In the years since this article’s original publication, the Top Realtor Ranking reports from the Washingtonian have changed significantly. The magazine now awards two different accolades: the Top Producer, which is based on sales numbers; and the Best Agent, a survey-based award. 

Both of these awards are published publicly online and in print, though agents may still pay to increase the size of their entry. This means that, with a quick search through the online database or printed award list, readers of the Washingtonian can quickly find who is the best real estate team in their area. If you want to read more comprehensive coverage of the current award practices, please click here to read our full article on the 2020 Top Agent award.

However, we have decided to leave the original blog otherwise unedited. This is because the practices that we describe below remain pervasive throughout the real estate industry — and they are perpetuated by other, lower-integrity awards. So, when you are researching real estate teams in your market who can help you sell a home fast or find off-market properties for sale…make sure to read the fine print! Not all awards are truly indicators of real estate success.


You may have noticed that some well known, successful realtors haven’t been making the “Best Agents” lists that are heavily advertised in magazines each year. If you’re familiar with the Keri Shull team, then you know how much success we’ve had helping people find their dream homes in the D.C. metro area, and you may have also noticed our absence in these local realtor rankings reports.

Especially if you subscribe to Washingtonian Magazine.

Every year, Washingtonian Magazine publishes a rankings report of the “Best DC Realtors” which includes around 100 real estate agents or teams from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The published report tells readers that the list is compiled in several ways. First, 50,000 subscribers are surveyed, along with over 1,000 real estate agents or teams that made Washingtonian’s past rankings reports. The surveys ask subscribers and agents to rate the realtors they’ve worked with based on “market knowledge, integrity, communication skills, and closing preparation.” The report then goes on to say that the survey results are researched further and nominees are contacted by someone at Washingtonian before making the list.

The Keri Shull team can confirm that realtors referred by Washingtonian’s surveys are contacted about making the best rankings list. In fact, the Keri Shull team was contacted by the Real Estate Advertisement Manager to share the news that out of all the home buyers and agents surveyed, the Keri Shull team was chosen along with 99 other agents as “Residential Real Estate Best Agent.”

Sounds legit, right? Wrong. The catch to actually making the list in their rankings report depends on how much money the agent is willing to pay. As shown in the image below, the least amount of money a selected agent or real estate team can pay to be featured in the magazine as said “Best Agent” is $1,500!

Top Realtor Rankings Report Requires Payment

Of course, there is a less advertised and often overlooked list where the agents chosen who do not pay for a profile feature or ad space get a small shout-out, but the exposure is minimal. The benefits of being featured in a publication as well-known as this are obvious, but they come at a price, and the Keri Shull team wasn’t willing to pay it in 2015. However, technically the Keri Shull team did make the 2015 list simply by being selected, but you have to search hard to find it — each year, the list is replaced online with the new top realtors.

To be fair, Washingtonian Magazine isn’t the only publication doing this with “Top/Best” lists. There are many publications around the country that base their rankings reports on advertisement fees instead of true, raw data. The Keri Shull team can confirm that the surveys actually happen — they were contacted by phone — but it isn’t certain whether or not nominees for the list are chosen by the stated criteria. Instead, it seems more likely that nominees are chosen by word of mouth, and then only included once a check is cashed.

Fortunately, there are other rankings reports published by those that base the findings solely on facts and statistical evidence, like REAL Trends. REAL Trends puts together realtor rankings for each of the 50 states and hundreds of major cities based on a “completely unbiased and ethical report” which considers sales volume and transactions. The only required payment is a nonrefundable $50 application fee. The terms of the “America’s Best Real Estate Agents” and “The Thousand” rankings list makes it clear that simply applying doesn’t guarantee a spot; qualifications based on statistical evidence have to be met.

The Keri Shull team made the REAL Trends “Top 1000” lists in 2015 and 2016 as #73 and #35 respectively overall. As shown below, the Keri Shull team is also the #1 real estate team by volume in Virginia, and the team didn’t have to cut a check to be included!

Keri Shull Team #1 in VA Sales Volume

In 2016, the Keri Shull team has already helped over 310 people buy and sell homes, and there is still one quarter to go until the year is up. Compare that to agents who paid to be on the Washingtonian list — some of them totaled just 12 transactions in 2015.

So, when you’re thumbing through magazines in the doctor’s office or at the spa and come across these “Top Realtor” lists, remember that these rankings may not be the whole story. The truly successful real estate agents don’t need to pay for advertisement space to know that they are some of the best realtors in their cities. Contact the Keri Shull team today to find out for yourself!