Click Here, Buy Home: Redfin Makes Bid for Unrepresented Buyers
At a meeting last year of Redfin brokers and its legal team, lawyers for the tech-powered brokerage added an agenda item. As CEO Glenn Kelman explained in a blog post, "an unusual number of unrepresented buyers were approaching Redfin’s listing agents, trying to make an offer. It was a sign to me that homebuyers had finally begun to change, but our agents didn’t know what to do.”
“Our attorneys intervened, saying our duty was to the seller, and that we should take an offer from an unrepresented buyer,” he said, adding “two of our best field leaders… had been campaigning for years to build online tools to get more offers from unrepresented buyers for our sellers.”
That online tool, it turns out, has been tested in Boston, where it went live on March 28. “Make your offer more competitive,” Redfin tells site visitors at Redfin.com/direct. “Without an agent, you make your offer stronger by lowering the seller’s fees.”
According to Kelman’s blog post, of the 127 Boston listings that have accepted an offer since then, five have been Direct offers. Another 12 of those listings rejected a Direct offer, most of which could easily have won.
To avail themselves of the tool, buyers click on a “buy-it button” on the Redfin site. Clicking it leads to a 55-question online tool that prepares the offer, walking the buyer through questions about contingencies, inspections and so forth.
Says Kelman: “Buyers and sellers aren’t confused, the industry shouldn’t be either,” adding that the new program has exceeded expectations.
“We’d worried that offering a new buying choice could confuse some consumers who barely seem to understand real estate commissions," adds Kelman. "But our agents report that the people coming to our open houses, many of whom are unrepresented buyers, immediately understand the concept."
Kelman is correct that there is confusion among consumers about commissions. In addition, there is confusion about fiduciary roles in the real estate transaction, according to a report published earlier this year by the Consumer Federation of America.
Stephen Brobeck, senior fellow for the consumer group, says he believes Redfin Direct "will be attractive to the minority of buyers who are prepared to 'do it yourself' and also assume some risk in exchange for a lower commission."
He recommends that buyers using Redfin Direct lower this risk by asking a real estate lawyer to review the deal.