A couple of national outlets have had interesting stories about Redfin in the last few days. Since you’re not likely to read about it in the “we pretend Redfin doesn’t exist” local agent blogs, I thought I’d highlight them here. First up is a New York Times story that claims the bursting of the real estate bubble isn’t stopping Redfin (or Zillow, Terabitz, and Trulia) from growing.
It was late October, and Redfin, an online real estate brokerage firm based in Seattle, had received just three months earlier a $12 million investment led by the marquee venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. In the interim, the mortgage industry melted down, foreclosures spiked and housing sales slowed to a crawl. Now, one of Redfin’s biggest markets, Los Angeles, was battling a series of wildfires and Redfin’s sales had stopped cold.
Redfin was not the only victim of bad timing. Venture capitalists poured about $50 million into three other real estate Web sites last year — Zillow, Terabitz and Trulia — only to watch the market enter a historic slide.
Now, although most of the real estate industry wishes it could fast-forward through 2008, these online start-ups are surviving nicely. Each company recently reported strong sales and increases in Web traffic. Trulia surged to the top by the end of 2007, from sixth place in 2006, according to Nielsen Online.
Although these sites are not growing as quickly as they might have during a bullish market, they are at least growing.
“In September, we thought it was maybe the beginning of a very long downturn,” said Glenn Kelman, Redfin’s chief executive. “But for whatever reason, the last few months have been very strong for us.”
The second story, from Forbes, chronicles some of the unique trials Refin has faced as they have positioned themselves as an alternative to traditional brokerages.
Glenn Kelman, Redfin’s chief executive, knew it wouldn’t be easy to shake up the real estate brokerage business. Tradition-minded and protective of their turf, Realtors don’t take kindly to discounters. Still, says Kelman, he scarcely anticipated the dirty tricks aimed at his online discount brokerage.
In southern California Redfin’s for-sale signs are often knocked down, stolen or smashed. In Seattle a traditional Realtor posted Kelman’s address online, and a sturdy Redfin yard sign at his house was soon hacked down. In a national forest near Yosemite National Park someone affixed fake Redfin bumper stickers to signs, trees and rocks to make the company look like a shameless promoter and defiler of the environment. After Redfin staffers removed the stickers, which they have never used to pitch the Seattle company, the trickster started tossing the signs, attached to weights, into branches of sequoias. “I never considered how violent the reaction to us would be and what that would mean to our customers,” says Kelman, 37.
Yikes. If that’s how some of these real estate “professionals” act, I guess I can understand why many of my bubble-blogging counterparts around the country have chosen to remain anonymous.