School Reviews, a Mortgage Guide and Better Performance!

Big news! After a long hiatus in which all our software development was focused on tools for our agents to schedule tours and monitor deals, some nifty features cropped up on Redfin’s site today, including ratings and reviews of schools, and the first chapter of a home-buying guide, on mortgages. We’re also now including foreclosures in properties’ transaction history, and we made the full details on each listing load faster.

But the change that everyone will notice first is the schools data, simply because it shows up on the map whenever you search for homes:

Each school’s rating, calculated based on standardized test scores, appears alongside an icon for the school, with basic facts and parent reviews appearing in a box alongside the map. If you click on the school, you get more details:

Since we just launched the feature this morning, we’re still importing some of the parent reviews and other details from our partner GreatSchools, a national nonprofit whose mission is to inspire and guide parents to become effective champions of their children’s education.

We still have plenty of work to do around schools, especially so you can search for homes only in a particular school district. But the challenge with that feature is that district boundaries change all the time, and in big cities especially, the school your child attends is determined by a lottery rather than by the address of your property. What we’ve added to the site this morning is a big step forward.

And we’re also pretty excited about the mortgage chapter in our new home-buying guide. For years, we’ve been waiting for someone knowledgeable to explain the whole home-buying process, in a free, reliable way on the web. But the problem is that everyone who understands the process doesn’t want to explain it. And that just means that our agents have to do that, over and over again, for each of our customers.

So we hired the incorruptible Bryan Howell, who used to write all the dialog for games and is still peripatetic-ally writing a novel,  to produce a masterpiece, and that’s exactly what he has done. Bryan just bought his first home, so it wasn’t hard for him to imagine how you feel when you have to figure all this stuff out yourself. He sat down with lenders, agents, consumers and everyone in between to document the whole process of getting a loan.

The result is all the inside info you could ask for from the best in the business, but delivered with Redfin’s staunchly consumer-first approach, and in lively prose. To read what Bryan and the design team have  wrought, just click on the Buy menu at the top right of every page on Redfin’s site. The last item on the list is the Mortgage Guide:

And now Bryan (bryan dot howell at redfin dot com) is eagerly awaiting your feedback! Thanks to all the Redfin folks who put the new features together, and all the customers who talked to us about how they should look. If you have ideas on what we should tackle next, leave a comment! And hang on to your hat, because one more, very fun, super secret bonus feature is coming your way in an hour or so…

Update @ 10:15 AM PST: Unfortunately we’re experiencing some website issues related to this new release and we’ve had to temporarily turn off schools on the map, the property history on listing details pages and the similar listings and past sales from the details page. We hope to turn them all back on again soon. – Matt

Update @ 12:40 PM PST: We’ve turned on most of the features that we had to turn off earlier today. What is still off are the similar listings and sales on the details page and schools on the map. We hope to have all features back to normal in a few hours. We also haven’t received any new listing updates since 8:30 am, we’ll start updating listings again shortly. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Matt

Update @ 12:40 PM PST: We’re now up-to-date on listing data. (We stopped receiving new updates at 8:30 AM PST.) – Matt

Update @ 6:00 PM PST: We’ve turned on our new schools on the map feature. However, we won’t be able to turn on the similar listings, sales and nearby schools on the details pages until tomorrow morning. – Matt

Update @ 12:20 PM PST on August 13th: We’ve turned similar listings and sales back on.

Update @ 9:30 AM PST on August 16th: Over the weekend everything should have returned to normal on Redfin. If something seems amiss for you please let us know at techsupport@redfin.com.

Discussion

  • hdizzle

    Unfortunately, my great performance experience is instead one of “no performance” The loading meter while retrieving data only ever gets to 29%, then I get an error that says “An error occurred while searching. Please try either refreshing or closing and reopening your browser.” Schools do show up though, too bad they are the only thing.

    • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

      Hi hdizzle, we're really sorry about that. We're currently having some issues with this new website release; we hope to have them fixed soon.

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  • Paul Friedman

    Yep, still getting “Database Connection” issues.

    • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

      Yep, we're working on it just as quick as we can.

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  • Tim

    The school information is awesome.

    One tip for improvement is to make it less prominent in the search results. It makes it harder to see the actual properties for sale. If the icons for the schools could be more faded gray or something, it might make the green stand out.

    • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

      Hi Tim: if you click on the search box, opening the search criteria, you can uncheck schools in the bottom left… hope this helps!

      • susie

        Yes but you can't take it off mapping from your favorites. If they are in favorites, you already know the school info. I'm trying to map out my open houses for the day and I can't make out the map because there are too many other listings. This feature is not as useful as you think it is.

  • Tim

    (My comment about the schools applies most when there are very few properties in the search results.)

  • Mbhardwaj

    is there a way to turn it off? nice feature but crowds the map sometimes.

    • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

      If you click on the search box, opening the search criteria, you can uncheck schools in the bottom left… hope this helps!

      • jm

        Glenn, how do you turn off the schools when mapping favorites? If I go to options to uncheck the schools option, then it starts a new search rather than just showing my favorites. Also, if I uncheck the schools option and then map my favorites, it resets the option to check (i.e., it doesn't remember).

  • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

    Hi everyone, after disabling some features due to performance problems associated with the update to the site, our website should now be running at full-speed with all the features you know and love…

  • eh

    Love the schools feature, it's like you released it just for me. I've been using Redfin exclusively to search for properties within certain school districts, and this makes it a ton easier. Huge thanks, and congrats to the dev and QA teams on a successful launch :)

  • Le_Chiffre

    You read my mind – about school preformance info. I've had greatschools web site always opened in parallel with my Redfin search. This makes it super easy! I've been using Redfin for ~1 year and it only gets better.

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  • Tim

    Thanks, Glenn. That checkbox did the trick!

  • Julian

    Your school information is out of date in places, even when the primary source (GreatSchools) is not.

    • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

      Hi Julian, can you post an example or two where it is out of date? You can also reach us at techsupport@redfin.com. We'd love to figure out what's wrong and fix it.

      • Julian

        I've just emailed an example to techsupport.

  • ltl

    Why am I not seeing this? I have the schools box checked.

    • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

      ltl, I don't know, it should be working. Whereabouts are you searching?

  • pv

    Thanks for adding school information. I missed it when I was looking for a house (bought with Redfin last year).
    Unfortunately, your school information is sometimes just wrong. For example, Madison High School's student/teacher ratio is reported as 25, while it is actually 14.
    http://www.greatschools.org/cgi-bin/va/other/54
    http://schoolprofiles.fcps.edu/schlprfl/f?p=108

    Also, use of GreatSchools.net school rating is not very wise. The tests (and the validity of their results) vary widely by state and school district, and even a bias of the school towards test coaching vs actual learning.

    A better predictor of a school quality and especially value of a house location in the school's district is percent of free/reduced lunches. The latest information on this is available free from Department of Education (http://www.ed.gov/), greatschools.net is a point of delays and possible mistakes on this.

    Also it would be great to see the CHANGE in the “free lunch” ratio: if it falls, the area gentrifies, if it rises, it goes down the drain (change over 2 years over 2% should be sufficient to decide one way or another).

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  • LD

    Love it, thank you! So helpful!

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