Redfin and the traditional real estate industry duked it out on 60 Minutes last night.
The segment aired second, after Mitt Romney took a stand against polygamy, but was the most popular video until losing out to a wayward penguin who swam 3,000 miles to Peru (Sasha Aickin just sent an e-mail around saying “we beat the penguin,” so I guess we’re back on top).
Here in Redfin Seattle, we watched the show in a conference room with a mixture of apprehension and desire; people brought their families and we all made fajitas. Seattle PI reporter John Cook showed up and began taking video with his digital camera.
Then the segment got rolling. Our favorite moments:
- Rob McGarty wearing a blazer for the first time in his life, Kelly Engel stealing every scene, Fadi Hafzalla rolling up his sleeves and getting down to business.
- The strange Borat-like moment when the traditional Realtor was asked if she had refunded any commissions last year (“absolutely… NOT”).
- The traditional agent’s explanation of why real estate agents charged nearly four times per transaction what they once did: increased postage costs…
- The terrifying loss of perspective as the camera panned back on the National Association of Realtors’ sign as if it were a Star Wars spaceship.
- B-roll of me complaining about our $4,000 copy machine, which is just so typical, cheap and mean-spirited (I HATE that thing).
Everyone in the conference room got quiet when the CEO of a company that had once embraced a business model similar to Redfin told Lesley Stahl he’d lost $33 million. Then we all cheered up when someone said we don’t have to worry about that because no one will give us $33 million.
And then the phones started ringing off the hook, and all of us — developers, executives, testers — scampered back to our battle-stations to answer them.
The website groaned under the load; first from 4:40 to 5:00 p.m., after the piece aired on the East Coast, and then again from 7:35 to 7:50 after the piece aired on the West Coast. Before our routers tapped out, we had served 40 times the volume of content that we normally do. We put up an emergency home page with search disabled. But without the Google Analytics tags on our standard home page, we could not see to see: we have no idea how many people saw that page.
It was fun working the front-lines. Many folks wanted to know if we could sell their property in Aruba, Italy, Mexico and Canada (Redfin dedicated agents immediately volunteered to handle Aruba, Italy and Mexico). One disgruntled 60 Minutes viewer called Donald DeSantis and told him he hoped he “died a slow, excruciating death” with one delicate body-part somehow wrapped around his neck.
A man with an ecumenical-sounding “SpiritJohn” e-mail address asked if I wouldn’t mind some constructive criticism; sure, I replied. Then he called me a “sissy” who “has been defrauding the American public for decades” (I started at Redfin just over a year ago; I wasn’t able to drive two decades ago). A third called and asked for Kelly Engel, then told her off. A very nice real estate agent e-mailed me offering herself as a corporate hair-stylist. A far-right radio show host asked me to name the “government bureaucrats” who blocked real estate reform.
Robert Scoble and Greg Swann reported a huge disturbance in the force, as hundreds of “60 Minutes” viewers descended on their site in search of Redfin (Robert’s blog about Redfin is the 7th Google search result for a Redfin search; we weren’t able to find Greg’s in the result set). A blog post that challenged Redfin’s facts began by noting I was a Harvard MBA (I never went to Harvard, I do not have an MBA). Another real estate blog argued for higher commissions (“6% is squat”) and lusted after Lesley Stahl (“what I wouldn’t do to have that blond hang out with me for one day as I go prospecting”).
For all the consumer enthusiasm, thousands of real estate agents and brokers have mobilized against CBS. The President of the NAR sent an e-mail to all 1.4 million members describing herself as “disappointed and dismayed” and encouraging agents to give CBS a piece of their minds. CBS News posted the text of the piece, alongside 46 pages (and counting) of comments.
Now it remains for us to sort through all the e-mail, call everyone back, and pick up where we left off building our little business. Thanks to everyone for all your kind wishes. If you have further thoughts on the segment, please just leave a comment below.