There’s always something to howl about

Want to learn how to sniff out bias in the mainstream media? Follow your nose — all the way to Yosemite

John Cook fingered this mash note to in Forbes Magazine. More of the same four-legs-good, two-legs-bad crap we expect from the mainstream media, but it’s short enough that the bias is almost too obvious.

Consider the attributions for quotes:

  • “says Kelman, 37″
  • “Kelman says.”
  • “one Redfin representative wrote recently”
  • “read another posting”
  • “says Steven Del Bianco”

These are all people of whom the writer approves.

But you can’t write a morality play without a villain, so take note of this item, quoted in full:

“In our area the consumer is savvy enough to know that they want value and a high-quality agent,” sniffs Gary Bulanti, a Realtor with Alain Pinel Realtors in Menlo Park, Calif.

Did you sniff out that “sniffs”? Kelman says, then says again. Redfin’s minions write and post. Even investors in past failed discount brokerages get to have their “say,” as it were. But if you are anti-Redfin in even the smallest way, you sniff — you bloated, soul-sucking, counter-revolutionary pig!

It’s all one, really. Redfin will either make money or it won’t, and, in the long run, if it endures into a long run, it will become more like traditional real estate even as traditional real estate becomes more like Redfin.

But just stop for a moment to take account of this:

In a national forest near Yosemite National Park someone affixed fake Redfin bumper stickers to signs, trees and rocks to make the company look like a shameless promoter and defiler of the environment. After Redfin staffers removed the stickers, which they have never used to pitch the Seattle company, the trickster started tossing the signs, attached to weights, into branches of sequoias.

First we have some some kind of demented, Edward Abbee-like monkey-wrenching counter-revolutionary pig of a Realtor, who traipses off from densely-populated Seattle to a national frolicking forest to smear Redfin. And then we have a yellow school-bus full of happy, happy Redfinions — red caps, blue kerchiefs, khaki tunics and cargo shorts — racing off to that same forest to repair this horrendous damage to the natural world, praying all the while to Gaia to heal the deeper wound. On the way home they sing Kum Ba Ya and tell implausible stories about customer service.

Now that’s propaganda!

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    14 Comments so far

    1. Brian Brady January 29th, 2008 8:07 pm

      The article and you both come to the same conclusion, Greg. The article likens Redfin to Schwab; you say they’ll look more and more like a traditional firm.

      Schwab woke up and found itself offering advice, research reports, and money management services, all for a hefty fee.

    2. Kevin Boer January 29th, 2008 8:46 pm

      Have to agree with you about MSM bias…but hey, it does help sell papers. If we’re upset by MSM bias, however, we should be outrageously outraged at the dirty tricks being played on Redfin.

    3. Greg Swann January 29th, 2008 9:06 pm

      > If we’re upset by MSM bias, however, we should be outrageously outraged at the dirty tricks being played on Redfin.

      I would find outrage easier to sustain if I believed the stories. Everyone has had a yard sign trashed, and the Yosemite whopper is plausible only to Yogi Bear. To conclude that any of this results from an anti-Redfin mania among state licensees beggars the imagination. Vandalism is the avocation of teenaged boys. Stipulating the events — which I do not do absent better evidence than Kelman’s testimony — Occam’s Razor argues that the miscreants are jackass kids. The same basic pattern holds true for most claims of persecution — with the most common exception being staged persecutory episodes. Drama is rare. Tedium is ubiquitous — but it makes for a poor headline.

    4. [...] The title alone — Swimming With Sharks — immediately reveals the author’s slant, and Greg properly and roundly chews him out.  The good guys — in this genre, it’s Redfin, always Redfin — “say” [...]

    5. Kevin Boer January 29th, 2008 9:19 pm

      Not presenting an offer is certainly juvenile behavior, but since fifteen year olds can’t have real estate licenses (at least not yet) it’s unlikely those particular acts are done by miscreant teens with too much time on their hands.

      The Yosemite tale is a bit odd, I’ll grant you that, but given that Redfin has agents in the Bay Area, it’s unlikely they would have flown in a team from Seattle to do the clean up. Heck, if I worked for Redfin and didn’t have 5 offers to present today, I’d jump at the chance at a day’s ride out to Yosemite and back!

    6. Greg Swann January 29th, 2008 9:40 pm

      > Not presenting an offer is certainly juvenile behavior

      Your evidence for this story is the testimony of a man who has demonstrated repeatedly that he will say anything to a reporter. Do you know of any DRE complaints? Failure to present an offer is unlawful — grounds for license revocation.

