This email was sent to all Redfin employees.
Redfin is being sued by the National Fair Housing Alliance over our practice of choosing which properties our own agents serve based on the likely sales price of the property. This 76-page lawsuit was filed in court and distributed to the press at the same time this morning that it was sent to us, so we haven’t had time to process its claims.
Redfin Hasn’t Broken the Law
What we know now is that Redfin complies with the Fair Housing Act, which clearly supports a business’s decisions to set the customers and areas it serves based on legitimate business reasons such as price.
Our Challenge: Paying a Living Wage
Our long-term commitment is to serve every person seeking a home, in every community, profitably. The challenge is that we don’t know how to sell the lowest-priced homes while paying our agents and other staff a living wage, with health insurance and other benefits. This is why Redfin agents aren’t always in low-priced neighborhoods. It’s why Redfin doesn’t serve many rural towns.
We’ve Expanded The Range of Communities We Serve
Throughout our history, we’ve made progress in broadening the price range of properties we could profitably sell, expanding from Seattle and San Francisco to cities across North America. We’ve built a network of over 5,000 partners in an effort to serve customers for every home on our site, but our own agents still can’t make a decent living selling the lowest-priced homes.
Customers and Employees Before Profits
Technology-driven efficiency gains have slowed, and though we now have different tiers of salaries and bonuses, we’ve balked at developing a tier that includes no salary at all, or no benefits. Certainly no one can complain that Redfin itself has been greedy about our income as a corporation when, in our sixteen years of being a brokerage, we’ve never made an annual profit.
Every Business Has to Balance Employee and Customer Needs
It’s just hard to pay employees a living wage, while giving good prices to consumers. Most businesses, whether Walmart or Amazon, Tiffany or Sotheby’s, feel compelled to choose one or the other. We’ve always strived to do both. In an imperfect world full of choices we don’t always like, my ironclad commitment to you, beyond complying with the law in letter and spirit, is to do what we believe is right.
We Can’t Discuss a Lawsuit With the Whole Company
Even though the suit is wrong about the law, the issues it raises are important to Redfin, to our society and to me. We have a long history of expanding into lower-priced communities; we want to expand faster. We can’t discuss a lawsuit with the whole company, but we’ll post this email to our blog, and keep you apprised of our plans to broaden our reach.