It has come to light that the review site giant, Yelp, has made it harder for consumers to browse the site through reviews even though the site still retains them. This is in start contrast with traditional brokerages who still display their Yelp reviews publicly.
Yelp has made a quiet, subtle change that could have a big impact on the real estate industry: the mega reviews website has made it extremely difficult for people to find Yelp reviews for Opendoor and Offerpad, two of the country’s leading online homebuyers and re-sellers.
Bearing nearly 500 reviews, a subpar 3-star rating and many responses from its corporate account, Opendoor’s three-year-old Yelp reviews page is still accessible online, but the only way for anyone to find it is by going directly to this link or bookmarking it. The page can no longer be located through Yelp’s online search tool, nor through Google search. The same goes for Opendoor rival Offerpad’s Yelp page, which was much less active than Opendoor’s listing, holding only a single one-star review.
Yelp reviewers and industry experts reported they believe Yelp’s decision to hide major iBuyer reviews pages from search impedes public scrutiny, making it more difficult for consumers to evaluate the companies while leaving traditional real estate brokerages, whose negative Yelp reviews are still discoverable, at a competitive disadvantage.
Opendoor has also received financial backing from Yelp’s CEO and two former Yelp board members, though an Opendoor spokesperson told Inman the ties between the two companies had nothing to do with Yelp’s policy change, and that Opendoor did not ask Yelp to hide its page.
“Any agent or broker with less than four stars on Yelp would give their left pinky to have those reviews disappear,” said Brian Boero, a real estate consultant. “If I were Opendoor and had a three-star rating, I would be relieved to have that suddenly vanish from Yelp.”
Indeed, research has shown that a substandard Yelp rating can have a punishing impact on businesses. One recent survey found that 57 percent of consumers will not even consider a business with less than four stars. Opendoor and Offerpad’s Yelp pages both have less than than four stars.
Yelp states on its website that it does not remove business listings, “because it’s important (and a legal right) for consumers to be able to find and share helpful information about great local businesses.”
But the site does not publicly specify under what conditions it will remove a reviews page from its internal search tool and from Google search pages.
According to Opendoor spokeswoman Cristin Culver, the iBuyer’s account representative at Yelp informed Opendoor on July 28, 2018, that the reviews site had removed Opendoor’s more than three-year-old listing, following what she said was an internal discussion at Yelp about Opendoor’s business model.
Culver said Yelp concluded that Opendoor “was not a fit for their platform based on the overwhelmingly virtual nature of our business.”
Asked why Yelp decided Opendoor no longer met its eligibility requirements after having a page for over three years, a Yelp spokesperson said “broad statements about eligibility are often difficult,” but that as Opendoor “began expanding and publishing non-physical listings in new markets, we felt that the operation no longer fell within the local nature of Yelp.”
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