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Redfin Abandoning Failed Model and Moving Toward Traditional Services

The discount Broker Redfin, which I follow with interest even though it doesn’t serve Austin, looks like it’s making yet another move toward traditional real estate services. Rather than facilitating the wholesale disintermediation of the traditional Realtor, Redfin instead continues to adopt more and more of the traditional Realtor approach and offer smaller rebates to its clients, while still bashing the old real estate business model that economic reality is pushing them toward.

What does this mean? If you want to list your house for sale in a Redfin city, the Redfin Agent will actually come view your home first. Pretty cool, I know. Turns out that seeing a house before you list it is helpful after all. But it gets better…if you are a buyer, and want to be shown a house, your Redfin agent will now actually set a time to meet you there and let you in. Are you feeling goose bumps yet? Again, this is nifty stuff, having an agent treat you like you are important.

The Redfin business model at first required buyers to figure out how to get inside homes themselves, either by waiting for an open house, or getting the listing agent to come show it, or more notoriously, duping a dumb unsuspecting agent into thinking they are going to work with them, and using that agent to see homes without disclosing that they are a Redfin client.

When that model ultimately proved less than ideal, the idea of “showing tours” was introduced, which allowed a buyer to purchase “a 3 hour tour, a 3 hour tour” of homes for $250 each. But the weather started getting rough, and that concept failed to vanquish the traditional Realtor as well. So now what?

A couple of days ago, I received the announcement that Redfin now offers “unlimited buyer tours”. Uh, that sounds like what we do as traditional Realtors. We show our buyers homes until the right one is located.

From the Redfin blog Nov 6, 2008.

Unlimited Tours, Agent Choice
To hit the mass market, we’re upgrading today our home-buying service to offer free unlimited tours, and a choice of agent, and support from that agent all along the way.

Sound familiar? Pick the agent you want, see as many homes as required before making a purchase decision, and have “support” from the agent involved in the process “all along the way”.

And do you still get rebated 2/3 of the buyer agent commission? Nope.

50% Commission Refund
And we’re raising prices. Tours are now free — we used to charge $250 per tour – but we’re changing the commission refund for buyers from 66% to 50% (existing customers relax, you pay the old price). The average refund should drop from $10,000+ to nearly $8,000. If people use Redfin to sell one house and buy another, the total savings should still in most cases be about $20,000.

Then, in true “me thinketh thou doth protest too much” fashion, we are reassured that vast differences remain between the new Redfin Services and the Old Realtor.
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Posted by Steve
9 years ago