Yes, you read that correctly - I love Redfin. I'm a licensed real estate agent working at a traditional brokerage and I L-O-V-E Redfin, the discount, online real estate brokerage. But not for the reasons you might think (or they might hope) I would.
I was first introduced to Redfin in 2007, before I got my real estate license but after I had developed a near obsession with real estate. And oh what an amazing tool Redfin was to feed that obsession! They had developed hands-down the most accurate, user-friendly, and information-rich real estate search tool I had seen or have come across since. What Redfin has essentially done is taken information from the MLS (Multiple Listing Service - the real estate agent's database of past and present listings) and various other public information sources (tax records, school information, Google maps, etc.) and combined it into one simple search site with a (dare I say) dead-sexy user-interface. But I was never, EVER, ever-in-a-million-years, not even remotely tempted to use their discount brokerage services. Because by that time I had already purchased my first property and learned first-hand the benefits of having an experienced, responsive, knowledgable, well-connected, real estate agent on your side (shout out to Lamisse Droubi). More on that later...
To this day, years later as a real estate agent myself, I still use Redfin to search and track listings. To the shock and horror of some of my colleagues, I have even been known to send Redfin links to my clients. Why, you ask? Because I know for a fact that my clients are already looking at listings online and IMHO, Redfin has the most accurate, up-to-date, and easy-to-digest information that doesn't confuse or frustrate my clients. Unlike other consumer-facing real estate search services that have incredibly poor data quality (i.e. raise false hope about foreclosure opportunities, provide unrealistic property value estimates, and display out-of-date listings) who shall remain nameless.
So what I love about Redfin is their software - not their discount brokerage services. Their business model provides that their agents work for a discounted fee, cover large geographic areas and as a result provide a lower quality of service for their clients. They tout their refund ("You save $XXX by using Redfin!") to prospective clients, but this is misleading. A skilled, geographically focused, well-connected, full-service real estate agent will provide you with expertise that can save you money in your transaction (more accurate pricing/bidding of properties, avoid disclosure pitfalls, mitigate risk exposure, referrals to competitively priced service providers, counsel on market considerations that may effect future value, higher quality marketing to fetch the best price, etc). And beyond that, a quality real estate agent that is a true partner will add value for their clients well before and long after a transaction closes. They are a resource for market updates, reputable vendor referrals, remodel ROI input, neighborhood and community information, and the list goes on!
There have always been and will always be discount real estate brokerages and I commend Redfin for raising the bar in that sector. I welcome the shake-up of the status quo and believe that a new competitor in the marketplace will only raise the standard of service across the whole industry. Agents like myself who strive to provide a higher and more personal level of service will only be more motivated to up our game. And that is indeed a good thing.