I’ve been looking for an apartment to move into and for the umpteenth time am struck by the sheer frustration that the house-hunting process involves. Estate agents are more likely than not to make your life hell with their processes, demands and rigid ways of working. At the end of the day, it is the (prospective) tenant that is left holding the baby if something goes wrong, usually at the very last minute, and then you get desperate so as to avoid being on the streets.
Vikram mentioned this to me last year – why doesn’t someone create a site where people can rate estate agents by name and company, as well as landlords (where agents don’t exist)? They can receive an overall score based on their rating by certain criteria: helpfulness, involvement, how personable they are and so on. Think of it as a sort of RateMyProfessors.com, except with a real estate angle to it. Buying or renting a property is easily one of the most important decisions a person makes (apart from getting married and selecting a career), and it shouldn’t be something that leaves you with a bad taste in the mouth. After all, estate agents aren’t exactly doing what they do for charity – they get a good commission in most cases. And you pay some of that, if not all, so it’s your money at stake.
There are certain risks of course – most renters are part of the floating population of a city and they may not bother about logging in to rate if they’re going to leave the city soon anyway (though that’s probably changing with the mortgage crisis and more prospective house owners turning to renting as a stop-gap arrangement). On the flip side though, I’m sure there’ll be plenty of opportunity for advertising revenue.