Please take a look at Jim's Tuba scoring system:
I actually got a personal thank you from one poster who posted the same question 3 different ways and never got an answer. She didn't understand why. My post explained that government regulations and Realtor's code of ethics prohibit directly answering her question and that an agent would play it safe by just ignoring her post instead of giving her a vague answer.
As Diane said, we have kicked this one around a couple times. And yes, there are people who just answer every question to get their stats up. I'd like to go back and see if those individuals ever post to the questions complaining about them?!
Last point. When you have time to go through Trulia and few others are on line, it does look conceited to have an entire page of your own logo up there. But that doesn't necessarily mean they are just answering every question down the list. Often times they are scrolling through and finding the questions that they do feel they can help with.
Again, my typing tone here sound more harsh than I mean to be. I'm just trying to shed some light.
I agree w/ Diane that as Trulia grows, RE Pros will naturally gravitate to focusing on those questions in their local area. For now, if it were restricted by area, Voices could never have grown. It's an evolution.
I also wholeheartedly concur w/ CJ.
And Steve, I think your assumption about why someone answers questions is based on rankings is inaccurate. While some may post based upon numbers or stats, I do not think that is the motivation of most. I also see no value in total answers in and of itself. As a relationship to other stats, perhaps.
Rankings in our local market for real estate listings is also a skewed number. I liive an work in an area where Foxtons, with extremely high numbers of listing. It didn't make their service levels strong, and it didn't do any good for profitablity. Bottom line....so what?
What does matter is if the information presented to the public is useful, harmful, or neutral. By far, the information is useful to the public. I have learned much from the answers I read of other posters. I think I am a better Realtor for it. And, I welcome Trulians from across the country to help educate my customers, too. I have printed out threads and handed them to my clients on issues from right pricing to the desireability of a pool. So, I owe a big TY to many Trulians. The self-policing system works well if one of us steps over the line into a local issue.
If all real estate knowledge was limited to local, why then, do we have books in bookstores, national conventions, and seminar trainers who travel the country to educate us. Perhaps we should tell David Knox that his pricing videos aren't valid except for his hometown?
Yes, specific pricing and market trends need to be handled by a local. Principles in real estate extend beyond a zip code and there is a wealth of knowledge beyond my zip code. I am interested in the oppty that presents for my agents, my clients, and myself.
I'm not sure what's insulting about my pointing out other agents that answer questions illegaly, unethically, and just plain wrong, as a direct result of those agents not being local to the market they are responding about.
Trulia has established a way for a person to ask a question about a local market. Personally, if the question isn't at least asked of Arizona, I don't ever answer it. Even in Arizona there are questions I still don't answer, because this is a pretty big state, and real estate is local. On top of that, my commission believes that I'm supposed to be an expert in any area of real estate that I practice, and so answering questions about areas that I'm not an expert is unethical in my commissioner's eyes.
So why do you risk answering something wrong, illegal, and/or unethical, as you note below? Why do you risk that? You gave as a reason, you can't resist something that's challenging. Hmm, if it's challenging AND from outside my area of expertise, than I'm definitely not answering that question.
Let me get super specific. I saw an agent (I think he was from Chicago, and this comes from his blog), say that in his area, empty, vacant homes appeal to the broadest cross-section of buyers. In North Scottsdale, homes over $1M that are empty and vacant are cold and uninviting. They scream, "I need to be staged." If a Trulia user asked, "should I stage my North Scottsdale home?" The Chicago agent would say, "no way...it adds clutter and makes the home look smaller than it is." While I would say, "Absolutely you need to stage your North Scottsdale home."
Seems like a benign question on the face of it. Seems like something that "anyone" regardless of area should be able to answer. Yet it isn't. Real Estate is local. It's meant to be local.
I would recommend this, if you want to be challenged by the question, then re-ask it of your local market, and answer it there. Or re-ask it on your own blog, and answer it there. Re-ask it on your next newsletter or even as a q&a in your own local newspaper. There are lots and lots of ways you can enjoy that creative outlet, and challenge yourself, AND keep it local, thus avoiding any risk.
