9 best practices for content moderation on real estate sites

Over the years of helping online marketplaces moderate their real estate sections, we’ve gathered a long list of best practices for content moderation rules and guidelines specific to this industry.

If you work with a real estate site or platform you know that you need to keep a close eye on the user-generated content published by users. If you don’t, your site quickly turns from a helpful tool for smooth interactions between renters and landlords to a scam infested spam forum.

Today we share some actionable guidelines on what to direct your content moderation efforts at. You can use them to increase the quality of listings, protect your users and hopefully increase the conversion rates of your real estate site.

Edit or reject ads with contact details

While the whole industry should slowly be moving towards sites that monetize and provide value through value-added services, most sites are not there yet.

Unless your site already has a unique and strong offering of additional value, it’s likely still relying on sellers who use it as a lead generator. If that’s the case you should remove all mention of phone nr, name, and email or physical addresses to prevent platform leakage.

Unconventional payment methods

Unless it’s your USP, all ads that mention unconventional payment methods should be removed. This is true both for swap and exchange suggestions, such as a car or cellphone in exchange for accommodation.

The rule applies to unorthodox payment methods such as Bitcoins and other electronic currencies.

We advise against allowing such reimbursement options as the value comparison can be hard to get right and there’s a risk one of the two parties will end up dissatisfied. You don’t want those negative feelings associated with your platform and you definitely do not want to get involved in disputes concerning unconventional payment methods.

Finally, there’s also the additional risk that some of the commodities, offered in exchange, has been acquired illegally and you don’t want your platform involved in what could essentially be seen as fence activities.

Whether you monetize your real estate platform by charging listing fees or not, you should remove listings with more than one item in.

If you charge a listing fee, sellers who post multiple items in one go are circumventing the fee and negatively impacting your revenue. If you don’t, listings with many different offerings are still really bad as they make it harder for users to find relevant results when searching for accommodation, decreasing the user experience.

Links or references to competitor sites

It goes without saying that it’s best practices for content moderation to remove or edit any mention of competitors immediately, particularly if they include outbound links.

It’s bad enough with bouncing visitors, it’s even worse if the content on your site is actively referring them to rivals in your space.

Pay attention to listing prices

We have an entire article focused on things to look out for to prevent scams on real estate sites, but one of the things we haven’t discussed in depth is listing prices.

Most areas will have a pretty baseline price range for similarly sized accommodations. For cities that are extra prone to be targeted by scammers, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with this range. Scammers often offer up apartments for rent at too good to be true prices. If you know the realistic range, it’s easier for you to catch them before they get to your customers.

We are currently working on building out a pricing database for some of the bigger cities in the world. If this project sounds interesting, be sure to subscribe to our blog and get informed when we have more information available.

Take a hard stance against discrimination

You’re probably already aware of the multiple lawsuits Airbnb has faced due to various instances of discrimination that’s occurred through their platform.

To avoid getting into the same legal trouble and the ensuing PR storm as well as to provide all your users the best possible experience through your site, we advise taking a hard stance against any discriminatory listings. Reject any listings that singles out people of specific race, religion, or sexual orientation etc.

Prohibit rentals that enable prostitution

For anyone who has followed the case of backpage.com and how its owners were indicted for earning over $500 million in prostitution-related revenue from the site, it should be second nature to have processes in place for finding and removing any content that facilitate prostitution.

Apart from the moral implications, allowing prostitution is illegal in many countries and could land your company (and you) in both legal and PR troubles.

If your platform isn’t offering hotel rooms or vacations homes, it’s often a good and safe practice to reject rooms-for-the-night type listings. That type of listings is often advertising accommodations used for indecent interactions.

Remove duplicate items

Users will sometimes submit the same listing multiple time. Why they submit duplicates may vary, but the most common reason is to try and bump up their ranking on your site. When users try circumventing rules, it’s never good as it usually impacts either user experience, violates legal commitments or, as in the case with duplicates, could get your site penalized in Google rankings.  

The best cause of action is to remove duplicates from your site directly before they get published, this way you ensure the quality of your site and avoid a messy search experience for other users.

We’ve written more about why duplicate content is bad for real-estate sites and how to remove it here.

Re-categorize listings placed in the wrong category

Vacation homes in the permanent residency category or for-sale houses in the for-rent section, all contribute to irrelevant search results and negative user experiences.

It’s important to remove or re-categorize misplaced listings quickly to ensure a good experience for users.

Reject listings with poor descriptions

Depending on the category, the required details on the commodity for rent or sale may differ. What’s always true though is that the description needs to be accurate and descriptive. Information like location, price, minimum rent time etc. should be a given. But sellers are often in a hurry and don’t want to spend too much time on the admin work that goes into writing a good listing that converts.

Make sure you educate your users to create proper descriptions and titles for their listings, otherwise both bounce rate and conversion rates may suffer. In a study we did on user behavior we found that irrelevant content leads to 73% of users never returning to the site again.

Following these guidelines outlined above will help you eliminate fraudulent listings and improve the quality of content as well as the overall user experience of your site.

4 most common refusal reasons on real estate sites in 2019

Now that we have gone through the best practices for content moderation let’s also quickly disclose where we find the biggest content moderation challenges lie for real estate sites.

In 2018 these were the top 4 rejection reasons for the real estate sites we help.

  • Multiple products
  • Duplicates
  • Wrong category
  • Poor description

As you can see most of the rejected items affect either user experience, and as a result conversion rate, or they impact your revenue more directly, as is the case with multiple products, where users circumvent the listing fee.

Curious about which other listings we reject for real estate sites? Check out our presentation 9 listings to remove from your real estate site to optimize for monetization from Property Portal Watch in Bangkok 2018 where we go into more details.

Want to know more about best practices for content moderation or expert advice on how to set up and optimize the content moderation on your site? Get in touch and hear how we can help out.

Want to learn more?
Join the crowds who receive exclusive content moderation insights.