Time to Shake Things Up Again!

Whoa! Redfin just launched a big new upgrade on our website, showing customers our real estate agents‘ comments about the listings we’ve toured. We call these notes Agent Insights:

Real Estate Agent Insights

The big upgrade also shares private comments about each listing with the listing agent: the tool we use to schedule and track tours prompts our agents to say whether the lawn needs to be mowed or if the place showed well.  Then we automatically send an email to the listing agent.

Features for both home-buying customers and listing agents are important, as we’re trying to strike a balance between our obligations as members of the real estate profession and our mission to change the game in customers’ favor.

13,793 Agent Insights, 31% of Seattle Homes Toured

What makes this upgrade a real game-changer for customers is the sheer number of homes we tour. Agent Insights isn’t an empty social network that we are hoping will one day come alive, or one patrolled by trolls and spammers.

Real Estate Agent Comments

On the day of launch, we already have 13,793 Agent Insights about homes currently for sale, each one from a licensed Redfin agent, each double-checked to make sure it is factual and intelligible to customers.

As we systematically capture new notes from each tour conducted by Redfin agents or our partner agents, the number of listings with Agent Insights will grow dramatically.

Even before the busy season has really begun, we have already seen a huge fraction of the homes for sale, and that’s just with our own Redfin agents:

We expect this level of coverage to increase, and Agent Insights to increase along with it. With each new home toured, Redfin online tools prompt the agent hosting the tour for free-form comments to share with customers, along with a form for cataloging key features such as whether the listing has plenty of tour activity, or an open floor plan, or a big backyard.

Be Careful What You Say…

We treat this information with great sensitivity. First, we share Agent Insights on a home with the customer who saw the home with us, so that if the customer wants to make an offer on that property, he can prevent other customers from learning what we saw on tour.

The reasoning behind this is that if you tour a hot property with Redfin, you shouldn’t have to worry that your agent will tell everyone else about it before you’ve had a chance to make your own move. The customer who requested the tour comes first.

Only after giving that customer two days to decide whether to keep our agents’ tour comments on the down-low do we share those comments with other Redfin customers, via our website and email alerts.

Why Require Users to Register?

Wait a minute! Why tell only registered Redfin customers, and not everybody? Because of rules from our data providers, we never publish Agent Insights on the Internet for everyone to see; only users who register on our website as Redfin customers have access to this stuff.

It only takes a second to register via Facebook. And registering doesn’t commit you to using a Redfin agent for a purchase or require you to talk to an agent; it just recognizes that you and Redfin can have online communications with the same level of candor and disclosure as real estate agents having face-to-face communications with their customers.

This is exactly the kind of communication the Department of Justice’s historic settlement with the National Association of Realtors was designed to protect.

Why We Waited 18 Months to Ship This

Regardless of how clear the letter of the law is on the question of what we can share with our customers, the degree of candor that buyers and sellers feel comfortable with is still unknown.

This is one reason the Agent Insights feature has been years in coming. We almost coded it 18 months ago, but couldn’t find a way to make it work for our agents, our buyers, our sellers, our peers in the industry.

After a lot of wrangling, we now hope we’ve found that balance. As always, we’re going to err on the side of trying to make it new. And as always, we’ll pay close attention to your feedback here on this blog, in our forums, and at the bars we’re going to light up in just a couple of hours…

Many thanks to all the agents, engineers, product managers and marketing folks who worked so hard to bring Agent Insights to life!

Discussion

  • RedfinFan

    Glenn,
    This is a great feature! Wonderful job by your team. Being in product management myself, I understand the challenges of finding the right balance.

    FYI, I did not use Redfin when I purchased a home 2 years ago (for variety of reasons). But, now, I am a convert. I will be using Redfin for my next property.

    I have been following Redfin since the early days. It has been refreshing to finally see some real innovation in this space. Keep up the good work!

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  • Sc

    This sounds very cool, but I'm still slightly confused about what the “register as a customer” thing really implies. If I already *have* an agent, or plan to use another non-Redfin agent, does this cause any legal implications? Like when you sign the paper at an open house?

    • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

      There are no legal implications Sc…

      • JohnDeely

        Glenn,

        In some instances your brokers have made personal comments about the sellers. This is not only inappropriate but may a “legal implication”.

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  • AR

    Why do we have to click thru to the listing? How about showing the comments when we hover over the listing?

  • SDNC-HomeHunter

    This sounds totally cool, and I don't mind clicking thru at all. But, I am a registered user (I think) but can't for the life of me figure out where to look for this information on the listing page. Would you be able to post a sample listing page showing where the information is presented? Thanks!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/rschroed Ryan Schroeder

    Glen, why don't the emails have a link back to the listing?

    • http://www.facebook.com/jimplamb Jim Lamb

      Hi Ryan,
      That looks like an oversight on our part, thanks for pointing it out. We'll get that link in the email in an update in the coming days…

  • SDNC-HomeHunter

    Either I'm a dolt and missed the image above, or you just added it. Former case, sorry I missed it, later case, thank you!

    • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

      Also, when you pull up a geographic search, the ones with comments have a yellow star right on that map, so you can easily identify those before clicking on the listings individually.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Glenn-Roberts/1029551430 Glenn Roberts

    I'm no attorney, but Candace's opinion that the home is “ideal for a family” might be RESPA violation and considered “steering.” But that's for your designated broker to decide.. Good luck with this plan.

    • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

      The screen shot on Brian's post on 1000WattBlog says “not for families with small children”. We know what she probably means, but yes, they likely need a few more classes about what can and can't be said.

      http://1000wattconsulting.com/

      • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

        We've removed the comment referenced in the 1000WattBlog screenshot.

        • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

          Something tells me your agents don't write their own ad copy. LOL! Most agents know you can't talk about people…only houses. Not who they are or are not “good” for.

          • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

            Most of the insights are from our field agents who aren't listing agents…

  • Leslie Ebersole

    “Field agents” isn't a recognized term under any license law that I know of. Any agent is licensed to list and sell properties and should know license law.

    • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

      Hi Leslie, “field agent” is a Redfin term. All our field agents are licensed in the state they practice real estate in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/justin.nielsen Justin Nielsen

    Tread carefully! While I think this is a really great tool. It can have major implications. Agency violation is at risk in several states.

  • Paul Reddam

    Great idea. Sounds like a great tool to serve buyers. Will be interesting to see how it's received.

    In the early days of twitter – I use to ask buyer to follow me and then tweeted my preview notes. I think it got annoying for my other followers (that I didn't even know I had.) Sounds like you'll be avoiding that issue!

    Cheers,

  • Cmkm41

    Our MLS allows us to agree to VOWs and also allows us to decline “comments” to our listings. Other MLSs should make that available to their member agents.

    • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

      Hi Cmkm41, your MLS as a VOW MLS allows you to decline third party comments on listings. Redfin's Agent Insights are from our agents which are considered “participants” under the VOW agreement and not “third parties” , so sellers aren't able to decline our ability to share notes on listings with our customers.

  • Guest

    I was SO excited about this service, but so far the comments are really crap. “smells musty”.. really, that's it? what about the layout? how is the quality of the renovations? This could be SO helpful but instead it's a bummer!

  • Buyer

    It;s time for real estate business to be more transparent, Redfin is trying to do that. I am sick of the idea of not knowing the truth. Why do buyers always been treated like a fool by agent, for example hiding defects and whitewashing the negatives, not knowing the price of other offers.

    Not so long ago, we used to be told by agent what the value should be and how much to offer. Now we use Zillow to check and double check. I am sorry, we the buyers, deserve better treatment. After all, it’s our money that pays for commission, it’s not the seller! if we don’t cough up the money, there is no commission, no check to seller period.

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  • Davidh75

    Unfortunateley this kills the site for those people who are running an older browser (IE6) on their work computers. I spend more of my waking time in the office than at home and used to check Redfin at lunch time.

    Since yesterday this has been impossible, so I guess I'll have to use Trulia.

    I would love to use a more modern browser, but until our corporate IT department (Fortune 100 company, so slow as an elephant) decides that this is OK it's not going to happen.

    The Google Chrome Frame just stalls and doesn't work.

    • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

      Davidh75 – While I love Trulia Voices, you really can't switch from Redfin to Trulia as a primary source if you are looking for property, as they don't have a feed from the mls and you would be missing many properties. Same with Zillow. It needs to be a Brokerage site to have all the mls listed property on an entire direct feed. Try Estately.com or any Brokerage site in addition to Trulia and Zillow, and that should give you everything. Though Redfin is by far the best, and I'm sure they will respond to your concern and maybe “fix” that.

    • Tmo77

      That's horrifying. I honestly had NO idea that anyone was still using IE6, much less entire companies where it's forced on you and you can't choose to use a proper browser. I would say your IT department is bordering on sabotage. I work for a software company and we're trying to phase out support for IE7! But there's still too many of our customers using it for us to do that. Everyone at my workplace is on IE8 and Firefox mostly. Now that Microsoft has released IE9, we'll need to move to testing that as well, which will likely mean less support for IE7. You should understand that it is extremely difficult to support software that's ten years old. It's like going to the gas station and expecting to find leaded gas.

    • Andy Taylor

      Hello David – IE6 compatibility is actually unrelated to our new Agent Insights. We silently upgraded to the latest version of Google Maps (v3), which does not support IE6 in the way we have coded our maps. We know that for some of you, it's difficult (or impossible) to upgrade, which is why we posted the Google Chrome Frame link.

      Chrome Frame has been working really well for us in-house, but if you wouldn't mind writing to techsupport@redfin.com describing what you are seeing, we would love to get it up and running for you (and anyone else affected).

      Again, sorry for the inconvenience, and feel free to slap your IT department for me. :)

      Andy

  • Johnny04

    It would be even better if you display the comments where the photos of agents are, and display them in a scrollable div.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jalenhe Jalen He

    Awesome feature! Good job, folks!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_57PJ4EJZEN2T3PZKJJESO5KOSA V G

    wow whoever thought of this idea is brilliant! especially for the listings with few or no pictures, great addition!