Finally, I didn't start this thread to ever point fingers, so I'm sorry if it feels that way to you. I started this thread to see if the folks at Trulia would be willing to make changes to their system, so that professionals would be encouraged to act like professionals. The specific problem I see, is that because agents are ranked by how many questions they answer, agents feel compelled to answer lots of questions. So if you aren't in an area that has lots of questions, you start answering questions elsewhere.
In my opinion, the Trulia system is bunk, and I'd like to see it changed. I've found other agents that would also like it changed, and a few that like it the way it is.
So again, Sylvia, I wasn't ever trying to point a finger, such that you or anyone specifically would feel insulted. Pete promised me changes months ago. The only change they've made is adding an indication of where I'm from beneath my name. It's a start. But the finish line is still a long way away, in my book.
I don't mind your question and answer, but what i mind is your interpreting my reasons (or quite a few other knowledgeable and dedicated PROs) for answering the questions on Trulia. And, as a matter of fact, with all the time I (or as I noticed, some of the others) put on Trulia to answer questions, I find you comment a bit biased and insulting.
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Here is my answer to another similar post, and I am pretty stubborn, I still stand by what I said -
I sometimes answer questions in a different area when the question is generic - how do you prepare house for sale, what do you think of my agent's performance, why did this happen, etc. You will find other agents do that also.
However, I don't answer specific questions about an area, such as what's the market condition in Sarasota? Although I did answer a question about how much is a house listed for - you get that from Realtor.com and sometimes the consumer just don't know where to look for. That's very specific question, and no knowledge about a specific location is involved. Also, personally, I moved several times, so when somebody asks what's the best feature about a certain area, I might answer that.
Most Realtors can't resist answering a good or challenging question - that's why we are on Trulia. Although I agree with you, real estate practices can be quite different from area to area, so we can risk giving incorrect answer to a certain area, which could be a perfect answer to our own area. So, if I do answer an out of area questing, I will qualify that by saying, "I am from Marin, CA", etc. Hopefully, I don't do that too often.
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To be honest with you, the ones who give quality answers will give quality answers and will set their own boundary disregard of where they are from; and the ones who give marginal or erroneous answers will do so even if they are answering questions straignt from their own area.
And Trulia tries, but Trulia has it's own agenda and it's own pace also.
Just my two cents. - I really should try not to answer any more of these questiosn - just add to my count again :-D.
This is a good discussion. Hearing your comments is really important and useful to us. We're building the service for the community, so it is essential we have your input as we improve the service.
To summarize what I am hearing:
1) Most people want to keep the ability to allow anyone in any part of the US to answer questions.
2) The physical location of the person responding to the post can often be important, Trulia does not seem to emphasize this enough.
3) The Top Voices page showing the most frequent answerers is not that useful as it shows just quantity of activity not other factors.
Is that about right? Do let me know as we're working on some changes to improve things right now and we want to get it right.
Overall, I hear the comments about thumbs up and thumbs down not being as useful as perhaps it could be. We are thinking about ways to make this better, we do think that some sort of user voting on the quality of answers is useful, but the implementation today could be improved. I'd love to hear any further suggestions here as we are thinking about different options.
Thanks in advance!
I like how Ruth has Oak Park, IL under her pic. Is there any way to add our home state (or area of expertise) to the little information block next to our picture and name?
I do not feel that Trulia should limit our availability to answer questions outside our area because some questions, although local, can be answered by an outside agent. I do not answer anything specific regarding neighborhood demographics, but can answer a general landlord/tenant question because I have investment properties in 3 states. I also might answer the question to the best of my knowledge advising that it is based on my experience in NJ just in case a local agent doesn't answer. Not all areas are covered yet.
