Friday Flash: Power shift

Redfin hasn’t made a lot of noise lately. No big product releases, no IPO, no industry clashes.

But I am hearing things out on the Realtor Street – anecdotal tidbits that arise with enough frequency to warrant notice:

  • More agents are telling me they are getting pitched to become a Redfin Partner Agent – a pro who doesn’t work for Redfin but takes business from them for a referral fee. Redfin has done this for years, but it’s possible that referral brokerage is their ticket to scale and profitability. This runs somewhat contrary to the narrative Redfin has created for itself as an all-in, feet-on-the-street, culturally cohesive disruptor. We’ll have to wait for the S-1 to see just how much of the company’s revenue is tied to farming out the leads generated from its website and apps.
  • Agent complaints about the Redfin mobile app are increasing. It’s so good, so accurate and so fast with new property notifications that consumers who download it know more, sooner, than they do. Ouch. When pressed, though, many of these agents also cop to using the app – sometimes with clients by setting up their own Redfin account.
  • The fact that Redfin sometimes won’t sell homes below a certain price point has been known for a while now. But I hear about this more frequently now. The optics of this in my city, Oakland, are kind of gross. It hits me as a sort of “Redfin Redlining” where they are happy to serve rich folks in the hills, but won’t help someone buy a nice house (like the one in the screencap below) in the scrappy flatlands.


I have a lot of respect for Glenn and company. I am feeling like Redfin is on the edge of something right now, though. It’s either going to tip into the mainstream soon… or not.

Keep watching.

Did you catch this? Zillow now has a “Sell” tab on their desktop home page:

Screen Shot on 2015-10-29 at 11-29-23

Makes sense. What agent doesn’t like seller leads?

If Zillow is able to start feeding more of them to its advertiser base of buy-side agents and teams, it could alter this basic fact: listing inventory is still controlled in many areas by an “old guard” of listing agents who built their businesses pre-portal through personal referrals.

In other words, a potential power shift.

I am going to be spending the day today talking to some folks about “luxury”, so it’s been on my mind this week.

How does a brokerage or agent appear luxurious?

How do they get more luxury listings?

How do they tell prospective sellers a good story around marketing and selling a luxury home?

This last question is, I think, the heart of the matter. Most brokerages tell a really tired luxury story, a fairy tale of exclusivity and reach tricked up with fancy logos and dark websites.

It’s lazy.

I don’t think it’s all that hard to break out of this pattern once you decide to do so. But you do need to craft a convincing replacement for the tired tale.

We’re working on it.

The musical headliner at the annual NAR Expo is a reliable indicator of real estate market health. During the crash, the acts were county fair quality. We were one more bad year away from a Rod Stewart impersonator when things finally hit bottom.

NAR has lined up John Legend this year. He’s not my cup of tea, but certainly a big deal.

We have officially recovered!

Enjoy the weekend.