Real estate agent review sites (Don't roll your eyes!). I know, I know. They are indeed a dime a dozen, but one site has been getting a lot of attention this year. Mountain of Agents has stood out from the crowd due to their clean design, video capability, iPhone app, and perhaps most of all because its founders are not real estate agents, but consumers who got scarred working with the wrong agent.Real estate guru & my gal pal Maya Paveza vouched, "Mountain Of Agents allows me to be present in a “for consumer, by consumer” environment that they are more likely to trust." Really? So I set out to see what all the fuss was about. (I'm nosy like that). I grill Mountain of Agent's creator Michael Becker about how he got burned, if there are any limitations to the site, and what he has to say to his critics.
Founder & Nice Guy Michael Becker
Hermanity: Your site says, "Mountain of Agents was born out of the founders' frustration around the home buying/selling experience." What exactly happened to you that you don't want to happen to other buyers/sellers?! Inquiring minds want to know!
Becker: Like most people, we used a real estate agent that was referred to us by a close friend. We made the mistake of not researching the agent first. From the start it was clear that we were not a priority. Ignoring our phone calls and dropping the ball on buyer inquiries quickly became a nasty habit. We watched the neighborhood prices plummet as the months passed, and missed out on being able to pull the trigger on a few properties we really loved.
Six months later, we made the tough call and fired our agent. We then began our online research, and were shocked at how difficult it was to find any reputable, objective information on real estate agents in our area. Most of the resources were cluttered, unusable and completely biased. After lots of research, we did eventually find a stellar agent who knew the area well, was trustworthy and had our best interests at heart. He sold our old property and got us into a new one—dare I say—almost painlessly. We thought to ourselves, “Was this how it was supposed to be the first time around?” After the dust settled and we were in our new home, it still troubled me that there were no simple, un-biased resources out there for consumers. I asked myself, “What could have made this process easier for us?” I then set out to design, develop and launch the Mountain of Agents directory as an objective resource for consumers to find, research and rate local realestate agents.
Clients see Agent Maya Paveza's ratings!
Hermanity: Consumers search for agents by zip code on the site. Right now the number of agents is manageable but one day when thousands and thousands of agents (knock on wood) are signed up on your site, how will a consumer filter out the possibly hundreds of realtors that pop up in their zip code? Can they search by language or speciality?
Becker: Adding additional features and filters is a great idea and we’ll address those modifications as the need arises. In the meantime, real estate agents can future-proof their listing from getting lost in the—ahem—mountain of agents on the site by reserving the zip codes they market to. You’ll get a persistent featured listing in one of the top two spots in search results no matter how many agents are listed in your area.
Clients Connect via Facebook
Hermanity: Your site directly addresses agents: "We know how you feel about real estate agent rating sites, so we keep it positive." What is your response to haters who say there is no way for a consumer to share a non-positive experience about an agent on your site?
Becker: The way I look at it, agents with a poor track record or shoddy
history probably aren’t going to join a site where they can be openly rated. There are plenty of other forums for expressing your experiences in a written format, so I didn’t see a need to create another Internet bash fest.
I know how agents feel about real estate rating sites, so I wanted to make sure that our ratings system would only allow positive, cumulative feedback. The more positive ratings you obtain in each of the six categories, the more likely it is that a consumer will contact you. This way, the only negative aspect of getting rated is not having as many positive ratings as your local competitors.
For more Q&A with Mountain of Agents, click Read More ===>
Herman in a hostel?! Clutch my pearls! You'd never guess a glamour puss like me would slum it in a hostel. But paying $200+/night at a hotel is getting rather unattractive, considering that I just need a place to store my stuff & sleep. So, while looking for alternate accommodations for a recent LA trip, I stumbled upon this great looking place online called Stay On Beverly
. It was clean, modern, centrally located in LA, free wifi, and best of all it was only $50/night! What??!!
I re-read the website and found out it was a hostel. You know, at that point, I was a bit hesitant because I was a hostel virgin, but, hey, I'll try anything once! ...especially if I can save $150/night! I booked a private room for 3 days. It really had all I needed. Free wifi, TV, many outlets in the wall to charge my gadgets, an electronic wall safe to store my ipad2, iPod dockable radio alarm, and communal wireless printer, and 3 pretty swank bathrooms! Don't believe me? Check out this virtual tour
Boy, am I glad I got over my snobbism and gave this a whirl! For a no non-sense traveler like me, who flies in and flies out of town on a whim for appointments and gigs, this set up was perfect! No snooty concierge, no nosy staff, no hoity toity amenities I would never use anyways. I just HAD to interview Bo Lorentzen who runs Stay On Beverly
Hermanity: Hostels & luxury aren't usually used in the same sentence. How did you know there would be a market for a place like Stay On Beverly? Bo
: We wanted to define the fact that we are offering a different product. Most customers with experience in hostels, consider Stay ON Beverly to be quite a treat. Hermanity: From the street, Stay On Beverly looks so unassuming. No sign. No advertising. One would never guess it's a hostel. Is that by design? As stated in your brochure, it is indeed the best kept secret in LA. Do you want to keep it that way? Bo
: Part of the model is that we do not accept walk-in customers, and since we do not have on-site staff to "meet and greet" we really wanted to avoid the attention. And yes, surprisingly we are trying to stay the best kept secret, mostly because our market is tourist travelers, mostly in their twenties and in tech jobs, so called "flash packers
", this group seem to be quite adept at finding us.
Hermanity: What is the biggest misconception about hostels?
Bo: Ahh, this is actually not an easy question for me. Hostels are a very old type of hospitality business, going back generations, traditionally with dorm-rooms. In today's America, the hostel label was chosen because we have hall-way toilets, I wanted to make sure people lowered their expectations to the facilities.
Hermanity: How do your customers differ from traditional hostels?
Bo: Most of our customers are probably a little older, a surprising amount have traveled for months when they come to us. We label the facility as a "hostel for grown-ups".
Hermanity: What is the best part of running/owning a hostel? Whats the worst part?
Bo: The best part is meeting all the awesome guests from around the world. I am probably guilty of talking too long with some, and I always have to remind myself they are on the way out in Hollywood to be tourists.
HA.. the worst.. not sure.. I thought it was the 2 star hotel on Main St. Los Angeles which just recently renamed themselves to use our name.. Sigh. But Friday after the storm in LA the power disappeared, and suddenly I had a black hostel with a bunch of guests.. YIKES. We issued flashlights and glowsticks to everybody. Thankfully most were out for fun on the town and by the time they came back there were lights again... at 3am in the morning. But that was a moment of stress and "what do I do now" for sure.
For a lot more Q&A about Stay On Beverly, click Read More--->
Question: My bff & I share an apartment and the lease ends next month. She asked her boyfriend if we could stay at his house (we would pay rent). He said yes but last minute reneged when he found out her roomie was a gay man (me). Is this housing discrimination? -Homeless Will & Grace Answer:
What a creep! He was all gung-ho when he thought 2 hot gals would be parading around his house all day in see-through nighties. No wonder he was so quick to agree to this. He thought he was Jack & you two would be Janet & Chrissy…..but instead he got Janet & Chris. Oops!Read why this is not housing discrimination in my weekly Q&A column for LOGO here.
Speaking of Three's Company (one of my all time favorites sitcoms!), did any of you see Justin Timberlake & Lady Gaga's song on SNL, It's Not Gay, If It's a Three-way
, where they parodied Three's Company?! Hilarious! And catchy tune too.