I would add, though, that Trulia seems to be growing in leaps and bounds and I cannot find the time to answer all the questions that come across my desk on any given day like I used to. Therefore, I will probably in the not too distant future go in and change my profile to only start answering local questions.
As far as the agents who answer EVERYTHING with answers like, "ask a local realtor" (which by the way, is not an answer to the question!!!), it is obvious the reason for it and I will gladly give a TD. Not that it matters on Trulia, but it makes me feel better!
I was under the impression that consumers were put into adjustable rate mortgages because they were overextending themselves in order to afford the home. If you are responsible and have good credit, you should be able to refinance to a fixed mortgage. The blame goes all around in my opinion. I believed that if you can't afford a home or be responsible, you shouldn't buy it.
However, this news story struck me far different. To exaggerate, it was as if they were selling stolen merchandise for pennies on the dollar. If the buyer was confronted 3 years later and the merchandise was seized as evidence, oh well, they lived for free for 3 years. Or even worst, the sellers/finance companies were PAYING people to buy the homes. If you buy this home for the same price as your rent, we will give you $50,000. I think there needs to be some people going to jail for fraud!!!
I deeply sympathize with those individuals who are going through foreclosure due to job loss and medical bills.
So, Steve, to specifically answer your question, every situation is different and just because you are in the same location doesn't necessarily mean that you know the situation. You stand a better chance of knowing it. However, I began questioning the validity of answering ANY questions, local or not.
It's the story of the Blind Men and an Elephant.
The following is from Wikipedia:
In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one touches a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes on what they felt, and learn they are in complete disagreement. The story is used to indicate that reality may be viewed differently depending upon one's perspective, suggesting that what seems an absolute truth may be relative due to the deceptive nature of half-truths.
I am actively licensed in two states. I reside part of the year in both states. There are other agents on Trulia that do the same and I am somewhat familiar with who they are.
I do not take "thumbs down" personally, although I admit that I did at first. In my opinion, I don't think the thumbs down button is necessary. If a reply is out of line, a report button is sufficient. If a reply is inaccurate, then I think someone should follow up with a reply to open the discussion. Sometimes the tone of voice or frame of mind can be misunderstood in an answer, or even a question.
I do, however, appreciate the thumbs up button. I have also learned to give a thumbs up to an answer instead of my own reply when I see another agent who gave a sufficient answer, if I see that my answer will simply be a repetition.
I learn something every day from this site. I read the questions from all areas and I enjoy reading the valuable answers that are given.
PS I would like to suggest a spellcheck button for questions and answers. I have often deleted my entire answer and reposted it to correct a typo.
Be careful, you might get a thumb in the mail .l.o.l...
You've hit the nail right on the head.! ... this is a great site, But .......
It just stuns me how the agent in LA answers the property value question for the family in Pittsburgh, or the agent in New York answers the guy in Mobile about what home inspector to use ...... Most of these folks probably can't spell Pittsburgh, but they're going to tell some poor guy living in Pittsburgh and sitting up late with his 4 kids "aaaall" about it. ---- that just ain't right.
What everyone forgets is, this poor guy might listen and spend too much or too little ... or maybe buy a ham sandwich with no mustard, because he thinks these answers are coming from Pittsburgh or someplace close ---- (that just ain't right.)
Another item I think is very odd ... it's always (usually) the same 6 or 7 people that answer these and 237,189 other questions here, it's like speed dialing for the American Idol ... it's sad that grown adults talk the talk, but cringes at thumbs down(?) boosting their "whatevers", but excellent at avoiding any "real discussions" to help the buyers and sellers that read through these pages.
If a Trulia user poses a question and has one single doubt and doesn't agree, "-boom-" it's like the sword of Damocles has landed. .... "or" ...... the poster gets the same old answer that the last 1,487 Trulia users got - " that information is based on the top 100 Voices, so-it-must-be, it has to be true.! " -- really.? it reminds me of the Wizard of Oz .. "* The great and powerful OZ has spoken *" ..
