For property owners in Australia, listing a property for sale or lease is a task fraught with myriad choices and tricky decisions. With the recent economic boom (and now bust), our national real estate landscape has been flooded with agents - old and new - cashing in on the growing demand and heated competition for property.
As interest rates rise and the market shows signs of tipping back towards buyers, many agents are looking for a competitive advantage; to better understand what they can do to market themselves, stand out amongst the noise and win listings.
But ultimately, the vendors are the final decision makers; they choose their listing agent. But how? And why?
We surveyed Australian vendors to uncover how they navigated their real estate journey, what they looked for in an agent, where they found their information and what factors were important to them in making a final decision.
Real estate agent trends - key findings
- Most vendors first heard about their listing agent online (45%), while 39% relied on word-of-mouth referrals from friends or family
- 65% of vendors agreed that an agent's reputation and testimonials were the most important factor in deciding which agent to list with
- 77% of vendors would think twice about working with a real estate agency if they discovered that another local office was better reviewed
- 76% of vendors were more confident contacting an agency rated between 3 to 5 stars, than a perfect 5 stars (9%)
- 59% of vendors agreed that seeing a mixture of both positive AND negative reviews for a real estate agent helped to better inform their decision
How do vendors choose an agent?
We asked our respondents about what they looked for in a real estate agency, and what factors were most important to them in choosing an agent to list with. Here's what they said:
- 45% of surveyed vendors found their agent after conducting research online
- 39% were referred to an agent by a friend or family member
- 10% took action on an agent's marketing/sales material (letterbox drop etc)
- 1% chose the first agency in closest proximity
- 1% said they had used the agent before
- 4% provided 'other' responses
When deciding which agent to choose:
- 65% agreed that the agent's reputation and testimonials were most important
- 21% felt the agent's sales history was most important
- 14% were swayed by the brand name of the agency
When asked how important it was for the vendor to conduct online research and compare agents before making a final decision:
- 53% of vendors strongly agreed that online research ultimately defined their listing decision
- 26% of vendors did not make a final listing decision based on online comparisons
- 21% provided a neutral answer
- Of this cohort, 51% of participants strongly agreed that reading an agent's testimonials and hearing how their previous clients spoke about them was important when making a listing decision
Which review sites are vendors looking at?
We asked our respondents about the websites they used to read agency reviews and compare real estate agents. An eclipsing 40% of vendors ranked Realestate.com.au as their primary source of truth, 25% chose Domain to compare agents and 19% looked at Google reviews. Only 10% of vendors looked at reviews on RateMyAgent, followed by a steep dropoff to LocalAgentFinder (4%) and ProductReview.com.au (4%)
- Realestate.com.au — 40%
- Domain — 25%
- Google Reviews — 19%
- RateMyAgent — 10%
- LocalAgentFinder — 4%
- ProductReview — 4%
(Participants were allowed to select multiple responses)
We then asked them about the types of reviews that they looked at, and how they influenced the vendor's listing decision:
- 59% of vendors agreed that seeing an authentic mixture of both positive AND negative reviews was important
- 19% of vendors said that video testimonials from an agent's prior clients were more trustworthy than written reviews, whereas 44% drew more confidence from written reviews (37% of respondents gave a neutral answer).
Where transparency meets truth
If we were to draw any conclusions from our study, it seemed apparent that our surveyed vendors were very aware of review bias. When conducting research and comparing agents, they were drawn to review sites with greater transparency about agents and less stringent moderation/qualification.
Seeing a mixture of both positive and negative reviews was highly important, with participants overwhelmingly agreeing that a 4.5 to 5 star rating inspired more vendor confidence than a perfect 5 star rating.
Some respondents were willing to overlook poor agency reviews, depending on:
- How old the reviews were (age)
- How many reviews there were (consistency)
- What the nature of the reviews were (subject matter)
In closing, reviews, reputation and trust blazed ahead as the most important factors for choosing a listing agent. So as we venture forth into the future, how will agents build and earn vendor trust? What marketing channels, tactics, tools and promotions will they use? In a buyers market, will sellers choose their agents with additional research and scrutiny? We're excited to find out.