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Once Again, It Is the Outsiders Innovating

Yup, it’s happened again. Outsiders have out innovated real estate industry insiders. This time it is Redfin’s Agent Scouting Report. Any agent’s entire sale history analyzed and overlaid out on a map. Brilliant.

For an example, take a look at Kris Berg‘s scouting report. I picked Kris because I’ve known her for years and know (hope) she won’t get mad.

Brian Boero at 1000Watt and Jay Thompson have already written about the announcement, and there are some great conversions in the comments — so I urge you to go read both articles. Below is part of my comment on Jay’s post:

“I wish Realtor Associations had taken the initiative to do what Redfin is trying to do here.”

I seriously don’t get how not a single MLS in the country has done this? Diverse Solutions did all the work in august of 2009 in two stinking days (granted, they have a few KICK ASS developers). That was more than 2 years ago. What have MLS’ been doing for the last 2 years? Why hasn’t an MLS gone and bought that technology from Diverse and implemented 18 months ago? Consumers want the data — that’s obvious.

The main complaint I’ve heard voiced thus far is data inaccuracies. Sure, there are data issues to overcome. So what? The first version of any product or idea is seldom, if ever, perfect. This is just exposing the belly of the MLS data issues that have existed for years.

What I find shocking is that EVERYONE saw this product coming a million miles away (the product was on stage at Inman 2 years ago), but no one did a d*mn thing about it. Whether you like it or not, we’re seeing a shift toward more information available publicly, for anyone to see. The curtain is being lifted, and the consumer is driving that process. Whether it be you as an agent, your brokerage, another brokerage, your MLS, an IDX vendor like Diverse Solutions, or Zillow — someone is going to give the consumer what they want. Those that do will be swimming in online traffic. Those that don’t are going to be left squabbling for the scraps. I firmly believe that’s a good thing.

We know consumers want to see median sales price, average number of price changes, and average days on market. We know they want to see all the data on a map. Why don’t agents and brokers lead the next charge and be the ones to put sales history and performance statistics directly on their own real estate websites for all to see?

You can verify the data is 100% correct for yourself, your team, and your agents. So, what’s stopping you?

Some brokers such as Doug Heddings already post every single sale from their entire brokerage for anyone to see. It’s not perfect — it doesn’t have aggregated performance statistics nor are the listings overlaid on a map in a user-friendly way. But it’s sure as heck SOMETHING.

Remember, if you don’t do it, someone else will. However, fear of someone else beating you to the punch is not the reason you should do it. Do it is because it helps consumers make more informed decisions about the agents they hire. Do it because you have nothing to hide. Do it because you are proud of what you do. Do it to drive more business to the agents that view real estate as a career instead of a hobby and are actually performing — and less business to those who aren’t.

And, yes, this industry needs to invest in some innovative companies and individuals.

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • Well put, Drew.  After some review, I actually like the idea.  My business, like most at Redfin, is 80%-90% buyer representation.  Agents like myself still do list some homes, but we don’t have tons of signs up in the neighborhood because we’re working with buyers.  This kind of a tool actually creates a better comparison of how many homes an agent is actually selling vs. the perception of “signs=sales”.  I’d love for more consumer to see the number of homes I’ve sold representing buyers, and I think all brokerages would get some value out of this tool.

    Redfin has some of the most innovative search and online tools in the industry, and as a technology company, is certainly worth recognition.
    The bad news, in a few points: 

    MLS organizations are going quash this shortly.  Most agents have had poor sales for the last few years during the downturn, and don’t want their stats broadcast widely.  This majority’s votes will be to change MLS rules and prohibit brokerages from displaying other brokers’ sales data.  Those that aren’t currently included in Agent Scouting Reports (like the local NWMLS) will craft rules to preclude it.  I hope that I’m wrong, but I’m fairly sure that I’m not. 

    Redfin might have been able to pull this off if they had worked harder at getting accurate data before they released it.  MLS orgs will now use the current data integrity issues to cut off the service for now, followed by rules changes to prevent it based on member response.  There are real problems with the current data–dual representation, off-MLS transactions, etc.  A couple of MLSs have already cut the service off.

    Redfin’s problem is that they operate like a startup tech, but are still bound by old-industry rules.  The old guard doesn’t like to be surprised.  They like to have permission asked first.  This might be frustrating to techies, but it’s a reality.  Zillow did a great job of asking brokerages to opt-in, which created the need for one brokerage to follow the others into a big spotlight.  Most agents, and their brokerages, were surprised by Redfin’s product, and that doesn’t end well in an MLS.

