Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword

Whoa nelly! Redfin just released Redfin Scouting Report, offering Redfin users and customers free performance statistics on more than one million real estate agents: how many homes each agent sold, where, for how much, how fast, with how many price drops, how recently, all on a map.

Now just by typing in a name you can get the facts on any agent, even one not affiliated with Redfin, in every market Redfin serves — except in Seattle, Palm Springs, the Bay Area’s wine country and parts of Atlanta, where our data providers are more careful about what we can show. Hopefully this will help you make a better choice about which agent to hire, and hopefully that choice is more often to hire a Redfin real estate agent.

Trisha Solio, a Boston-area Prudential agent, kindly gave us permission to blog about her Scouting Report profile:

Trisha Solio, Prudential Real Estate Agent

Scouting Report helps you see how does your agent stacks up to the competition.

Remember How It Feels to Do Something This Good?

It’s hard to account for why Scouting Report is so compulsive – the gerbils we tried it out on absolutely demolished their cages after we took it away.

And it’s harder still to account for how I  feel about it — the megalomaniac pleasure of a Redfin creation, the mangled pride at the work my friends and teammates have done, the old Kelman craziness. When I first saw Scouting Report, it brought me back many, many years, to the nicest thing I ever heard anyone say.

All my sulky teenage friends and I used to play basketball with a squat, middle-aged man from Mexico, who made us pick every little kid for our teams, even eight-year-olds, even when we already had too many. The instant a tyke heaved up a tentative, hopeless shot the squat man would scream, “GOOOOOOD SH*T MAN!” Running back on defense, he’d tap the chest of the wide-eyed little kid, saying in the most earnest, kind way — as if it were the final truth about the world — “THAT’S SOME REAL GOOD S**T!!!”

I must’ve heard it a thousand times, but then forgot it until I first saw Scouting Report. A spasm sliced through me in the office of Redfin engineer Shu Wu, through all the crusty layers of adulthood, of studying for the test and waiting for the light. And I found myself almost yelling: “GOOD SH** SHU! THAT’S SOME REAL GOOD SH**!!!!” The best reason to work at a smaller company is so you can have just a few moments that good.

OK But How Will Publishing Data About Other Agents Help Redfin?

And Scouting Report really is that good. No one else has ever done this on such a large scale. Now for the first time, consumers can see what agents see about other real estate agents.

In some cases, what you’ll see is that an agent at another brokerage is a better fit for that neighborhood, an inevitability that has been a source of great controversy within Redfin. Why would we ever help anyone realize that a Coldwell Banker agent is her best choice?

But once you ask that question, you’ve already framed the debate in terms of short-term consequences rather than long-term principles. It leads you down a path where every market analysis concludes that it’s a good time to buy, and every review of a Redfin agent is five-stars.

The world doesn’t need more brokers like that. It needs a broker who will just tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We’ll win more clients that way than we’ll lose — and we’ll win everyone’s trust.

How Will The Industry React?

We still aren’t sure how other brokers in the industry will react on seeing their agents’ deals laid out, as ours already were, on a map. I’m optimistic. We as brokers and agents are acutely aware of why you spend more money on a real estate agent than a car: because the value of your largest investment hangs in the balance.

We can’t insist that we’re worth it without taking seriously consumers’ need to evaluate our performance. And as brokers we can’t pretend that refusing to provide this information won’t just leave it for other websites, with pay-to-play business models, to create only a partial directory, with less reliable data.

Hopefully the Scouting Report helps people make better decisions about which agents to hire, just as our listing search helps people make better decisions about which homes to buy. And hopefully that leads to more business for Redfin, which we earnestly believe employs the world’s best agents. If that also means it will help the best agents at other brokerages too, we can live with that. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Discussion

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  • http://twitter.com/legacyescrow Legacy Escrow

    Glenn,  phenominal.   Keep innovating.

    -Tim
    Legacy Escrow

    • Batman

      Escrow is next…how do you feel now Legacy?

  • http://twitter.com/MoCoRE Bruce Lemieux

    “We still aren’t sure how other brokers in the industry will react”.  Really? I'm sure you have a pretty good hunch.

    Transparency is good for consumers, good for the industry and ultimately good for agents… even one feels a bit exposed in the process. 

    I did a check on some agents in my market.  Don't think your avg days on the the market algorithm is working properly.  I've sent feedback.

    • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

      Hi Bruce, thanks for the heads up about days on average. Looks like we might have a bug. We're investigating it and hope to get a fix out shortly.

  • Bobmyers4homes

    My days on market are definitely incorrect, you are off by a factor of 10 on the three year average!  You also should qualify days on market for regular sales vs. short sales and foreclosures.  Otherwise the DOM is meaningless and not giving useful information to the consumer.

    • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

      Hi Bob, I'm sorry we missed up the DOM. Should be fixed now. Let us know if it still looks funky. Your suggestion about DOM by transaction type is a good one. I'll pass it on to the product team.

  • Jeff

    Fascinating. Isn't the Redfin business model based on rebating buyers… and having your agents work a much higher number of buyer leads and therefore transactions to compensate for their lower $/closing?

    Correct me if my perception that this seems highly self-serving is incorrect, please.

    • http://blog.redfin.com GlennKelman

      In general, we think an agent who is doing a few deals every month is more likely to keep up with the market, and that is where we like Redfin agents to be. If however a Redfin agent is serving so many clients that he can't offer good service, the agent will get bad reviews, which we also publish to Redfin agents' profiles. Ultimately, each prospective customer can judge for himself or herself how to weigh experience, transaction volume, price drops and other factors. Where the profiles really aren't self-serving is in displaying the agent's performance on the listing side, where we have less activity than among buyers. The listing view is the default view.

  • LeoTauger

    Looks like a Class Action Lawsuit waiting to happen

  • Chuck

    Hey Jeff,

    For a company who tells “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, don't you think your hotshot engineer could have flushed out that very simple DOM bug before posting this data live?   C'mon Jeff… Really.     But of course, I'm sure that metric works perfectly well on the scouting report for YOUR agents.  

    I'm sure we'll see that bug fixed right away, right?  wink, wink.   After all, it's in your best interest that all of that wonderful data about other agents is completely accurate, right?  wink, wink…   After all, we have to “Live by the Sword, and die by the Sword.”

    You owe me a lunch after that last one, because I just lost it.

  • Doug Francis

    I think it is pretty crappy of them to put my listing at averaging 195 days on the market. Do they even understand that consumers actually trust their site?  195 days average – are you kidding me? This is really poor, I deserve an apology from those people.

    • The_Tim

      Hi Doug,

      Please accept our apologies for the DOM calculation bug.  Our engineers have been furiously developing, testing, and releasing a fix, which should be live on the site by 5:00PM today.  It's been today's #1 development priority.  We take our data quality very seriously, and are anxious to get this fixed as quickly as possible!

      • Chuck

        Baloney!  If you took your data seriously, you would have flushed this one out long before you put it live on your site.  A third grader could have seen that the DOM data is garbage.   Shame on you, Redfin.  Next time, don't be in such a hurry to toot your own horn (again..)

      • http://twitter.com/MoCoRE Bruce Lemieux

        This is an example of why Redfin shouldn't be doing this.  You came up with your DOM algorithm, you didn't get it right, and still it went into production.  So a consumer may evaluate me — who's not a Redfin agent — based on Redfin programs and Redfin's interpretation of the data?  Maybe this is the right thing to do, but Redfin isn't the one to be doing it. I'm sure you'll get this calculation right, but neither Redfin nor any other single broker has the right to report agent stats for an entire industry in it's own closed system.

        • Dillon

          I'm totally OK with Redfin not publishing stats on agents, and would prefer that the agents and MLS do it themselves.  However, seeing that's never going to happen, as a consumer I applaud Redfin for bringing the data to light.

    • Louis

      I don't think DOM necessarily reflects the performance of the agent. Market conditions play a huge factor into how long listings in a region as a whole take to close.

    • Frank LL0SA

      Doug, my site has been showing agent date for 4 years. We have your DOM average at 52 since 2009. Is that better? http://franklymls.com/default….

  • http://twitter.com/MoCoRE Bruce Lemieux

    I wonder if Redfin — or any broker – has permission from local brokers to display agent statistics (in the metro DC area, FranklyMLS also does this).  When a home seller signs listing paperwork, they give the broker legal permission to advertise their home on the MLS.  To be part of the MLS, brokers give other brokers permission to advertise others' listings.  That's clear.  But at what point did an agent, or brokerage, give another *brokerage* permission to publicly display agent performance statistics?  Just because this information is present on a data feed doesn't necessarily give a broker permission to display it.

    I personally think giving consumers this information is a good thing, but I'm less comfortable having individual brokers take it upon themselves to give this to the public.  I would think that Redfin would do this as well as anyone, but what gives them the right to publish other broker's agent performance?  Shouldn't this come from the local Realtor board?  Or specific permission via the local MLS?  Does Redfin have this permission??

