Big Redfin Survey: Even More Than Service, Real Estate Consumers Want Transparency

Every few months, Redfin surveys the folks using our site to try to understand how real estate consumers move between online and offline worlds, so we can blend the two together better. The latest survey ran from March 13 – 20. 1,058 people filled it out, with about 68% saying they plan on buying a home soon, 50% for the first time, 20% working with Redfin.

This time though, there was a big surprise: consumers said that trusting their agent was more important to our consumers than service. Nothing will stop us from our endless, Zappos-inspired quest to offer fantastic service. But the survey data reminded us that the deepest issue in real estate is trust.

47% of Respondents Who Chose Not to Use a Redfin Agent Cited a Pre-Existing Relationship as the Reason
The big focus for us in this survey was figuring out why people don’t use Redfin to buy or sell a use. So we took the 29% of survey respondents who said they had already chosen a traditional agent and asked a follow-up question: Why did you use a traditional agent in lieu of Redfin? For each proposed reason, users could choose one of three possible responses: Major Reason, Minor Reason, and Not a Reason. The chart below graphs the percentage of folks who chose Major Reason for different prompts:

why-did-you-use-a-traditional-agent

Of those folks who didn’t choose Redfin, most cited a personal relationship with an agent — our Achilles’ heel in Greg Swann’s estimation — either somebody they already knew (47%) or just met (33%). We can’t do much about that, and neither can most traditional agents either. The addressable market consists of the folks who don’t already know an agent.

Where we can make a difference is in addressing the consumers (26%) who really want more local expertise — we’re stretched thin in some markets, with agents covering too much territory, which is one reason we had to get help from partners in outlying areas. We also need to emphasize our support for first-time home-buyers, a major concern for 23% of our respondents despite the fact that most of our customers are first-timers.

76% of Respondents Unaware Our Agents are Tops in Market-Share
So then we got into questions of what people knew about Redfin, and what they cared about too. We asked users Please rate your awareness of the following, and then listed 11 marketing claims, with an explanation of what each meant. For each claim, respondents could mark Unaware, Vaguely Aware and Totally Aware.  The graph below charts the number of people Unaware of a Redfin claim; to simplify the graph’s legend, we didn’t include the explanation of each claim:

awareness-of-major-claims

76% of respondents don’t realize is that, in just about every market we’re in, our agents are among the top 10 in terms of the number of successful home-buyers they represent.

And 69% (“The Redfin Advantage”) have no idea that Redfin clients tend to pay less than others for the same home: if you compare the discount to list price that our clients get compared to those of other agents, our discount is about $3,500 larger, over and above our commission refund.

The fact that we pay our agents customer-satisfaction bonuses in lieu of commissions hasn’t registered for most (63% – 64%) people either, even though we go to great lengths to avoid the conflicts of interest created by commissions.

Consumers Care Most About Performance
Then we asked consumers about which claims they cared most about. For the question, Please rate how influential some of the statements from the previous question would be, assuming you were considering using a Redfin agent, respondents could choose between Unimportant, Important, and Very Important. The chart below graphs the number of respondents who rated a claim as Very Important. Interestingly, our negotiating performance (“Redfin Advantage”) came out ahead of our refund, even though we’re very well known for the refund:

importance-of-major-claims

This Means We Should Probably Emphasize Performance, Agent Deal-Share
A better way to visualize the marketing claims Redfin really needs to emphasize is to combine the data from the last two charts into one chart. So we multiplied the Unaware rating for the question about consumer awareness of our marketing claims with the Very Important rating for the question about which claims were more important. This allowed us to identify the claims that are both little-known and potentially very influential.

unknownimportantclaims

What really jumped out at me was that our refund was the claim we should emphasize the least. Today, it shows up at the right of every listing we show on the web. Hmm…

The Trait Most Associated with Redfin: Transparency
To try to understand where we stood with our website users in comparison to the traditional brokers we compete with, we asked: what traits do you associate with Redfin as opposed to traditional brokers like Century 21, Prudential, Coldwell Banker, Windermere, Alain Pinel or Long & Foster. We then listed a series of traits and asked respondents to correlate those traits more with Redfin agents, more with traditional agents, with neither of us or with both of us.

To present this data in one simple graph, we added up the percentage of folks who associated a trait more with Redfin agent, then subtracted those who associated it more with a traditional agent (disregarding both and neither responses):

traitsassociatedwithredfin

Unsurprisingly, the respondents were skewed toward Redfin. The survey confirmed an earlier result — that the folks who don’t choose a Redfin agent worry about our local expertise — and told us something new, that the trait we’re most known for is our transparency (which is why, I suppose, we’re sharing this data).

Transparency is the Trait Most Important to Our Users
To close out the survey, we asked: Which of these traits is most important to you; please check as many as three.

traits-most-important-to-co

The most important trait was transparency, followed by competency and advocacy. What surprised us was how far down the list responsiveness was, since that has been a major focus for Redfin and probably will continue to be. What we got out of this graph was the importance above all else of trust, which means we’ll keep paying agents to do the right thing, and we’ll really start pounding away at the message that our agents have more experience closing deals in their area than virtually anyone else.

But the survey has already galvanized Redfin to act: we’ve focused our Seattle agents on more-local areas, we’re re-evaluating our short-sale support to make sure every first-time home-buyer feels fully supported wherever his search takes him, and we’re gearing up to get the word out about our agents’ market-share and negotiating performance.

How do you interpret this data and where do you think Redfin marketing should be spending its time? There’s only a few marketing folks here — most now are fairly technical folks who have plenty to learn about different types of consumers — but we’ve been giving a lot of thought to what we do next.

Discussion