    I think that Redfin’s CEO Glenn Kelman put it best when he said he regretted the way that the company started.  They came out snarling and throwing punches when they first entered the market.  After realizing that wasn’t profitable, they’ve graduated to a friendlier, more mature company, but haven’t quite mastered the real estate industry’s secret handshake. 

    I actually hope that the industry can follow this lead and create an accurate database that displays sales information in this way.  Unfortunately for Redfin, they may have just false-started their product into the trash bin.

  • I’m glad you have found my idea brilliant. Started doing this in 2008. Even made a shortcut domain to explain the concept

    • Mark Twain

      Calling this “your idea” is a bit of a stretch.  From what I see, you wrote a 1,554 word blog post about the idea of CRA.  Redfin wrote a 20 word interface that actually enables the end-user to generate a CRA.  

      Big difference.  Don’t talk, do.

  • I sort of do something like this. I geo-tag an image of each closed sale in a Flickr album. But I’m not doing anything with the map. I suppose I could embed it on my site, but a google map would probably work better.

  • Anonymous

    Well, the good news is that the data looks right – 25 listings in 12 months. That’s the good news.

    The bad news is that, while I’m a big fan of transparency, the data is subject to misinterpretation — and it will be misinterpreted. I left a big ol’ diatribe on 1000 Watt so I am a little spent, but here is my biggest issue so far: The numbers favor teams and team leaders. The figurehead running a brokerage within a brokerage will show hundreds of homes sold, while the single agent working his butt off without benefit of a cast of thousands may show 10 or 20 or 30 sales in a year. Per licensee, the numbers will look a lot different, but the consumer will never see this. Does this make the big-team front man a better agent?

    Funny how this concept helps position Redfin agents in a better light. Consider that they show three “agents” on their website with a total of 120 transactions to their credit in the past twelve months. Yet we know that they are the “team leaders;” there are many field agents out there showing the properties and meeting the clients. So, essentially, the “agent” numbers are the brokerage numbers because of their model. How convenient.

    Here is what I find really interesting and if Glenn is around, I would love his help on this one. Why is it that when you look up my scouting report (any non-Redfin agent’s scouting report), I see the following choices: Sellers in the past 12 months, buyers in the past 12 months, sellers in the past 3 years, and buyers in the past 3 years? And yet when I look up the scouting report for a Redfin agent, all that is shown is “Clients within the past 12 months?” No distinction between buyers and sellers, no three year history, and no market times. Why the different presentation of data? (I think I know the answer.) But if the whole idea is to better the industry and empower the consumer as they profess, I should think that transparency should be created equal. Just sayin’.

    • Wow, Kris, if these points are all correct, it takes away some of the transparency halo being laid upon the project.  Statistics can certainly be presented in different lights to favor one company, but I’d hope that they would at least present the same metrics for all agents. I wonder if every brokerage will come up with their own model that favors their own brokerage.

      • Any marketer/PR person know that you can spin a story any which way you want to. You can spin data any which way as well to make it favorable to your side as well. I think those same profiles should be available for redfin agents SOMEWHERE, but I have no issue whatsoever with Redfin enhancing their own agent profiles and making them much more visible on the site.

        I believe the data inaccuracies will get better now that they are exposed to a big group of consumers. The more people that see the MLS data issues that have lingered for years and years — the more likely someone is to do something to fix them. Sadly, this is what it takes to fix data issues…it’s not a fun job and the people that can fix big data issues on a large scale are not cheap to hire (probably one of the reasons MLSs haven’t fixed them already).

        • MLS data integrity is a DB admin’s nightmare. You have literally thousands of agents who are allowed to update the db at any time, and they’re not necessarily “trained operators”. It might require a designated broker to be the gatekeeper for all of their brokerage data, although I doubt they’d want to take on that role.

    • Hopefully Glenn will chime in as to why non-Redfin agents are measured by a different metric (sure, same data, but it’s all in the interpretation). Any praise for their innovation is lost by what some might call manipulation of said transparency.

    • Hi Kris,

      I’m the product manager who created the User Interface design of scouting reports
      both for agents affiliated with Redfin and those who aren’t. We show all the same data for both, plus we have much more data for affiliated agents (for instance we show all clients, whether they closed or not, customer reviews, etc), and we don’t have the restrictions on how far back we can show solds as imposed by MLSs, since its Redfin’s own deals.

