Why I Chose To Be A Redfin Agent

As an agent with a traditional brokerage I was continually surprised at how much of my job was selling myself instead of selling real estate. Suddenly everyone became a potential and desperately needed paycheck (a great way to alienate friends by the way). Since clients come to Redfin, we don’t have to beg for business and I get to do what I’m best at: selling real estate, advising buyers and sellers, negotiating contracts, and closing deals. I no longer need to waste time, money, or paper sending out mailings that just get thrown away. As a traditional commission-based agent I needed the full commission in order to cover my astronomical marketing expenses and to make up for the many, many hours of driving around buyers that sometimes ended up going elsewhere to buy (ouch!).

The traditional brokerage office atmosphere was dominated by competition and secrecy. Now I’m part of an office where all the agents work cooperatively, pooling resources to better serve clients instead of one where agents work by themselves, for themselves.

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One of the greatest benefits of working as a Redfin agent is the security of having a regular paycheck and fantastic medical benefits. Not having to deal with the stress of wondering when my next commission check will come in (or IF it will come in) is priceless. I get a competitive salary with bonuses based on customer satisfaction. Granted, the system isn’t perfect because it can be difficult to gauge accurately customer satisfaction and how it relates to my performance. I have had the painful and seemingly unfair experience of losing bonus money after working with all my heart and soul.

I know, I know, you’re wondering if a Redfin agent makes more or less than a traditional agent. Well…it depends on how successful of a commission-based agent you are. If you are in or near the top one percent, you will likely take a pay cut. However, for most agents, you are very likely to make more at Redfin. As a Redfin agent, I no longer stress about when the next check will come in, how much of it will go to cover broker fees, marketing expenses, and individual medical insurance premiums (ahhhhh). Having said that, many agents here have taken a pay cut because they really believe in the mission and success of this company, plus many of us have stock options.

The biggest dilemma for me in making the leap was if I was willing to give up total control of my schedule. It was hard to move over to a corporate environment and let someone else tell me what hours to work. Because the industry doesn’t traditionally follow a 9-6pm Monday through Friday schedule, I sometimes find myself working a solid 8 or 9 hour day and then going home to continued evening and weekend negotiations.

In the end the deal-sealer was the internal company motto: “Do the right thing.” It is really refreshing and exciting to work for someone who puts doing the right thing above making money. I am not suggesting that all traditional agents are unscrupulous money hungry fiends, in fact I know many who are some of the most genuine and ethical people I know; but sometimes when your livelihood is on the line, doing what pays the bills comes before doing the right thing and I will never have to do that as long as I work at Redfin. Having been here and seen how this business can be so different, I could never go back. How ‘bout you? Have I converted anyone?

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Discussion

  • http://seattle.redfin.com Donald DeSantis

    Great post, Rachelle. You hit it dead on with the pros and cons of being an agent Redfin. The biggest shift for me was the fixed schedule and the intensity of a Redfin workday. The biggest “pro” is working with a smart and fun group of people.

    Redfin is a labor of love.

  • James Hsu

    Congratulations on finding an environment you feel works for you. However, I do take a small exception to how you portray the commission based agent. Prior to becoming a commission based agent, I was from corporate America. Worked the traditional 8, …or 9, 10, 11, 12 hour days…woke up at 6am to get on conference calls with european/asian partners, etc. I left corporate america to get control of my life and how I worked. The list of characteristics you list for the commission agent I’m sure is what many many agents feel right now and perhaps it would be a breath of fresh air if they joined the likes of Redfin. However, …like I said earlier, the bleak picture you paint was fully and entirely in your control.

    Here’s your list:
    Stalked and begged for clients – I’m sorry you felt like you had to do this, but this is a personal business decision on how you find your clients. I have asked friends and family to let people know I’m in the business and I would be appreciative if I had the opportunity to just talk to them about their situation. I ask to compete for the business. In short, ..I try to solicit an interview. Stalking is never recommended as that scares people away and actually may invite mace or pepper spray in someone’s face.

    Wasted time marketing yourself – Again, a personal business decision on how you want or if you want to market yourself. Many agents do this, …I have agents marketing in my neigborhood and it’s mostly, look at me, look at me! We’re offering a service, …we should be marketing the service…in effect..the product… we provide..rather than ourselves.

    Drove around previewing/showing homes – Previewing homes has its place and time. I don’t do it for every client…rather I do it based on the situation my client is in. However, it can be an incredible utility in building your personal knowledge of an area. I recently previewed 13 condos in about 7 different buildings in Queen Anne/Belltown for a client. Strangely enough, I’ve talked to another person who’s interested in the same area, ..and now I can talk to him with first hand knowledge of what’s there and what they’re like. Knowledge that cannot be gleamed off of a listing or photos.

    Set your own work schedule – for some people, this simply does not work. Some of my close friends cannot operate without a routine or schedule. But if you can figure it out, …this is one of the best attributes of the job.

