Becoming a homeowner is exciting. You have your own turf. There's no more dealing with an angry landlord, unless you count that temperamental chipmunk in your new backyard. You own property. It's all very grown-up and sophisticated.
Finding your new home is significantly less thrilling. Ditto for finding someone to buy your old digs. Buying and selling a home are both tedious activities. There are difficult choices to make and mountains of paperwork involved, and it's often hard to tell if your real estate agent has your best interests in mind.
Enter Redfin. It's dedicated to simplifying both the home buying and selling processes — and to putting more cash back in your pocket.
What Is Redfin?
Redfin is a real estate brokerage website that connects potential homebuyers with sellers and local real estate agents. Founded in 2004 by David Eraker, David Selinger, and Michael Dougherty, the site — whose name means “real estate redefined” - started as a home-buying service only. Eventually, the ability to sell your home was added. Currently, the Seattle-based company operates in 80-plus markets in the United States.
What Happens With Redfin Stays With Redfin
As a buyer, you can use Redfin to view homes, research neighborhoods, and determine what you can and can't afford. You'll also be connected with a Redfin agent whose job is to steer you through the home-buying process from start to finish.
Image via Redfin
This agent connection is one of the ways that Redfin is different from other house-hunting websites; Redfin links home buyers and sellers with Redfin agents only. If you really want to work with your second-cousin Sheila's BFF Bob over at Century 21, you can't do it through Redfin. Redfin agents are all reviewed by the clients with whom they work, and those views are available on the website.
Redfin agents can also help you sell your home using their expertise in a variety of areas, including home valuation and the state of the market. Additionally, they can create a 3D walkthrough of your home, hold open houses, and conduct targeted marketing campaigns to promote your soon-to-be-former abode.
See What Your Home's Really Worth
Another standout feature is Redfin's home estimator. Touted as the most accurate home estimator tool on the web (based on an independent study commissioned by Redfin), it makes its estimates based on MLS data, including the value of nearby homes that have recently sold. Knowing the actual value of your current home improves your odds of selling it in a timely manner and helps you budget for your next home, too.
The Redfin Refund
Perhaps the thing that makes Redfin unique is that it offers buyers a rebate. With lender approval, you'll be given part of the agent's commission to cover your closing costs — usually about 15 percent. That's 15 percent of the 2 to 3 percent that the seller pays Redfin for representing you, and it saves buyers an average of $2,000. If your slice of Redfin's commission is more than your closing costs, Redfin usually cuts you a check for the leftovers. It's worth repeating that this rebate is subject to lender approval, and it's not available at all in Alabama, Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oregon, and Tennessee.
Sellers are incentivized to list with Redfin, as well. Most notably, the company charges a 1 or 1.5 percent listing fee (depending on market), which is roughly half that of the competition. Redfin also reports that its sellers unload their homes for $1,900 more on average, compared to sellers who use another service, and that 61 percent of homes listed on Redfin sell within three months, compared to the industry average of 50 percent.
Redfin's Unique Features
The Redfin Mobile App
Image via Dribble
Redfin's mobile app is a powerful, portable version of the Redfin website. Search results includes large, eye-catching photos. If you dig deeper, you'll find a host of details for each home and the opportunity to add your own pics and notes as you tour potential homes. The Favorites function lets you save the best, scrap the rest, and share your comments with your co-buyer and Redfin agent. Your Redfin agent can provide their honest insights about a home using the app, as well.
The mobile app is also useful for scheduling house tours — especially on the go. Since the listings are provided directly by MLS, they're updated frequently; the app means you have first dibs on the newest properties on the market.mobile app
Who Should Use Redfin
Redfin is geared toward motivated buyers and sellers who are comfortable with technology and doing research and groundwork on their own, and who don't want or need the level of attention provided by a traditional real estate agent.
How Does Redfin Work?
How To Look at Houses
Sign up with your name and email, and you're ready to go. You also have the option to add a co-buyer's email address so you can get feedback from them about your favorite homes and saved search settings. Once you verify your email, you can start searching for homes right away, or you can fill out a form to start talking to a local Redfin agent instead.
You can search for listings using a city, zip, agent, school, or street address. Filters are abundant and on par with other real estate sites, such as Zillow. You can tweak everything from the number of bathrooms you want to the maximum HOA fees you're willing to pay. You can also add keywords to your filter settings, such as “fireplace” or “robot butler.”
Redfin Homepage Screenshot
Search results can be displayed as a panel of photos with quick-look info, including the home's asking price, street address, square feet, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms; or they can be displayed in a table format that also includes how many days each property has been on Redfin. Both arrangements let you favorite a house based simply on these first impressions.
Clicking on a listing pulls up a mountain of information to aid you in your pursuit of the perfect home, including:
Additionally, you can contact the Redfin agent associated with that property and schedule a free tour from that page. It's one-stop shopping.
It's not one-agent shopping, however. When you schedule a tour, you'll be paired up with a local touring agent. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of Redfin, and the area where working with a traditional real estate agent has the biggest edge: consistent contact and care. As you visit promising properties using Redfin, in most markets, you can expect to work with a variety of agents. Going the traditional route, one agent will handle your search from your first tour through closing paperwork.
On the upside, Redfin's agents are all reviewed, and that information is displayed on each agent's individual page. Each review is starred and accompanied by information about the reviewer's transaction, including the home they bought and when they closed. This is a great tool to have when selecting someone to work with, but it's a bummer that you're not guaranteed to work exclusively with your handpicked agent.
How To List a House
Selling a home with Redfin starts with a free consultation. Enter your street address and phone number, and wait for a Redfin agent to call you back within the hour, seven days a week. During your chat, your agent will want the lowdown on your motivations as a seller. Maybe you're less interested in getting as much money as possible, for example, and instead need to sell your home quickly.
Redfin Booking Feature
Next, your agent will create a comparative market analysis, identify your home's most sales-worthy features, and suggest any improvements that he or she thinks will help your selling experience. Taking all these factors into consideration, your agent will then create a price point and work with you to determine the best time for your home to make its grand debut on the market. Using Redfin's Open Book feature, you can then search through rated and reviewed local service providers to snag that repairwoman or landscaper you need to get your home in tiptop shape before you start showing it off.
Can you request your Redfin agent?
You can select your primary agent by calling him or her or using the contact form on his or her Redfin page, but you'll be paired with touring agents through an automated service.
How much does Redfin charge to list a house?
Properties have a 1 or 1.5 percent listing fee dependent on their market.
Is the Redfin Refund guaranteed?
Not quite; it's subject to several conditions, as explained in Redfin's disclaimer.
Is This Worth It?
Using Redfin to find your next home is a worthwhile venture if you are:
Redfin is, in many respects, a self-service real estate tool suite. Yes, you'll work with an agent — okay, probably several agents — but the onus is on you to do more work than you would with a traditional agent, whether that's researching properties or scheduling (and hitching a ride to) each home tour. If you want more direction, Redfin may not be the service for you.
If you're a motivated, self-starting buyer or seller who's comfortable with a computer, Redfin's searching and listing tools are intuitive and helpful, and you'll ultimately be rewarded for your independence with a little more money in your bank account at the end of your buying or selling experience.