Redfin Review: A Personal Experience Buying a House with Redfin.com

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.

Redfin-new-LogoAfter 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!

13 Comments so far
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worst experience of my life. stick with traditional brokers. enough said.

We have been working with a traditional broker for almost 5 months and it has been a terrible experience. We just had our first tour today with a RedFin agent after which we immediately made an offer on the house. Both RedFin representatives have been great so far.

Redfin are bunch of jackasses….other than being useless agents that do NO work for you, their forums are riddled with idiots and biased, unfair moderators who think being attacked by other posters and trying to defend yourself is inappropriate. Don’t waste your time using this service or website….go to a real agency and get a real agent…you get what you pay for…..using discount garbage to get a home is NOT a wise thing to do.

prodigious diary you’ve sit on

I’m wondering if the people who are knocking redfin are traditional agents in fear for their jobs. Who really needs an agent anymore to look through their secret database of house listings and try and find what they think we’re looking for, when we have this new thing called the internet.

Thanks for the article Jon. Trying to decide right now what offer to put down on a place, through redfin, and your article has been greatly appreciated.

Thanks for the article Jon. Trying to decide right now what offer to put down on a place, through redfin, and your article has been greatly appreciated.


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Redfin Review

Finding the right home could be very difficult– the right agent can make all the difference! We got started with Redfin because of their comprehensive web interface.

Find your next home: go tour properties that YOU have identified from their web page with their `touring agents’. They have many of them, try to stick with one who can point out pros and cons with a property. Because some of those agents just open the door and walk through the property.

Once you found what you like, your `main’ agent gets you property info., disclosures and market pricing. You discuss your offer, write contract and hopefully close-in.

But we noticed that the main agents are too busy.
After YOU do all the work to find the right property that fits you, these agents do not return phone calls, reply to emails and meantime that house is bought by someone else! When you complain- AGENT CENTERED redfin corporation refuses to do anything and says sorry!

If you choose Redfin, make sure you have someone all the way to closing. Don’t waste your time and effort.

Bought with Redfin last month. Here’s the process:
1. Get your pre-qual letter from your lender.
2. Use redfins site to search for houses within the area you want to move to.
3. Narrow down the list by figuring out what you want I.e. a turnkey or fixer upper and all the other usuals like number of bedrooms etc.
4. Drive by the houses on this narrowed down list. Lot size, slope, neighborhood, proximity to businesses and schools etc. (can be good or bad), etc.
5. Schedule a tour with redfin of final list of houses.
6. Submit offer on house of your choice. Review comps using redfins site if you aren’t sure what you should pay.
7. Once offer is accepted, comply with any Redfin or agent checklists, requests, forms to sign, etc.
8. Show up to closing.
9. Cash your rebate check, if applicable.

Thank you Jon. We did not want to go with a listing or seller’s agent for the most basic reason that they so not work for you. They have pledged to work in the sellers interest. We chose a buyers agent who works for us. We have now been touring with a Redfin agent and absolutely love her. She is not pushy, she has a good knowledge of recent home sales and more importantly condition of similar homes sold and legalities. We are still looking for the ideal home and it has been only 6mos. I will post my experience once we are done with the whole process. We have met three agents from redfin so far and they all have similar personalities. We are glad we did some research and chose them.

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