An Open Letter to Glenn Kelman, Redfin CEO, on the “Discount Real Estate Broker” Model

Post Updated 5/20/15:

P.S. Glenn, more than a year has gone by. I’ve busted my you-know-what trying to build a better Redfin-style mousetrap. And a couple of months ago, I said to myself: Wait a sec. I don’t think that sort of mousetrap is EVER going to work. I think technology and modern business practices have rendered that old type of mousetrap obsolete. The world is just waiting for somebody to invent something different entirely. Real estate isn’t immune to evolution. It just takes real change and a new way of doing things before it evolves.

So yesterday, I announced my imminent withdrawal from the NWMLS. A move made possible, in part Glenn, by Redfin’s devotion to solid data quality. Via FSBO platforms, I will be able to list homes for sale on Redfin – exactly where most buyers are looking in Seattle – without having to list on the NWMLS. And thus without having to pay a cooperating broker commission in the first place. But unlike Redfin and every other real estate firm – whether traditional or alternative – I won’t be on the NWMLS.

So this is where we part company – for now! 🙂  I suspect Redfin still has room to evolve…

-CB

The original letter to Glenn dated February 18, 2014:

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DOJ-"opt-out" and a war with a "discounter"

A new Broker opens an office and has no listings yet. He goes to area brokers and asks if he can advertise their listings in his “window” to help get him started. Mostly they say yes. They are not trying to force out the competition and they are more than willing to help him.

Now they walk past his office and they see their listings in his window. No problem. Until they see this big sign on top of the houses for sale, which are their listings. “Our Mission: To reinvent the existing residential real estate business — an ANTIQUATED, INEFFICIENT, and COSTLY system of selling homes!!”

That is an actual statement from a website. It used to be pages and pages of “Help us fight the GREEDY brokers! Join our CAUSE!

Well, do you think the local brokers wanted their listings in that “window”? Would you? So the “window” is the internet, same difference isn’t it? That guy was using their listings to show homes on his site because he didn’t have any listings yet, and badmouthing them at the same time. Does that seem right to you?

The brokers didn’t opt out against this company because he was a discounter. They opted out against this guy because he was advertising their listings (VOW site showing other broker’s listings) while at the same time badmouthing them and calling them greedy SOBs! That’s the kind of “mud” that causes the “opt out” provision to be invoked against a “discounter”.

The local brokers said get my #%$## listings off that guy’s site now!

What do you think? Do you think the brokers should be forced to let this guy put their listings on his site, while he badmouths them on the site at the same time? I don’t think so. But I’d like to know what you think.

This is what the DOJ suit is about. The DOJ is trying to remove that right of brokers to say, OK, you can use my listings. But don’t sling mud at me from behind the picture of my listing! If you do that, I’m taking my picture out of your “window”.

Of course we could break his kneecaps, but opting out seems like a better answer 🙂 The brokers “opted out”. The new company didn’t have any homes to show on his site. He cleaned up the site a lot, though the Mission is still as it appears above without the CAPS, and a compromise was reached. Opting out is a negotiation tool to prevent companies from getting started on other broker’s listings while slinging arrows at them. There is another group involved. Same theory. EBAs. But they are “Johnny come lately’s to the suit”, so let’s stop at this example.

Tell me how you feel about all this.