    • Bryan Selner

      The data about listings and agents comes from the Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) for each city or area that we serve. Each MLS has different licensing restrictions. This is a new service, so the licensing guidelines don’t explicitly anticipate what we have done, but we have carefully reviewed each data licensing agreement and are in compliance everywhere, so far as we can tell. Individual agents do not currently have the right to individually license data about their transactions. Our guess though is that if enough are upset about the current rules, they will ask their brokerages to vote to change those rules, in which case we might have to make the data unavailable to consumers, as we already did in Seattle, parts of Atlanta and in Palm Springs.

       

      It is also worth noting that we released an early, private version of this feature last May, in which the data was restricted to our own agents, who could then share this information with Redfin customers, most of whom used the information to understand the other side’s negotiating tendencies: http://blog.redfin.com/blog/20

      At that time, no MLSs objected if we shared this information with our own customers, via our agents. The standard the Department of Justice established in its anti-trust lawsuit against MLSs is that any information we can share between agents and clients in person we can also share electronically with registered customers. It is the agreement which grew out of this lawsuit that tends to govern how MLSs govern data sharing.

    • Michael Brennan

      Your right Bruce. What happens if the data Red fin recieves on me is incorrect? Can I then take Red Fin to court for false information on  me which would totally affest my bussiness? I would think so. Currently I have sold many listings in have had a few buyers this year and they show me having nothing in sales. Nice! Hope no prospect is looking at this what would they think?

      • Alfredo Mendez

        Hi Michael,
        I just did a look up by name and there were results in Boston & Chicago.

        I could see deals for all results. Perhaps when you visited your page you didn't register on the site?

        There is a yellow box right next to the map that reads “Sign In to see
        more details”. Once you register and validate your address, you will see
        the deals.

        Please let us know if you have further trouble at techsupport@redfin.com

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  • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

    Thanks to everyone who alerted us to the DOM issue. I'm so sorry we didn't catch it before we released, but the good news is that it is now fixed. Please let us know if you find any other inaccuracies either here or at techsupport@redfin.com.

  • Jeff

    Please… Die by the sword.

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  • Johndans

    The next thing we should do is release all the income of buyers and sellers, since that is essentially what you do when you release an agent's production. You are telling the world how much they make a year.

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  • Bob Connors

    Transparency is always good, but the execution of this app leaves a lot to be desired. I hope you are able to improve this tool soon.

    I just took a look at my numbers on your Scouting Report (Bob Connors, Real-a-Save) and you're showing that I've closed 55 deals in the last 3 years.  You're off by 62%.  From September 30, 2008 through September 30th 2011 I closed 89 deals.

    I won't comment further on your DOM calculations as that has already been addressed by others.

    • Manwesulimo

      I am replying to Bob, though this response is meant for agents in general and Redfin (technology and marketing folk).

      In general, I think this capability (as well as some other site features and applications for smart phones) is exactly the kind of thing that buyers/sellers (like me) look for.

      The DOM thing–I do not log in to Redfin every day.  But I do several times a week.  So I just noticed this capability and have seen/read the messages since it went “live”.  To the agents who seem really upset about the DOM functionality apparently not calculating correctly–I could see how many of you feel that this could impact your livelihood.  But from my perspective, the identification of the error (from many of you and others in the Redfin community) and the relatively quick fix provided by Redfin, is a perfectly reasonable way things should proceed.  It would have been nice if the bug was not there from the beginning.  But I am one of those that would like sites like this to proceed at “web speed”.  I cannot tell you how long it takes most sites to fix/repair bugs.  Maybe if Redfin had many, many more bugs (I could name several sites) or if they took months to respond to bugs like this (again, I can name several sites), I would understand your apparent feelings more. 

      Also, I would never rate a prospective agent on one metric.  It just not make sense to me, nor to many other folks, I would guess.  Home purchases/sells are still the biggest financial transaction (for most of us), and I have going to look at several data points and look at those data points over time.  When I started buying/selling, things were rushed.  Maybe that was just the way the market was, but I appreciate being able to take my time in reviewing lots of data.

      Finally, the type of buyer/seller I am colors my impression, I am sure.  I have bought and sold several properties over the last  . . . just under 15 years, I guess.  Both for my primary residence, and as investments.  When I first started, clearly there were not sites/information online with information like this.  I had to rely upon agents to do much of the “heavy lifting”.  I personally never liked it.  There are many reasons I still prefer to work with an agent (I read a lot of FSBO types of situations, and they are just not for me).  But I do not like wasting my time nor someone else's.  If I can find information about a property and/or an agent online, I feel that we are all better served.

      Just my thoughts.  I spoke with sister just now, and she relies upon agents much more than I do.  She feels here way through things much more, and if she bonds with the agent upon first meeting, she is much more likely to trust that than anything on a site.  I described Redfin to her, and it is not something she has interest in.  Neither one of us has done things without problems, and neither one of us has made a catastrophic mistake.

