There’s always something to howl about

Looking for a Realtor designation that really means something? How about this? “Too Outspoken For Redfin.” is in the long, slow process of firing us from their referral partnership program. I’ve known this was going to happen since last Tuesday. It’s what I was writing about in my most influential voice in the on-line world of real estate post:

  • They piss and moan to each other about me behind my back.
  • They campaign with each other to try to damage my interests.
  • They pester contributors here to try get them to abandon BloodhoundBlog.

The actual coup de grâce hasn’t happened yet, but Glenn Kelman placed a sweet call to me last night to apologize to me, as a friend, for not countermanding the bold policy initiatives of his middle managers.

This is nothing to me, for a lot of reasons. I grew up hiding from my poor long-suffering mother, so she wouldn’t have the opportunity to tell me what to do and not do. I spent the first half of my working life hiding from my employers, doing truly remarkable work, like a cobbler’s elf, after the bosses went home. This is why I don’t have a job now, and haven’t had one for decades. I know from experience that if I have anything that looks at all like a job, sooner or later, my fated role will be to serve as the rag doll in someone else’s self-destructive fit. I actually felt that gloomy foreboding twice, on the way into Redfin’s referral plan, so it’s not as if I can claim to have been taken by surprise.

It’s a stupid thing to do, of course, but, while I’ve been fired several times in my life, I’ve never been fired for a good reason. Cathleen and I responded rapidly to every inquiry Redfin sent us, even though many of the referrals they passed along were from loosely motivated, suspicious folks with serious qualification issues. I tried to explain to them that, even though I sell a lot of cheap houses, I’m selling most of them to millionaires, while Cathleen almost always works with very well-heeled homeowners. That entreaty hit a corporate policy wall, with the result that any financially well-qualified buyers Redfin heard from in our referral territory were being sent to a cute couple who have not closed a house in two months. Every broker reading this will understand the error, but I not only didn’t get anywhere with the argument, I think I just annoyed the folks I was dealing with.

I don’t know how we stacked up as money-makers for Redfin. I’ve only closed one Redfin transaction, so far. I have one more in escrow right now, and Cathleen has another. Her deal is going to be profitable, and the client looks to be sold on us for life. My own transaction has been fun for me, and it’s always an honor to help a first-time home-buyer. But my net per hour, at closing, will turn out to be less than minimum wage. We have lots more in Redfin’s pipeline — I have eight short sales awaiting approval — but the conversion yield and the net profit on Redfin’s referrals argues that we’ll make better money without them.

I doubt that’s true on their end. We’re the most productive agents they have, overall, in the Phoenix referral program, and our ratings from both our clients and their customers are off the charts excellent. I know a lot of agents in other cities have been willing to consider partnering with Redfin because of my involvement with them, and that benefit will go away now. And, obviously, my own very blatant devotion to the interests of consumers, as against Realtors, was a nice fit for the public image Redfin has sought to establish for itself.

I tried to explain to Glenn last night that, by caving in to the irrational demands of the mob, he is not just making Redfin yet another tentacle in the NAR octopus, in this instance at least, he is also telegraphing to that mob that Redfin can be pushed around. Firing us is bad for his business, in pure bottom-line terms, but it’s bad for Redfin in the long run, as well.

No traction, and I didn’t expect any, but I was doing my best to be a good friend to him.

Anyway, that’s the news. If you’re a time-wasting TwitBook addict and you think this represents some kind of victory for your cause, scan the check you got as a result of your campaigning and post it for the edification of inlookers.

In other words: Urf. Who cares? I actually liked working the Redfin referrals because they were hard to close, and, hence, they were good closing practice. But I’m an entrepreneur because I know that, when I have a job, someone can always take it away from me — always for a stupidly self-destructive reason.

I feel bad for Glenn, frankly. He’s the Atlas imprisoned by the burden he’s taken on, knowing that everything he fought for fifty-odd months ago will eventually be ground down to tapioca. As for me: Further proof, and press on regardless. If I weren’t right, none of this would be happening.


