A Very Tough Day

Today Redfin laid off roughly 20% of our employees.

Unlike other startups, our industry’s recession started a year ago, when home prices first plunged.

Since then, we’ve fought like starving animals, and with some success: while industry-wide transaction volumes dropped 33%, we grew revenues by nearly 50%. Traffic grew more than 300%.

Even a month ago, we were raising 2009 revenue projections. All our markets, now including Chicago, contributed profits.

But the past few weeks have seen a major reversal. As the stock market wiped out prospective down-payments, tours and offers dropped 30%. Transactions that were done came undone. October will still be pretty good, then we’re headed for a big dip.

Hence the layoff. Layoffs are painful for any company, but especially for a startup and especially, I think, for Redfin.

The Layoff & Redfin’s Values

That’s because Redfin folks have always been believers. We earn our salaries from 9 to 5 but everyone leaving today gave a lot more than that.

The company has always had a sense of mission – to change the real estate game in consumers favor, yes, but also to be an open, humane place to work. It may seem now like we are a business that cares only about profits.

We aren’t. The whole company has been dedicated to the idea that money is how businesses work, but not why.

We want to make money, yes — and not just a little — and we absolutely have to avoid running out of it, but we haven’t given up on our larger ambitions: to build a new kind of company for employees and consumers alike.

To Those Leaving

Even under great financial pressure, we have treated departing colleagues as generously as we could: less than we would have liked, but as much as we could possibly afford.

To those who left, I can only say thank you for all that you’ve done for Redfin, and I’m sorry. It wasn’t your fault that you had to leave, and we will do what we can to help you take your next step. We’ll miss you, and we wish you the best of luck.

What Next for Redfin?

And now, we have to answer the question the rest of Redfin is asking: is this the beginning of the end? No, I don’t think so.

We are one of the few startups to offer:

  1. an essential service
  2. directly to paying clients
  3. that yields multi-million dollar revenues.

A real business used to be unfashionable, but now it’s indispensable.

The Best Website

The sky may be falling in financial markets but our competitive dynamics haven’t changed. We can become the #1 real estate search site because our data is better than the media sites’ and we think our engineers are better than other brokers’. We’re willing to share more data with the consumer than either one of them.

An Essential Service

Our value proposition isn’t entertainment; it’s to make a fundamental service better and cheaper. We offer an alternative to traditional brokers that customers want, and not in some namby-pamby nice-to-have way. Our market, even if it shrinks to half its recent size, would be $30 billion per year.

A Large Market…

That means we have plenty of room to grow. But we won’t grow without taking big chunks of market-share, which also means we’ll have to keep tinkering with our offering so it appeals to the mass market. We’ve been planning a change to our service for months, which we’ll launch in November.

But We Have to Change

Change is painful, but necessary. Late in Charles Darwin’s life, when he was busy rejecting the application of his principles to social policy, he explained that “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent… it is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

It’s tempting to write Redfin off now precisely because we are adapting to the market. At my last startup, we adapted quickly, laying people off early in the dot-com bust. Many wrote us off. But in 2002 we completed one of only two high-tech public offerings that year.

Redfin’s whole business will struggle and fight and may yet fail. But the only way it is possible for us to succeed – and, even today, I believe we will – is if we adapt.


  • Janelle

    Pour one for my homies.

  • Ben

    The fact that you are obviously pained by doing this is better than doing it and not feeling pain. It is refreshing to see such a human response from a CEO to times like this.

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  • Jakob

    Hi Glenn, you are reporting activity dropping 30%. Isn’t that in line with normal seasonality that comes at the of the summer?

  • http://www.richrelevance.com Selly


    This is one of the hardest things to do with integrity, one of the hardest things to talk about openly and honestly, and certainly one of the hardest things to go through with friends. Thank you for doing all of these.

    Keep your head high, keep your vision in your sights and keep executing. You are onto an amazing opportunity, and bumps are just that–bumps.


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  • http://www.raincityguide.com/author/ARDELL ARDELL


    My heart goes out to you today, my friend. Kim and I send big hugs your way, and to all at Redfin, both those leaving and those staying.

    As I have always said, both to you personally and publicly, Redfin has created a change in how agents view buyer clients. The rights of buyers, the fact that they DO pay their agent…all things that you have accomplished have not been behind your closed doors.

