Real Estate and Technology

Residential real estate group enters GR market

Seattle-based Redfin relies on technology for more transparent transactions.

September 18, 2015
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Redfin
Courtesy Redfin

Technology and real estate have merged, as a new business plants its roots in Grand Rapids.

Enter Redfin, a Seattle-based full-service real estate brokerage that focuses on the residential market and uses technology to make the process of selling a home easier, less expensive and more transparent.

Redfin entered Michigan when it started in Detroit last winter and is now ready to move into the West Michigan market.

The real estate brokerage, which has a presence in 80 major cities across the country, formed in 2004 with a goal of reinventing the model of how residential real estate works by “combining advanced technology with full-service agents who are paid a salary, receive benefits and earn bonuses based on customer satisfaction,” according to a press release.

To date, the brokerage has closed on almost $20 billion in home sales. Redfin was named one of “The Digital 100: World’s Most Valuable Private Tech Companies” by Business Insider in 2012.

Some of the features Redfin’s website offers include:

  • The ability to instantly schedule a home tour with a Redfin agent with a single click from a browser, iPhone, iPad or Android app.
  • High-resolution, interactive views from every angle inside homes listed with a Redfin agent (coming soon).
  • Smartphone or email notifications when new homes are listed or when prices drop.
  • A proprietary algorithm that indicates which homes for sale are likely to sell within two weeks.
  • A more accurate way to find a home’s value using self-selected comparable homes for sale in that market.
  • Homes for sale separated by school district.
  • Real-time statistics and notes from Redfin agents about thousands of homes and offers.
  • Matchmaker software that recommends unexpected listings to Redfin clients.
  • A real-time guide through the closing process, including milestones, deadlines and tasks.
  • A resource for buyers and sellers that includes reviews of lenders, inspectors, title companies, handyman services and stagers, as well as feedback from Redfin agents.

“If there’s one thing we learned when Redfin launched in Detroit last winter, it’s that Michiganders love using the Redfin apps and website to search for homes and they love working with our agents who are paid to make sure they are happy,” said Lauren Buttazzoni, Redfin market manager in Michigan.

“We’re proud to be launching our second Michigan market and excited for the chance to offer the people of Grand Rapids a new way to buy and sell homes.”

Grand Rapids native and real estate broker Kent Selders has been hired to start building Redfin’s presence in Grand Rapids. Selders, who was an owner and principal broker at Plum Real Estate in Grand Rapids for about 14 years, had been following Redfin’s progress for a number of years. When he saw earlier this spring that Redfin was looking to get into the West Michigan market, he said he jumped on the opportunity.

This is his backyard, he said, adding he’s excited Redfin’s now a part of the robust Grand Rapids market.

“Grand Rapids is a great place to live and work because it’s small enough to have a very hometown feel, yet large enough to have a vibrant downtown community and rich career opportunities,” Selders said. “I’ve followed Redfin for years and I’m thrilled to bring the company to my hometown because I believe it offers the most efficient, transparent and fun way to buy or sell a home.”

Redfin’s West Michigan presence, which has no brick-and-mortar location and has no intention of creating one anytime soon, will focus on “basically everything the (Multiple Listing Service) covers in western Michigan,” Selders said. “It’s a pretty wide paintbrush.”

“We’ll consider a brick and mortar if it’s a necessity, but at this time, it’s not,” he said.

He said Redfin is planning to hire and although he doesn’t have an exact number for how many the company would like to add, he’s looking to grow the team as necessity demands and by filling it with “the right people.”

“We’ve got several different positions within Redfin — additional sales agents or brokers that share the same mindset of customer-centric focus,” he said.

“We save customers money. Our website really does all the marketing for us, too. Agents don’t have to spend time marketing themselves.”

Selders called Redfin’s technology spin on the residential real estate market “revolutionary.”

Most of its customers discover the company through its website, he said, meaning Redfin’s agents spend the majority of their energy and time working with existing clients. Additionally, reviews for each Redfin agent are posted on their online profiles.

The emphasis on technology is what sets Redfin’s bar so high and helps save customers money, said John Whitely, spokesperson for Redfin.

“Last Friday, we turned the website on. We update our website every 15 minutes. You’ll see homes for sale and comparisons now that that’s all turned on,” he said.

“In super-competitive markets like we’re seeing in the U.S. this year, getting an email as soon as a house hits the market puts you in a super-competitive advantage.”

Redfin also refunds part of the buyer’s agent commission, Selders said. If someone bought a $300,000 home with a Redfin agent in Grand Rapids, they would receive a refund of more than $1,500 at closing, he said.

For sellers, Redfin agents charge a 1.5 percent listing fee, he said, rather than the typical 3 percent. Redfin.com “features all the broker-listed homes for sale, as well as for-sale-by-owner properties that don’t pay brokers a commission.”

According to Redfin, the brokerage has saved its customers more than $200 million in fees.

“We’re still offering to the selling agent what they’ve always received. We’re taking less because of the efficiencies of technology and so forth,” Whitely said.

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