7 Comments so far

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Real Estate Feeds and My REALTY, Mark Risley. Mark Risley said: Looking for a Realtor designation that really means something? How about this? “Too Outspoken For Redfin.”: Redf… […]

  2. Jim Klein November 16th, 2010 5:03 pm

    >>>Firing us is bad for his business, in pure bottom-line terms,

    That takes care of the business context; case closed.

    This is the interesting part to me…

    >>>but it’s bad for Redfin in the long run, as well.

    Again, case closed business-wise. But if you were to ask for a defense of this, no doubt the gist of the response would be, “There are bigger issues involved.”

    True enough, but the funny part to me is that this is why it’s a notably poor decision, precisely because there are bigger issues involved. It can’t be easy being so utterly wrong on both the broad and the narrow!

    It’s an interesting story about the nature of our world IMO, as if the cups of evidence weren’t already running over. If two wrongs could make a right, I reckon we’d be living in a Garden of Eden by now.

  3. Tom Johnson November 16th, 2010 8:26 pm

    Redfin can’t make money as REDFIN in Phoenix, and they would rather not make money as a referrer in Phoenix… for bigger issues. Huh? TWEET!

  4. Jessica Horton November 18th, 2010 9:10 am



    Greg & Cathleen:

    “Fire in the belly to change the game.” Check

    “works for more than a paycheck.” Check

    “acts like an owner, regardless of title” Check

    “finishes the job; 99% done is half-done” Check

    “goes above and beyond to deliver the unexpected” Check

    “makes it beautiful” Check

    “makes people smile” Check. Granted, I also shake my head from time to time.

    “rallies the team, rallies for the team” Check. I can’t speak for others, but he often motivates me to do better.

    “digs into root causes; attacks the disease not the symptom” Check. The root causes aren’t too happy about it…

    “bets big, tinkers constantly, fails fast, measures results” Check.

    “makes more with less” Check.

    “stops to help others; doesn’t just walk by” Check. Some just don’t recognize real help when they see (read) it–it is rather painful to recognize that you’re part of the problem.

    “never says “I,” admits mistakes” True humility is not about how you talk, how you walk and how you deny yourself…it’s a mental attitude: being teachable, orienting to your niche in life and legitimate authority.

    “always puts the customer’s interests first” Check. See the second link I posted.

    “treats everyone with respect” Well, I guess that depends on your point of view and how your toes feel when they’re being stepped on.

    “tells the truth regardless of consequences” Check.

    Maybe that little message should read:

    We’re sorry, this agent is currently unavailable to work because he doesn’t capitulate to demands of inferior agents and won’t be managed by our little online real estate cabal. You’d do well contact him at:

  5. Greg Swann November 18th, 2010 9:21 am

    Bless you, Jessica. Thank you.

  6. Sean Purcell November 18th, 2010 11:53 am

    Greg, I went over to the RedFin link Jessica provided. (It’s always instructional to see how you’ve populated your online bio.) In the only review that was not 5 out of 5 stars, I saw the link Cathleen provided in her rebuttal. Very interesting. Do you always video the client? In what ways to you use the video? Have you written a post delving into this and I missed it? If not, please do.

  7. Greg Swann November 19th, 2010 5:48 pm

    > Do you always video the client?

    Very often, with high-end sellers. We’re listing almost not at all, right now, so we’re not doing many of these. We should be videotaping everyone, post closing, for testimonials.

    > In what ways to you use the video?

    Just for marketing the listing, for now, although the video testimonials we’ve done are very effective. It’s always been my intention to do a ton more in video for things like client conditioning and contract explication, but I don’t get it done. I have hours of Brian interviewing me about our listing practices, and I want to get that edited and posted. Listing at the high end isn’t terribly propitious right now, but it will be again fairly soon.

    > Have you written a post delving into this and I missed it?

    Not that I recall. I’ll have interesting things to say about video when I learn how to make interesting videos.