Redfin pulls the plug on Scouting Reports after just five days

Glenn Kelman (Randy Stewart photo)

Redfin is terminating its newly-launched Scouting Report service, ending a tumultuous five-day period in which the company took heat for bugs in its online scorecard of more than one million agents. The Seattle company will continue to offer the Scouting Report service — which allowed consumers to find specific information about individual agents such as the number of homes sold and median sales price — for its own agents.

But it will no longer be available on Redfin for other agents.

In a note to employees on the Redfin blog, CEO Glenn Kelman wrote:

“We have to account for what happened over the past week as a failure, and try to understand how we can do better. Obviously, it’s my fault. I’ve thought a lot about how hard folks worked to pull this off. I wish you’d had a better leader in me. But the lesson we should draw is to be more thoughtful about making a risk pay, not more cautious in avoiding the risk altogether.”

In an interview with GeekWire, Kelman said he was embarrassed by the mistakes he made in rolling out the Scouting Report service. When the company discovered additional bugs today in the source data, which were more challenging to fix, he said it was best to shut it down.

Some of the mistakes were discussed in an earlier GeekWire story in which Kelman offered a lengthy comment about the company’s activities, taking issue with my use of the word “blunder.”

“I disputed the idea that this was a blunder, but now I am ready to concede that it is,” Kelman told me this afternoon.

Despite the failed launch, Kelman says that the project is not completely dead. “I still think there is something to this idea, and somebody is going to build a directory of agents,” said Kelman. “Hopefully, Redfin will be able to come back to it.”

Given the initial troubles with Scouting Report, Kelman admits that Redfin will be held to a higher bar if it were to pursue the idea again. But the entrepreneur said that he didn’t want employees of the company walking away from the experience feeling “gunshy.”

“This is a company that stands apart because we’ve always been willing to take crazy risks,” said Kelman.

Redfin has run afoul of the rules of Multiple Listing Services throughout its history, and that appeared to be one of the issues playing out with Scouting Reports. Some MLS agencies questioned whether Redfin had the right to display data on agents in this manner.

Over the course of the past few days, Redfin pulled back on the Scouting Report service in Washington D.C., Atlanta and Sacramento. Scouting Reports were not made available in Seattle from the outset, due in part to restrictions from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Kelman said the company will move forward, smarter from the lessons learned from the failed launch. He writes in the blog post:

“There are all sorts of projects that fail at any corporation for a different and less conspicuous reason, because the risk was measured out in teaspoons and the idea was compromised beyond recognition and nobody made decisions and the thing had absolutely no personality and nobody really cared in the end whether it was good or bad — or even knew that it existed. The reason most people give up on a great company like Redfin is because it stops making decisions and stops taking risks. They give up because the company loses its gonads and its heart and then its soul.”

  • http://blog.findwell.com Kevin Lisota

    I applaud their attempt, and appreciate the quick decision making when things weren’t fixable. This is useful data, and I pull history on competing agents all the time to debunk their boastful claims. Consumers deserve some more transparency on these claims.

    I did have some strong feedback for how they implemented it, which he correctly calls out in his post as items that were easy to fix. But it sounds like the crux of this is a groundswell of agents calling them out on inaccuracies in their data and calculations, most of which are probably legitimate claims.

    I do wish that it hadn’t gone up and down in such a huge blaze of attention. It was going to be controversial regardless, but I’m sure the quick and hugely visible failure is going to translate into further industry reticence about the idea.

    It is an idea worth pursuing for consumers, provided that data inaccuracies are handled and cooperative data-sharing arrangements that provide the data are accounted for.

  • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

    Redfin always promotes “good change”, even when they “fail”. MLS systems and agents will now work harder to be more accurate as to their agent data, the same as they did with Days on Market and Cumulative Days on Market when Redfin pulled the curtain back on that data.

    Being exposed…even briefly…has helped agents and mls systems realize how important this data will be in the future. Plenty of time for mls systems to make corrections before this info goes live again. I think the “blaze of attention” was a good thing. Agents and mls systems are now duly forewarned.

    • http://SeattleHome.com Sam DeBord, SeattleHome.com

      I’ll be happy if this promotes better data within the MLS systems as well.  Public sales data isn’t a bad thing when done in an accurate and transparent way.  I’m not so sure I’d call the history of disregard for MLS rules as always promoting “good change” (multiple areas reporting violations this time), but I can appreciate the thrust of the idea. 

      At a certain point, they’ll have to decide if they really just want, as Glenn put it, to “take crazy risks” and be a real estate vendor like Zillow, or if they can play nice in the MLS sandbox that more than one million agents they’re working with have already paid for.  Innovation is great, but this isn’t online poker.  Most buyers and sellers don’t put “taking crazy risks” very high on their list of preferred attributes for the company who will manage the sale/purchase of their life’s biggest investment.

      • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

        Well then…let’s call it thinking out of the box vs “taking crazy risks”. :)

        • http://SeattleHome.com Sam DeBord, SeattleHome.com

          I’m only quoting Glenn.

  • Alex Castro

    I wan to applaud Glen and the Redfin team on this effort. They made an effort to provide greater transparency to consumers in an environment where agents often are not completely honest or transparent. While there may be some execution missteps they’ve made they have also drawn attention to issues around data accuracy within the MLS.

    I truly hope Reflin will be able to go back to the drawing board and bring this functionality back at a later point in time. This type of information is very valuable for home buyers/sellers. Hopefully, the MLS data will also improve and agents don’t use that as an excuse to avoid having transparency.

    As a general rule, if you find yourself getting really upset about consumers having access to previously hidden information then you are likely doing something wrong.

  • Skyler1012

    Zillow built a big business providing bogus information….