Online Brokerage Redfin Expands Coverage
Online real estate broker Redfin said Wednesday it has expanded its service to Long Island and Westchester County in New York, and to California's Central Valley, including Sacramento. The new markets extend Redfin's listings reach by nearly 20%, according to a statement released by the firm. The opening of two new markets, the first since June 2008 for Redfin, is part of an effort by the online real estate brokerage to reach listings in every major U.S. market. The company plans three additional markets to be added for 2009, bringing Redfin's total to 13. To serve such large new areas, Redfin will offer service from its own agents and from partner agents, the company said. In both cases, clients search for homes using Redfin's site, then choose an agent based on the agent's online deal history and customer reviews. Redfin's own agents work on a team to offer property tours and handle escrow, using online tools to schedule the tours and prepare offers; clients of these agents get a refund of as much as 50% of the commission. Partner agents work one-on-one with the client; these clients get a refund of 15% of the commission. In either case, Redfin surveys the client and publishes his review, with the agent receiving a bonus that varies with customer satisfaction. The new version of Redfin's Web site is also one of the first to take advantage of data released by Multiple Listing Services as a result of last year's settlement between the Department of Justice and the National Association of Realtors, which required listing services to allow brokers to publish any data that brokers can disclose in-person. The deadline for compliance was February 15, 2009. As a result, in the markets the firm operates, Redfin says it now publishes data about the seller's mortgage, the cumulative days on market that a property has been for sale, even if it has been re-listed to appear new; and the price history. "More liberal data-sharing policies among listing services and a new partner-assisted strategy have opened a new phase of growth for Redfin," said Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman. "We used to evaluate new markets in terms of what the local listing service would let us publish, and the ground our own agents had to cover. Now that the settlement is in effect and our partners can help us in outlying areas -- and now that we've got new markets like Chicago contributing profits very quickly -- we expect to expand quickly. Since Redfin has reached only about 1/7th of the U.S. market, there's lots of room to grow." Write to Paul Jackson at email@example.com.