Improving the MLS system, part I of II: The complaint
An hour ago, Redfin released a massively disruptive enhancement to its website.
It’s called Agent Scouting report and it allows users to view complete sales and performance histories for every agent in the markets in which Redfin operates.
While others have done a bit of this (Neighborcity, most notably), Redfin goes for the Full Monty, exposing not only recent sales histories, but:
Anyone, not just Redfin clients, can access this data.
Two and a half years ago the team at Diverse Solutions, an IDX vendor, demoed something they called, interestingly, “Agent Scouting Report” at a hack-a-thon I moderated during the Inman show. It was similar, and it never saw the light of day. Houston Association of Realtors CEO Bob Hale, inspired in part by this, released an association-controlled attempt a year later. It lasted all of a week before backlash brought it down.
It was coming anyway. It was just a matter of where. As Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman writes in the blog post announcing Scouting Report:
“…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.”
So they did it. And did it well.
There’s a lot to debate here. Whether or not MLS data should be used this way. The merits of the Redfin business model. The fine line between transparency and stupidity.
But let’s be clear: this is a big deal. In fact, I can’t think of another online real estate development in the past three years that is quite this disruptive. Selling ads around listings and getting a gazillion uniques is not inherently disruptive. It simply moves marketing dollars and rattles the value chain a bit.
This is something of a different order.
You might wonder, too: doesn’t this hurt Redfin? Their agents are going to come up short against agents at other companies in a lot of cases.
Here’s Kelman’s answer:
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.
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