Redfin.com wakes up, smells coffee, staples galoshes to forehead: Now Redfin buyers will be able to see homes in an almost-normal way
The uncontested brilliance of the free market is that it is self-correcting. People like me have been bitching all along that Redfin.com’s approach to buyer representation was misguided if not outright evil. Conceding some huge chunk of the buyer’s agent’s commission to the buyer was certainly consumer-friendly, but pushing the cost of buyer representation off onto the listing agent was vile. “Stick it to the man” rhetoric might play well with Leslie Stahl, but we have no way of knowing how often the listing agent is working for one percentage point of the sales price — or even for nothing.
But: So what. So long as listers were too cowardly to contest Redfin’s claims to having earned the buyer’s agent’s commission even when it had violated the everyday understanding of procuring cause, every erg of outsized bitching was just so much wasted energy. If the Redfin experience was satisfying to its buyers, not much else seemed to matter.
Of course, the Redfin experience wasn’t satisfying to buyers. As much as they might like the idea of shopping for homes from an on-line catalog, when it came time to actually squeeze the fruit, a surprising number of them wanted to actually squeeze the fruit.
So: Redfin had to provide home tours when its cost structure was built around not providing home tours. Then it had to start charging cash fees for home tours. Then it built an elaborate mechanism whereby buyers could schedule two home tours for free, then pay $250 a pop for additional tours. And today, without fanfare, Redfin.com announces its Redfin Select program, whereby buyers can schedule unlimited home tours in exchange for a reduced commission rebate.
First: All hail The Market, which speaks lucidly even to deaf ears.
But second: Ugh.
Listen to this:
With Select, we take you on tour twice a week, every week, until you find a home.
That “twice a week” sounds a little school-marmish, doesn’t it? “You will walk in single file, boy-girl, boy-girl, in a neat and orderly fashion.” God help the poor relos in town from Thursday to Sunday. Twice a week means twice a week, pal.
Okayfine. Progress is where you find it. Every time I read about client relations at Redfin, I find things that seem funny to me. But I live in the constantly chaotic world of ordinary real estate representation, and I cannot imagine trying to organize my day as an architect or a podiatrist or a bus driver must. Poor Redfin has to codify and quantify all kinds of corporate metrics, and the rest of us just have to pay the phone and light bills every so often. It’s a different world.
But today, in its odd little INTx kind of way, Redfin.com comes that much closer to being a real real estate brokerage. That’s a good thing no matter how strange it might look from the outside.