This past week I was asked to answer the question, "How can you determine fact from fiction in online Realtor reviews?" for the San Francisco Chronicle. While they've yet to update the Sound Off section in the sfgate.com, the text below is what I submitted as my answer. Due to space restrictions I had to leave out a couple additional points, so you'll have to ask me what they are if you are curious.
When reviewing Realtor profiles & reviews online you should look deeper than the information being presented to the way it's being presented. As this SFGate blog post from April 20th discusses, buzz words can make a difference in home sales prices; likewise buzz words can make a difference in the impression you have when reading about an agent. What do those commonly found descriptors like “premiere” and “top producer” actually mean?
Most agents, especially those who have been in the industry for many years, will represent themselves accurately and will have a good sampling of reviews from which a discerning reader can pull valuable information. Consistently mentioned personality and professional traits can offer reliable information about an agent. Also look for a consistent voice in an agent’s website or blog; does that voice match what the reviews say? When reading online reviews, remember that if a person has a negative experience they tend to share it, so if an agent has all positive reviews on reputable sites, it's safe to say they're doing a good job for their clients.
Finally, use all the resources at your fingertips. There are many sites you can look to for reviews and sales information; Yelp, Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, and LinkedIn all offer platforms for client-written reviews. With over than 15 years in the business, I can say that the cream does rise to the top, and agents who act unprofessionally or unethically don’t stick around long regardless of what buzz words they use.