  • Alan May

    Transparency, but a disinterested third-party is one thing, but “pseudo-transparency” by a direct competitor… especially when that data is inaccurate, and their own agents information is inflated (due to their rebate program, and limited agents in a region… each agent handles more than average transaction) making their agents appear to be the better choice.

    Sorry, this is not the activity of the public's savior and the benevolent-bringer-of-transparency.

  • Alan May

    Transparency, by a disinterested third-party is one thing, but
    “pseudo-transparency” by a direct competitor… especially when that
    data is inaccurate, and their own agents information is inflated (due to
    their rebate program, and limited agents in a region… each agent
    handles more than average transaction) making their agents appear to be
    the better choice.

    Sorry, this is not the activity of the public's savior and the benevolent-bringer-of-transparency.

  • http://twitter.com/MoCoRE Bruce Lemieux

    The thing most

  • Frank LL0SA

    I am requesting a retraction of this comment:
    “No one else has ever done this on such a large scale. Now for the first time, consumers can see what agents see about other real estate agents.”

    FranklyMLS.com has been doing this for 3-4 years. It is called a Comparative Realtor Analysis and we run it in the DC, VA, MD area, with the largest MLS data in the country, MRIS.

  • Remo Packer

    How is an agent to correct the incorrect data being shown about them through this scouting report? If the information were correct and updated it may not be such a big deal. But it's NOT. This creates a much skewed version of truth and reality to consumers. I also find it interesting that Redfin doesn't actually explain their agent model to the public. My experience with local Redfin agents in my market has been horrible. No returned phone calls, no follow up with listing agent (me) and the fact that the Redfin agent that shows the property is not the same agent the listing agent ends up working with if an offer is accepted. This move by Redfin may actually result in less Redfin agents being able to practically show properties in many markets because legitimate agents won't want to work with them. Working agents do not want to deal with inexperienced agents as it is mostly a waste of time and doesn't produce successful transactions. This doesn't appear to have much positive effect for our clients. Isn't the client's best interest what should always come first?

    • http://twitter.com/mattgoyer mattgoyer

      Hi Remo, to correct incorrect information please email us at techsupport@redfin.com. And I'm so sorry that you've had a poor experience with our local agents. If you ever have a bad interaction with one of our agents please email me at matt@redfin.com so we can look into it.

      • Remo Packer

        Matt, it is
        too many experiences to email you about any one particular agent. Suffice
        to say that what Redfin has just rolled out will create not only the disruption
        you desire but will incite other agents because of the lack of integrity your
        site shows regarding agents outside of Redfin. I'm all for transparency, but
        ONLY if it is accurate. In checking my own performance stats on my MLS, there
        are many more transactions compared to what Redfin posts. You don't even show
        the correct brokerage I am with, rather a brokerage I haven't been with since
        2006. Hopefully Redfin will be ethical and correct the amount of current bugs
        in their reporting system and stop purporting to have the best (5 Star) rated
        agents. At what point after a prospective buyer contacts Redfin do you explain
        that the showing agent is not the agent that will be writing the offer or
        negotiating the transaction? The last Redfin agent that showed one of my
        listings didn't know the area in the least and their buyer and I had to explain
        how to get to their next appointment. This, after trying to (unsuccessfully)
        follow up with the showing agent to confirm the appointment (no reply) I sat at
        the house hoping they would show up. They did, late, with no attempt to contact
        me regarding appointment time. I then had to call the showing agent 4 times to
        actually reach him to ask for feedback. Seriously? The showing agents told me
        that appointment was their first with the buyer and haven’t spoken to the buyer
        since that appointment to follow up with them to gauge their interest in my
        listing. This, after 3 days had gone by. Really? I guess salaried agents don't
        have to work as hard as the rest of us to make a living. How is this better for
        the public again?

  • Ralph Gorgoglione

    How can you possibly publish sales statistics and solicit them as accurate?  You cannot blame the local MLS's for that either because they did not make the decision to publish their data.

    Perhaps a class action lawsuit is in hand here for those agents whose information is innaccurately publicized?

    And you are also creating a biased and skewed attempt at posting your RedFin top agent profiles on the same page. 

    The agents who's information you've [innacurately] extracted is based on their OWN PERFORMANCE and their OWN MARKETING AND ADVERTISING efforts – Not leads that were fed to them from the Redfin website user inquiries.

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  • http://www.DesertMountainHomesOnline.com CarmenBrodeur

    I am concerned about inaccuracies in some of the data shown.

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  • Stalward

    It would be great if there were a link to find out crime and other stats on the different communities for those of us looking to move and new to the area.  Thanks

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