Why I Work at Redfin: Zane Jacobs

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Why I Work at Redfin

Zane Jacobs is a Redfin listing specialist in the windy city of Chicago, IL. Originally from Eastern Europe, Zane brings a love for the outdoors and an ingrained work ethic to Redfin. A true Redfinnian at heart, Zane embodies the Redfin values to a T. She sat down to chat with us about her role at Redfin. 

First, can you tell me a little about your background?

I’m originally from Latvia in Eastern Europe, and sometimes when I go about my day as a real estate agent, I still shake my head. I grew up on a small farm in the middle of nowhere, and my parents raised cows, chickens, pigs and rabbits. We had three dogs and a multitude of cats. I went from living on a farm to selling real estate in Chicago, which is an odd trajectory in some ways. I studied linguistics, and I’m a trained simultaneous interpreter. I speak Latvian, Russian, German and a little Spanish. I have a seven-year-old son and live in Lakeview.

How did you first hear about Redfin, and what brought you here?

I started off in real estate in New York City in 2008. I was a project manager in the translation industry and didn’t like that I was tied to my desk all day. My compensation also didn’t change whether I did well or didn’t do well, so that’s when I realized I needed to make a change.

I decided to try real estate, and once I did, I never looked back. I did leasing in New York and then moved to Chicago in 2009. For my first real estate gig here, I spent two years negotiating short sales. I probably know more about short sales than most people, which is not really a bragging point, because it’s not pleasant.

Next I worked in new construction, single-family homes and gut rehab as part of a small team. We did 80-100 transactions a year, so I got used to doing high-volume work.

That’s when I first became aware of Redfin. I would encounter Redfin buyer’s agents who came to look at the houses we were selling. One of those was Greg Whelan, and I was impressed with his professionalism and his breadth of knowledge.

I also heard about Redfin from unrepresented buyers. As I was engaging with them, I’d ask, “How’d you learn about this house?”

Often they’d say, “Oh, I saw it on Redfin.”

And I’d think, “Oh, of course you saw it on Redfin. Where else would you see it?”

It sort of became running joke. Regardless of who the buyers were working with, they’d say, “I saw it on Redfin.” That’s when it dawned on me just how big and popular the Redfin website was.

I became curious and spoke with Redfin Agents to learn about the setup. That’s when I knew that if I ever left my current position, I wouldn’t go to a traditional brokerage. All my eggs were in one basket — it was Redfin or bust.

What’s unique about Redfin that you don’t see at other brokerages?

I like that there’s more stability with Redfin when it comes to customers. One of the parts of being a real estate agent that I’ve never enjoyed is the idea that I have to harass friends and family to refer me. That feels a little uncomfortable. Plus, I’m not originally from Chicago, so I don’t have decades of friends and family to lean on for leads. So I love that my leads come through this amazing website and internal referrals. At least half of my leads, if not more, come to me through Redfin buyer’s agents or other referrals.

How would you say that Redfin has enabled you to be a better agent?

It’s remarkable to me how working at Redfin has allowed me to marry two things: my extensive experience as a traditional broker and the Redfin marketing muscle. I don’t really see how that combination can be beat.

Every traditional broker I know personally in Chicago does wonderful work, and if the Redfin model didn’t work for a certain customer, I wouldn’t hesitate to send a customer their way. But they all offer the same thing. They can put your property on the MLS, and it’s going to be on major real estate sites, and they’ll do open houses — but Redfin can do all of that and so much more.

The fact that we have the most popular brokerage website in the whole country and can capture the data of buyers who are using that website, then use that data to our sellers’ advantage — that blows my mind.

I can go to my sellers and tell them, “Not only do you get all of my experience and effective marketing of your home, but we can also target buyers who are specifically looking for places just like yours.” To me, that’s huge. I feel like I’ve become a better agent, simply because I’m able to offer more.

I didn’t think much about this before I joined Redfin, but if you’re working as a traditional agent, you’re probably going to take every viable lead — which can stretch you over different types of properties and over a large geographical area. What I really like with Redfin is that we truly specialize in one area, so we can become the experts in that area. I know my territory inside and out by now, and I can stand up to any traditional broker there — and that’s pretty awesome.

Tell me a little bit more about your role as a listing agent. What does that entail?

Selling a home is such a big deal for people, and it can be so stressful. I’m a listing specialist, so I only work with sellers. I know the buyer’s agents get the happy-go-lucky clients who are excited because they’re buying their dream home, but I don’t get that. I get really anxious and stressed-out people, because they’re worried about the decisions they’re making.

One of my favorite things about this job is that I have the skills and experience to relieve as much of that stress as possible. I can be a reassuring presence through a time that’s uncertain and sometimes even scary. The Redfin specialization really helps me to be that for them.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your experience with Redfin?

As I was thinking about this talk, I began making a list of all the things I love about Redfin, and I realized, wow, there’s a lot.

I really enjoy the Redfin culture. I’m friends with a lot of Redfinnians, and we go out together. In some ways it still feels like this giant startup where everyone is ready to chip in when needed. But what I especially love is that Redfin is always ready to experiment and try new things. They’re not embarrassed to fold if the idea doesn’t work.

To me, a company that’s willing to try and fail and then try again is really exciting. I love being a part of it.

To learn more about becoming a Lead Agent and available opportunities, click here.

Published on October 26th, 2017
Updated on July 15th, 2019

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Kory searches high and low to recruit outstanding Real Estate Agents in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Outside of work, he can be found around the city cheering on The Cubs, Blackhawks, and Bears. Kory's dream house is close to the lake and includes a full-size gym and a man cave that would make any sports enthusiast jealous (he'll keep dreaming). He is always looking to discuss all things Redfin and real estate related.

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