Shane Milne, Real Estate Pro in Laguna Niguel, CA

Abusing Trulia's "recommendation" feature

Asked by Shane Milne, Laguna Niguel, CA Thu Jan 24, 2013

I was perusing the "most recommended" in Los Angeles County - at http://www.trulia.com/voices/directory/Los_Angeles_County-pr… - and saw that the top 8 results were all the same real estate agency (Blue Fern Real Estate). Looking into it further, all of the recommendations are from the same exact people and say the same exact thing, and all were posted on the same exact day (one has them all on Dec. 13th, another has them all on Dec. 11th, etc.). Now I've asked my clients to write testimonials before, but they don't all do it on the same exact day and let alone 62 of them. Tactics like Blue Fern Real Estate is using makes the recommendation feature of Trulia extremely watered down, and consumers will consider this more of a site full of spam & marketing rather than unbiased advice. It's sad when a company has to resort to using tactics like that for marketing and makes you wonder if their agency has any integrity at all.

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Answers

36
Hmmmm! Outside the box thinking. Is that Outside the intellectual box? Outside the ethical box? Outside the box of good business practices? One can venture outside of many boxes. So perhaps we should be aware of which box we are venturing outside of.

Just a thought.

Ron
4 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
Here is another interesting profile - http://www.trulia.com/profile/flahomespecialistcom/

I came across this profile when she responded to a question that I previously answered, and it immediately had 2 thumbs up - I mean within minutes. Like not only did many people read her responses, two of them thought it was so darn good that they gave it a thumbs up. Further, the majority of Maria's recommendations all have pictures of places as their profile picture (which happens I admit, but nearly all of them?). I've read many of her answers and they add nothing unique, just standard "I recommend you speak to a mortgage broker about your situation, they have many options which can help you." - for example http://www.trulia.com/voices/Financing/Hello_Would_it_be_pos… which already has 5 thumbs up from this past Monday (a response usually needs to be witty, extremely insightful, and/or directly addressing the question asker's situation to get that many thumbs up). Another of her responses at http://www.trulia.com/voices/Home_Selling/How_much_would_you… doesn't even really address the question, it's just a canned response and it got 3 thumbs up, much unlike Lara Ramsay's which specifically addresses the question and gives the poster some "food for thought". Another example is http://www.trulia.com/voices/Home_Buying/How_much_will_be_th… which is being asked by Maryann Toro on Dec. 14th, Maria E. Cipollone answered the question that same day, and Maryann Toro wrote a recommendation that same day for Maria saying that she sold her home within 40 days. Actually, if you click on nearly every one of the people who have recommended Maria, you will see they have 1) posted a question that day, 2) Maria answered it, and 3) recommended Maria on that same day as well. I should be a Trulia forensic scientist.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 26, 2013
Woa! That's some pretty interesting recon you did. I think it's important to expose this type of deception for what it is. I mean come on. I'll take all the "Wadaguys" folks are kind enough to pass my way. But I'll fall fully short of contriving them.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
Shane,

Thanks for taking the time to bring this to everyone's attention and I think it's pretty clear that as a company they need to take an ethics refresher course.

I work hard to receive my recommendations and while I'm one of the top referred agents in my area, it's taken me a couple of years of consistent work and I don't recall ever having more than 2 clients make a referral on the same day.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
Trulia does have a way of monitoring this stuff;
Shane just did it!
3 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
LOL! Donald, I fall short of the 20,000 answer mark by about 90%. The 2,000+ questions I've answered have been spread out over several years and I certainly don't spend 8 hrs a day on my computer. I don't mean to infer that you're directing your comment at me but I'm not nearly as concerned about the VIP badges or the number of points I have. I look at the number of leads I've generated from the contributions I've made.

Additionally, in my case anyway, I'm pretty specific as a rule to the Factory Built Housing Industry. As a company/s with a Nationwide reach and having worked in just about every State in the Country and having to know about building codes and zoning regs everywhere I feel I'm quite capable and qualified to answer questions for folks in many states albeit I tend to focus primarily on California where I hold a general and manufactured home contractors license as well as a manufactured home dealer and RE brokers license.

The 3 decades I've spent in the Manufactured Housing business has armed me with a vast knowledge and understanding of this industry and at this station of my life I really enjoy helping folks out when the opportunity presents itself as it does so often on Trulia and other venues.

As a buyer, seller, property manager, developer and investor in this industry I take very few listings. I'm usually purchasing, remodeling or replacing old trailers for new state-of-the-art manufactured homes and reselling them before I'm even finished with them or adding them to our rental inventory.

