Today, we will focus our attention on one of America’s most important property markets. Chicago deserves a tight focus now, especially with a looming recession in view. With Compass and Redfin having just announced massive layoffs, sellers in particular, are going to need to find truly superhuman professionals in the coming months. Chicago Agent Magazine just reported on the cooling housing market.
For the past several weeks we’ve been working to develop a more meaningful way for people to view and evaluate America’s best real estate professionals online. We began by utilizing ratings-based services like HomeLight, RateMyAgent, Expertise.com, and a few others. And while these services can be useful, I’ve found their results are highly subjective. We are homing in on a much more objective rating platform, which hopefully you will glean in the following list.
If you Google “top real estate agents Chicago,” you will get a tidal wave of ads directing you to various rating entities. That said, the results at the end of those ads will end up confusing the heck out of you, probably. But, sear Zillow and one face/name stand out even bigger than the agents who’ve paid to be atop the list. I’ll explain in the roundup, but Matt Laricy’s digital footprint is not only prolific, but the tracks tell us he’s also headed somewhere.
I’ll start with 1420 total perfect reviews, of which 1236 are local. Ditto Google (5.0 for 355 reviews), Yelp (5.0 on 288 reviews), and anything else that matters for Laricy’s Americorp Ltd. I must admit, after interviewing, reviewing, reporting on, analyzing, or criticizing hundreds of agents and agencies, I’m a bit gobsmacked at this man’s thoroughness. Social media – perfect (Facebook to apps, Youtube, to whatever – the guy’s from another planet). Traditional media (Chicago Magazine, Crain’s, Chicago Agent Mag, The Real Deal, etc.), a rock star compared to 99.9 percent of American agents. Realtor.com, another 549 perfect reviews. LinkedIn, 9,000 plus followers! Instagram, more rock star communication prowess (and NO, he is not paying me). If Laricy has one weak point in his branding/marketing effort, it’s the relative weakness of his website’s SEO/SEM rank (MOZ authority 26). Now, let me round this up for you.
I was talking just yesterday with the VP of sales of one of the midwest’s biggest and most respected real estate companies when the subject of top agents in Chicago came up. By the end of the discussion, I had advised this powerful property professional to get her company to emulate whatever Laricy is doing. And I’m not done here, not yet. I just casually messaged Laricy on Instagram congratulating him on his efforts when – guess what? Minutes later he responded and quizzed me about the report you are reading.
Look. Social media, PR, marketing, the whole bit is about reciprocity, and thoroughness when all is said and done. Laricy is Chicago’s best real estate professional, by a long shot, and in the running for the top honors in the United States. I never expected this in Chicago, just so you know. Laricy says in the video I provided that, “one of his goals was to stand out from the average realtor.” I’d say he’s overshot his original goal.
No Chicago real estate lineup can be complete without a mention of one of America’s biggest and most successful companies, Baird & Warner. This legendary family-owned company has a massive footprint in with 26 offices in the Chicagoland area and nearly 2,000 agents. The company’s website SEO/SEM statistics reveal a lot about this company’s reputation and reach, actually. (DA 52 with 855k links). That said, isolating who’s the best to represent the company is easier said than done. And, being this big comes with its setbacks too, which I will try and briefly explain.
For the purposes of this report, I chose broker-agent Millie Rosenbloom for a couple of reasons. First, and perhaps foremost, Rosenbloom knows her digital marketing business and maintains her own high-profile social/traditional media operations. She’s been in Crain’s and the Chicago business media, The Real Deal, and others too. Rosenbloom also has perfect Zillow reviews (170) AND, was smart enough to buy the platform’s paid positioning, as well. (This is key) Baird & Warner has a social prowess I discussed some years back, but this successful partner ticks all the boxes too. Facebook? Check. Instagram? Check (7k followers). LinkedIn? Yep, 500+ connections and 5,700 followers. She’s been with B&W for 14 years now, and I’d be willing to bet she’s a big part of the reason the company is still dominant. The team has plenty of superstars, but Rosenbloom seems to be the only one who can hold a candle to Matt Laricy. Besides, I learned that Millie is a dog person looking at her Instagram. This counts for dog people in America! 🙂
Next up, Brad Robbins’ Vesta Preferred Realty is another top Chicago agency nipping at the heels (from a great distance) of Laricy marketing and PR prowess. One strange thing here is the fact that Robbins seems to want a low profile compared to most American brokers. Finding an image of the broker is a task only expert web searchers should attempt. That said, Vesta is perfect reviews-wise on Google (195), Zillow (409), at Yelp (177), and far above-average where social media reach is concerned.
