents have an increased chance of turning a lead into an instruction. Listing on the site demonstrates a commitment to transparency, excellence and continual improvement, and independent feedback is much more influential than testimonials on an agent’s website.

 

Q: Why did you start the site?

Ashley:In my time as an agent, word-of-mouth recommendation was my biggest generator of business and I wanted to create a way of amplifying that effect to the wider public using the internet – something that we like to call ‘Word-of-Web’. Word-of-mouth can also be detrimental, as when people have a bad experience they will tell all their friends, and that business is already lost. On the other hand, if those friends then saw a selection of reviews on the site showing that you generally perform well, it can result in securing business that you may not otherwise have won.

 

Q: Won’t the site just be a place for people with an axe to grind to comment?

Liya: While I think that people with grievances are more likely to search out forums to voice them, sites such as TripAdvisor demonstrate that happy customers do show their loyalty and leave reviews. However, there is huge consumer awareness of TripAdvisor, and both reading and writing travel reviews has become common practice: this isn’t true for the estate agency industry and it’s something we have to replicate. Agents can reply publicly to comments to demonstrate how they maintain customer relationships and deal with criticisms, and by encouraging their clients to leave reviews, the positive will outweigh any negative if they are providing a good service.

 

Q: How do you stop people from writing fake reviews?

Ashley:We collect information about where reviews are coming from and publish them on a time delay, allowing us to spot patterns of suspicious activity. Our system also looks at the way in which reviews are written, and as the number of reviews increases so does the dataset that we can cross-check against. This acts as a self-correcting mechanism, as if a fake review is published, any attempt to publish a similar review in the future would flag up both the new review and the initial review.

Liya:Agents and consumers can also report suspicious reviews to us from their admin sections, although reviews may not be taken down if there is no evidence that they are fraudulent. The nature of such sites does mean that one or two fake reviews may still filter through, and the best remedy is to encourage the satisfied majority of your customers to leave reviews so these outstrip any fake/negative reviews: consumers will look at trends, disregarding reviews that seem out of sync with the consensus.

 

Q: How are you different to other review sites like Allagents?

Ashley: MeetMyAgent is aimed specifically at home owners who are looking to instruct an estate agent in the sale or rental of their property so, unlike other websites, we only publish reviews from sellers and landlords. Our ratings exclude feedback older than six months, reflecting current performance and rewarding agents that have improved their service as well as those that are consistent. 

Liya: Agents are also rated on a branch level, so only local branches appear on search results. This allows small agents to compete against brands with 50 times their marketing budget based solely on performance, while corporates can monitor individual branch performance and consumers can accurately assess which agents perform the best locally.

 

Q: After a three-month free trial, you will charge a subscription fee to list. Why would agents join your site when Allagents is free?

Ashley: Whilst Allagents is free, you must be a Transparent Agent to fully benefit, as only agents who are a part of the scheme can receive valuation leads, and consumers cannot choose which agent to request a valuation with. In addition, Allagents actively encourages agents to buy advertising on competitors’ listings. This approach is unethical as it effectively forces agents to pay for ad space on their own listing or be disadvantaged, and the cost is significantly more than the £25 per month we will charge. Charging a small fee allows us to offer agents support, focus on consumer marketing and target local search terms to drive relevant traffic to their listings, which are provided exclusively to them.

Liya: Moreover, the Transparent Agent Kitemark is misleading to consumers as it seems to indicate quality – the website recommends users to choose a participating agent, despite an admission in their terms that being part of the scheme doesn’t necessarily indicate that the agent is better. I believe that promoting particular agents in this way stops the site from being impartial.

 

Q: But how can a site that takes fees from estate agents be independent of estate agents?

Liya:Our independence is demonstrated by the fact that we charge all agents the same fee on a per-branch basis regardless of size, therefore we have no incentive to manipulate the feedback published on the site. Most review websites now offer paid-for premium listings, while we provide a uniform service to all our listed agents, which in some ways makes us more impartial! We offer a marketing platform for agents, and they are our customer to the extent that we provide them with a dedicated page and administrate the system. However, agents list voluntarily with the understanding that they can be subject to both positive and negative feedback.

