Online Real Estate Tools Mini-Hall of Fame + Home-Buying Class Powerpoint

Thanks to everyone who attended our Redfin Red Carpet meetup last night, and to DFJ for hosting the event in their courtyard. As promised, we’re posting the slides (big file) we used at our first-time home-buyer’s class and encouraging everyone to keep the conversation going in the Red Carpet thread on our forums. Below are links to all the online resources we discussed in the class, even to sites that overlap with what Redfin does on the search side.

We were especially moved by all the folks who stayed until 8:30 going over the next release of our site with Sasha, John and Jane. You helped us a lot.

My favorite part of event:

  1. Talking to a photographer who said that Steve Jobs only allows himself to be shot from one side
  2. Getting caught scarfing leftover chocolate cake with my hands in DFJ’s kitchen
  3. Meeting one happy customer after another. I don’t know why you come to these things when you’ve already bought a house, but we’re so glad you do. It really keeps us going late at night, on the weekends, all the time.

But enough chit-chat. Here are the links!

Pricing Trends

Is now a good time to buy? Don’t ask me. Find your inner bean counter, and do the math for yourself:


For evaluating neighborhoods, we recommended:

  • Schools: STAR 2007, the state of California site for rating schools.
  • Amenities: Walk Score, to rate how many coffee shops, head shops and restaurants are near a particular house runs a little slow but it’s sweet…
  • Prices: Trulia’s pricing heat maps, which it kills me to link to, are pretty good (chance of reciprocity, ZERO)…
  • Pricing Trends: AltosResearch has good graphs on pricing and days-on-market trends by neighborhood, even if the data is sometimes glitchy.
  • Toddler-Friendliness: Playborhood, a cool Valley blog on jungle gyms and real estate is well written.
  • Public Records, Ad Nauseum: PropertyShark is great for getting all the demographic data on a neighborhood and every public record on a property. It’s an awesome site. You have to register, but the spam isn’t bad.

Search Sites

People want to know where to go so they can see every house for sale and of course we have a few suggestions…How to choose an agent....

  • Broker Listings: an MLS-powered site like Redfin + the listing broker’s site for each listing, which sometimes has more photos.
  • For-Sale-by-Owner Listings: Redfin has a lot of FSBO’s on its site, but not from craigslist (no-syndication, no-crawling policy), so you should check there and on Zillow (“Make Me Move”) too.
  • Foreclosure Auctions: Short sales and bank-owned listings show up on Redfin, but RealtyTrac has foreclosures up for auction. Sure it’s a $30-per-month subscription…but it’s data you can’t get anywhere else. Serious investors only. A bit spammy, so use your hotmail address when you register.

Doing the Deal

It was hard not to avoid a sales pitch here, but then afterwards I felt like we should have put the screws to the crowd. A few general-purpose tips:

Distressed Properties

Things got ugly as we started talking about short sales, which are driving us crazy because they almost never close, but we also got into buying bank-owned properties and, if you want to bring $500,000 in a suitcase to an auction, trustee sales (aka foreclosure auctions).


We had to cover mortgages too fast. It’s complicated, the rules have changed.

  • Types of Mortgages: we compared fixed-rate, ARM and balloon mortgages. The best site is run by a Wharton professor.
  • Current Rates: are nicely summarized on a federal government site.
  • Conforming Loan Limits: in the Bay Area are $729K for the rest of the year, but you still start paying a higher rate at $417K. Over $729K means Fannie and Freddie won’t back the loan and it can’t be sold on the secondary markets, so then your rate really goes through the roof. The limits are outlined on Fannie’s site.
  • FHA Loans: we pitched FHA loans pretty hard as an alternative for anyone who can’t come up with 20%. The FHA limit is now $729K in the Bay Area, same as the conforming loan limit, and the insurance cost is often worth the lower rate.
  • Credit Score: we explained that 720 is the new super-gold standard, 680 is still pretty good and below 620 is almost a death sentence. We talked about how credit pulls when you’re shopping for a mortgage don’t hurt your rate, and anyone who tells you that is selling something. You can get a free credit score pretty easily, so long as you remember to cancel your sign-up before they charge you $30 a month.
  • Comparing Mortgage Prices: we made a list of all the different ways brokers and lenders futz with the price, and compared using a broker with going straight to the lender (in the PowerPoint, but some reliable advice is also available from that Wharton professor). If you’re going to shop online, we like Zillow’s loan request much better than Lending Tree’s because it’s anonymous.
  • Closing Costs: we made a table of every possible fee, italicizing all the ones that are BS, which is in the PowerPoint.
  • Mortgage Calculator: BankRate has a nice multi-step calculator but you have to see a lot of ads. Zillow’s calculator looks better though.

Those are all the links and here again is the presentation. Thanks to everyone who came, and please let us know how we can make the event better. If you have other links you like, just leave a comment and we’ll check out the site. And if you didn’t go to the class — dude! come on! you should sign up!

(First photo credit: Flickr, Andreas Franke)


  • Zain Memon

    The slides say that you’re committed “When a buyer’s agent shows you a property (but not Redfin)”.

    Does that mean that if you call up the buyer’s agent, tell them you’re with Redfin, and ask them to show you the property, you can’t use Redfin? You have to go through Redfin if you want to see a property?

  • Glenn Kelman

    Zain, a buyer’s agent is someone who represents you as the buyer. If a buyer’s agent shows a property to you that you end up buying, he can fairly claim the commission for that sale. If we show you a property and you decide to buy it through someone else, we will respect that decision. Other agents may or may not embrace that position, but that is their choice. The situation we want to avoid is one in which you tour with one agent under false pretenses, then buy through Redfin just for our commission refund. At least with a seller’s agent it is arguable that the seller’s agent should show the property as part of his service to the seller, though we now encourage all buyers just to tour homes through Redfin.

  • Zain Memon

    Oh — gotcha. For some reason I was thinking the buyer’s agent was the one selling the house. Whoops!

    Thanks for the clarification.

  • Latin american property

    No doubt every prospective buyer, seller, and real estate agent has heard of the Multiple Listing Service. The real estate agent’s “on the make” equivalent of a dating service. Real estate agents even have their own codes to help inform potential suitors. Possibly E-Harmony might want to implement this kind of methodology, as you’ll soon see, into their 92 reasons to run for the hills!

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  • Eelco Hillenius

    That’s a great list, thanks so much for sharing!

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  • P. Lummynela

    I am glad you posted does links cause I found a few interesting topics.Now I will start reading them.