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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Did You Know? 5280 Magazine Doesn’t Choose 5-Star Professionals

5280 Magazine has a well-deserved reputation for choosing Denver’s top doctors, top restaurants, etc., so you might well believe from its September issue that they also choose Denver’s top real estate and mortgage professionals. But, in fact. 5280 Magazine has nothing to do with selecting those “Five-Star Professionals.”

For more years than I can remember, the magazine’s September issue has included a paid advertising supplement from a Minnesota company called Five Star Professional.  The magazine’s publisher told me that he has vetted the company’s selection methodology and found it valid, but I have studied their methodology, and I’m not so convinced.

I was led to investigate that methodology back in 2012 when a would-be seller said she selected another agent because she was a 5280 Five Star Professional.  I had never heard of that agent, so I did some research and found that she had never listed a home before!
Perhaps as a result of my raising the issue back then, Five Star Professional now verifies that agents not only are licensed, with no disciplinary actions on file, but also have actually sold some homes in the past year.  Once the “nominated” agents satisfy those few criteria, they are offered upsells starting at $445 for a 1/14th page directory listing, up to $4,695 for a full page ad.  An upsell price list I obtained back in 2012 is posted at
Each year I’m surprised by how many truly successful agents are not listed.  In its defense, Five Star Professional will tell you “customer satisfaction” and not sales volume is their criterion. They claim to interview thousands of past clients, but the organization won’t disclose — even to the nominated agent — which clients nominated them.
Bottom line, consumers need to realize that it’s all paid advertising — like this ad — and that “nominees” who decline to pay big bucks get only their name and company published — with no contact information.  I figure the Minnesota company earns hundreds of thousands of dollars above what it pays 5280 Magazine for the advertising space.
What bothers me most, as a long-time professional journalist, is that 5280 Magazine is willing to let Five Star “winners” portray themselves as being “5280 Magazine Five Star Professionals,” when the magazine has absolutely no role in selecting them or creating the advertising supplement — and the agents who pay for those larger display ads write the ad copy themselves. 
5280 Magazine and Five Star Professional tell agents who appear in the advertising supplement that they should not state that the magazine named or voted them winners.  However, I see lots of violation of that guideline and no enforcement efforts.
You’ll note that the ad supplement isn’t even mentioned on the magazine’s cover, in its table of contents or on their website.  You can check it out yourself at Compare this to their August issue featuring “Top Doctors” — an entirely in-house effort meeting high journalistic standards — and featured on their cover and on their website.
Let’s say I bought 16 full pages in the Denver Post and found agents who would pay to be listed as “Top Real Estate Professionals.”  Then I allowed each agent to say he/she was a “Denver Post Top Real Estate Professional.”  Of course, such a claim would be a misrepresentation.  Well, it’s also a misrepresentation (and a violation of the Realtor Code of Ethics) for any agent featured in 5280’s advertising supplement to say that they were selected a “Five Star Professional” by 5280 Magazine. I don’t like it.

Published Mar. 24, 2016, in the Denver editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section.


  1. Thank you Jim! As a realtor I am sick of all the unfair advertising and marketing. My pet peeve: our own National Association of Realtors website sells leads to other brokers when any prospect clicks on my listing, which they did not pay me for the right to publish, but rather flaunt it as a perk to all members of an MLS system. In actuality it is a consumer perk to be able to surf all listings for free online in the privacy of your home or on your phone. A listing broker has to pay to get one's picture and a one click contact button for one's own listing. On top of that we have to pay annual dues and campaign assessment, to the tune of $155 in 2015. I don't like this either.

  2. From actual experience with Five Star "award" touting brokers, I've found it splits right down the middle. Some were the best agents I've dealt with while others were the absolute worst.

    My take away from these awards is that the brokers who accept them are vain, don't do their research and/or are willing to advance their own self-interest by misleading consumers. All attributes I can use to my clients' advantage should I ever find myself having to negotiate with an "awardee.