All kidding aside, here's the "very sad part" about it all ..
I've been using this site for chasing properties for about 7 months(?) now ... I've been actually only reading Voices for about a month, and we've had some minor disagreements on some minor issues, you say tomato and I say To ma toe' ....
But as this thumb "thing" - I can answer 50 questions faster than you "thing" - you must be wrong "thing" - I live in Seattle but I know the values in Memphis "thing" has progressed --- "your readership", like the buyers and sellers in the market have been watching, reading and not liking it ---- (not good ...)
Like you Steve ... I'm also getting contacted from Trulia users outside that have either asked questions or maybe started a topic here, and they either get stonewalled or they get that canned " information is based on the top 100 Voices " ... unless it's coming from the Vatican, they don't care - and they move on. ---- (thats not good.)
The worst thing.? (.. and not to hurt anyones feelings) but agents and brokers are not held in the same light as they were 10 or 12 years ago, not even 6 or 7 years ago ... and as more and more things progress (or get diluted in this unsavory market) more and more consumers are going to get a much dimmer view of your industry ...
Buyers and sellers need to be talked too, not talked at ... the average consumer will maybe purchase 2 or 3 homes in a lifetime and each time is more special then the last ... but when they come here, they feel like their talking to 50 droning billboards. ---- (not good) ...
Steve, don't worry about those thumbs, I've got 985, 986, oop's 987, "missed me" 988 ..
However, 2 recent Trulia users contacted me outside Trulia saying they acknowledge all of the flaws I'm talking about, but still think the site is useful. They find it comical the way some agents behave, but overall useful. I find it unethical, but can't deny that it is providing a service.
Elvis gives some great feedback here for what he wants as a PRO. Basically, noting that the thumbs down thing doesn't work in its current form, yet it continues. In repsonse to sharing his opinion, he got a thumbs down. Thank you sir, may we have another? I've only got 6 above....
Yes, the physical location of the person responding is not emphasized enough. Also, there is no search to find profiles of people in your area. The ranking system for a location is based on anyone who answered questions from that location, so it turns out to be misleading. If possible, it should be ranked by profile location, not answers location.
The value of the number of questions asked is only good for comparing it to the number of useful answers or best answers. Seriously, I think using Jim Walkers TUBA scoring is a good idea.
You make a good point about the laws. But we are not allowed to give legal or financial advice either. I think people are generally good about giving their disclaimers. By having people from different areas make mistakes and get corrected, we learn about what might happen if a buyer transfers from one state to the next. I see the abusers of the system disappear more quickly than the people good people annoyed by them.
Thanks for listening,
I realize many of you regard my approach as censorship. I regard it as conformance with my license. I have a license to practice real estate in the state of Arizona. I am not licensed to practice real estate in any other state. Further, the real estate commission in Arizona, via commissioner standards, expects that whereever I practice real estate, I establish myself as an expert. Those commissioner standards prohibit me from practicing real estate outside the area of my expertise. Perhaps the standards in Arizona are drastically higher than elsewhere in the US. I don't know. But even if they are, with regards to Arizona, these are the standards we operate under. And lets not kid ourselves here...professionals are using Trulia Voices as a means to practive real estate. If it weren't the case, 99% of us wouldn't be here.
If you take notice of the web reference below, I feel Trulia Voices has degraded drastically since I first joined in July. Looking at my profile I've answered around 45 questions. Not a huge number by any means, but my ranking is near the top 100 Voices. What I don't understand is why I'm ranked by the number of answers I've provided. Who cares if I've answered 1500 questions or 5 questions? The only thing that should matter to someone asking questions is do I generally answer with quality.
Let's look at this one q&a as an example. The gentleman that said he only answers Ohio questions received 2 thumbs down. Why? Was his answer of low quality? His answer was accurate and truthful, yet he received 2 thumbs down. Clearly he isn't popular among the folks that read his response for reasons far different than his answer here (sorry to single you out Chuck, but it proves my point perfectly).
