What’s Wrong with International Property Awards?

Real Estate agency awards are a funny thing. Real Estate agents want them because they bring prestige to their agency that can be used in their marketing materials. I’m sure they also have some effect on attracting clients.

Real Estate AwardThe Perception of Prestige

Who doesn’t want the real estate agent selling their house to be an award-winner? After all, like any award, real estate awards are supposed to recognise the best projects, companies, and individuals in different aspects of the property sector. There are awards for architecture, development, marketing, sustainability, and innovation. And, of course, also real estate agents.

A Personal Experience with Awards

I have fallen for it myself; I was offered an award out of the blue by a UK industry magazine, I think it was something like Best Boutique Agency on the Costa del Sol or some such nonsense. At the time, I accepted the award but refused to pay for the trophy, advertising, gala dinner etc. When I looked further into it, I realised they must have used Chat GPT to generate every imaginable award possible.

Questioning the Credibility of Awards

Indeed, a closer look at these awards suggests that they are not as prestigious or trustworthy as they seem in terms of determining the best in the field. In fact, many of these awards suffer from serious flaws that undermine their credibility and value. For instance, almost every award requires a sizable entry fee for each participant. These can range from hundreds to thousands of Euros.

The Hidden Costs of Competing

Of course, they don’t say or even imply it, but including advertising as part of an entry package is a subtle hint that doing so will help the entrant. More seriously, charging substantial amounts can be a serious barrier to smaller, newer, less affluent agencies and projects. An entry fee of €1,000 might not seem like too much for a real estate business, but if the goal is to win an award, you might want to enter several competitions, pay for advertising, fly to attend gala dinners etc, meaning the price tag can quickly ramp up. The secondary effect is that the competition judges only those who pay the competition to judge them – not the industry as a whole. It is not judging those agencies who are unable or unwilling to pay, nor those who don’t even know about the competition.

A Different Approach: The EAMasters Award

Of course, I’m cognizant that competitions are a business and, at the very least, need to cover their costs. Nonetheless, there is a competition in the UK, for instance, that I recently read about in a UK trade magazine. This competition, the Estate Agency Masters “mystery shops” every agency on Rightmove, which is a property portal akin to idealista.com here in Spain. No entry fee is required. In fact, you don’t have to do anything at all, you are simply mystery-shopped and data-mined based on published criteria, as a matter of course.

The Catch of the EAMasters

As a result, the EAMasters award is a much broader and more representative competition. People aren’t paying for an award. If you place in the top 20% of real estate agencies, you are listed in their Best Estate Agent Guide for free. The one catch is that if you want to promote that you are in the guide, using the logo, etc., you must pay a €115 per month subscription fee. I don’t love this; it excludes, for example, agents that do not advertise on Right Move, but at least it’s, in principle, an assessment independent of payment and with published criteria.

The Problem with Judging Criteria

Beyond the question of fees and broad and representative agency inclusion is the fact that competitions don’t have transparent and objective judging criteria. They don’t even state what their criteria are. This leaves them open to being influenced by sponsors, advertisers or just subjective criteria that don’t reflect real-world success or even define success. This can be seen sometimes most dramatically with architecture awards. The awards often award projects based on their novelty rather than their functionality, sustainability, or social impact.

The Reality of Property Awards

In sum, international property awards are not as valuable as they appear and, potentially more damaging, could misrepresent the qualities of an agency.

Seeking Alternatives

So what’s the alternative? I do not think there is one; I cannot think of an independent body that would have the time or money to dedicate to running an independent, transparent measure of success. The EA Masters goes some way to showing how such a process could work, but only if you are an agent paying to advertise on Right Move.

The Reliability of Google Reviews

Since Google reviews are not verified and are open to abuse by users posting fake reviews, they remain a useful, if not completely reliable, means of judging a business, but they are probably the best we have at present. Ultimately, reputation takes years of hard work to build and is reflected in client feedback and referrals. In the meantime, my trophy cabinet continues to gather dust….

By Adam Neale | Opinion | September 28th, 2023

What’s Wrong with International Property Awards?

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