      Due to these factors, we decided to have several filters for affiliated agents, rather than just two date ranges. If you visit a Redfin agent’s profile, you will see the word “Filter” above their most recent deal (see image), which allows you to go all the way back to the agent’s first Redfin deal, see only buyers, sellers, or even seeing a specific rating (only 5 star or 1 star reviews)

      Hope that clarifies the question you have regarding the difference. There’s no Machiavellian motive behind it 🙂 we just have additional info + MLS restrictions to account for in the user interface design.

      (Disqus didn’t take my attachment, here it is:!/pmbydesign/status/120397354598793216/photo/1)

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  • Per my discussion with @mwurzer:twitter  on Twitter – I do want to clarify that I’m not blaming the MLS for the data problem. I know from my Zillow days there are many, many facets to large datasets like that and a number of different sources for various components. Just as zillow’s data inaccuracies are not all their fault, MLS data is contributed to by a wide range of people and data providers. “Zillow’s” data inaccuracies come from county records, 3rd party data providers, agents, owners, feed providers, etc. 

    Bottom line — no one, including me, should even be speaking about data inaccuracies without discussing SPECIFIC EXAMPLES. Generic blanket statements do no one any good.

  • This new Agent Scout feature is the worst kind of grandstanding, purporting
    to display statistics in order to shine “transparency”, yet really designed to
    benefit Redfin.


    They are creating more content by posting agents name and statistics, and
    these will reside on interior pages of Redfin to help benefit their SEO.


    In addition, the way the information is presented guarantees that few
    individual traditional agents will ever outshine a Redfin agent.


    Redfin agents have a dozen support staff at their beck and call, to show
    properties, arrange inspections, deposit earnest money, open title and escrow. 
    The agent who writes up the deal never even has to take the time to go to the
    house.  They have “field agents” who do that. Yet these same agents, over and
    over, get the credit for the transaction.  So of course they may have 20 sales
    in a month, even though they are only doing a small portion of the work needed
    to sell a home.


    Traditional individual agents don’t get buyers handed to them. They don’t
    have marketers and web designers working for them. They don’t have field agents
    to ferry buyers around.  They don’t have transaction coordinators to handle all
    the paperwork.  They wear many hats and may only make a few sales a month.  And
    that’s ok.  But to compare what Redfin agents do with traditional agents is
    misleading and dishonest, and what Agent Scout does not do is differentiate
    between the two, to the detriment of traditional real estate agents and brokers.  

    • I don’t think what Redfin has done is perfect. Far from it. What I was getting at is they did SOMETHING that consumers want. Which is more than can be said for many in this industry.

      But let me play devil’s advocate on a couple points:

      “They are creating more content by posting agents name and statistics, and these will reside on interior pages of Redfin to help benefit their SEO.”

      So? That’s the name of the SEO game. Any broker or agent could do the same thing.

      “Traditional individual agents don’t get buyers handed to them. They don’t have marketers and web designers working for them. They don’t have field agents to ferry buyers around.  They don’t have transaction coordinators to handle all the paperwork.”

      They don’t. But that’s their choice. Do you really think an agent SHOULD be doing all that themselves? You’re absolutely right – there is nothing wrong with that approach. At all. Many people make a living that way and that’s fine. But what should be clear is that that type of agent can not possibly be an expert at everything they do.

    • Judy Graff

      I totally agree with Marlow and Kris Berg, and I’m a Redfin Partner agent.  The data will naturally skew towards huge partner teams, and away from sole practitioners.  Additionally, how is it transparent — or even fair — when Redfin posts REVIEWS for their own agents, but just STATS on non-Redfin agents? There’s a big difference between the two, and stats alone just don’t tell the whole story. (And btw, Redfin seeks reviews from all clients, whether they closed on a transaction or not.)

  • Geoff Weinhold

    To be fair, I think HAR tried this last year and got their hands slapped.

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  • Interesting discussion.  As a lender, I would like to know which agents
    are putting up the numbers as well….would make my job a bit easier:-) 
    OK, I’m joking.  But I do think it is data that consumers want.  How
    many times has an agent sat down at a table and talked a big game and
    the consumer has no way of verifying it?  Same thing can be said of the
    lender community where many have teams as well funding 10-50 deals a

    That data can be misleading depending on how presented, but also spun
    to your advantage.  I think it would be a good thing to show the person
    you don’t do 10-20 deals a month.  Working with an agent doing 2-3
    deals a month gives you the ability to give more personal service and
    control over the transaction.

    What consumer wants to be pawned off to a less experienced newbie team member?

    Are agents embarrassed about their production?

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