Big news! Redfin upgraded its website last night to improve the performance of map-based search, which is quite zippy now. The site has been creaking under the load of more than a million new visitors this spring, so you’ll see more performance improvements over the next few months.
The site also looks a little different because we now ask everybody to upload a photo when you register for listing alerts, save favorites or create an account for any other reason. If you’ve already got a Redfin account, click on your user name at the top right of any Redfin.com page, and choose My Account from the drop-down menu to add a photo.
The photo gives us a nice way to welcome you back to the site. It also helps us to attach a name to a face when you sign up for a tour, ask us about a website feature, or invite a Redfin agent to visit your house for a listing consultation.
And it lends more credibility to the reviews you leave when working with one of our agents. Since our first deal in February 2006, we’ve surveyed every customer for a review, deal or no deal. We published that review, and every review since, good, bad or ugly.
Even now, every time we get a survey response, executives at Redfin get an email, and everyone’s heart skips a beat. After all these years, the agent’s bonus for a transaction still depends completely on that review: if the customer isn’t happy, the agent and his team gets no bonus whatsoever.
It’s an imperfect system, as a customer doesn’t always recognize when she has gotten good or bad service. But we couldn’t imagine running a brokerage at scale without it. It helps our agents get better, and we think it helps our customers make better decisions about whom to work with, too.
Our first cut at publishing these reviews in an agent’s online profile was very Rain-Man, dominated by numbers and text:
Now the reviews include a picture of the house you bought or sold and, with your permission, your picture too. The agent’s profile now looks much better. As Dave McClure colorfully observes, building social software is all about the faces:
So we hope that you’ll take a few minutes and upload a photo to your Redfin.com account or, even better, log-in via your Facebook account, so we can just use whatever profile photo you use there.
This is only the beginning. Your Redfin profile will get richer over the next few months as we get smarter about recommending the homes you want to see and the next steps that you want to take; with this website upgrade we’ve also completed our home-buying guide, which we’ll slice and dice into sashimi-sized chunks, educating Redfin.com users in a personalized way at each step of their search.
Unveiling Our Secret Weapon
Of course, there’s more to this website upgrade than most Redfin.com users can see. Over the years, about half the engineers at Redfin have shifted their focus to build software for our brokerage customers and our real estate agents, fundamentally making the process of buying and selling a home more transparent, delightful and efficient; folks just using Redfin.com for home search never see how good Redfin really is. The most recent example of this work was Deal Room, which guides home-buyers through the escrow process.
Now we’ve developed a similar platform for representing home-sellers, as part of a huge strategic effort to build the listing business. We’ll work out the kinks using it with our own agents, then we’ll begin to expose it to our customers, so they can always see what’s going on with their listing.
The other big win for Redfin’s brokerage customers in this release is a new tool we call the agent scouting report. It grew out of a hackathon project conceived of by Llewellyn Botelho, Dane Brandon, Jamie DeMichele and Jane Nemenman, who in turn had developed the idea after talking with our San Francisco agents how we approach a negotiation.
The rest of the engineering team took this idea and ran with it, building a new tool just for Redfin agents that helps our customers get a better deal. When negotiating with an agent at any brokerage, a Redfin agent can now quickly see when and where that agent has sold homes. More important, the Redfin agent can see whether the other agent has a history of over-pricing listings to create some room for negotiation, or under-pricing to create a bidding war.
Finally, the Redfin agent can see who else at Redfin has worked with the agent, and review any notes the Redfin agent left about how best to approach her. This is powerful stuff, similar to what a baseball pitcher gets when facing a great batter. Unlike media sites, we have full access to the database of agent activity for every market we serve, and we have our own direct experience of working with those agents. Here is a typical report available to a Redfin agent, providing the entire performance history for another agent with whom we’re negotiating a deal; for this blog we redacted the agent’s contact details:
And that’s it! Up next is a big new mobile upgrade. For now, let us know if you have any ideas on what you’d like to see next!