It isn’t easy building a network of high-quality real estate agents, even if you’re a real estate agent yourself.
Redfin just removed 50 partner agents from our tiny, exclusive partner program, most in the past few weeks. Forty two left because the customers we surveyed about their service so far had mixed reviews. Those are easy to take care of quickly, because we already have the customer’s email address for every referral, and we begin following up on each one within 24 hours of making the referral.
But we also survey an agent’s other customers, too. We start by pulling up the agent’s list of customers over the past 18 months from an agent-only database known as the Multiple Listing Service; we then ask the agent to provide an email address for every customer. Each customer gets a survey; if not enough customers respond, and respond with good reviews, the agent never joins our program.
But why can’t the applicant just fake the reviews, using fake email addresses? Well, the applicant can. But it turns out that potential fakes are pretty easy for us to detect, using software and customer follow-up too. When we spot a fake, we fire him, no questions asked, no second chances. Another eight agents just left our program for this reason.
We’re always surprised that anyone tries to get away with it. We interview every agent in our partner program, nearly all in person, accepting only 35% of all applicants. Even still, we later end up asking one in six partner agents to leave the program later.
Otherwise, we try very hard to be good partners. Since we’re agents ourselves, we know which customers are really ready to meet an agent, so a Redfin referral tends to be worthwhile. And since we don’t charge agents to appear on our site, instead splitting the proceeds from a successful transaction, most agents are eager to give Redfin a try. These agents often make a lot of money, building a reputation on Redfin that helps them get more and more business.
And we make money too. The partners only account for 5% of our business, but they help us cover far-flung areas, spikes in demand and obscure deal types that would be very expensive to support using our own employees, who keep pretty busy handling the other 95% of our revenues.
We hope that more agents who are ready to stand by their customer-service performance apply to our program, and that the rest just pony up for a pure no-questions-asked lead-generation site.