Friday Flash: Pushing buttons

Our phones are the master remotes of our lives. 

There’s a button that makes a person show up with a car to drive us somewhere; one that makes a person put dinner on our doorstep; another that summons a person with a van in which our dog will be groomed. 

Those of us who push the buttons usually have a lot more money than those who are controlled by them. But we try not to think about that. 

Now there is a button that makes a person open a door so you can walk around a home for sale. 

It’s called the Redfin app. 

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, a sweaty, panicky real estate mosh pit. Buyers are miserable. And my many agent friends here are telling me that these stressed souls are increasingly using licensed but often inexperienced Redfin agents as nothing more than door openers. The Redfin app makes it as easy as DoorDashing an order of Pad Thai. 

“Schedule a showing, like NOW.”

Often, these buyers are already working with other agents. Many have no idea that the Redfin person letting them into the home is a licensed real estate professional, or that Redfin is a real estate brokerage that would like to help them buy that home. 

It’s just an app. With buttons. That make people do things. 

Let me be clear: Redfin is a company I admire. And they surely convert enough of the button pushers into clients, or they wouldn’t keep doing this. The great struggle of Redfin’s existence has been in moving its giant base of app and website users through its brokerage funnel.  

But it still just kinda sucks. 

For the Redfin agent, who has to dart from house to house trying to convert a tiny fraction of those who request showings.  

For people looking at the house, some of whom show up completely unaware that they have just begun a relationship with a real estate agent.   

For listing agents, who get peppered with texts and emails from these door-openers. 

For buyers agents, who work like dogs for their clients, only to find out that they are doing casual hook-ups with someone from Redfin. 

I bring all this up not to take a swipe at Redfin, but because I think we’re going to see a lot more push-button agents in the near future. This is not an absolutely good or bad thing in my mind (though, admittedly, I have highlighted the bad above), but rather something we need to accommodate pretty quickly here. 

Rocket, a household name which will soon be the largest mortgage lender in America, has launched an in-house brokerage that will be process and tech-driven, just like Redfin. 

Zillow bought a showing platform with massive market penetration. Zillow is also a national real estate brokerage. Don’t ya think they’re going to start connecting some wires? 

Many others will enter the fray. 

Someone will nail the consumer experience. But if you’re a pro agent, or run a company full of pro agents, what’s your play? Righteous indignation doesn’t win. 

Because people like me, and probably you, like to push buttons and have things happen.