Redfin Launches Free-Text Search, Better Neighborhood Stats

Big news! Redfin launched a glorious new version of our website this morning. Some of the changes are on the back-end, to help us handle more demand for our partner program, which had been held together behind the scenes by string and bubble-gum until today — now all our partner agents can use a web dashboard to keep us in the loop on what’s going with their Redfin clients (we worry a lot about how you’re doing).

But there are also plenty of features for folks just visiting our website: smart text-matching for misspelled searches, free-text search of marketing remarks, better neighborhood stats, meatier listing alerts and more accessible ways to get that data by RSS too. Oh yeah, and we also no longer give Chrome users a hard time, which we used to do even though lots of us here at Redfin haved used Chrome from day one. Same for Firefox 3.5. Let’s take a peek at some of these features in a little more detail…

If you misspell a neighborhood or city name like Westminster or Murrieta in Southern California, we figure out what you really meant:

misspellingsfinal

And we also let you search for very specific terms in the marketing remarks, like office or fireplace or even a particular architectural style, like  Seattle loftshistoric buildings in Washington DC or San Francisco Victorians.

keyword-search-final-and-cropped

We’ve also made it easier to see how a neighborhood is changing from month to month. When you search Redfin for a city or neighborhood, we show an inventory graph beside the map that now includes key facts about whether inventory is up or down, and about whether homes sold for above or below the last asking price:

berkeley

If you drill into a neighborhood, you can see how the number of listings and the number of homes sold in the area has changed over the the past year. The layout looks a lot better now, with house and condo graphs on different tabs. There’s also new data in the table below on how the number of listings and sales has changed year over year:

berkeleygraph

Even though the year-over-year feature is up and running, we won’t have the actual year-over-year data until later tonight; a job is running right now on our production database to calculate all the numbers. We also built stats pages for entire counties, which is mostly useful for journalists who tend to look at the big picture. In general, we’ve invested a lot in neighborhood reports because we got a lot of bankers and investors who are now using our site to analyze the market, and they suggest a lot of features by emailing tech support. We also think good stats are important to our overall mission to be the most authoritative real estate broker in the markets where we compete — we can do a good job here because we have direct access to broker data whereas most analysts don’t.

One area of the site that we haven’t done much with has been the listing alert emails we send out every night to tell people when prices drop or new listings hit the market. It used to be you had to click through to Redfin.com to see the number of beds and bathrooms and the square footage for each listing but as of today that stuff is right in the email. Here’s the new format:

alertsnew

Compare it to the old version which didn’t tell you how many bedrooms or bathrooms there were, or how big the property was:

alertsold

Not only does the email contain more info, it also behaves nicely when you forward it: the file is five times smaller, and you aren’t typing against a blue background that makes your own comments invisible.

If you want to cut down on mail, we’ve also made it easier to get new listing alerts via RSS — which is how web pages share information with one another — right in the MyRedfin page where you manage all your saved searches:

savedsearchrss

To give you the scoop on which agent is best for you, we also added a bunch of features to make agent reviews show up in more places; already agent reviews have increased demand 116% since reviews launched in February.  Now we highlight our agents’ experience with bank-owned properties and first-time home-buyers — we’re seeing a lot of both these days — by putting badges on all the relevant reviews:

ginapioroda

We could go on and on because this release is a big grab-bag of pleasure — we suggest homes for our clients to tour for example — but the other change we should tell you about in this post is the new registration requirement for Long Island and Westchester County. This one doesn’t go in the pleasure category.

The MLS in Long Island has given listing agents there the ability to withhold the address of a listing from the Internet unless we register the visitor as a client. Weirdly, about 68% of the  listings have been marked so as to require registration (dual agency — where a listing agent also represents the buyer — is common in Long Island). So that means we can show the property on our map, but we need to get your email address and a password to show you the street address. Nuts! But don’t worry New Yorkers, we won’t spam you; just sign up, browse all the addresses you want and you’ll never hear from us again unless you want to.