 

Q: How will you be promoting the site?

Ashley: We invest heavily in search engine optimisation, ensuring that we rank highly for relevant searches, and already rank first page for ‘best estate agents’, ‘local estate agents’ and ‘find estate agents’. We have also begun targeting local keywords such as ‘estate agents in <area name>’ to ensure that we receive traffic from consumers in specific areas and will run pay-per-click campaigns until we rank first page organically.

Liya: Over the next few months we will be running a consumer campaign which will help generate reviews as well as create public awareness, and will be advertising in property-related press, local radio and on Metro and Evening Standard online.

 

Q: Why do you think your site will be a success?

Liya: We will be actively supporting listed agents through our focused and localised marketing strategy, to ensure that they receive the best out of the site. I think that the industry has been waiting for the right model, and we have worked hard to build a platform which is intuitive for consumers to use and rewards agents who perform. As listing is voluntarily, we believe that only agents who are confident in their services will join, and that is exactly what consumers want – a list consisting of the best agents in their area, with past client reviews allowing them to make a confident and informed choice on who to instruct.

.

(12) Comments

Added by Heidi Tomlinson on 2013-02-03 19:01:51

We live in Hull and have had our house on the market for quite some time. We were fed up of being fobbed off by local estate agents and decided to change. We went for a company who were new to Hull and thought they would have something to prove. The company was called BIG RED HOUSE and we were not disappointed.
We arranged for a valuation and this was arranged very quickly. Our agent, Claire Millington, came to see us and she was very nice. We left her to wander through the house and take the appropriate details. We then sat down and discussed our options. We decided to go through Big Red House and have never looked back.
We have had several viewings and every one of which has been very positive. Claire has been amazing and kept us informed of everything that is going on. We have had on offer and another couple come back for a second viewing. We are now waiting to see if we have sold the house. Claire has become, I feel, a very good friend which has come about from talking to her on a regular basis. I would just like to THANK CLAIRE and Big Red House and wish them all the best in the future.

Added by Estate Agency on 2012-12-03 06:01:54

It is not really good enough to use general keywords like "estate agency" or "real estate agents" these keywords should be city specific, even better if area specific e.g.
Estate Agency Central London
Added by Harry Dhaliwal Manchester Blog on 2012-08-27 09:25:10

great post but with interesting comments... find better news about real estate from http://www.harrydhaliwal.com
Added by LEICESTER ESTATE AGENTS on 2012-05-24 15:50:59

GREAT BLOG

LEICESTER ESTATE AGENTS

http://www.vincent-s.co.uk/
Added by Wed 11.57 on 2012-02-01 11:59:11

Anyone outside of London looking to read reviews, leave reviews, or look for an agent will;

Go to your site
Type in their postcode
Get no results

Leave and never return. Why would they come back later?

They'll probably then go and leave a review, read a review, etc. on allagents.

No?
Added by Liya Fateh on 2012-01-19 17:52:28

@Puzzled at Tunbridge Wells

1) I think that consumers understand that giving feedback is part of the after-sales process: this is demonstrated on TripAdvisor and also by the fact that many agents have internal feedback forms which customers clearly do fill in (otherwise how do agents get their testimonials, unless they make them up?).

However, testimonials pages are ineffective as consumers know that agents cherry pick the best, therefore directing customers to the site instead of handing out feedback forms will benefit agents as we are independent. If the agent has built up a good relationship with the client, something that any estate agent that provides excellent service will have, asking customers to spare 5 minutes to write a review shouldn't be a problem.

2) TripAdvisor star ratings are also based on age of reviews rather than being a simple average of all ratings ever received so, while old reviews are viewable, the ratings (and therefore rankings) are reflective of current performance. We are replicating this on our site, so while we exclude feedback older than six months in the actual calculation of ratings, we don't hide old reviews. Consumers can therefore see how agents have improved, while our ratings/rankings do not penalise agents that have previously received poor reviews but have taken steps to rectify that.

Thanks,

Liya
Added by Puzzled of Tunbridge Wells on 2012-01-19 13:33:15

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

Say I'm a vendor. I've sold and moved. I have a lot on my plate now - the last thing on my mind is 'I must find a review site and review the service I got from my estate agent'.