    Always be proud to be part of that change, and we wish you the best. If there is ever anything I can do…just whistle.

  • cj

    Dear Glenn and your amazing cast and crew at Redfin,
    Sorry to hear about the lay offs, Redfin still epitomizes the wonder-under-dog of swift moves and innovative minds in motion. Reinvention is in the air, what you have is amazing, may the new developments in the coming year rebound the efforts with your team.
    Personally I would like to see a combo of commercial real estate and residential…a mix of http://www.loopnet.com ala REDFIN…as I foresee a not so distant future market of buyers that are investing on a small scale…couples looking for urban/suburban investment properties…(401K and SS/Pensions are kah-put so invest in your own way)but would rather have one stop shopping like redfin offers.
    Any thoughts?

  • http://www.nwupdate.com James

    My thoughts go out to those who were let go. Hopefully they will all land on their feet quickly. They should look back at this experience and be proud of the seeds of change they have helped plant into this industry so in dire need of change.

    My thoughts go out to you as well in trying to bring everyone left together. It will be challenging, but just remember the good stuff you are doing for the industry. Your comments on adapting is spot-on.

  • homebuyer

    Hello Glenn,

    Sorry to hear about the layoff. I was so very impressed by this model and had great hopes.
    But I would say the economy has really let everyone down.

    Keep up your hopes. Its just one bump.


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  • http://www.gords.com JF

    Chin up, keep on fighting the good fight.

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  • http://gays.com gamon

    Thank you for getting rid of the lazy, weaker employees!

  • Caleb Mardini

    I’m sorry your team is having to go through this. I wish everyone, leaving and staying the best of success going forward.

  • http://blog.findwell.com Kevin Lisota

    Sorry to hear about the layoffs. However, your transparency about it is refreshing. Your business has clearly struck a chord with home buyers, and I’m certain you’ll come through the challenges that a slower market brings. While it stings for the employees you had to let go, it is better to be pragmatic in tough times than to let it bring down the whole company.

    Keep up the innovation over there!

  • Will Johnston

    Not surprised. You should have fired that ass of a CTO a long time ago.

  • shannon

    You are the best thing out there for potential buyers. I am waiting to buy a house and for sure are planning on using your services. Don’t give up hope. When the market comes around and people start buying I bet there are a lot of people like me that will be calling Redfin first!

  • http://straighttalkaboutmortgages.com Tom Vanderwell


    Hang in there. It’s a tough time right now and when the times are tough is when we find out who the class acts are. Integrity is hard when you have to make decisions like that. I hope that everyone can land on their feet and that those who are still there keep on keeping on…..


  • smurf

    yes, please hang in there. i planned to you use in 2009 when i can finally afford to buy a house!

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  • Noonrrr

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy!

  • http://www.phoenixrealestateguy.com Jay Thompson

    Having been in corporate Human Resources in my pre-real estate life and personally delivering over 3,000 “pink slips” (before getting one myself) I can attest to how much it sucks — from both sides.

    I can also tell you that though it may not seem like it now, you may be surprised how many of those that are laid-off bounce back and become bigger stronger and faster than they were before. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times.

    Nice post Glenn. I suspect some will be cheering (more than just those with the insensitive comments here) but ignore them and keep plugging away.

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  • Kay

    did someone die?

  • http://www.GeekMBA360.com Bill

    Thanks for the having the courage to be so transparent about your layoff experience. You definitely showed a lot of hearts and humility in doing this.

    The job market is still not too bad. By having the layoff early, you’re really helping your employees. They will have more opportunities comparing to people from companies who lay off people later when the job market really tanks.

    I’ve written several post about how to survive layoffs, and use it as an opportunity for personal/professional growth. Please check it out at http://www.geekmba360.com/?p=115.


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  • http://www.nwrealty.net nwRealty.Net

    From my viewpoint this setback pales in comparison to your innovation and ongoing success. Life happens and this was among the toughest business decisions anybody will ever have to make. Like so many recent hurdles for so many real estate professionals, this is behind you now … shake it off as soon as you can and get busy. See you in the trenches!

