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Real Estate Marketing Report Card Gets a C-

February 10, 2009

Other folks have already praised the new Real Estate Marketing Report Card, which the company was kind enough to alert me to via email.  (/wave at Brian Thibault).  And if you can get Joel Burslem to say the following, you probably don’t need my two cents:

It’s a great promotional tool –  one that’s clearly designed to encourage people towards listing their home on the site (a $299 one-time fee).

The proliferation of consumer search portals has given rise to all kinds of syndication tools like International Listings as well as Listhub, Postlets, vFlyer, Point2 and others, that do the heavy lifting for agents and brokers to get their listings out across the web.

Savvy sellers, who in this market are going to want to see that their agent is doing all they can to move their home, are likely going to be checking the various search sites to make sure that they find their house. A tool like this one, while clearly a gimmick, helps make that possible.

But I blog to please myself, and honesty is more or less the first rule of blogging, so…

I give the Real Estate Marketing Report Card (RE Report Card hereafter) a grade of C-.  That is probably an unpleasant grade, but allow me to explain why.

The Good

The design is very clean.  The tool is actually fun to play with in a way.  And the report card makes excellent use of AJAX in displaying the information in a clean, visually appealing way.

It is simple to use (although, I do have some pet peeves) and the average consumer would immediately grasp what the purpose is and what to do.

The Bad

Given the grade, you probably anticipated that this section would be larger than The Good.

First, the data input has some odd behavior.  Why do I need to put in Zip Code if I’m already typing in the city and state?  Do a lookup, willya?

Second, more substantively, all that the RE Report Card does is to check to see if the listing is syndicated.  The quality of the syndication is not examined (and it isn’t clear that it could be examined by a computer program).

An agent could do a godawful job of listing my house — one dingy, ugly photo, horrible description, outright lies like “Desperate owners!  Going cheap!” and the RE Report Card would still give the syndication a green check mark, and up the overall grade.

For something like this to be truly useful to the consumer — instead of being just a cool little curiosity — there has to be a way of grading the listing & syndicated listing on quality.

Third, even on a straight syndication basis, there is no way to enter other websites.  That the agent’s own website/blog is missing is truly odd in this day and age.  Same with the broker site, or the franchise site (if part of franchise).

The Ugly

The Ugly goes to the heart of agent value.

What RE Report Card does, in my opinion, is to value the listing agent’s efforts strictly on one dimension: as a syndicator of listings.

In an age where agents are trying very hard to brand themselves as local and subject matter experts, picking out this one aspect of their job and grading them on it (and in a flawed way at that) can and will lead to rather unpleasant conversations.  No matter how many open houses you’ve held, no matter how many buyer agents you’ve negotiated with only to have things fall through, the client will simply regard you as B- material because his listing isn’t syndicated to  Lycos.

Furthermore, the natural question that arises in my consumer mind is… “I wonder if I can just bypass Ms. Six Percent and do all this syndication myself?”

As it happens, I get a suggestion right at the bottom of the RE Report Card:

Not happy with your listing’s web presence?

Put International Listings to the 30-day test and submit a luxury property listing today. Our real estate listing syndication technology is the best in the business. When you list with us, we’ll work with our extensive list of high-traffic partners to syndicate your listing wherever it’s eligible. Competing sites will list many syndication partners, but then their listings won’t actually appear! You won’t have that problem with International Listings; list through us, and within weeks you’ll see your property all over the Web.

Give us the chance to show you our value for a full month. If you then decide, for any reason, that your listing didn’t meet your expectations, just let us know. We’ll promptly refund the listing fee.

The listing process only takes a few minutes, and your listing is live within hours: Add your listing now! Just $299 – click here.

Um, okay… except that as the disclaimer says:

International Listings LLC is not a licensed real estate broker. We do not represent or negotiate on behalf of property owners or prospective buyers, advise property buyers or prospective buyers regarding real estate transactions, or take actual part in real estate transactions.

So if a consumer actually tried to call International Listings to do precisely what International Listings suggests, presumably they would be met with… what exactly?

If RE Report Card was never intended as a consumer tool, then it needs to be hidden behind some sort of security measure to prevent not-fully-informed consumers from running their house on it and making angry phone calls to their listing agent.

Way Forward

In commercial real estate, listing agents routinely provide the client with a weekly/monthly report of activities.  These reports can be a relatively involved, time-consuming affair.  But when you’re listing a $300M office building, you or someone on your staff had better be spending the time.

I think that’s the way RE Report Card needs to evolve: as an agent/broker tool (sort of as Joel Burslem suggests) with a far stronger qualitative measure.