      > given that Redfin has agents in the Bay Area, it’s unlikely they would have flown in a team from Seattle to do the clean up

      Like most Americans, I could care less about National Parks, so I don’t know where they are. What I do know is that, if I wanted to smear Redfin, I wouldn’t do it where the people aren’t. Vandalism with Redfin stickers in a National Park? Implausible. Effected by a crazed Realtor with endless free time and an unlimited budget for gas? I find this impossible to credit. A Redfin outing to clean up the mess and hand out verses from the Book of Kelman to underprivileged children? Please…

      We start with next to no evidence of any sort of activity, with that little bit of activity being either random background noise or the most common kind of nuisance behavior — almost always effected by idle young males. We blow it all out of proportion and then assign blame to fantastical caricatures of Dark Forces. We feed it all to the most gullible creature ever discovered, the mainstream media reporter — which is to say a retardate with a rep tie. The result is a “news” story with zero basis in fact. Without such “news,” no one would even know Redfin exists.

    7. Sean Purcell January 29th, 2008 9:57 pm

      This may be the wine talking, but I am taken back more by the numbers in the article than anything else. Since opening, according to this article, Redfin has done 1300 transactions totaling $600,000,000 and earned $5,000,000. Also according to the article they did 300 listings (for which their agents are paid $3500) and that leaves 1000 buy sides.

      Earnings of $5,000,000 minus listings of 300x$3500 ($1,050,000) equals $3,950,000 earned on the buy side.

      $600,000,000 in total sales divided by 1300 transactions gives us an average home price of $461,000 which falls within reasonable parameters.

      The total buy side commissions ($5,000,000 minus $1,050,000) equalled $3,950,000 which, when divided by the 1000 buy sides, means commisssion was $3950 per transaction (this is 1/3 of total commission). So 3 times $3950=$11,850 which is 2.56% of average purchase price – so that makes sense.

      The WAC commission (one of Brian Brady’s favorite formulas for weighting borrowers rates and which I wish I knew how to link here)is:
      300/1300 sell sides times $3500 equals $$807
      1000/1300 buy sides times $3950 avg income equals $3038
      So total average commission per transaction is $3845

      30 agents paid $70,000 to $120,000 (avg of $95,000) equals $2,850,000 which, when divided by total number of transactions (1300) equals average pay out of $2192

      Finally, average payout of $2192 divided by avg income of $3845 means Redfin is paying out 57% commissions AND STILL LOSING MONEY!!

      The discount broker model may or may not work, but one thing is for sure: Redfin’s does not. Imagine paying commissions of 57% and still not being in the black?

      Fun article Greg.

    8. [...] January 29, 2008 by Dustin …and it stinks. [...]

    9. Bob in San Diego January 30th, 2008 2:09 am


      I just had to replace a sign that was damaged today. I wonder if I can get a National Newspaper to give me some free advertising?

    10. Greg Cremia January 30th, 2008 7:52 am

      “Although he says he’s confident the company can succeed, Kelman occasionally seems overwhelmed by its challenges. Thinking back on his decision to join the company, he says: “If had known then what I know now about real estate, I’m not sure I would have gone through with it.” ”

      “If I had known then” is the mantra of defeat.

    11. jd January 30th, 2008 3:00 pm

      I was blown away by the $5 million figure. By the way, Kelman has been quite transparent when it comes to their numbers. I would have never disclosed the $5 million in 2007 revenue figure. Honestly, this level of revenue is anemic; during a bull market, no less. So is Zillow’s. So is Trulia’s. So is Terabitz’s.

      The media and even you Realtors miss the essential point of why discount brokering in real estate won’t work. Buying a house is like buying a car. It is NOT like buying a plane ticket or selling 100 shares of GM. When you buy a car or a home, you are stuck with it for a long time with a monthly payment, and therefore the decision induces very high anxiety. During a period of high anxiety, it helps to have your hand held by an actual person. It also helps to have someone push you a little and apply what feels like a little bit of pressure…this what’s called closing. This is why closers make money in our society. The reason traditional agents and brokers will be around for another 50 years has nothing to do with service levels or expertise. It has to do with being able to walk a person through a period of high anxiety.

    12. Kevin Boer January 30th, 2008 8:36 pm

      FWIW, turns out Forbes was also wrong about the location of that bizarre act of forest desecration. Said act actually took place in La Honda, a leisurely — and scenic — one hour drive from San Francisco.

    13. Greg Swann January 30th, 2008 9:02 pm

      On the basis of the claimed evidence, the miscreant is more likely to be a misguided Redfin fan. I would look for someone who owns or works for a bumper sticker printing company.

      I loved this:

      deranged traditional agents — who, it is almost certainly true, have destroyed or stolen yard signs and open house signs in Boston and Seattle

      The words “it is almost certainly true” mean: We have zero evidence. In the absence of any affirmative evidence, the most likely culprits are teenaged boys, who screw around with everyone’s signs.

      The very first time we used out newest set of Open House directionals, one was stolen. Musta been a Redfin agent.

      Glenn Kelman has a persecution complex.

    14. [...] wait, that’s not the big news. In fact, I reported the really big news last night: Redfin will either make money or it won’t, and, in the long run, if it endures into a long [...]