Dear PoP – Anyone Use Redfin Real Estate Agents?

by Prince Of Petworth November 22, 2010 at 1:30 pm 24 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user sciascia

“Dear PoP,

I’d like to ask your readers about what they thought of Redfin, not the website which I think is pretty great, but actual experiences with their agents. I’ve had 2 underwhelming experiences so far, the first with a field agent in Virginia, and the second with the actual “top rated” agent in DC. I will probably just go with a real agent now, but I was wondering if I was just unlucky? I mean, all of their agents have such great reviews!

The field agent in Virginia insisted that since my budget is so low ($400k), I shouldn’t be looking in Old Town and I should look in Fairfax, Burke, and other areas I wasn’t interested in. Then he proceeded to tell me that he’ll send me listings from MLS of those areas, which I also wasn’t interested in. I mean, isn’t that what the Redfin website is for? So you can look for yourself? His pushiness was just very off putting.

The field agent in DC was actually really great, and told me that someone submitted an offer on a foreclosure we were going to look at, and said if we wanted to make an offer at above asking there’s a possibility that the bank would accept. Anyway, we emailed the agent immediately after the tour and said we can make a cash offer, and asked him a few questions about the place. I kind of expected an agent would respond immediately if his client is interested in making an offer, but it wasn’t until the afternoon when he responded to our questions and then the next day he said he can write a backup offer. He was very professional in his replies, but I took his lack of urgency as a sign of disinterest. This is an investment property that me and my mom are purchasing, and neither of us are first time homebuyers, so I don’t think we’ve set unrealistic expectations.”

Anyone have similar experiences or is this just bad luck on the part of the reader?

  • lauraly

    bought our petworth home through redfin and loved it. we did the research and picked the houses we wanted to see, the field agent was just there to make the appointments, open the door and offer some advice (if wanted). it was our first home purchase and we were real novices, but our buying agent was very patient and helpful. oh, and half of their commission, which they give you, really helped at closing. all in all, we were really pleased and would definitely recommend them.

  • Kate

    There ISN’T much in Old Town under 400k, unless you’re looking for 2br condos. (Pushing Burke on you is totally gross though, I agree.)

    • Anonymous

      Assuming they don’t want a condo, where CAN you get a house for under $400k in NoVA that isn’t out in Burke or someplace equally horrid?

      • Trixie

        Alexandria, outside of Old Town – toward Groveton and surrounding – parts of Arlington as well. It may not be luxurious but would certainly be livable.

  • Eli

    Because of the mixed reviews of Redfin regarding agent availability (i.e., don’t use them if you’re in a hurry), I used i-Agent Realty and got a 2% rebate (higher than Redfin). My agent (Wade) always responded quickly to e-mails and gave us good advice when our first choice was snapped off the market the same day we were going to make an offer. We ended up with an even better place in the same building. I’d use them again in a heartbeat.

  • mixed

    I agree with lauraly, overall.

    I loved their site and their iPhone app, the location-enabled finctionality of which actually found my beautiful new home for me. I had very very positive experiences with two field agents. The buying agent was nice, but in my view, less-than-ideally responsive, and not as aggressive as I would have liked with the seller’s agent. The seller was extremely difficult, unprofessional (particularly for an investor-flipper), and basically lied to us about the timing of various items.

    So overall, I was occasionally frustrated, but for half of the commission, it was absolutely worth it. I probably wouldn’t use such a service, however, in a city I was less familiar with.

  • Redfin agents have 50-100 active clients at any given time, whereas traditional agents typically have just a handful of clients. So, responsiveness definitely is impacted. It’s one of the costs of getting the rebate. I think their field agents are contractors, so as lauraly says, they’re really just for opening literal doors.

    • Hi Quincy9, Matt from Redfin here…

      Our agents typically help 4-8 people buy or sell a home a month. We know how important responsiveness is which is why we’re now starting to limit the number of clients working with an agent. We should be able to deliver both responsiveness and a rebate.

      And yes, our field agents are contractors (at a typical brokerage all agents are contractors, Redfin is the exception directly employing agents and coordinators). We do expect our field agents to do more than simply open doors. We expect them to also be asking questions, guiding the customer, and pointing out things they might miss. Our field agents show homes all day, every day, so they know what to look for in a home.

  • cbr

    The reason you want MLS is because the free sites (RedFin, Zillow, etc.) are usually updated several days (up to a full week) behind MLS. There’s also no guarantee that all listings appear on RedFin and the like. MLS is comprehensive and updated nearly real time.

  • That’s not correct. See http://www.redfin.com/help/search/the-most-homes-for-sale
    In DC, they update from the MLS every 15 minutes. I believe Redfin has all the same listings as the MLS.