Here's an example if you care to know: http://activerain.com/blogsview/1148482/when-the-cubic-foot-…

My question to you is, how do you know how many listings a person has? I know many very successful RE professionals who contribute to several blog venues and discussion groups that don't and won't advertise or list on a public platform. But they do get lots of leads by just being helpful and answering a few questions.

Once again, I'm not suggesting that you're directing any of your comments at me but I just wanted to drive the point home that just because RE professionals on Truila have a lot of points or VIP badges doesn't mean they're spending that much time on it. I've been a member for several years as have many VIP 1, 2 & 3 members and our points or badge status didn't come over night.

Have a great day!
2 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
Fortunately home buyers and sellers aren't dummies and they usually spot this type of thing. It is a shame that it happens at all. I think the word that applies is desperation. Those who aren't very good at what they do resort to this type of thing. I am suspect of things that look out of kilter. I see agents here with all sorts of badges and paid for pro designations that have no listings. It seems they spend more time here trying to find business that actually conducting it.
Don
http://www.nyhomeseller.com
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
Shane,

Thank you for this very important post.....it's a sad reflection on the credibility of individuals that consider themselves professionals and a reminder that by leaving a crack uncared for the finest scooner can become a home for sea creatures.

Hopefully your post will get someone's attention!

Best regards,

Bill
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
And 0 current listings. Something is fishy...
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
Sinead I saw that too - and 0 blog posts, 0 questions, 0 answers to questions. It's a bit suspect.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
I typed in the same kind of search for San Diego County and came up with Justin Roberts as the top agent. 45 recommendations on November 13th and 5 on November 12th... for a grand total of 50 recommendations, making him the most recommended under San Diego County.... weird, right?
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
I agree that it is Trulia's job to monitor this. But it is a big job and this kind of thing can slip by for a while, which is why all of us appreciate it when participants like Shane highlight these kinds of abuses.

Thanks
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
I didn't even know you could do that. I figured Trulia verifies the recommendations like Zillow does. I don't have many reccomendations on Trulia except for the customers who found me through Trulia. Maybe this complaint will change things.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
Thanks for sharing this This type of thing just frustrates me and has made me wary of social media. The people with thousands of friends or likes on their page aren't necessarily the best....it's a bit of a game really.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
Yuck! Not cool at all! Trulia should have a way of monitoring this.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
Speaking of recommendation BS'ers: http://www.trulia.com/voices/profile/Real_Estate_Pro-Temecul…

Not only will I publicly call him out as a liar, but I would be happy to send Trulia the proof of such when I caught him posting as one of the names that has recommended him by accident. He apparently forgot to log out of said profile and answered a question where he signed it with his name and signature.

OOPS.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Mar 1, 2013
Don, not quite sure about your comment, "I'm a bit suspicious of anyone with a vip3 badge, but your last reply was on the money."

You are correct about some RE pros posting fluff. However, there are also those who engage in the Q/A forum because they really think they have answers and advice that can help those folks in need of accurate and informative advice.

I've come to get to know a lot of very honest and well experienced folks on Trulia, Shane being one of them, and I must say that the good ones by far outweigh the not so good ones.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Mar 1, 2013
Hi Shane.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We are currently investigating the issue and will resolve it shortly.

Also, thank you to everyone else for their responses and input. We are constantly working to improve this and all of our many features we offer to agents and consumers. We will incorporate your feedback into changes we roll out with improvements to this feature.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with feedback - vocal contributors like you are a crucial voice to helping us imrpove our services to you.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 28, 2013
WOW! I have to say Shane, I'm a bit suspicious of anyone with a vip3 badge, but your last reply was on the money. I love it when someone gives a recommendation for a Realtor and within days they are on Trulia asking questions that are being promptly answered by that agent who then gets multiple thumbs up. If that agent is so good, why aren't they calling them with their questions? If it walks like a duck........

Great reply. There are far too many agents here who are just posting fluff to show how many questions they can answer. Their answers have no real content and in reality are not answers at all, just advice to go somewhere else. I never asked for a recommendation here and as a result I only have one from someone who happened to be here after a sale. I recently sent out a few, yes just a few, emails to ask for a recommendation. Yes, they could show up close to each other by date, but you can bet your booty they will be real.

Don Mituzas
Licensed Associate Broker
2008 Realtor of the Year
Director - HGAR
Former Chairman - Professional Standards PCAR

http://www.nyhomeseller.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 26, 2013
This process is called Zillowification.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
Ron, your answer had me LOL'ing. Wife came in to see what was so funny.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
Thumbs up for John - I don't even know what else to say!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
Well Steve, looks like I'll have to do a little Dollar Cost Averaging with some other answers. LOL!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
Hah! Yup John - your answer is now at -1 vote.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
Do thumbs down really do anything?
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
Annette Lawrence - should we expect you to soon load up dozens of different "profiles" and add recommendation after recommendation, whether they are true or not? If you aren't planning on doing that - then why not? Is it because you would feel that isn't being genuine, moral, and/or ethical?
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
I couldn't disagree more Annette. I think falsifying information, whether you believe in the merits of Trulia recommendations or not, is a indication of your integrity (or lack thereof).
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
Annette, I don't even know how to address that comment.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
But I digress back to the point in question. I'm for vetting out these types of problems when they surface as Shane has done with his comment. Trulia can't be responsible for everything and there's nothing wrong with a little self policing.