So I don't think a thumbs down does anything to fix the problem. It just reinforces the popularity contest philosophy that has developed. Follow-up answers saying it's not quality doesn't fix it either. Those usually result a 2 sided thumbs up/down battle that's degrading to everyone involved.
As well, assuming that the person asking the question can tell the difference between quality answer and illegal, unethical, or inaccurate answers is an attrocious solution, especially when the locals and non-locals provide typically opposing points of view (and this is my most serious concern).
But more to the point, why does someone from California answer questions about what's going on in Ohio? Because it will boost their rank. At least, that's the only reason I can think of. I really don't think the majority that are answering outside their area are just trying to be helpful.
And apparently, so do at least a few other bloggers in Arizona, and perhaps most importantly, Pete Flint, CEO of Trulia has listened. Read the comments he's posted on my blog. Changes are due soon. Changes he admits are a bit overdo, thanks in part due to the success of Trulia.
My only care in this, is that if I'm going to be a part of something, it has to be quality. Right now, the low quality is driving me away.
People will read your answers and know very quickly if you are "real". Be confident and join in the fun.
As for the motivation for answering questions, I think you are probably on target, but why do you really care where someone ranks in terms of total number of questions answered. Isn't it more important to rank higher in the quality department. Don't you think the consumers who look at the top ten list will figure out that quantity does not necessarily equal quality? How does anyone benefit from the ranking system anyway? I think if anything, perhaps Trulia should implement a more useful ranking system or just do away with it altogether. I don't know how it could be changed fairly at this point, but am certainly open to hear what others have to say.
I also learn everyday from this sight and like hearing responses from agents all across the country even in my local market. They answer the question objectively without having a vested interest in the transaction. I value their opinions to reinforce what we say locally rather than have the same bunch of agents always answering everbodys local question.
Prior to this thread i did not know agents were ranked that way, it does not sound like a good system. I would be wary the agent that has to much time to answer every question everywhere and not out doing real business in the field (in New Mexico can be a real field).
I do agree that stats should not be determined by how many questions you answer but maybe only by the thumbs up or down you receive.
Steve is a big boy, so he can answer on his own behalf ......
I'm "very surprised" you would even comment ...
You're one of the "very few" at Trulia that "actually" takes the time to read a question, think it out and answer it clearly - one of the few bright lights .... on the other hand, the vast majority are becoming droning billboards, and as time goes on it could degrade your overall value ....
.... the guy with that slicked back hair and those funny fuzzy blue shoes does an honest job of helping folks out, and isn't afraid of a skirmish here and there with his own comrades.
... just don't tell him I said so or his head will get bigger then the Graf Zeppelin ....
I, personally, don't chime in unless a question is in one of my two areas: hawaii (Big Island specifically) or San Francisco and Marin County, where I am also licensed and live part of the year.
I agree with the rest of the panel that the rating is practically useless and without value. It does indicate activity only and not knowledge or experience.
Right J R, the answer to "Should I go FSBO", regardless of location, is always NO! Anyone can answer that! However, a question like what are the schools like in a specific area should really be dealt with by a local agent with direct and informative information, perhaps a child in the school system themselves... Not by an out of area Agent who just wants to answer as many questions as they can on a forum to be ranked. If I were the person asking the question I would rather have an answer from someone who knows directly, not from someone who just wants to provide a link to their own site and be the first to answer the question.
Patrick, you can't get rid of trolls and self aggrandizing egoists. Anyone who would answer the question "what are the schools like in (whereever)" would be an idiot if they didn't know the schools. If the question isn't answered, however, I see nothing wrong with tell the person that they can get that information from the department of education in that area, or whatever.
If agents only answered questions where they are local, no one would answer 75% of the questions. As long as the information isn't specific, it doesn't matter. If someone asked how long it takes to close, I'd look and see where they were, if someone asks if they should go FSBO, it doesn't matter.