Trending: Key Zillow Group exec Greg Schwartz leaving after 12 years, amid massive changes at real estate giant

Sometimes in the real estate business, if you snooze, you lose. Through a new service launched today called Instant Updates, Redfin wants to make sure its customers don’t miss out on the best deals, acting with authority when prices drop on homes or new listings come on to the market.

Instant Updates essentially is an email notification service which provides details on saved searches that would-be buyers mark on the Redfin Web site. Now, here’s the cool part. The notifications are sent within 15 to 30 minutes of the price changes or new listings.

That could make all of the difference for someone trying to make a bid on a home, especially in what’s becoming an increasingly competitive environment for home buyers.

“Technology accelerates markets,” said Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman. “In a world where a Las Vegas chef can now buy a fish caught in the Adriatic before the fisherman has even returned to the harbor, it’s crazy to think that real estate for the most part has run on 1950s-newspaper-time, with one email update in the morning. Instant Updates changes the whole speed of the game.”

Typically, Redfin said that brokerage firms send out listing information in daily or weekly emails. But in a world running on “Internet speed” that’s not always good enough. Furthermore, Redfin said that in the 19 markets where it does business, 17 percent of the listings that debuted and sold this year were under contract in just three days or less.

The company also made the point that the information is strengthened because it is a licensed real estate brokerage, which gives it access to full databases of listing data quickly. Kelman writes in a blog post:

Redfin was able to develop Instant Updates because we’ve made a massive investment over the past five years in direct, high-frequency integration with the local Multiple Listing Services real estate agents use to list properties and record sales. While other websites get partial or indirect access to some MLSs, only companies with real estate agents get full, immediate access to all the broker-listed homes for sale.

Next up, the company plans to deliver its Instant Updates via Facebook, Twitter or Android and iPhone apps, meaning a home shopper could gain an advantage while on the go. The mobile version of Instant Update is expected to debut on iPhone and iPad  later this month.

Redfin itself appears to be on the move, adding new markets and new services. Last week, it unveiled a service called Home Price Tool that’s designed to help home owners get a better idea of what their property is worth. The company also this month expanded in Philadelphia.

Redfin raised a $14 million venture capital round last October from Globespan Capital Partners, Madrona Venture Group, Vulcan Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Greylock Partners. That brings total funding in the company to $46 million.

UPDATE: Interestingly, as I was writing this story I was alerted to the fact that Zillow just unveiled a service that offers a similar functionality. Basically, the new service allows Zillow users to save a search, and then have that property available to them on various devices. As part of the offering, the company is setting up alerts. Zillow writes:

Receive instant on-screen notifications and daily emails – from new listings and price changes, to status updates and open houses, when Zillow has new data that matches a home shopper’s saved search, we’ll get it out immediately, whichever device is being used.

Zillow spokeswoman Cynthia Nowak said that its sync service works across multiple devices.

“Home shoppers get updates wherever they are, favorites and searches are synced, too,” she said. “So if you save a bunch of favorites on your computer, you’ll see them on your phone; or if you search for Queen Anne on your tablet, when you sign on back at your desk you’ll see the same search.”

[Editor’s note: The headline on the story has been changed to reflect the Zillow offering]

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