If I were the customer, I would want my listing agent (who is taking 6% of the sale in my eye, since I don’t know about agent splits and whatnot) to send me an emailed report every week with:

  • Listing Views, by site
  • Inquiries, by site & total, for the week and month to date or YTD
  • “Serious Conversations”
  • Actions (e.g., contracts, walk-thrus, showings, home inspections, etc.)
  • Buyer comments/thoughts even when deals fall through so I can judge for myself what the market is saying
  • Appendix with a screenshot or links to every site where my listing is syndicated, including the agent blog, the agent site, the broker site, the franchise site, etc.
  • Updated comps/CMA showing competitiveness with the rest of the market.

Thing is… I’m just not sure that an agent needs some online tool to do this.  An Excel spreadsheet would work just as well.

The issue is the “doing it” part, I suppose.

In any event…

RE Report Card — a beautifully designed, neat and easy to use tool, with serious flaws: C-.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2009 11:45 pm

    I just entered my listings into this report card and give this website a big fat F. It isn’t even accurate! It says that 3 of my listings are not showing up on trulia, so of course, knowing that I syndicate to trulia, I checked it out and they’re there.

  2. February 11, 2009 8:07 am

    Thanks for the info Rob. While their execution might be flawed, the concept is one I’ve wished for. What I mean is, I wish our agents had a tool that would track and serve up links to every site a listing has been broadcast too. We tell our sellers where all the property info goes, but we all know it’s better to show than tell. It’s be cool to send a seller report that has links to every web site the property is posted too. They could see for them selves.

    Do you know of any company that does that for their agents?

    Keep up the eagle eyed work my man, thanks.

  3. February 11, 2009 8:20 am

    @Sue –

    Wow… that ain’t good for them now is it? 😀

    @Ken –

    I don’t know offhand of any brokerage that serves up links to all syndicated listings — it’s a great idea to do so, don’t you think?

    At the same time, I’ve seen some great seller reports in Excel when I was in the commercial side of the house, and I suspect we’ll see something like that soon.


  4. Joel Burslem permalink
    February 11, 2009 12:19 pm

    No doubt it has flaws. Why I labeled it a promotional tool and a gimmick. It clearly is designed to promote their company.

    But as Ken alludes to, and what I also wrote in that post, is that I’d love to see the concept evolve into a truly useful tool for brokers and agents to be able to share with their own clients (come see where listing is) and even as a tool to solicit new listings (come see where your listing isn’t).

    If it had a reporting mechanism with numbers of views, geographic breakdown of visitors etc. – it’d be even better You can imagine how powerful a report that could be to preset a seller on a daily/weekly basis. One that would silently reaffirm the critical role an agent plays in the marketing of the home.

    And while syndication is not the only part of an agents job, it is now undeniably part of it. In the same way sellers used to want to see that their home had made it into the local paper, I suspect they are going to want reassurance their home is now on Zillow, Trulia et. al (though probably not Lycos).

    I know I would demand it.

  5. February 11, 2009 12:48 pm

    @joel, great idea. Could one of you techies design this? but it should also have option of mls number in there because for example, my listing on Pine Terrace East, could be Pine Ter E, or Pine Terrace E, so mls numbers could resolve that issue.

    Also, if the agent went into this form and checked off the sites they are syndicated to, then the seller can have a user name and passcode to check these links and the stats of views/clicks, etc.

    I don’t like the way the real estate marketing report card is set up because I never even heard of some of the sites on there, and also an agent may be adding some local sites to advertise on so it should be left up to the agent to add which sites would be applicable. All sites are not equal and shouldn’t be presented that way. And each local market has different sites. For example, I advertise my local listings on, which is a local site and NYTimesonline, but someone in the midwest would probably use their local sites instead.

    Then if you’re going after an expired, you can show which sites they are NOT advertising on vs which sites you advertise your listings on and the responses you’ve gotten on your other listings from these sites. This will be more effective because its showing results.

  6. February 12, 2009 12:23 am


    Just left a similar post on Joel’s blog. Where I see the value in this… it comes down to a functionality issue.

    It doesn’t work…

    I put in about 4-5 of our company’s listings that I am 100% sure are not only listed, but FEATURED on Trulia, Realtor, Zillow, Oodle, HotPads, etc… and it showed up on only.

    Even better, when I contacted the company about this, their response was, read the fine print on the front page. Short version… they’re not liable for the data.

    that’s the kind of stuff that just kind of pisses me off. But great post.


  7. February 15, 2009 9:35 pm

    Thanks for the link to us “folks”. Didn’t really praise it as much as point it out, but it did give one of my listings as A, so it can’t be that bad right? 😉


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