Redfin gets its subversive mojo on, releases agent comments on other brokers' listings

Redfin announced this morning that registered users of can now view notes Redfin agents have made on properties listed by other brokers.

In summary:

  • Redfin agents who tour a listing make comments. These comments go first to the buyer client they toured with. If, after two days, these buyers don’t tell Redfin to keep the comments between them, they get published on The Redfin agent can also send purely agent-to-agent comments to the Realtor listing the property.
  • They’ve been gathering these comments for a while behind the scenes – today, on day one, there are 17,793 comments from Redfin agents.
  • Users need to register on the Redfin site to see these comments. In other words, this is a VOW feature. You can also get comments on a listing emailed to you (Screen shots of comments as they appear on a listing detail page and the comment email are below).

My take:

  • Politics aside (more on that below) this is a great idea. Redfin largely works the buy side, and they just did buyers using a huge favor. Being able to view measured, useful comments (standards for comments are enforced) from someone who a.) Has been to a home and, b.) Is not the listing agent could be a huge time saver. It helps people make decisions. Helping your customers or prospective customers make decisions is a good thing.
  • This is perhaps the most significant and controversial development to emerge as a result the DOJ/NAR settlement over VOWs. Redfin got fined pre-DOJ settlement for writing about other agents’ listings on their Sweet Digs blog; now, they’re doing that at scale with impunity.
  • This would be a great idea for any broker – theoretically. Practically, however, this sort of thing would result in an epic shit show for most other real estate companies. Whatever your opinion is of Redfin, it is a fact that they have command and control over their agents, can easily enforce standards and manage service delivery. This is extraordinary in our industry and enables them to do something like this without making a mess of it.

Now, the politics…

Big “traditional” brokers that generate most of the listings (and therefore, in essence, create the market) resent buyer-focused brokerages creating value off that creation – especially small ones that don’t sell a lot of those big broker listings by delivering large amounts of buyers. This anger manifested itself in the form of MLS rules that made it harder for these upstart brokerages to do what they were doing. That’s when the DOJ got involved, initiating a process that culminated in a settlement that enables what Redfin is doing now.

Anger suppressed does not the status quo maintain. In other words, while the mainstream brokerage community cannot pursue responses to what Redfin has done here that the DOJ would consider anti-competitive, there will no doubt be a response. And this response could have far greater implications than a few new MLS rules. Think apostate mega-brokers. Anti-MLSs. Fragmentation. And then, from amidst the chaos, an NAR-powered national MLS rises…ok, ok – I’m getting carried away. But you take my point: This will be disruptive.

Again, screen shots below. I wrote this fast between meetings, so lots of other angles left out. What do you think?