    Didn’t have health care – agree with you here…this part bites. However, you can purchase individual insurance poliices whose costs aren’t that crazy. I’m about to start a policy for my family of 5 and it’ll run me about $550 a month for 80% coverage. The 80% coverage thing is probalby the best you can get for individual…which isn’t as cool as the 100% coverage i got while in corporate America. This is an unavoidable fact of being self-employed in any industry.

    Paid for all work related expenses: Side-effect of being in business for yourself. You run your own business and therefore you provide your own tools. As an analogy, ..Glenn Kelman is running his own business and therefore must pay for his own tools…which in this case are employees and the stuff his employees need. In the individual agent’s case…the only needs are your own. However, there are ways around this. Most offices have computers for agents to use and phones. License fees etc. bites for sure, but it’s what enables me to do my work. Kinda like driving a car, or in the corporate sense…you need the car to get to work.

    Had to compete with fellow agents – …if i’m not mistaken, ..you still are regardless of where you go. You may not be competing with people in your office, but you’re still competing.

    Was part of an old, stale way of buying real estate – Even though I agree with this statement for the most part, it is reality for many people. I think newspaper ads are dead…yet one of the most common questions I get from sellers is ..what papers will I have an ad in? New ways to do things will continually come up in our lifetime, …Redfin’s way is by no means the be all, end all. The challenge is deciding how to balance it, … do I screw all the folks who aren’t progressive enough and just focus business on a specific segment of buyer or do I try to provide services to a more broad group. It’s a personal choice.

    Shamefully took ridiculously high amounts of money in commission from sellers and buyers – …we can argue about this, but first…technically, you don’t take money from buyers, …the seller is the one paying the agents. I know the arguments, ..the buyer is the only one bringing money to the closing table yada yada yada. However, if you follow the paper trail…money goes from lender to buyer to seller. Then it goes from seller to all the people they owe money to…ie their lender, agents, government, etc. People who make the claim it’s the buyer paying all the commission will then have to say that it’s the buyer paying the excise taxes, the fees, ..basically everything…but they don’t , …they only point out the commissions. Ridiculously high is relative to the service the agent provided to the client. If they did nothing but write up the deal then I agree with you, …the commission is ridiculously high. What if the service you provided saved that client hundreds of thousands of dollars? What if the service you provided prevented a client from buying into a mess? It’s kinda all relative. also, as a listing agent, you negotiate the commission. If you think the service you provide isn’t worth 3%, or 2% or whatever, you should be able to set it at what you think is right. Your broker may not like you, but tough..you can always go somewhere else.

    Stuffy office environment – different for everyone wouldn’t you say? I love my office environment. It’s about 30 feet from my kitchen and 20 feet from the tv. My office office is a space I frequent maybe once a week if I’m feeling bored. Not all commission based agents work in a stuffy office environment.

    Please remember, ..I’m not bashing your choice of work. I’m always happy for people who’ve found what works for them. However, I do take exception when people take what they don’t like or what doesn’t work for them and …in a sense..bashes the people who are in that situation. Some of your points are valid for commission based agents . Most however are personal choices of how you want to run your business, what you may want to spend money on, or how you perceive your business.

    When I left my corporate america job, I left for reasons that were only applicable to me and I’m doing real estate in a way that I am happy with and under my rules (mostly). I do miss many aspects of the corporate job…mainly the people i worked with and saw every day. However now, it’s the clients I get to see and on more than one occasion i’ve become very close friends with a client…so in the greater picture, ..i still get the camaraderie, ..just in a different way. The biggest thing I miss…people to eat lunch with on a daily basis.

    Anyway, I’m here to speak up for those that actually feel the commission based model works for them. So I guess to answer your question..no…sorry…didn’t convert me.

    so again, congrats on finding a good fit for you, have a wonderful christmas holiday and a happy new year.

  • Rachel

    Good posts- both of you. James, you hit it on the head. How you run your real estate business is as individual as the person running it. I think when it comes to real estate, people get into it, forgetting that it is fact, largely a sales position. Any type of sales position in any idustry is volatile, and only the top 20% make it long term. RE is tough, and is not for everyone. I’m glad there are alternatives for buyers and sellers these days. There will always be buyers and sellers that want to have someone else do all the work, and those who want to do most of the work themselves to save money. The Redfin process fills that gap. There is enough business around for everyone!
    –okay, maybe not as much as two years ago =)
    cheers

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  • Jerry D

    Thanks Rachel for that great post. I could not agree more with most of your posting. Very few people will really make it as a self-employed person, no matter how good they are. There’s just too much going on — prospecting, the sales process, filing taxes, keeping records, expenses, benefits, etc — and it takes away from the actual selling process. I tried self-employment selling insurance and it’s just as hard. So I guess it’s not the product, but the whole situation itself because I know I can sell. I might just check out redfin now, since I’ve been waiting for them to come to CA.

  • jj

    Would you mind discussing what Redfin field agents typically earn in salary their first year? I am really considering applying at Redfin. Thanks for the information!

  • Chrysolite2005

    Are Redfin agents get a W2 or 1099?

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