Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword

Engineering at Redfin

Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword

Whoa nelly! Redfin just released Redfin Scouting Report, offering Redfin users and customers free performance statistics on more than one million real estate agents: how many homes each agent sold, where, for how much, how fast, with how many price drops, how recently, all on a map.

Now just by typing in a name you can get the facts on any agent, even one not affiliated with Redfin, in every market Redfin serves — except in Seattle, Palm Springs, the Bay Area’s wine country and parts of Atlanta, where our data providers are more careful about what we can show. Hopefully this will help you make a better choice about which agent to hire, and hopefully that choice is more often to hire a Redfin real estate agent.

Trisha Solio, a Boston-area Prudential agent, kindly gave us permission to blog about her Scouting Report profile:

Trisha Solio, Prudential Real Estate Agent

Scouting Report helps you see how does your agent stacks up to the competition.

Remember How It Feels to Do Something This Good?

It’s hard to account for why Scouting Report is so compulsive – the gerbils we tried it out on absolutely demolished their cages after we took it away.

And it’s harder still to account for how I  feel about it — the megalomaniac pleasure of a Redfin creation, the mangled pride at the work my friends and teammates have done, the old Kelman craziness. When I first saw Scouting Report, it brought me back many, many years, to the nicest thing I ever heard anyone say.

All my sulky teenage friends and I used to play basketball with a squat, middle-aged man from Mexico, who made us pick every little kid for our teams, even eight-year-olds, even when we already had too many. The instant a tyke heaved up a tentative, hopeless shot the squat man would scream, “GOOOOOOD SH*T MAN!” Running back on defense, he’d tap the chest of the wide-eyed little kid, saying in the most earnest, kind way — as if it were the final truth about the world — “THAT’S SOME REAL GOOD S**T!!!”

I must’ve heard it a thousand times, but then forgot it until I first saw Scouting Report. A spasm sliced through me in the office of Redfin engineer Shu Wu, through all the crusty layers of adulthood, of studying for the test and waiting for the light. And I found myself almost yelling: “GOOD SH** SHU! THAT’S SOME REAL GOOD SH**!!!!” The best reason to work at a smaller company is so you can have just a few moments that good.

OK But How Will Publishing Data About Other Agents Help Redfin?

And Scouting Report really is that good. No one else has ever done this on such a large scale. Now for the first time, consumers can see what agents see about other real estate agents.

In some cases, what you’ll see is that an agent at another brokerage is a better fit for that neighborhood, an inevitability that has been a source of great controversy within Redfin. Why would we ever help anyone realize that a Coldwell Banker agent is her best choice?

But once you ask that question, you’ve already framed the debate in terms of short-term consequences rather than long-term principles. It leads you down a path where every market analysis concludes that it’s a good time to buy, and every review of a Redfin agent is five-stars.

The world doesn’t need more brokers like that. It needs a broker who will just tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We’ll win more clients that way than we’ll lose — and we’ll win everyone’s trust.

How Will The Industry React?

We still aren’t sure how other brokers in the industry will react on seeing their agents’ deals laid out, as ours already were, on a map. I’m optimistic. We as brokers and agents are acutely aware of why you spend more money on a real estate agent than a car: because the value of your largest investment hangs in the balance.

We can’t insist that we’re worth it without taking seriously consumers’ need to evaluate our performance. And as brokers we can’t pretend that refusing to provide this information won’t just leave it for other websites, with pay-to-play business models, to create only a partial directory, with less reliable data.

Hopefully the Scouting Report helps people make better decisions about which agents to hire, just as our listing search helps people make better decisions about which homes to buy. And hopefully that leads to more business for Redfin, which we earnestly believe employs the world’s best agents. If that also means it will help the best agents at other brokerages too, we can live with that. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

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Real estate redefined