My wife and I started looking for houses over one year ago. Initially, it was fairly informal, just looking at information online. I mostly stuck to Zillow.com and a few local realtor sites. Then one of my coworkers, who was also looking for a house, mentioned Redfin.com. An odd name, I thought, but worth checking out.
I was really impressed with their online interface. Zillow gave a good amount of information but was frustratingly slow. Redfin was fast, gave lots of good info, and was easy to filter. So I started using it more and more, including to scout out open houses.
After a few months of open houses, we decided to get more serious about finding a house. I considered using Redfin, but I was hesitant: Surely they couldn’t provide as good service as a “real” broker could, right? My wife and I both knew pretty much exactly what we wanted, and spend most of our lives on the internet anyway, but we still thought we might miss something by not using a traditional broker. Boy were we wrong.
We called a broker we met at an open house, and started looking at houses with her. It was a big disappointment. We wasted time at a lot of terrible houses, and felt extremely pressured towards certain ones. She would also say things like “Well if this is the house you want I would make an offer above the listed price just to make sure because it’s going to go quick”, and then I’d notice 6 months later the house went for 15% below its listed price.
Part of the problem was that this broker just didn’t seem to understand what we wanted. I was getting daily emails from Redfin with new houses, which I’d look at before work in the morning, usually dismissing all of them. And yet later that week I’d get an email from our broker excited about the exact same houses I had quickly dismissed.
After a few months, we decided to “break up” with our realtor and give Redfin a try. I placed a request to see a house we had wanted to look at that went off the market, but had just come back on. Literally five minutes after I placed the request, I received a call from the local Redfin tour coordinator, and we scheduled a tour in two days. I was very impressed with how prompt they were.
On our second trip out with Redfin, we found a house that we decided to place an offer on. Filling out the offer form on the website was a bit nerve-wracking, partially because they ask you how much you want to offer – something that is normally suggested to you by your agent. Redfin did provide good tools and guides on their website though for determining a good offer price though. We heard back fairly quick from Hannah, one of the main Redfin Boston agents.
The experience of putting together the offer went pretty smoothly, though I did feel like I could have used a little more guidance when it came to the offer price … I almost felt as though Redfin wasn’t allowed to suggest a price, though I don’t think that is the case.
In the end, this particular house fell through due to a terrible inspection.
Over the next few months, we worked with Madeline, an excellent Redfin tour agent. We loved that she never ever pressured us towards liking a house, and always gave her honest opinion when we asked.
Then one day late last summer we found our house, and gave Hannah a call on the way from the house. That night Hannah put together a comparative market analysis on the house and the next day helped us put together an offer. We received a much higher counter-offer, but this time Hannah gave us some very specific advice on how to respond which was very helpful.
We gave Redfin a thorough testing over the next few months. While our inspection went fairly smoothly, we did need to have a few contractors look at some issues that came up. Hannah was great at recommending people for the job, and also took care of making sure a Redfin agent would be present when the contractor showed up.
Then we had an issue with the appraisal, which was a nightmare in many respects, but Hannah and Redfin were there the whole time for us.
I think my only criticism of Redfin is that they only have three closing agents for all of Boston, and I often felt as though Hannah was overworked. For example, she seemed to be at a closing nearly half the days I called her! She did always get back to me the same day though. More importantly, she took as much time as was needed to explain things and help calm my frayed nerves.
I also got the feeling Hannah was a really good agent – she seemed to know a lot about the business. For example, when I mentioned we’d be using the bank’s attorney for our closing, she strongly recommended against it and gave me a list of lawyers. We went ahead with the bank’s attorney anyway and regretted it immediately. So we hired one of the lawyers Hannah recommended, who ended up being fantastic, and was absolutely essential when we ran into issues with the purchase & sale agreement and appraisal.
We finally closed, which funnily enough was the first time we met Hannah in person. Then 10 days later, as promised, we received a check for over $4,000 from Redfin. I mention the specific number because I want people to know that you do actually get a non-taxable check from Redfin for the amount they tell you you’ll receive. We actually got paid to buy a house!
One note though on that commission refund: I mentioned earlier a house we put an offer on that fell through. The refund shown on that house’s detail page on Redfin showed a refun around $4,000, but after we placed the offer the fine print showed the refund for that house would have only been around $2200. This is because that house’s commission was 2%, while the one we purchased was 2.5%. Apparently Redfin bases their refund approximation, shown on a house’s detail page, on 2.5% even when that same page lists it as 2%. This seemed a little bit unfair, but since we did end up with a house with a 2.5% commission I was of course less bothered.
In the end, I wholeheartedly recommend Redfin to anyone who feels as though they have a good idea of what they want from a house, and who doesn’t mind spending time on the internet searching out houses.
Now that the check has cleared, I can even say that I would have gladly used Redfin even without the commission refund!