  • Allison

    Glenn, it has been fun blogging for Redfin and I still believe that Redfin is a GREAT initiative. I wish you and the company all the best. Also, I just want to say that in my past career I had to write a lot of corporate blah-blah for executives when lay-off time came around (again, and again) because of course those guys never wrote their own stuff. Your note here is not blah-blah at all. How refreshing, and typical of Redfin. Keep it afloat!


  • http://www.realestate.co.nz/blog Alistair Helm


    As someone who has been keenly observing Redfin from afar (can’t get much further than NZ!) – I admire the professional yet human way you address all aspects of the operation of the company.

    You speak openly, you are passionate and totally transparent. These are rare qualities and I can see that they are valued highly by your team and your customers as witnessed by the prior comments.

    I know what you have done – had to be done, for the security of the company and its long term viability – the consumer needs Redfin – we are heading into tough times and for those that can see this coming and adapt there will be a very bright future. Keep providing a great service and a great role model for other leaders!

  • http://momentumlifeworks.wordpress.com/ Bridgette Boudreau

    I was just sitting here wondering if people are that intentionally cruel or just juvenile. I pick juvenile. My heart goes out to all of you–I know you’re a tight group. I don’t know many of you personally anymore, but when I was there I know that quality hiring was paramount. Therefore I know everyone laid off is a quality person (and a catch to anyone out there hiring) who will certainly land on their feet.

  • Ray Pepper

    I’m a big fan and I always will be. It is my opinion Red Fin and MLS 4 Owners helped pave the way for 500 Realty and many others. Red Fin isn’t going anywhere!!! Like any great company they will run lean for awhile and snap right back as the market turns.

    The “mantra” of home ownership has changed though. In my travels it seems the “lead weight” of owning a home has become very negative. When this lifts and we run through the course of foreclosures and shortsales the time will be right again for the education/value that you provide to the consumer.

    Until then preserve capital, perfect the model, and as I always say……..Time is on the side of the companies that truly make a difference and bring value to the consumer.

    Ray Pepper

  • http://www.bravobrokers.com Thomas Heimann


    my thoughts are with you, I know this must have been most difficult for you and your team. And I think that given the circumstances it was the right decision.

    As CEO it is your job to make these difficult decisions and I think you’ve shown great leadership in the way you handled this.

    Keep up the good fight!

    Thomas Heimann
    Bravo Real Estate

  • http://www.RealEstateMusing.com George O’Neill

    Sorry to read about the layoffs. No matter the reason, they always suck since the people that are let go feel bad, the people doing the “letting go” feel bad, and those left behind still working feel bad. But, sometimes the tough decisions need to be made in order to build strength for the future. All the best as your team works through these tough times.


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  • SM in SF

    I am in contract on a place through Redfin. My experience on this house has been great. Jim Holt has been there with an answer to every question and hopefully when this all pans out you will still be there to help buyers like me find the place they have been looking for for 3 years (no kidding!). I hope you get your mojo back and that things pick up (after my house goes through:)

  • Patrick Flynn

    Those who know me know I have no love loss for Redfin or anyone that models the discount/flat fee/rebate business plan. That said, with as many actual working agents and REALTORS…not just those who took orders at Redfin calling themselves agents…in various stages of starvation if not out right extinction, perhaps a clearer ‘Law of the Jungle’ message is being sent. In tough economic times such as these, there are incredible opportunities for those agents and REALTORS who choose to SHIFT with the market. Blaming the market for your deals not staying together is simply a convenient excuse!
    As we all continue to feel the angst of Glenn and the rest of his peers who made a clear choice to devalue the real estate industry by offering the “Paying less means saving more” montra…Brokers, agents and REALTORS who offer real value, service and results are going to continue to offer the same great PROFESSIONAL STANDARD OF CARE smart buyers and sellers have come to expect…and gain market share doing it! P.S. Any ex-Redfin employees that would like to try their hand at being an actual real estate professionaL…give me a shout.
    Sorry Glenn, you had to know this day was coming!

    Patrick Flynn
    Team Leader/Designated Broker
    Certified Real Estate Instructor
    Keller Williams Realty

  • Jose

    wow, Patrick, you’re kind of a douchebag. Maybe if you’re nice, Glenn will send a kitten you can run over.

    Good luck, everyone impacted by this.