I remember not to long ago when something similar happened to a one million point plus Active Rain member. I won't go into any detail because it wouldn't be the right thing to do on another platform. But this once #1 member is no more largely because of other AR members astute responses.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
It appears some very enterprising folks found a way to make TRULIA work for their benefit.
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Congratulation to each and every one of them!
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These enterprising folks decided to draw outside the lines and got some others really upset.
What a shame.
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These enterprising folks jumped the confines of the box and EXPOSED the silliness of the 'recommendation' feature. Congratulation to each and every one of them.
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The enterprising folks added to their Trulia 'authority' WITHOUT throwing their clients, friends or neighbors under the bus. Good for them!
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We parrot approval for 'out of the box' thinking unless someone gets out of the box first.
What a shame.
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But we ignore false for sale listings. Homes sold long ago. RealtyTrac embedded advertising. FBS Property management. Substituted data. Suppressed data. AND the deception of the public by aggregate websites! That seems a bit convoluted.
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If you can find a way to make Trulia work better for you....do it.! If you are able to exploit situation or market in such a way that your peers feel it to b obnoxious...then you ARE doing it right!
Then look upon it as a job well done.
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Isn't it a bit silly to NOT reciprocate a recommendation with one of your own?
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Hats off to BLUE FERN REAL ESTATE for seeing an opportunity and taking ACTION!
Recognizing the influence of this critical mass of activity is INGENIOUS! The fact that they acted is courageous. The suggestion that is has any relationship to integrity is ludicrous.
After all, isn't ACTION the important lesson to learn. Those who don't act.....complain.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
Bravo to you John. Trulia and some of the other RE platforms certainly provide a social exchange that many enjoy, including myself. What can be a bit troubling is that there are some who have answered 20,000 questions on this forum and have no listings. Not for nothing, but if an agent is spending that much time here answering quesitions perhaps they haven't been selling much real estate. Some of them are just posting answers to questions just to be the last to answer. Some of the answers I've seen are wrong and misleading. I don't answer questions that are from other states that require specific answers. I don't know the laws of that state and I wouldn't be qualified to answer one of those questions. I do see many agents here doing exactly that.

Yes, Trulia is a very social website and is very helpful to many people buying or selling a home. My reply was to this specific question and I gave my opinion. Please don't stop replying to questions here. There is no reason someone who enjoys the social interaction and likes being helpful shouldn't continue. I certainly didn't mean all those with vip badges here were just looking for the badge. I do think that the overwhelming majority are. When I see someone who answers 20,000 questions I think it would take an entire year working 8 hours a day to answer all those questions. To me you become a Trulia professional at that point and NOT a real estate professional.

Donald A Mituzas
Licensed Associate Broker
2008 Realtor of the Year
20 Years Experience.


http://www.nyhomeseller.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2013
Donald, I'll give you some of that albeit not every RE professional lists their biz on an open forum or even the Internet.

I for one am very close to the vest about my RE deals. Just because a RE professional doesn't have a head count on Trulia, Active Rain or Zillow doesn't necessarily mean they're not for real.

Frankly, I participate and contribute to Trulia and other RE platforms because I enjoy the social exchange and the many relationships and networking opportunities that I've encountered during the past several years.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
Found the same tactic used by them in Orange County, CA too (may contain some of the same profiles) - http://www.trulia.com/voices/directory/Orange_County-pros--1…

What happened to having to use a Facebook account to verify identity? While some of my clients were a bit annoyed by that, it certainly made the recommendations more credible.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2013
I should add that he quickly deleted it but it was captured and saved as a PDF before he could cover the tracks. It's been passed around as a joke for a while. Looking at the other "recommendations" one can only wonder if lightning struck more than once.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Mar 1, 2013
Hi Matt Holder, how is the investigation coming along?

I flagged one of my own recommendations from "Voices Member" (aka "Tina") who apparently wants to have a long term relationship & and send me her photos. I don't need that type of garbage on my recommendation list... plus my wife is a little upset =P
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Mar 1, 2013
LOL I was wondering why she looked familiar....

http://www.zillow.com/advice-thread/What-charges-are-include…

Legit question, right?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2013
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