Big news! Redfin launched a bunch of new technologies last night — an online Deal Room to guide our home-buying customers through escrow, the ability to log in via Facebook and the introduction of partner agents into areas once exclusively served by our own agents — and we expanded to Dallas, our 15th market, and fifth this year.
With the addition of Dallas, Redfin can now reach about 30% of Americans; the number of listings in our database grew by 8%. Jason Aleem, a former college football player who is so poised and smart that he is slightly disarming, will run our Dallas business, handling north Dallas with our own agents and the rest of the market through partners.
And we’re not done expanding. There are a couple more markets we were trying to open by year-end that we’ll just have to launch in January. One reason we’ve been growing so quickly lately is that we’ve figured out how to focus our own agents on profitable areas, working with partners where we still don’t have enough business to justify a full-time hire.
The Business Model Gets Better and Better
With the big website upgrade, the business has become even more sophisticated about how we handle homes at different prices. In the areas we serve directly with our own agents, we’re now offering customers a choice of working with partner agents. The simplest reason to do this is that partner agents can afford to handle properties that we can’t and still offer a 15% commission refund.
And there are a lot of properties we haven’t been able to work with: 38% of the listings in our direct-service areas sell for less than $200,000, the minimum price of houses we can handle through our own agents. Rather than turning people away, we’re connecting them with a partner. In areas where our costs are higher, like Southern California, the minimum is $300,000. In Chicago and Atlanta, the minimum is $100,000.
The new partners, 48 in all, have only only been live for a few hours this morning, and already we’ve helped 12 consumers find an agent to buy a property we previously couldn’t handle at all. On a Tuesday morning in mid-December, that’s a lot.
Long-term, we hope to use partners’ help to solve knottier problems. How do we employ a professional, full-time agent workforce year-round when demand from January to June increases by as much as 450%? And how do we address the 23% of Redfin consumers who love our site, and love our customer-driven values — but want service from one agent start to finish?
Sometime next year, we’ll probably give every consumer more service choices, and when we get too busy in the summer, we’ll automatically refer new clients to partners. Bringing partners to areas our own agents serve directly is the first step. Over time, we hope our own work as agents makes us a better partner, and that our partnerships with other agents can help our agent business prosper, too.
Does Your Agent Do This?
Whether customers use our own agents or our partners, we think our technology can make the whole home-buying and -selling process more informed and convenient. The big new technology we shipped today for customers is Deal Room:
Our goal has been to give home-buyers a guide to the whole escrow process, laying out out the big milestones — when an inspection response is due or when the lender needs to appraise the house — with an emphasis on the tasks for which the home-buyer is responsible. For each task, we provide local documentation on how it all works.
The goal isn’t to replace the conversations our agents already have with customers, but to supplement those conversations, so people have access to plenty of objective information, even in the middle of the night.
This is a big leap. In the past, Redfin has built a better real estate search site, then paired that with better real estate agents. But the agents who work at Redfin taught our engineers how we could use technology to fundamentally improve the whole process, not just the initial search. Now more engineers work on tools for our customers than code our search site.
Over time, we’ll make those tools available to customers of Redfin partner agents, too, allowing us to make real estate better on a broader scale, and giving us better quality control too.
The new Deal Room is part of our vision to integrate real estate search into a larger application for buying and selling houses. And our need to recognize where customers are in the home-buying process has in turn changed how we feel about registration and personalization, which is the reason we also shipped today the ability to log-in via Facebook.
The information we get about you from Facebook will, over time, help us build a smarter, more personalized home-buying application, one that recognizes which neighborhoods your friends know well, and whom you know who has recently bought a house. New users can now sign in to Facebook by simply clicking a link that hooks us up to your Facebook account.
If you already have a Redfin account based on the same email address that Facebook uses, just sign out, sign back in and click the Sign in With Facebook link. We’ll figure out the rest, and won’t lose track of your favorites and other account info. If you have different email addresses for your Redfin account and Facebook account, you can use your old Redfin account or sign up for a new Facebook account but we haven’t done the work yet to let you merge the two.
And that — aside from a new home page — is it! Many thanks to the engineers, agents, product managers and marketing folks who helped to put this all together. It is gorgeous work. And many thanks to you gentle blog reader for keeping up with all the latest Redfin features. We’re anxious to hear what you think of ‘em.