New Website, New Boston MLS Rules: Unleash The Hounds!

I remember exactly where I was when I got the news that the Boston-area MLS — the database that brokers use to share listings — would allow Redfin to drop its registration requirement: sitting at my desk, reading while I fondled a Rubik’s cube (world record for solving, 9.86 seconds).

I remember running down a hallway and bursting through the double doors of a closed conference room to tell all the Redfin bigshots the big news. Our dignified compliance manager, Mary Black, flushed with an unholy glow, had somehow gotten there ahead of me.

And now, hardly a week later, Redfin has shipped a new version of its site that lets Boston real estate consumers use Redfin the way everyone else does: without having to register your name or email address. This means consumers can get all the information about Boston-area homes for sale without wondering when a real estate agent will call, or getting buried in spam.

Why Registration Is a Big Deal

Why is registration such a big deal? Well, imagine if you had to register with Google before you ran a search. And imagine if Google was in an industry notorious for using that information to strap you into a gigantic drip-marketing system?

You would say what most Boston-area consumers have said to our website: no thanks. The graph below, taken from yesterday’s presentation to Redfin’s board, shows the results. Boston traffic is the green line, which after a year of toodling along, just got passed by Chicago (orange line) in its second month of operations. Pathetic!

But that’s all going to change. Now that we’re the first site to offer complete registration-free access to all the MLS homes for sale, we hope that our Boston traffic will shoot through the roof, and that our business there will too. We’re gearing up a big marketing campaign next week.

Redfin Real Estate Consumer Traffic

Many thanks to Kathy Condon, John Breault and the entire MLS Property Information Network Board for taking such a huge step forward.

What Does This Mean? The Big Picture

A long time ago, Redfin made a big bet that we could work within the system as a broker, showing all the homes for sale even as we changed how consumers worked with a Realtor and what they had to pay. For years that was a crazy bet. Maybe it still is.

But we’re seeing MLSs across the country negotiate a truce between brokers of all stripes so consumers can get more information about listings. That’s good for consumers, good for Redfin and, at a time when people have wondered whether MLSs and brokers would change with the times, good for the industry too.

Redfin Boston supporters, spread the word!!! And gentle Redfin blog readers, what do you think? Is the Boston-area MLS decision part of a bigger trend? We’ll keep you posted on what happens to Boston traffic.


  • A. Longo

    We are so pumped up about this here in Boston. Many thanks for all your efforts in helping break down the ruins of the traditional real estate model & systems!

  • Peter DuPont

    Congratulations. When is your company expanding to Minnesota?

  • Glenn Kelman

    2010 probably…

  • Jim

    I love the redfin concept but my questions still remains. When you run out of vc what happens? Do you have a self sustaining model? The culture at redin seems right on track and relates to me.

    Also can redfin exist without the infrastructure of traditional broker if all agents applied the redfin model would redfin work?

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  • Glenn Kelman

    Hi Jim, if no other brokers existed, we would simply charge a flat fee for our services and return any commission paid by the seller entirely to the consumer. The only reason we don’t do that now is because so many buyers believe their real estate agent is free, when in fact he is paid by the seller.

    As for whether we can turn a profit, we hope to do that for the first time next summer, but there is still plenty of risk.

  • jay —

    From the beginning Redfin should have been on the same rules as everybody–anything less was cowardice and ignorance by “traditional” brokerages.

    The reality is that the overwhelming majority of buyers pay more for their home without an excellent selling agent than they would on their own. I’ve see it countless times and documented in a blog post I wrote on these “floaters”. So Glen acts like the selling agent is costing the buyer money, but if they have a good selling agent it’s not true. The excellent agent will help the buyer pay a lower net sales price than if he had gone it on his own.

    The challenge for the buyer is aligning himself with the right selling agent to represent/negotiate for himself. It’s that simple.

    And I cannot stress enough that pithy rebates do not match aggressive/effective results of an excellent selling agent. Who is most likely to be a better negotiator, an agent who depends on a rebate gimmick to even exist in the business or an accomplished agent who represents tons of buyers each year with 20 or 30 or 50 transactions on the buyer side?

    I’ll put my money on an agent who is accomplished and proven when it comes to negotiating every time. But for some brutally honest advice on selecting a selling agent scroll to bottom of article of my post on “floaters”:

  • Terry LeClair

    Bad analogy using Google search to compare to registering and getting strapped into a drip campaign. The difference between the two…Google was not HIRED to market, promote and inevitable sell the product that is being searched…as REALTORS WE ARE! I totally agree that having a registration process to gain simple information is not what the consumer wants and is not doing your seller any good. But here is the problem with REALTORS and the online real estate companies….you’re all too lazy!! I am a licensed Broker/Owner…I am a trainer…I own a tech development company but the last thing I or any of my REALTORS are, is lazy…

    Most REALTORS and online companies want to give the world all this static insufficient information and expect the consumer to be captivated by it. There only way to capture leads is thru sheer numbers…put everything out there and hope that one or two fish stay in the net…why don’t we as an industry try and work a little harder up front…take more detailed notes in the house…take better photos…provide more services on our sites…give the consumer a better online experience and more not less! If putting someone in a “good” drip campaign creates a relationship or creates numerous positive brand impressions what’s wrong with that? We are paid stupid money to market, promote and SELL peoples homes…is giving the consumer everything up front the way to do it…can Google not do that for the sellers…can Microsoft not do that…can Wal-Mart not do that? Why would they need us (REALTORS)? What is our value proposition?


    Terry LeClair
    Realty Sites Plus (to be launched in 3 months)
    Prudential LeClair & Associates Realty

  • jay —

    Yes, Terry, most “listing agents” absolutely are mediocre and terrible at what they do as demonstrated by 95% of the listings have small, dark, blurry photos taken by wannabe photographers or pathetic cheap photographers.

    I did a whole video on this laying out why most listing agents are nothing more than glorified data entry specialists….

  • anon

    Awesome! You’ve got the existing cartel running scared, as evidenced by the posts from Jay and Terry. It’s about time. They are dinosaurs and their extinction is long overdue.

  • Joshua Ferris

    Boston eh? When will Redfin be in New York? :)

  • Emily

    A study on the housing inventory in the neighborhoods in and around Boston is showing an overall reduction in inventory and some increases in median and average sale prices. The big winners were the South End and Back Bay. Along with the South End’s 3.21 month supply and the Back Bay’s 5.77 month supply, each area has also enjoyed an increase in average sale price. The South End increased 5.4% to $642,969 and Back Bay jumped 7.6% to $932,316.

  • Terry LeClair

    Anon…you seem to think that “the existing cartel is running scared” quite the contrary…if your comments refer to our commission structure then I agree…we need to increase our value proposition and service we offer buyers and sellers…just be careful how you treat the dinosaurs…they took millions of years to wipe off the earth and with the money behind organized real estate you may find it’s going to take a bit to get rid of us…well the REAL professionals anyway.

  • George O’Neill

    Congratulations! I think the MLSs will eventually get it – it may take more time for some than others, but it will come. Service today is about providing expert assistance when called upon, not about withholding information to attract consumers. When you give, you get. Simple.


  • Boston MLS

    You know so many interesting infomation. You might be very wise. I like such people. Don’t stop writing.

  • bellamodeborn

    yeah kep writing

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