In the early, crazy days of Redfin Direct, when the whole office went bananas every time we got an offer (which was usually bogus, and was often breathlessly announced in the middle of a meeting with skeptical venture capitalists), we encountered plenty of resistance from listing agents. Some called customers about to close on a property and said such awful things that the customers sat on the floor and cried. Some sent us deranged, vengeful e-mail, comical with misspellings.
Mostly, the listing agents just tried to scare the crap out of our customers. It got so bad that we occasionally went on home-tours posing as Redfin customers, and secretly recorded what listing agents said (for a TV news magazine story being prepared later this summer). It was like watching a movie where the bad guy is so ridiculously bad that you just start laughing. The cloak-and-dagger stuff was fun too.
The Wall Street Journal (subscription required for full story) picked up on the action in a story published in last weekend’s paper:
Cem Sibay, a business-development manager at an Internet company in Seattle, sought a rebate through Redfin. Mr. Sibay says he and his fiancee, Tam Pham, arranged to see a condo about six months ago. The agent representing the seller, Ron Waxman of Coldwell Banker Bain, was initially friendly and helpful, Mr. Sibay says. But Mr. Sibay says Mr. Waxman’s attitude changed when Mr. Sibay mentioned that he planned to use Redfin as his agent. Mr. Sibay says Mr. Waxman then refused to show the condo to the couple again and said he would advise his client not to consider any offer they made.
Mr. Sibay and Ms. Pham gave up on the idea of bidding for the condo.
When reached for comment Wednesday, Mr. Waxman said, “I don’t remember that at all.” He said he stopped working as an agent last year; then, a few minutes later, Mr. Waxman acknowledged that he was still working as an agent and declined to comment further.
The WSJ article goes on to say that Cem and Tam stuck with Redfin, won a house that is now closing, and are due to receive a refund in excess of $10,000. Judging from its picture, the house they ultimately got seems a lot better than the condo:
And that’s the real story. That things have started to turn around. Some time in May, we began taking ten, twenty offers a week. The winning percentage of our clients when competing against multiple offers increased to above 40%. Every deal we did, the agent we talked to was surprised at how comprehensive our service was from offer to close and how experienced and professional our agents were. We started sending thank-you notes, and now we’re even including gift cards for the agents as part of a charm offensive to win every agent over in Seattle and San Francisco.
The overwhelming majority of listing agents take their profession as seriously as we do, and always act to advance the interests of their clients, but even now there a few listing agents who just don’t care. They hate our model, and wish our customers would drop dead. Unfortunately for those listing agents, our customers tend to be highly qualified buyers who are usually going to submit the best offer (especially since they have $10,000+ in commission refund to sweeten the deal). So in the rare case when a listing agent is hostile to one of our buyers, we just call the seller. You can tell during these calls that the seller is hopping mad, and can’t wait to get off the phone so she can chew out her listing agent.
We’ve created a special place on the Internet to bust those agents. It’s called the Hall of Shame, and it’s right here on the Redfin blog. If you’ve got a listing agent who tried to kibosh your offer, tell us about it in a short e-mail (glenn (dot) kelman (@) redfin (dot) com) and, if the story checks out, we’ll post the agent’s picture. Our first electeee is the agent who was hostile toward Cem and Tam, Ron Waxman.
Welcome Ron to the Redfin Hall of Shame.