OK, that it’s — there’s a big Redfin happy hour at Elysian in Seattle, which I am missing because of this blog post! So if there’s anything I missed — or a feature you wish we had added — please leave a comment below! Many thanks to all the engineers and product managers who worked their tails off to make Redfin better and better; we love you guys.

Discussion

  • http://honeysun.wordpress.com Shahaf Abileah

    Awesome!

  • http://blog.redfin.com/blog/author/glenn%20kelman Glenn Kelman

    Hey Shahaf, where are you these days? Madagascar? Libya? Mauritius?

  • http://www.mplsrealtor.com Jeff Allen

    Excellent stuff, as always.

    The interactive charts you use look relatively similar to those used by Google — are you using the Google Chart API?

  • http://blog.redfin.com/blog/author/glenn%20kelman Glenn Kelman

    Hi Jeff, those are in fact charts from Google. We’ve had a few troubles with those charts but in many ways they’re sweet… email michael (dot) smedberg (at) redfin (dot) com if you have questions about ‘em…

  • joshuadf

    Very interesting. Where do the neighborhood definitions come from? It seems there is some fuzziness built in, for example if I browse South Lake Union, Seattle, WA, some results are farther north, in Eastlake. If I click through to one, it even says “Community: Eastlake”.

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  • Kirsten

    I love the changes, but i can’t seem to figure out how to contact a lead agent, or pick a lead agent anymore. Is that something that went away in the changes intentionally? Or did it just get really hard to find? I remember coming across a page where i could submit an email to a lead agent before. Now all i can find is their review page, and a link to start an offer.

  • http://blog.redfin.com/blog/author/glenn%20kelman Glenn Kelman

    Hi Kirsten, thanks for the comment! In some markets, our agents are pretty busy serving our existing clients, so for a week or so we’re not taking questions from folks we haven’t met. We are however always taking new clients on tour and connecting them with agents from there…

  • jennifer

    The new features are nice, but I’m a bit frustrated as active listings that were showing up in my SavedSearches prior to new changes, are now lost unless I do a specific search on the specific property.
    Seems that there are still some bugs to be worked out? For example, certain Boston listings are not showing up when I do a broad search in an area (Back Bay), but when I search for the specific listing, I can get the listing, but it is mapping to an incorrect location (Brookline) in the city.

    E.G.
    Listing: 251 Beacon St PH -6, Boston, MA 02116
    $998,000, Active

    1) In “Location” textbox, enter “251 Beacon St PH-6″. Listing shows up on right, but map of property location is incorrect. Location is in neighborhood of Back Bay, but map shows it in Allston neighborhood.

    2) In “Location” textbox, enter “Back Bay” OR “02116″, and do a search for homes in the area. Listing above does not show up at all under this search.

    It seems like it may be a discrepancy with similar street names in different areas of the city. I’ve seen this happen with several different listings that I’ve been watching in the Boston area.

    By the way if you enter the listing’s address directly into google maps,the correct location shows up.

  • jennifer

    also – sorry if inappropriate place to post. I didn’t know where I could report bugs. thanks.

  • http://www.downtownbellevue.com/ Michael

    Great update! I’m most excited about more detail in the email alerts…this is huge for me!

  • http://www.bakersfield-ca-homes-for-sale.com/blog/ Brad-Bakersfield Homes

    Wow! Great stats. Thanks for the hard work.

  • dpk

    I’m glad to see the free text search but I think it needs some tuning. I searched for “light rail” in Seattle and the result set included hits for just “rail” or just “light”.

    It would be neat if you could search by proximity to the rail line, or proposed rail line (the one going to UW), or maybe better yet, along a user-drawn corridor. Basically, if I could manually draw an area in which I would want to live, I would sign up for some sort of email subscription that includes daily updates about homes within that area.

    And.. while I am asking for features (sorry!) I would like the ability to limit searches to homes with no HOA. I know some people actually want to live in areas with neighborhood associations that can repossess their homes because of unkempt lawns, but I find them abhorrent.

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  • http://blog.redfin.com/ Glenn Kelman

    dpk, we’ll try to work out the kinks on free-text search… I like the idea of excluding places with HOA…

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