By Don Procter

Four years ago, members of the Canadian Real Estate Association voted against using a Realtor rating system on Realtor.ca, but times have changed. And rating services have evolved.

The Association of Saskatchewan Realtors (ASR) moved ahead with one of those services – RealSatisfied – this year, after it conducted a pilot project in partnership with the company and CREA in 2016.

Phil Kells, co-founder of RealSatisfied, says the company’s objective goes beyond Realtor ratings to provide a platform “to collect detailed customer satisfaction information” for a broker at the conclusion of a transaction. “We see the ratings as a complete by-product of that process.”



Phil Kells
Phil Kells

Kells, who says agent and broker ratings are simply a marketing tool, believes ASR chose his company in part because it provides “detailed data” collected through feedback that is “driving changes in the behaviour of agents and brokers.

“Making the industry better is the idea,” he says.

This October, RankMyAgent.com became the second such service to provide agent rankings and reviews on Realtor.ca.  While RankMyAgent is an opt-in program, not mandatory, the company has seen “strong interest” from agents and is largely growing through word of mouth.

Riti Verma, president and founder of the Calgary-based company, says with young tech-savvy people moving into the real estate profession – and the popularity of online reviews and ratings on services thriving in other industries – it made sense that CREA would move to provide a service to its members.

RankMyAgent, which has agreements with Re/Max Integra and Re/Max of Western Canada, is structured to confirm the authenticity of Realtors and their clients. It eliminates the potential for “fake negative reviews” – a concern of many agents – by fact-checking the details provided on its rating surveys of all transactions, Verma says.

Rita Verma
Riti Verma

“If there is something that we see that we find out is false…if it is slanderous it is never allowed on our site,” Verma says.

RealSatisfied has a couple of proprietary mechanisms to prevent fake reviews from going online, says Kells. An “audit and quarantine” program includes an assessment of all reviews by RealSatisfied management. The reviews are also “checked with the brokerage, specifically, and not necessarily the agent…” Checks are, furthermore, in place in its transaction management system “to understand where the data is from.”

While agents can decide whether they want to show their “overall ratings” to the public or not, “they can’t decide what ratings they want to show,” Kells says. “We won’t remove data they don’t like. We include everything.”

He says RealSatisfied has lost customers (agents) who aren’t willing to play by these rules.

Twenty years ago, Larry Romito started looking at how to create “greater accountability and transparency to positively influence professional behaviour and the service provided” by Realtors, he says.  Romito, who heads Quality Service Certification, says QSC’s feedback ratings are based on evaluations of information of a software program of five areas of a broker’s work, after a closing and a commission has been paid.

Larry Romito
Larry Romito

Romito says he understands why some realty associations might choose rating companies that “selectively present (feedback) information” because they want to keep their association members happy. But he says it can lead to false advertising.

That is not the approach of RealSatisfied, says Kells, pointing out that the company separates its rating data from “what we call the testimonial data.” All of its surveys have a rating but only surveys that are positive have testimonials.

“We only ask for a testimonial for public display when it is a positive review but that doesn’t mean we suppress negative reviews – we actually display everything,” says Kells. “We do give our agents the option of whether to display ratings on their profile page or not and whether they display all their ratings or just an aggregate number. If they display the aggregate number, they still display the aggregate of everything.”

Verma says critical reviews can be posted on RankMyAgent, but agents are given 14 days to respond to the criticisms before postings go live. “It helps them (Realtors) to handle the situation in a better way.”

She says that in order to gain credibility in the public’s eye, its reviews “can’t all be positive.” Furthermore, “it is hard to know how they can improve and enhance their business” if their only reviews are positive.

Kells says that more than 99 per cent of the agents that signed up with RealSatisfied through the ASR display all of their data. So far, close to 50 per cent of the ASR’s agents use RealSatisfied. He believes the service has attracted “all of the productive agents” in the association.

While the real estate industry has had “a very bright light” on its sales and production metrics, there has not been any light on the behaviour between agents and their clients, says Romito, noting that feedback (when negative) can alter agent behaviour. And that can be positive.

Romito says the problem starts with the definition of a top Realtor: “He or she that sells the most.” It might have worked in the 1950 and ‘60s, he says, but service quality is as, or more, important today for consumers than sales numbers.

