Redfin today announced a “massive upgrade” of its real estate service, one which CEO Glenn Kelman notes in a blog post will ensure that customers will have a “one-on-one relationship” with an individual agent throughout the entire home buying process. As part of the changes, Redfin has added more than 50 new agents and reduced the number of customers each one supports by 25 percent. It also has outfitted all agents with iPads and other portable computers, part of a move to get the agents in the field more showing off homes and interacting directly with customers.
“The customer gets the best of traditional and Redfin brokerages, with no tradeoffs: as before, a brokerage entirely re-structured to provide uncompromised customer advocacy, with technology at every step to make the process easy — and now a personal, face-to-face relationship with one agent,” said Kelman, who declined to say how many agents the company now has on staff.
As part of the changes (first tested in Boston last year), Redfin also announced that it plans to boost prices by 16 percent, reducing the rebates it gives to home buyers from 50 percent to a tiered system depending upon the sale price of the home.
For example, the company is now refunding about 25 percent for a $300,000 home, resulting in a $2,000 commission refund. For a $1 million home, the company refunds 45 percent of the commission, for a refund of roughly $13,000.
When the company started, it offered a 66 percent rebate but changed that to 50 percent in 2008
“Our refund, of course, is larger than that of any other major brokerage, but still we have raised prices above where they were, by 16%,” writes Kelman. “We did not do this lightly: every dollar we raise prices costs my soul a shriek of agony. But already in trial markets, customers have overwhelmingly decided the gains in one-on-one service are worth it.”
The price increases are taking place across the Redfin network, except in Seattle and Washington D.C. where the company needs to staff up in order to support the additional customer service requirements that go with the new model. It plans to roll out the new service levels and pricing in those two markets later this year.
With the changes, the Seattle company moves even closer to the traditional real estate brokerage firm that Redfin initially set out to uproot. Kelman addresses that issue in the blog post, writing that Redfin wants to be like traditional brokers because “relationships are what traditional brokers have been best at.”
However, he said that Redfin is still very much is powered by technology (from electronic signatures to online tour scheduling to email and Web marketing).
“This technology won’t substitute for personal relationships, but personal relationships won’t substitute for technology either,” says Kelman. “A modern brokerage can’t compete without both, and without creating a new covenant between consumers and agents. The old model is broken in some ways, but it works in others. With Redfin 3.0, our humble hope is to give our customers the best of both.”
The new service levels and prices come four months after Redfin scored a $14 million venture capital round from Madrona Venture Group, Greylock, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and others, bringing total funding in the company to $46 million.