Sellers – Brace Yourself

by Nick Molnar on September 8, 2006

A recent Wall Street Journal article has brought attention to a new trend in real estate Web-sites. ZipRealty and Reply are adapting the user reviews you see on sites like Amazon to real estate. The goal is to provide accurate information online, not just the exaggerated and up-beat descriptions typical to the field. A classic example of such boosterism is from Marge Simpson‘s short venture into real estate. Here is her broker, Lionel, training her in “Realtor-ese.”

Marge: It’s awfully small…
Lionel: I’d say it’s awfully.. cozy!
Marge: That’s dilapidated…
Lionel: Rustic!
Marge: That house is on fire!
Lionel: Motivated seller!

The concept open review concept is good, and the reviews cut to the chase in an entertaining way. There has been a problem though, a number of the reviews bash the homes out of self interest. Sellers can go online and write negative reviews of competing homes, and people interested in buying a house may write statements designed to discourage others from seeing / buying it. Negative or unusual stories also seem to capture more attention, so if I tour six homes and they are all beautiful and in good repair except one that has pet odors, I’d be more likely to write an unpaid review of “The Cat Pee House” then “The Clean House” too.

The reviews are often entertaining – “The back bedroom is the size of a coffin,” and occasionally useful – “The green carpet looks better in pictures then in person.” I give the Web-sites that publish them two thumbs up for trying something new, including the (slightly moderated) public voice in their marketing and increasing user participation.

If anyone stumbles across a noteworthy house review from South Bend, send it my way and I’ll be happy to post it.

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