His personable shares on his own profile say a lot about the man. He seems to be a team player, I won’t explain why unless you pay me for social media psychoanalysis. And he’s just a good guy, seldom in a photo by himself, a dog person too, so.
SEO-wise, the uglier Vesta website is light years ahead for links (700k inbound), and domain authority (DA 31). A dead link to the company’s Facebook and Instagram may mean somebody in the IT department is not awake? 2 Youtube subscribers, puts Robbin’s firm in the company of the average American brokerage. I finally managed to search to find the company’s Instagram, which I found to be adequate – and not more. Robbins’ RNP Group did pop up on a cross-reference to Expertise.com, and his profile on HomeLight reveals more. Still, there’s some disconnect I am not getting quite yet. Perhaps the merger back in 2018? The point is, there should be none. I won’t delve deeper, but a Google search for Brad Robbins turns up Michigan football’s punter. Enough said about this top agent’s traditional media prowess.
Rounding out this list, Sam Shaffer almost didn’t make the cut here because he hasn’t achieved my original criteria of at least 100 perfect Google reviews. However, when a professional is ticking all the other boxes, the consumer needs to know about them. Shaffer fits the category and has ironically helped us improve our own methods. He’s in the top five on Zillow with 662 total perfect reviews (586 local), perfect on Googe, but with only 42 reviews so far, and Yelp as well (5.0 with 42 reviews). While his firm’s website is not exactly SEO blazing (MOZ domain authority 8 – ugh), the aesthetics and the rest of his marketing efforts are above par.
Shaffer could be more aggressive on Facebook, with more frequent and meaningful posts. This is also true for his firm’s Instagram (upside-down follower/follow numbers). And while the Owner & Managing Broker of Chicago Properties also looks good in an expensive suit, buying a Zillow premier agent spot and then listing it as a press accolade is not exactly world-changing PR. Shaffer deserves mentioning, but until he turns 6 Youtube subscribers into several thousand, he won’t be breathing down Matt Laricy’s neck for top billing.
I’ve mentioned how we’re doing our best to create a better mousetrap for consumers. Or, agent trap, is perhaps more appropriate. Let me put it this way. You’re looking to sell your house in a market that will probably collapse in the next few weeks (it looks like it, come on). Who will you turn to? Would you as soon get 100 emails from agents who gleaned your name from a lead list? Or, would you simply rely on Google and go with whoever the search engine lists first? What criteria do all these other rating systems use, by the way? Well, for me it’s about sifting through the B-team players to find a Michael Jordan (or for Boomers, Wilt Chamberlain) in the mix. If I need an agent, I want somebody legendary, if I can afford them. And trust me, when this market does crash, only the best will be able to serve clients well.
“Don’t mistake activity with achievement.” ― John Wooden
The problem is, there’s no baseball statistician out there to record every pertinent speck of talent, ability, and other characteristic numbers. In real estate and most other professions, the consumer has generalizations based on highly subjective data. Quantifiability is wholly dependent on context. No one, so far, has looked at these professionals from a holistic approach. Like my assertions about two of the above agents being “dog people.” And take our superstar Matt Laricy. The praise you see me heaping on him is not some cheesy bromance lunacy. The reason he’s spotlighted like this is that the industry, in general, has so few professionals like this. I’ve searched through thousands, and tens of thousands if you count other industries, and the real “go to” professionals out there have things in common. Completeness, the pursuit of excellence, even perfection, is not something without earmarks. This is what we are after here. The telltale and assured signs that a client can depend on a person or agency to meet their expectations.
Anyway, by all means, buy Zillow Preferred positioning. Buy Google ads too. And be present everywhere you can engage with or for your constituents and clients. The point it, if you’ll excuse my directness, don’t do it half-assed. There’s an old saying in the south, “If you can’t run with the big dogs….” I hope I helped somebody here. Until the next roundup.
Ask Brian is a weekly column by Real Estate Expert Brian Kline. If you have…
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