Redfin: The Greatest Real Estate Website Ever

By Carlos Portocarrero on 15 September 2009 (Updated 1 October 2010) 19 comments
Photo: Redfin Logo

Buying a home is one of the most stressful, nerve-racking experiences in the world—and I haven't even bought one yet.

M and I almost made an offer on a place we technically shouldn't have. And we've seen a couple of places we really, really liked. But still no dice.

Throughout the whole search, there has been one constant: Redfin. Before I go any further, I want to say that I am NOT being paid to gush about Redfin nor am I going to gush about their business model, which has a whole lot of controversy surrounding it. What I'm going to gush about is their website, which has been instrumental in our search for our first home.

Finding a Home

The first thing you'll need to do is tell the site what you're looking for. And the search variables you can enter are pretty standard:

redfin search

Tell Redfin what your criteria is and you'll be taken to the results page, which is kind of like a hybrid of Google Maps and an MLS sheet.

redfin results

The top half of the page is a map showing all the results that match what you asked for in terms of price, bedrooms, etc. By the way, not this many results show up for my searches. This area and this price is beyond my means.

The bottom section shows you a listing of the properties showing on the map with crucial information like price, address, square footage, and how many days it's been on Redfin.

Click on any of the icons on the map or listings on the bottom and you'll get a small preview of images on the right hand side. If you like what you see, click on Details to get to the really good stuff.

The Details Page

This is where Redfin really shines—the details page has everything you could possible want about the property you're looking at. Let's take this place as an example.

OK, this first section gives you a short description beneath the obvious stuff like bed, bath, exposure, the MLS #, and of course the images on the right. Some sites are really annoying about how they show images, but I like this system that lets you scroll through without opening a whole bunch of new windows.

Like what you see? Then it's time to move on to the next section (I'm going to ignore the business side of Redfin until the end, so any section where they're selling themselves will be ignored).

Let's move on to the next area, which shows more detail about the property, like room sizes and appliances.

This is where M and I made sure the places we were looking at had central air, a washer/dryer, and that the bedrooms weren't going to have us at each other's throats after a while. Tax information is also on here, which is good to make sure you can afford.

Also in this section is a handy-dandy mortgage calculator, which is great to make sure you can actually afford a place or not. Notice the iPhone app logo? I don't have an iPhone, but if it does what the site can do, it must be a nifty little app. If you've tried it, please share your experiences in the comments!

Moving right along, the next section has some really cool features:

The map shows you a hybrid view of the property so you can get a quick idea of where the heck you might be living. Don't like the view? Click on the Bird's Eye View and you'll see a cool angle of the same place. Also in this section is the Property History section, which shows you any price changes that have been made to the place. This is really interesting stuff and can give you a good idea of how desperate and how willing to negotiate a seller may be. Property tax info is also here.

The next section gives you an idea of the comparables in the area:

This is all great info to have to see if this place is priced right for the neighborhood. The median condo value is sometimes off, but usually gives you a good sense of what other prices are out there. It's also cool to see the similar listings here, because they usually show you places that match what you're looking for. Not pictured in this screenshot is a field that shows recently sold properties in the area. That's also very, very valuable if you're thinking of putting an offer in.

Redfin: The Business

Like any other business, Redfin is about making money. I don't know much about their business or if it's a great service. I do know that they refund buyers a portion of the commission a real-estate broker typically takes in from the seller, which is nice. Is it worth it to use an "internet broker" to save some money? Maybe, I don't know.

I do know that we aren't even considering it for now—we're using a broker a friend recommended and trusted when he bought his first home.

But in terms of the website and all the information they provide on a single page, I haven't found a better site. If anyone else out there has, please feel free to share!

Inside tip: If you know of an address that has a place for sale, type it into Google and odds are Redfin will have it on there somewhere. If not, type the address (100 W Fake Street) and then "redfin" and it's sure to show up. I do it all the time!

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Guest's picture
breilly

Thanks for the article, I've never used Redfin but after poking around on the site I can definitely appreciate the features - very cool.

Personally I just bought a modest condo and I'd have to say the most helpful site for me was this random info page on a prudential site:

http://www.keithreilly.prudentialfoxroach.com/prufoxroach/modules/agent/...

The details about buying/owning a home and taxes was extremely helpful, especially for a real estate newbie such as myself. Anyway thanks for the article!

brian

Guest's picture
kaj

So far, Redfin is available in only a few areas. So it won't work if you're looking in, for example, Oregon or New Mexico.