He says while it is important for agents to make post-closing service calls to consumers to avoid dissatisfied customers that can lead to negative reviews, it is “very hard” to convince some agents paid on a commission basis to make those follow-up calls. “The companies we do business with, according to those buyers and sellers, are contacted after their agent’s closing over 90 per cent of the time.”

Verma says when agent-customer communications start on day one and follow through without wide gaps to the transaction stage, there is less chance of things going wrong.

She adds that every rating system should provide “a balanced perspective and really paint a complete picture because we do want them to be credible and unbiased.”

  • Ron Kelly

    Why would Realtor.ca go ahead and add this to our expenses when we voted against it, particularly without another opportunity to express our opinion? The only reason I can think of is they were afraid we would turn it down again. I dislike being forced to contribute to a program that I do not want and whether or not the program has been changed or updated somewhat does nor matter, we voted not to have it and that should be it. I don’t need some disembodied organization making decisions on my behalf. Reverse this decision.

  • Brian Martindale

    What the rating system misses are all of the interactions between Realtors and the public that do not result in successful transactions. I would wager dollars to Timbits that those interactions far outnumber those that conclude with transactions. These current surveys only highlight the good times and ignore all of the other times, some obviously being not-so-good times.
    There is a perfectly sound reason behind why members of the public do not choose to deal with specific Realtors—in droves—and it is this; they don’t like or trust them, with the lack-of-trust factor driving the dislike factor. But I guess it would be difficult for a survey operation to sell its product to any sales organization if it did not reveal ‘only’ what the sales organization wants to be revealed…being good news in the face of bad news. But hey…that’s advertising!
    It’s time for Organized Real Estate to survey ‘everyone’ out there regarding interactions with Realtors, whether they culminate in transactions or not. Only then will the concept of a survey carry real meaning. RECO (Ontario) could hire some university students as interns and have them wander about in shopping malls asking passers-by to answer questions about their interactions with Realtors at all levels of contact. Might be quite revealing. We humans—and subsequently our organizations—tend to learn more effectively from what we are doing wrong than from what we are doing right.

  • Mike Irving

    Figures!!! We vote against it … and here it is! Typical!

  • verona38ca

    How much did this cost us, something we voted AGAINST.

  • Robert Ede

    As always ….follow the Money. Who is paying CREA for access to display on Realtor.ca? who was consulted (outside of the 50% of Sask Assoc who like rating svcs)?

  • Lyle

    I was one of those who argued against this issue 4 years ago, and my opinion has not changed.

    It has little to do with the technology of conducting surveys of clients, it has a lot to do with “who” is responsible for the examining the results of the survey.

    This is not the role of an Association whose primary role is becoming clearer and clearer as the representative of the industry to the many faces of government, and whose other role is to enhance the public perception of that industry, primarily through advertising. Neither CREA nor a provincial Association can do absolutely anything with the information collected. Even the article states that the rating system has attracted “all of the productive agents” in Saskatchewan. They are most likely the ones who will get better ratings, so it’s an attempt to gain a competitive advantage.

    A rating system is a valuable tool for those who have the ability to make and enforce changes.

    There are just 3 such bodies in this industry: the individual, the brokerage employing the individual, and the provincial regulator who has the legal right and the wherewithal to determine if that individual should be permitted to continue in the industry.

    As an individual, I know from discussions I have with my clients whether they deem my work to be professional and that I’m performing my job to the utmost limit of my ability.

    My brokerage has a system in place to evaluate my work through direct contact with my clients, who in fact are their clients (I’m just the representative of the brokerage). The missing link is the Regulator.

    I stated four years ago, and I will state again, that if the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) decided to do a survey of the registrants and their clients, with the intention being that those results would determine whether action was need to take some proactive steps to make changes, even to the point of terminating a registration in specific circumstances, then this would have my fullest support.

    There are REALTORS® (so that excludes about 25-30% of all registrants), who act in unethical manners routinely, and that may include the brokerage. They are not likely to change they way they do business. But they are the ones who are contributing to the current image of our industry.

    It’s not the surveying technology; it’s about how the information collected is going to be used, and by whom.

    It should not be a mechanism to attract new clients by enabling self-promotion based on a rating system. (You need to expect to see someone with an ad that says they are the “highest rated agent in “boomtown””.)

    Have either of these companies with the surveying systems had conversations with the Regulators in Canada? I’d like to hear about that response!