So, my agent, who is paying you £25 a month and feels he has given a good service asks me to review him. I'd say 'listen mate, I've just paid you 5 grand for listing my property on Rightmove and making a few phone calls - what's in it for me if I go and write a sparkling review? Fancy giving me some of my 5 grand back?

Or, 'yes, whatever, that's really top of my list at the moment - whenever'

And, when I'm looking for an agent - am I thinking to myself 'have a look at a review site - to see who is good and who isn't'. Not in a million years - I always look at TripAdvisor before going away anywhere - because I know there will be loads of reviews and I'll geet a good general flavour. If an agent sells 50 houses every 6 months and you limit reviews to 6 months, let's be realistic, each agent is unlikely to have more than half a dozen reviews. I wouldn't pick an agent on that basis - again, not in a million years. If I did look at a review site and only saw poor reviews ... will I guess the agent would stop paying you £25 a month and, after 6 months he'll drop off the site and carry on as usual.

I really can't see the point of it at all.
Added by on 2012-01-18 21:24:35

My boss has allagents website open on his computer all day! He is obsessed with their rankings and where our competitors are.

There seems to be a lot more features on their site which I am not really clear about what are about. It would be great if EAT could get them to do a blog like this one.





Added by Desmond on 2012-01-18 14:00:30

I generally tend to agree with Peebee, however I must say how refreshing it is to see straightforward dialogue from a review site. NEVER get that with allAgents!
Added by PeeBee on 2012-01-18 12:32:56

Ms Fateh

I appreciate your response to my points - and understand where you are coming from.

Here's the thing, though - and I SINCERELY hope you take this for what it is - constructive criticism...

Twice a week, someone takes some column inches on this site heralding themselves as 'the new Hovis'. Ninety-nine point eight times out of a hundred - they are not. They are NOT wheel inventers - they are simply spoke polishers... and generally pretty poor ones at that!

Since Letraset was heralded as the new way to transform a garden from a barren wasteland into a lushly forested backdrop to any old semi - Agents have had "revolutionary" products and services forced down their throats.

Needless to say, they get a bit hardened to it all. I will NOT use the word 'cynical'. I refuse to admit to being a cynic (or even an ex-cynic, as I am no longer an Agent! ;o) ). But, being the sort they are, look for ways to justify NOT using these products.

So - when you raise your head above the parapet and shout out how good you are - YOU NEED TO BE THAT GOOD. Not how good you WILL BE at some point in the future (date yet to be decided...).

Like an Estate Agent's appraisal - you get one chance to impress. Poor preparation results in failure.

You guys talk a reasonably good fight. Unfortunately, what we are seeing and experiencing (out of INTEREST, remember...) does not match the bravado you speak. Yet.

I would respectfully suggest that, certainly in my opinion (not that of a prospective customer but as an interested outsider), you have released your seed too early and much of it will fall on stony ground as a result.

This is YOUR shop window. It is up to YOU to fill it with something that attracts potential customers inside.

If they don't find what they are looking for - they will leave and MOST will never come back. Trust me.
Added by Liya Fateh on 2012-01-18 10:35:47

Hi PeeBee,

So we meet again!

We are currently page 11 but SEO is not instant, it's a process, which can take longer depending on competition for the keywords. However, all our PPC campaigns will be up in the coming weeks so we will be first page on 'estate agents in London' and many more until we rank organically.

I've just checked SW1, and it does centre on Knightsbridge as we have four agents serving that area. However, I do take note of your point as when we don't have any agents listed in an area googlemaps doesn't have any reference to centre on - I'll get this looked at.

Thanks,

Liya
Added by PeeBee on 2012-01-18 10:11:58

Mr Alexander: "We have also begun targeting local keywords such as ‘estate agents in ’ to ensure that we receive traffic from consumers in specific areas..."

Yeah? So - I Googled 'estate agents in London'.

Page ELEVEN. Four from the bottom.

IF I wasn't on amission, I would have given up SEVEN PAGES earlier...

May I ask why, unless you search for SW1 or similar, most UK postcodes take you into the middle of the South Pacific Ocean?

One HELL of a search facility if you ask me... :o|

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