  • Liz

    The comments will save clients so much time, but the sellers may not be happy that the “junk/car grave yard and Double-wide” mess behind their listing is getting pre-disclosed. ( Info. based on recent tour experience) Maybe a client blog to post info. on would avoid any legal implications for RF.

  • Strawman4

    It would be great if buyers, not just Redfin agents could add comments about listings. You already have a section where bloggers can add links describing comments but if you don’t have a blog, you cannot enter comments directly into the site. I just visited a house that has a severe settlement issue and cracked walls . When I visited the house the second time, they replastered the walls to hide the foundation issues but the settlement, sloped floors, windows not working correctly and door jam issues were still there. How can I alert people to this issue; the listing broker did not say or acknowledge anything even though they seem to have some obligation to disclose what they know (the defects were pointed out to them previously). I don’t think Redfin would have any liability if private persons add comments to their site similar to the forum notes as long as people understand the source of these notes. We should protect buyers whenever we can.

  • Emailers2

    I was very disappointed in the insight feature. After clicking I had to check my email for the insight, instead of seeing the insight on my redfin search. The insight, “lots of stairs”. I would have preferred something more useful, like a mini CMA or other useful info not readily gleaned form the listing. I doubt that I will use the feature again.

  • Victory Lawkins

    Sloping ceilings, or vaulted ceilings?

  • homebuyer

    I finally see this great feature that I asked Redfin to offer last year although only field agent’s comments are available. It’s great for buyers and it saves tons of unnecessary tours for both buyers and field agents. It save the unnecessary hassle for seller too. Hope Redfin will let customers who toured the house post their comments on the house as well, which will avoid some legal issue for Redfin field agents. Amazon and a lot of other online retailers offer customers to review on every merchandise they buy from their website. I can’t understand why home buyer don’t get the same type of service when purchase the biggest item (house).

  • homebuyer

    I don't see the notes left by two Refin agents for MLS 169317 which was posted in this page as an example. I've already signed in to my redfin account. Does “register as a customer” mean that we need to sign in to see the note?

    • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

      Hi Homebuyer,

      On the page for MLS #169317, http://www.redfin.com/WA/Seatt… you'll need to click the “Email Notes to Me” button. That will prompt you to sign in and the notes will then get emailed over to you.

  • jtw

    How will these insights work on Redfin listings?

    • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

      Hi JTW,

      They'll work the same way as for non-Redfin listings.

  • jtw

    That seems like a clear conflict of interest. Will a seller with a listing at Redfin be able to vet any insights? Obviously a seller would only want positive things said about his/her property. In the case where the seller has a listing with Redfin, isn't Redfin bound to paint the property in the best possible light?

  • Alex

    I congratulate Redfin on this dumb idea, it will be an endless source of income for lawyers and a great source of irritation for sellers and listing agents.

  • Dan

    Can sellers request that comments be removed? All of the field agent insights in Chicago seem negative and too terse to actually be insightful.

  • Poophead

    Residential real estate is subjective. What is “closed in and dark” to one is “spacious and cozy” to another. A large back yard, maybe just that…or not…or kinda – depending on the person viewing it. But someone reading it may determine not to see a home based on another's opinion. And miss out on a great home.

    Or they will say, who cares about what someone else thinks…and go anyway. Either way – not a shakeup as nothing has changed. Its an embedded forum. Another feature of a website…but does not really 'shake-things-up'. How does adding comments shake it up? See Dan's comment on Chicago. In an attempt to be “real”, people can be negative…and have no bearing on fair, competent opinion.

    Here's a free idea. Track the homes registered “opinion” givers on the homes they are seeing. If they have seen 100 homes in one area over the past 18 months, they then become more of an expert. Their opinion would hold more weight than say Joe that saw 4. Context is everything.

    But even so, why care what someone else thinks. I'll judge my R.E myself. — And Alex is right…smells like bad ju-ju for competing agents, owners…yikes.

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  • Pauline Wiles

    Sounds like a great idea – in theory – I hope you can make it work, finding a level of comment which is useful to buyers and not too much of a red rag to the listing agent and their lawyers.

  • Frank Rizzo

    Some of the agent comments seem to be of the type “my boss told me to leave comments for every property I tour”. For example, an agent wrote “nice floor plan” in one comment I saw. This is useless without saying WHY it is a nice floor plan.

  • http://groupon.comclone.com groupon clone script

    Every comments are important.

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  • http://www.changepond.com/portfolio/vacuum.html Mobile Reporting

    Wow that great analysis ,nice share

  • http://www.estateagentsaberdeen.com estate agents aberdeen

    Nice site,we'll be getting some ideas for own estate agency,thanks again.

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  • frack77

    User generated comments would be at best risky although I love the idea. The comments would have to be moderated and then you would lose a lot of what folks really saw in a property. I think 'agent generated' is a good place to start as long as they give us really useful comments as many people have already noted. Great job Redfin. Kudos for pushing the envelope!

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