Even in real estate, that oldest and most careful of all businesses, speed wins. That’s especially true in places like Denver or Portland, where nearly 10% of all listings are under contract 48 hours after their debut. Short of paying more, the simplest way to buy a home others want is to see it first, online and in person.
And this is why, after years of being first to post listings online, Redfin is now launching Book It Now, an on-demand service for seeing homes for sale in person. Alongside every listing on Redfin.com, we post a schedule of showing times, letting you set up a tour with a couple of clicks:
The user interface is simple, but the system underneath it has been years in the making. Our goal is to turn every listing into an open house that you can see on your own schedule, without having to explain to anyone how much money you have or why you want to move.
To pull this off, we’ve had to recruit a thousand of our own agents to reach all the neighborhoods, with incentives just to show you homes and offer friendly advice, not to size up your likelihood to generate a sale.
And then to make it work on your schedule, not your agent’s, we’ve had to organize our agents in teams, working days and evenings, seven days a week, using technology to keep everyone on the same page about what you’re looking for and how we can help.
We’ve parsed text from different listing databases to determine when listings are unavailable to show, identified homes likely to sell fast, and tracked our agents’ schedules, location and customer relationships to find the best one to host your tour.
As we host more tours, our agents have improved our scheduling algorithm, calibrating computer-suggested drive times against the actual mileage driven by our agents to make sure we’re punctual, with tour schedulers commenting on other changes made to the appointment.
What makes it all work is Redfin’s fundamental value proposition: that real estate is better when agents and technology from one company work together to support your home search.
The result in this case is that sometimes we can book a tour without talking to you at all. In most cases, especially if you’re new to our service, we give you a call to see if you have any questions. Over time, we expect to automate more and call less.
And as we grow, we expect to get you into homes faster and faster. The more Redfin agents we hire, the more likely one’s close by. And our software will get better: at anticipating demand, at scheduling agents, at estimating tour duration. Already a third of our tour requests are to see homes on the day of the request, double what it was just four years ago.
With mobile devices now driving two thirds of our traffic, we expect in another two years that a third of our tour requests will be same-hour, not just same-day, coming from folks standing in front of a listing with their iPhones.
The flash sales we began seeing in real estate two years ago aren’t just the byproduct of a temporary inventory shortfall in a turning market, but a permanent shift caused by instant alerts setting a thousand phones abuzz minutes after each listing’s debut. Soon those alerts will have buttons for touring or even bidding on the home on the spot.
All along, Redfin has believed that we could bring more liquidity to the real estate market, where buying a house wasn’t so costly and cumbersome that you’d first have to sign up in blood to live in it for a decade. And liquid markets are fast markets. Today, when you see something you want, it can take days to see it, and months to get it. Five years from now, it will all happen in a week or less.
An increasingly transient, contingent economy needs this, and Redfin and other brokerages are working hard to deliver it. As we do, it won’t just change how homes are bought and sold, but who buys them, and what it means to do so.