Start spreading the news! The Redfin spaceship landed yesterday in Long Island and Westchester County in New York as well as California’s Central Valley, including Sacramento. In one day, we increased our reach by nearly 20% but fell short of conquering the greatest Babylon of them all Manhattan; the brokers there don’t share data with newcomers. Sacramento and Long Island are our first new markets since we opened Chicago last June, and our 10th overall. We’ve got at least three more left in us by year end.
Why did we start expanding again? Well first of all because we’ve figured out how to open a market using our own agents without spending too much money. Chicago was profitable after an expense of only $50,000. The challenge for Michael Daly, who runs Redfin Long Island, and Chris Diez, our main man in Sacramento, is to beat Mark Reitman, who in his first six months set a new standard for delivering awe-inspiring customer service.
And now to add fuel to the fire, we have a partner network to handle all the outlying areas. Without it, we probably never could have launched the Central Valley south of Sacramento, which has more vegetables than people. We’re using partners to cover Westchester too. Even though we launched yesterday, we’re still recruiting partners who agree to participate in our review system for surveying clients, and who refund 15% of their commission to the consumer.
A Mortgage Calculator!
What about for our loyal fans in existing markets? Well, we’ve got a few goodies for you too. For starters, we added a mortgage calculator. While we were arguing over whether or how to do it, The Great Smedberg just did it. And then we wondered what took us so long. Nice work Michael! And did anyone notice that Navtej Sadhal made it more convenient to access common filters? Usability studies showed us that many people had no idea how to filter on price at all…
Sale to List Price, Embeddable Charts!
We also upgraded our neighborhood widgets to let you see final-sale-to-list price for every zip code, neighborhood and region. We used a chart control from Google, and it was a bit buggy, but Redfin stats man Mose Andre somehow made it work.
Now you can also embed our charts in your blog — we’ve made it super easy — showing how sale prices are trending up or down in your area. Redfin has been pretty bad about getting others to install our widgets, even though we think our data quality is much higher — the charts combine MLS and tax record data, filtered for subtle flaws, segmented by property type since condos are more expensive by the square foot than houses.
200 New Fields About Listings
The biggest change is on the back-end, where we switched to a new type of data feed from the listing services. It’s called a Virtual Office Website (VOW) feed. The listing services require registration and an email confirmation of your registration — we ask you about this at the bottom of every property’s list of amenities even though we won’t spam you, ever — but then we can in theory show you everything that a broker can talk to his client about in person.
This is part of a huge shift that began years ago, but is only just now reaching the surface. Remember the big 2005 lawsuit against the Realtors? When it settled last year, all the Realtor-owned listing services agreed to publish everything they had by February 15, 2009. Most missed that deadline, so the reality there is still a lot of data in the MLS that we can tell you about without showing you.
But so far Dave Fry, Arther Patterson and Jamie DeMichele have added 200 fields to our database, mostly minor stuff plus a few major items. In some markets, like the Bay Area, we can now publish the mortgage history, so you can find out what the seller owes on his place. In others, we got the property price history. When the Southern California listing services get their super-feed sorted out, we’ll be able to publish tons more information, since the listing services down there haven’t historically shared much data at all.
As they add data to their feeds, we’ll add data to the site, every month, until we have all of it up on the Web. It’s a big competitive advantage for us, since only brokers can publish this data, and most brokers don’t want to or haven’t gotten around to it. Our journey into Freakish Depth on listing data has only just begun.
Many, many thanks to all the development and quality engineers, the designers, the writers, the product managers and our compliance ace, Mary Black, who is responsible for cajoling data from the listing services. Your hard work makes us all proud and dang doesn’t it look good too?
As always, we’re anxious to hear what you think of the new release, so leave a comment and tell us what to do next!