  • mickey

    I’m glad that Redfin shedded it’s work force by 20% b/c this will help home buyers and sellers look for better value than just saving money. Somethings are actually worth more than money such as service and the experience of dealing with a professional face-to-face. As a consumer and a homeowner, I definitely would rather work with a Realtor in person than saving money and speak to someone over the phone who I will never meet or even know anything about except what the company tells me. I think we’ve lost that human contact to a certain extent which is so important in business and in life. Not to preach, but this is what I think.

    And as for those employees who lost their jobs, well, go find another job or career. Everyone has been through this before and this is no different. I’ve seen much tougher times than this and I made it through just fine. Stop whining and start working.

    Lastly, I think Redfin and other companies like it have ruined the Real Etate Market in certain regions and have actually caused prices to decline because their promotion of savings on realtor fees and commissions has given many people the illusion that they can afford a home when they really can’t afford to make the mortgage payments. Saving on commissions and fees will not help pay the mortgage.

  • Ray Pepper

    Mickey, you must be joking. I cannot even comment on logic like that. I will just assume its a joke.

    Patrick, I assure you the buffet is over and Lead Generation will be the model of Real Estate going forward. The public will not stand for the conventional brick and mortar pay structure of 6%.

    There will be thousands of Red Fin type models coming down the road. Brokers will realize they can still offer the best in service and get compensated from many other areas not just from the consumer.

    Patrick, attend the Home Shows. Listen to what the public wants. I hear it everyday, at every show, over and over again in many states. The public wants to assist their agent in finding their home and they want to be compensated for it. They also do not want to pay 2-3% to List a home. I assure you the buffet is coming to an end and the closure of all the local real estate offices nationwide is proof enough. Have you seen the Remax numbers lately?? They also blamed the market for closing offices and impacting transactions. Is there a problem with Remax? No! The fact is Keller brings nothing new to the table for consumers. Nothing!

    Keller and all the other major Brokerages doors will swing 2 ways in the future. The offices will advertise “Buy through this office and receive 5000 towards closing for assisting your Agent.” You can bank on that. Real Estate companies will become vastly different and those who adapt will prosper.

    To comment about Red Fin cutting 20% as a negative aspect toward their model is ridiculous.

    Ray Pepper

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  • tintin

    Hi Glenn,
    I have been a big fan of your site for the past year. It has been a big enabler for buyers who wish to make an informed buy in the real estate market that was dominated by deviousness. I seriously hope you don’t plan on impacting your technical team.

    I am sure your exec team is looking at this, but can’t help suggesting that you could consider a slight shift in your model where you generate revenue through the website itself, not just through finalized sales.

    As an example, I have used the site quite a bit in the last few months and I would be fine with paying a reasonable subscription fee for the great content and comparative data that you provide.

    More analysis, more what-if scenario calculators, more charting and user generated reports could help generate subscription revenue not just from the users but also other real estate professionals.

    Also, an image makeover is needed from “discount broker” to “cost-effective-due-to-advanced-tech service”. A more aggressive campaign highlighting that you offer every one of the value points that a “real” broker claims to bring to the table, difference being your fair pricing model.

    Look at other industries for examples for what it has taken for the cheap-due-to-tech model to work out(securities brokerage industry for example)

    You are reasonably well positioned and it would be a huge disappointment if you lost the plot from here. I have big hopes that you will be able to leverage adversity to make tough choices and set yourself up for phenomenal success when the markets improve.

  • former client of Pat Flynn

    Pat, I had the unfortunate experience of working with you to purchase my first home and it was your bully attitude that drove my wife and me to look for alternatives like Redfin for our second home. I feel like the truly “smart buyers” are the ones who seek information and not trust the guy in the slick suit and fancy car with the personalized plates.
    It’s funny how the only people who think companies like Redfin are hurting the market are REALTORS. In my experience most REALTORS like Patrick don’t listen to their clients, as proofed by his comments above.
    If the customers opinion counts (a novel concept with Pat) then how can more choices of service and information be a bad thing when making a purchase? For far too long REALTORS held an unfair advantage by hording listing information via the MLS. Now, thanks to Redfin, it’s available to everyone and the playing field is beginning to level. This is a free market and people like Pat have to compete and win deals for the first time in their careers which is why they are bitter bastards. The gravy train is over and I for one am glad things will never go back to the way they were with REALTORS.

