I've Made a Switch!

The new year is set to begin with me hitting the ground in a new role as a lead agent at Redfin helping home buyers! I accepted the position in November and began training with the Redfin tools in early December. Most in Chicago who have thought about buying or selling a home recently are familiar with Redfin’s name and many have at least used their website to browse properties (like a number of my clients this past year). I believe in Redfin’s non-traditional model and I’m excited for the opportunity it affords.

(For one thing they gave me a better profile shot than I've had before)

This model has been disruptive in residential real estate so far in a way similar to Uber with transportation, and I anticipate that the industry will continue to evolve and become more like it. It is by far the most technologically capable brokerage I’ve known with great ease of use on the client’s end and lots of integration behind the scenes that makes things simpler on the agent’s side as well. As I mentioned, many of my past clients would prefer to browse properties on Redfin’s website rather than through MLS listings I would send because it is a lot more pleasant to look at and easier to find information. It’s also synced with current MLS listings every 5 minutes or so and clients can receive instant notifications when properties hit the market if they like. Redfin is able to employ an unusually high number of software engineers for a brokerage and accomplish this tech wizardry because it is a brokerage that functions with a corporate and team model.

This team model also allows us to show places to our buyers faster than just about anyone else. In a traditional model, a client is bound by the availability of their agent (or their team member if they have one) and usually involves some back and forth communication before a request to the seller’s agent is even made. Redfin employs an army of agents who are on-call to sub in for a client's main, deal-writing lead agent on showings when a client’s main, deal-writing agent (my role) is unavailable. In other words, if I'm not free Monday night you could still go see the place. A client can literally hit a button to schedule a showing, specify a time, and do nothing until they receive confirmation (assuming the seller’s agent grants access). Clients can sometimes view properties with only an hour or two’s notice, and this kind of speed can be a huge advantage with competitive listings.

Redfin also preserves a full service, low-pressure feel to a buyer’s experience because of the way its agents are reviewed and paid. Every review a Redfin agent receives is posted on their profile, and we receive bonuses based on the client’s review. This, and the fact that we are salaried, naturally gives us more incentive to make sure our client has a great experience rather than simply closing their deal (in the traditional model, an agent is only paid upon closing which can make things feast or famine). Since we are paid regularly rather than just at close, we naturally have less subconscious fear of a deal falling through and can more easily advise a client to walk away if the situation turns sour.

So far I’ve talked about the benefits of Redfin’s model to a client, and these are the reasons I believe Redfin is blazing a new trail in real estate. We’re able to do all this without dropping service levels and still be profitable (even with giving commission refunds to clients as a standard policy) because the tech platforms and the team model make us efficient. Having agent apps and online tools that are very well integrated with each other is extremely helpful to me on the agent side, but there are a number of additional features with their model that makes it advantageous and prompted my switch.

The most appealing part of working within Redfin’s model for me is that I can focus on the actual duties of a broker: working with clients to find homes, research properties, and negotiate offers. To thrive as a traditional agent, one has to either spend a lot of money on digital marketing or work really hard at promoting their name and brand to garner business. While there have been times I’ve enjoyed the creative challenge of making my own advertisements and seeing how they perform online, on the whole I don’t know what I’m doing that way and I was usually wasting money. I’m happy to let Redfin’s marketing team manage all that. As an agent at Redfin, they supply the business and it’s on me to work hard and fulfill the brokering duties. The average Redfin agent does thirty-something deals in a year, so it will provide  2-3 years’ worth of experience in just one (and with that a lot of growth in expertise).

Apart form not having to spend time or money on advertising, Redfin’s filling up my client load also means that I don’t need to pump my personal network to find leads as most traditional brokerages encourage their agents to do. While I have no issues offering to help out those I know with real estate needs, there can be a natural inclination to socially identify (or be primarily perceived) as a real estate agent because it may lead to business. Sometimes I talk about work and sense that people think I’m bringing it up to so that I can implicitly offer my services. Every agent has to find a line that way, but in a traditional model I would have to do a lot more of that than I’d like in order to be more successful since it’d be my responsibility to find the business.

I’ve heard it said that in real estate 10% of the agents do 90% of the business.  While Redfin’s model won’t have the virtually unlimited earning potential for an agent like the traditional one in that 10% doing really high volumes, Redfin does have much higher median earnings for their agents than the traditional model. The company culture has the same informal-but-driven feel as a successful tech company I worked at in the past, and the high-capacity folks I’ve worked with so far is also a boost to my confidence.

So all this combined – that the model is better for clients and better for most agents- is what makes me think it is here to stay. I’m excited to be a part of it.

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