  • rm

    I recently listed through redfin, and have found them to be pretty unresponsive after the initial open house.

    They also initially tried to get me to price below what i was looking to list at, since they thought it would move much faster at a lower rate.

  • Tres

    Redfin’s site is DOS compared to some of the other options out there. FranklyMLS is great, and there’s another good one I can’t remember…

    I would guess that any time a real Realtor finds out he has a Redfin agent (who has 50 other clients!) on the other side of the deal, he knows he can push them around. He knows they work in volume, and probably care more about closing than anything — including getting you the right price. It could cost you money to have a bad agent.

    • Hi Tres, as mentioned above, our agents work with fewer clients than that. Plus our agents aren’t paid a commission so they aren’t motivated by a fast sale. Instead, they’re paid a salary plus a bonus based on the satisfaction of their buyer or seller which we evaluate at the end of the deal by surveying our client; our agents earn the same amount whether they’re helping a first-time buyer or a million dollar buyer.

      From the studies we’ve done we’ve seen that our agents are just as good negotiators as traditional agents, if not better, since our agents are helping more clients and as a result are more in tune with the market.

  • dc_publius

    I am using I agent currently, Redfin for browsing, and FranklyMLS for details.

  • PTB

    My wife and i are currently closing on a house through Redfin and I have only good things to say about them. I’ve always found their agents very responsive and knowledgeable (as mentioned before the field agents are simply there to open the door). I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how patient they’ve been. We’ve been looking for about 6 months. Put in numerous offers and exercised an inspection contingency clause on a house (i.e walked away after inspection). I’ve wondered if we had been working with someone who was driven by commission if they would have ditched us a long time ago.

    Bottom line: if you’re drawn to their website and like to do your own research (instead of having an agent send you listings) then you may be a good fit for their business model: reduce the small service perks for a sweet 1.5% rebate.

  • Anon

    Top agents are very busy agents. It’s not the “sense of urgency” – it’s going to all the closings etc. with people who are spending more than you. We had a similar experience with Martin and Jeff in the Dupont area, were very put off after being treated like second class citizens and then getting a young inexperienced agent foisted on us.
    We were also having trouble finding something in the 400 range in Old Town. I assume you are expanding your search to areas west up King Street and south into the Van Dorn Eisenhower area etc.? Old Town does have a gritty part of town, you could probably find a small townhouse not too far from the action if you wait around long enough.

  • PT Varnum

    We used Redfin for research, but used another realtor to do the walkthroughs and purchase. Awsome site.

    • Nikki

      Seconded. Redfin’s site is the best in the business, but for my money it was worth it to work with a good realtor.

  • andy

    We used redfin to buy our house after looking at it ourselves on an open house tour. They were a bit hard to get a hold of at the initial step. However once we had somebody to work with, they were helpful on necessary steps through bidding. We had to be ready to review everything ourselves – looking through all of the mortgage docs was totally up to us and we needed to be ready for the closing ourselves. And we were. But it isn’t for people who aren’t going to get in and figure out what everything means themselves.

    I wonder what it is like for people who want to sell with redfin. That’s marketing and not just being ready to figure out what you need to know.

  • Paul

    I didn’t use Redfin. My friends and family talked me out of it saying such a service wasn’t wise for a first-time buyer. I think they were just wary of what is unfamiliar.

    But now having gone through the process with a realtor once to buy a condo I don’t think he provided enough service to warrant 3% commission. I picked my own properties. I would visit weekend open houses on my own. I really just needed him to let me into condos with lockboxes and submit the paperwork at contract time.

    Since I made that transaction one of my friends became a realtor. We had this discussion over dinner at Cava Mezze one night. He said alot of client require more hand holding than I did. They are unrealistic is what they can find on the market, very needy, and can take 6 months to a year to find a property and may even walk away without earning the realtor a commission. In his view the easy clients offset the needy clients and make the earnings at the end of the year worth it on a $$/hr wage basis.

    I get it from the realtor perspective. But Frack that if I’m not going to get better value for my money next time. Rather than subsidizing a traditional realtors needy clients I should use a discount broker and get some savings.

    • 50% of the people we work with our first-time home buyers so we know what it takes to help someone who isn’t familiar with the process. Sounds like you would have been a good fit for Redfin… Next time :).

  • Guest poster, we’re pleased to hear you like the website! Though I’m sad to hear that you’ve had two underwhelming experiences so far. Not knowing the specifics of your situation it is hard for me to comment. But generally we should be getting back to you quickly; we understand how important it is to move fast when you find a home you like and want to make an offer.

    If you’re still interested in working with Redfin please email me at [email protected] and we’ll make sure that your experience is smooth from here on out.


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