With so many real estate agents out there claiming Number 1 status at their respective brokerages, it can be hard to separate the good from the bad in the industry.
That’s why four years ago, Toronto’s Riti Verma fused her love of technology with her passion for real estate to found RankMyAgent.com — a way for actual clients to rank the quality of their real estate agent, based on objective criteria from America’s National Real Estate Association.
Verma reveals here how it all works, how she balances raising a family with her responsibilities as a company president, and how she pays it forward to help more female entrepreneurs get to the executive level.
How did you get started in real estate?
It all actually started with my mom telling us, “There’s no real estate expertise within our family. Every family has an agent or someone they can lean on and there’s no one in our family.”
It was just a strange and interesting observation that got stuck in my head. So while I was working full-time at the University of Toronto in emerging technologies, I decided to pursue part-time studies in real estate. I got licensed on the side and since getting licensed, I have never looked back.
I have a young family. I have two young kids and while having my second child, I decided I never want to be working for someone else again. I just want the freedom of working on my own.
My husband is a physician and one day we were just sitting around our coffee table and he was looking at reviews he’d received on RateMDs.com. While he was looking, he was asking me, “What is there for real estate agents?”
We started doing a lot of research and there wasn’t a lot out there for real estate agents at that time. There was also a lot of slander online.
I thought this would be a really interesting project for me to do, so I developed a team and started working on RankMyAgent.com.
It’s my passion for real estate and technology that I’ve merged together, while meeting the needs that we all have in the real estate industry, especially on the consumer side.
What service does RankMyAgent.com provide by allowing feedback and is it necessary?
Oh yes. What we find is when a consumer is going to look for an agent, they’ll look for those “For Sale” signs. But many times, they’ll try to find out who is the popular agent in their neighbourhood. But the number of sales never indicates how the customer experience was, so it is a very necessary tool.
We know that nine out of 10 people will go online to verify what they have heard and when they do that, they’d most likely put the full name of the agent to see what comes up and it is sites like ours — third-party review sites that really do come up in these searches.
RankMyAgent.com is verifiable reviews.
Every single review on the platform is based on a firm or closed transaction, so it’s not just random reviews put up by anyone.
Also, the reviews on the site are based on the real estate transaction as well — it’s not a simple five-star. It’s just giving more insight to the consumer.
So how does RankMyAgent.com work and what would it tell me about an agent?
The survey is based on seven ranking questions we ask the client to complete. The ranking questions are based on the National Association of Realtors study they did asking, “What are the most important things consumers are looking for in an agent?”
The consumer wants to know when they’re looking at an agent: Is this agent trustworthy? How is there property knowledge? How are their neighbourhood skills? How are their negotiation skills?
Based on such metrics, we have created a ranking and then there’s a qualitative area to write the review. There’s also property address information and the role the agent played. This is the type of information found on RankMyAgent.
Plus, about three weeks ago, we did add the ability to add photographs and more details just so that information can also be given to a potential client who is trying to find out more about an agent.
Do agents register themselves on your site?
While it’s much easier when the agent registers themselves because at that point the process is very streamlined, an agent does not necessarily have to register themselves. A client can also come in and write a review.
What kind of feedback do you get from agents who see themselves on your site?
We are getting incredible feedback from agents.
I’ve walked through the journey with these agents over the last couple of years and I’ve seen their businesses grow. There’s one agent that really comes to mind, based in Calgary, whose reviews paint such a full picture of who he is and he does get a lot of business from the platform.
We see people who are really strong supporters and we see people who have worked hard to collect reviews and build them into their sales cycle, so they are reaping the benefits of that.
We launched this product late 2013, early 2014. And I used to go to a lot of real estate tradeshows when we were in beta and our industry wasn’t ready for change at that time.
I remember people telling me they wanted to shut it down. Some people said they throw tomatoes at us, but really the platform was created to connect the best agents to the very best clients.
There were a lot of misconceptions, but we’ve come a long way since those early days. We have the partnership with realtor.ca now, which allows realtor.ca to have our reviews and the RE/MAX integration, which allows every RE/MAX agent to share their reviews on the RE/MAX site.
Can agents dispute their reviews?
Yes, this is what makes our site different from others.
Slander is not allowed on the site, but if something does get disputed there’s a 14-day cooling off period so the agent can talk to their client and their broker and see what they can do to make the situation better. If they’re not able to, they have the ability to write a response back.
This allows for transparency and also allows for both viewpoints because disputes are always two-sided and never one-sided.
How do you balance running a nationwide company with raising a family?
Long hours. The balance is fuelled by my passion.
My passion that I want to be the change for the positive in this industry. I want to be that person who can do this. I want my kids to see my drive and I want them to also have the passion for what they’re doing. It comes from within.
We have a very busy household, but we keep all those pieces together. I have a strong partnership with my husband and he is quite involved as well.
Female CEOs like yourself are rare, so what are you doing to pay it forward and encourage the rise of more female CEOs and entrepreneurs in this world?
I really believe in helping the young generation reach their full potential. So what we do at RankMyAgent.com is on an ongoing basis we hire students who need internships or other younger people who we can help.
We have had so many students that have worked with us over the years and I really want to say that I champion their cause. I really help them find what they’re passionate about as well. I share my journey as a business person in IT getting into real estate, being a mom, balancing a busy career, and also my family.
We would love to do more work around this, so if there are any other businesses or charities who can help us realize that dream, I invite them to get in touch.