Guest's picture
Snakecitygirl

Nice site but it's not available for 90% of the country ... only for some of California and a very few big cities outside of the Golden State.

Totally useless to me in Vermont.

Guest's picture
Drew

This site seems like it could really be useful. Sadly, they only offer their service in a select few markets at this time. As they expand, I can see them becoming a force to be reckoned with, similar to a Zillow or Trulia!

Guest's picture
Lorenzo

We made heavy use of Redfin while shopping around. You have to be cautious about using it for comparisons with area houses that are not currently on the market. The relevant sale details for our house have not shown up on Redfin even after 6 months. Zillow is handy for comparisons as well, but it always overestimates the market price, at least in the areas we looked.

Guest's picture

Hi Lorenzo,

I'm sorry that we don't have your past sale yet; we should definitely have it within a few weeks of the sale. If you email me at matt.goyer@redfin.com I'll look into why it isn't showing up.

Guest's picture
Guest

Meh. Would probably be less useful in my state, where by law sale prices are kept secret from the public. Unless Redfin somehow gets access to those figures, in which case it would be awesome.

Guest's picture

It'll be interesting to see if either of these two websites are able to sell themselves for decent multiples. They may be about 3 years too late though, however, I have to imagine someone buys these guys.

Keep on saving WC Porter, and don't bend to temptation without at least 30% of the value of your property saved up in cash! Redfin supports at least a 20% downpayment, and likes the 10% savings buffer afterwards too.

Thanks for the article!

Guest's picture
Katie

I find franklymls.com to be much more accurate in my neighborhood. I bought my home recently, and it did not show up in redfin when I searched the address.

Guest's picture

I'd be checking the real estate market in my area for one property in particular -- it was on the market, then off, and then one Saturday, I logged on to redfin and saw it was back on -- and $40,000 cheaper.

We checked out the house the next day, put in an offer two days later, and got an agreement right away!

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

Redfin works really well for California, but like some of the commenters said, it just doesn't have enough backing to break into some states.  I have been using Redfin since its early early days and saw a lot of improvements.  I really do hope it sticks around. 

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

That's interesting, I didn't realize that it didn't have the amount of coverage it has here in Chicago. I used it for fun in New York and it looked the same as it does here.

Too bad cause it's a lot of fun to browse on!

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Guest's picture
Chris Cruz

I work in the mortgage industry and keep saying that the internet will replace real estate agents who are just middlemen. I see sites like this all the time but they are difficult to navigate, require a membership to just look, or limited to certain areas. There needs to be a simple real estate site that's easy for the seller to post and easy for the buyer to browse. And make communication between the buyer and seller simple. Like Craigslist but a bit more sophisticated

Guest's picture
Ellen

As many have commented, this site still has limitations on the areas which it covers, though I think that this is a great resource for someone looking to buy a home. It's amazing to see the ways that technology is advancing the amount of information we can receive in a heartbeat.

Guest's picture

I use Redfin for browsing homes in my city. It is very helpful to finding homes within my price range. But, I do use it in conjunction with Zillow. Zillow seems to have more homes listed, and yes, I agree with Lorenzo, they do over-estimate a home value. Between the two websites, I can usually find plenty of homes to look at or find a specific address of a home I'm curious about.

I'm more curious about who's actually using Redfin to buy a home. What is the process? How many other's were bidding on the same property? Was it easy to secure all the paperwork and close escrow?

thanks-
Little House

Guest's picture

Redfin understands today's consumer!

Guest's picture
Bvue2009

My good friend purchased a home through Redfin, and had great things to say about the company. Following his recommendation, we also used Redfin to purchase our first home. We really liked the process. Individual agents do not get commission based on your buying/selling a home. Redfin gives them bonuses based on customer service surveys that you complete. It aligns the interests of the agent and the buyer/seller. If you are like I am, and already do a ton of Internet research, Redfin is the way to go. The cash back refund is also a sweet reward. We got back 1.5% of the home purchase price (1/2 the buyer agent commission.)

If you live in a Redfin served market, I highly recommend you at least check it out. Also, I am in no way involved with Redfin, I just can't stand Realtors.

Guest's picture
Nicole M

I'm house-shopping myself, and I've been extremely pleased with www.ZipRealty.com. It pulls MLS-type listing and has there different street views, schools, maps, comparable home sales, etc.

Guest's picture
Coronel

If you are a well-informed buyer you might search or sell your home for yourself and the result might be great. However, in my experience there is some people who don't know much about real estate and end up engaging in situations that compromise them legally and financially. For those I guess it's better to hire a GOOD Real Estate Agent.