  • http://www.nwrealty.com nwRealty.Com

    Exclusive agency listing agreements (as we know them today) first appeared around 1995 and I vividly recall my first mentor at CB-HP warning listing agents that major changes to traditional listing businesses were inevitable. Gary, you were oh sooo right!

    The vast majority of REALTORS are precious, good and honorable people with a strong spirit of tenacity and independence. I expect resistance to change, especially in these stressful times. But negative public venting and stepping across lines set by ethics rules, anti-trust and agency laws … these things will help no one.

    Real estate has always been a competitive business and there has always been enough for everybody that is willing to work hard. Some Buyers and Sellers will always require “Full Service” but the rest are entitled to freely choose any available “Alternative Service”. Hampering freedom of choice just drives another nail in Capitalism and the American way of life. Be the best at what you do and you’ll be fine.

    Larry Wright

  • Patrick Flynn

    To Jose, Ray, Mickey and my shy former client, I truly appreciate your comments and your passionate responses to my post. Not to get too far off my intended message which clearly missed the mark for a few of you, I would like to respond to Mr. Pepper (BTW, thank you for the invite to the home show) your points are well taken. Many of the “Broker-centric” business models are seeing a dramatic SHIFT in their overall numbers; agents and REALTORS want a choice as do their clients. As Keller Williams continues to grow and gain market share (currently the fastest growing independant Brokerage and the 4th largest in the Nation) we will constantly strive to offer full service Brokerage services for those smart buyers and sellers who so choose to enlist our incredible team members to help them buy, sell and invest in their real estate dreams. Furthermore, I have no problem with the Public having a choice. I don’t even have a problem that seller may elect to list with a discount Brokerage such as yourself, they can! In fact, I will even drive them to your office…there’s enough to go around. And lastly, I absolutely could not agree more with you and your statement that Lead Generation will be a model of Real Estate going forward! It’s been the model all along so you hit it right on the head. For any successful REALTOR and agent, lead generation is how they got there.
    Aside from my timid former client who clearly did not have a good experience with me and Jose who thinks ill of me, I wish nothing but positive things for the both of you.
    As for those, like Mickey, who understand and appreciate the professionalism that ONLY a dedicated REALTOR or agent brings to each transaction, I will continue to provide my invaluable services and humbly try to avoid any of the mistakes I may have made with my former client.

  • Hibryd

    Okay, firstly, I’m sorry for Redfin – they’re a fantastic business model and I hope they bounce back when things turn around.

    Secondly, to the trolls around here, stop being dicks. Seriously.

    Thirdly, to the real estate agents who actually think “Realtor” deserves the all-cap treatment, I hope you’re happy. This housing bubble you relentlessly cheerleaded has now popped and is taking the whole friggin economy down with it. Yes, I know there’s a gigantic chain of people responsible, but YOUR old spokesman wrote a book titled “Why the Housing Boom Will Not Bust”, YOUR organization ran ads saying “home prices double every 10 year” as things were circling the drain, YOUR organization has a gag order on members keeping anyone from admitting that things were actually getting worse anywhere, and YOUR new spokesman has called for a recovery every single quarter (until recently).

    Do you know why no one trusts the “personal touch” of a real estate agent? Because you don’t get paid for customer service, you don’t get paid for providing information, and you don’t get paid for being trustworthy or honest; you get paid for selling as many homes as possible to as many people possible at the highest price possible. Like used car salesman, your profit motive is in the wrong place.

    I’ve met some good agents, but I’ve also met enough bad ones to know that, when it comes down to it, I’m the only one I can trust. And considering some of the outright delusional pricing I’ve seen in my zip code, I think I actually have a better sense of the market than the majority of seller’s agents around here. Let’s be honest, Redfin gives me access to a lot of data that agents would rather not have me know.

    PS – Tell your fellow REALTORS to use a spell-check when they post listings. Supposedly you guys get the big checks to be detail-oriented, sharp-eyed expert researchers. It breaks the illusion when they don’t even spell “ceiling” correctly.

  • Ray Pepper

    Pat, we at 500 also “constantly strive to offer full service Brokerage services for the smart buyers and sellers who so choose to enlsit our incredible team” . We just choose to “extract” money from our advertisers not the consumers.

