Friday Flash: Imagination

Would you like a “Redfin Mortgage?”

If you were a buyer working with a Redfin agent, and already sold on the Redfin value prop, I think it’s very likely you would.

Redfin launched a mortgage company yesterday. There’s nothing intrinsically novel about this. A real estate company setting up an affiliated mortgage business has been done a thousand times.

And Redfin will no doubt do an outstanding job executing on its stated intention to “...track every aspect of the closing in a single system used by mortgage advisers, real estate agents, title experts and the customer so everyone works together on an on-time closing.” But that’s not why I think this is going to be a winner for them.

They will have a very successful mortgage business, with insane capture rates, because they have a clear brand promise and have, at great cost and with great pains, retained the command and control over service delivery needed to keep it.

I could recite all of Redfin’s shortcomings, but you don’t really need me to pander to you, do you? The fact is they have a brand that a niche of the market trusts. That’s going to win them plenty of mortgage originations, and a much-needed profit center.

Jacket for homeless allows passersby to swipe and donate

This really messed with my head.

There was a lot of chatter about the NAR CEO position at the (fantastic) Inman show last week.

I get it. It’s an important job, and it has come open at a time that feels pivotal.

Housing policy is, shall we say… uncertain.

NAR has lost its position as the “Voice for Real Estate” (Zillow is now, like it or not).

The real estate business model is being relentlessly assailed by smart people with smart money.

The organization’s forays into technology (RPR, ZipLogix) look mostly like acts of defiance at this point.

The half million or so dues-paying Realtors who have no business selling homes are increasingly difficult to hide in the root cellar.

So, yeah, this is a big deal. Credit is due to the search team for taking this really seriously. They started the process early and have retained the services of Heidrick and Struggles, the grandaddy of headhunting firms.

I hope they are imaginative in this effort.

Dale Stinton was elevated to the top job in 2005 after 25 years as an NAR staffer. I’ve always admired his pursuit of a broad “Second Century” strategy, even as I criticized some of the tactics. He presided over – and leaves amid – turbulent times.

His predecessor, Terry McDermott, was an outsider with experience in both the private sector and in the association world (he ran the American Institute of Architects before taking the NAR job).

I hope we take a third path this time around.

Elevating a staff leader, even one with decades of institutional knowledge, plenty of brains, and good intentions would likely be merely transitional. Sort of like the brief interregnum that was Pope Benedict – a bunt before putting forth a more challenging choice.

I don’t think we have time for this.

On the other hand, I think an outsider, however impressive, may not have the street cred to lead the organization through times that will likely require some controversial moves.

I’d like to see a real estate leader at the helm. Someone who could speak with genuine passion about the value of homeownership to outsiders (media, lawmakers) and with credible candor to the industry. Yes, we have practitioner leadership, but let’s be honest: they come and go.

Let the chatter continue. Enjoy the weekend!