    Pat, I started 500 as an alternative to Red Fin. Even a great company must be kept in check. We are the south-end version of Red Fin but with a completely different Brokerage concept with far lower over-head and the ability to sell off Branches to brokers soon. In addition, 500 Mtg is just about to be rolled out offering the BEST in pricing that anyone can find.

    Pat, what I deal with day in and day out is the incredible non-professional behavior of Realtors that cast a shadow over our entire profession. I have been an RN for over a decade and before that in the US Army. I’m 42. never in my travels have I run across such incompetent and unprofessional behavior.

    Today I have spent 3 hours dealing with an Agent from PNW in Federal Way and his Broker along with the NWMLS and the Real Estate Division of the DOL. Once again, one of our sellers was contacted by the aforementioned agent/office and the Agent indicated that his office does not show Listings of Companies such as 500 Realty. This seller is paying 4%!! as a SOC. However, this time they picked on the wrong seller. The listing was the daughter of our most seasoned Agent who has been an in the business for over 3 decades. We are eagerly awaiting the “company policy” for showing listings to Alternative Brokerages.

    The verdict is yet to be determined but the action reiterates why change is long overdue. The public will not stand for this any longer and we are proud to be a part of how Real Estate will be conducted in 2009 going forward.

    Ray Pepper

  • Patrick Flynn

    Well Ray, clearly we both believe we are setting the bar. On top of that, I agree there are a fair number of agents and REALTORS (or realtors if it makes you feel better…I don’t need anymore misinformed rants) are woefully incompetent. I suppose one of the few positives of this correction is that a great number of those incompetent agents, REALTORS and yes, Redfin order takers (Sorry, one last jab) are getting (ran) out of the business (which was the true intent of my original message).
    As my final entry, I wish all of us the strength to weather this correction so we can continue these lively and spirited debates…minus the personal attacks next time if it’s not too much to ask?

  • Ray Pepper


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  • wildance

    I really like redfin’s service. Sorry to hear you are in a tough situation. I hope your business will survive this hard time and become even stronger.

    One suggestion: sometimes I have to check movoto.com instead of redfin.com because they have school information. If you can add this feature, it will make your business even better.

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  • jack barry

    I am 30 year veteran reator, in SF, Ca.

    To whom do I speak, so to speak, about joining Redfin…

    I have two agents, and a long referral business.

    john barry,
    j.barry realtors

  • jack barry

    …sometimes my mind goes faster than my fingers.
    I do know how to spell “Realtor”..

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  • Russell


    We may all make less money during this downturn but you have an essential service. When the market turns up so will activity and your revenue…so keep looking for the positives, and remember it is all relative. RE prices go down so will other things. We may all live more modestly, but if we work hard we will get by.


  • David

    Patrick Flynn,

    There’s a model for you, look at what happened after the demise of fixed stock trading commissions. Traditional stock brokers survived for awhile, as I’m sure you will, but now, the market has completely bifurcated into discount, electronic brokerages for “common folk” (or anyone with less than about $500,000 in investable assets), where you have no personal service. Maybe you pay a set fee for a few hours with a “financial planner,” but after that you’re on your own. The other segment–those with real assets (usually over $1M) that can be managed for a fee that will support a broker (i.e. 1%).

    Same thing will happen to R.E. For your everyday move where the client is staying in the same city, etc, e-brokers like Redfin will dominate. I know the ‘hood, I know what I want, I’m not rich, i.e. I don’t need to or want to pay for much. For your cross-country move, your super-rich, your super-private, foreclosures, fixers, and other specialties, you’ll have specialty R.E. agents.

    I completely disinterred brokers when I sold my house in Chicago. Only used a lawyer on my side, and the buyers didn’t use an agent either, just a lawyer. I paid a flat fee for an MLS listing, tossed up a few ads on Craigslist, and put a sign out front. Sold in about 3 weeks in a rough time.

    You guys really have no special skills to offer for plain-vanilla R.E deals. You certainly don’t “deserve” 3% of a $400,000 house sale for taking a few pictures and posting it to the MLS. It took me all of a few hours to get my house to do that. Why would I pay you $12,000 for a few hours of work?

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