Update 11/2012: Redfin does it again! Congrats! First they increase fees by 50% (post below in 2009), then 3 years later in 2012 they cut their rebate yet again, this time almost in half for a typical $475k homes. A 0.88% rebate, down from the 2008 2% rebate. And there is no more firm-wide published % for the r ebate, so the % rebate continues to drop quietly (based on a $600k home in April 2012, vs Nov 2012). Nobody will be the wiser. Unless you follow my blog.
This is a 2 part story. 1) Redfin Increases rates and 2) Fuzzy Math on Redfin’s “Advantage” calculation.
Many people might not know, Redfin two months ago increased their buyer agent commissions by 50% (now receiving 1.5% vs previously 1%).
I congratulate them. I have frequently said “I used to rebate, but then I got good.” (see Realtor Rebates also see Redfin Saves $27,000 vs FranklyRealty.com Client Saves $152,000! )
So I thought their 50% increase would be an interesting message to get out (few people know this, they just remember the headlines). But I also re-stumbled upon their “Real Estate Science” blog post claiming that they ALSO did better negotiating vs an average Realtor.
That is a pretty ballsy claim.
I see why they felt they had to unleash “data” since their jealous competition was trying to dismiss them by saying: What you gain in rebate, you lose in negotiations.
So their data proving they are better negotiators is great marketing, but it is just that, marketing. There is no scientific correlation to better negotiations (in my opinion).
A larger % off list is not better negotiation.
For example: I’ve often said, “I’d rather a buyer pay $12,000 over list on a property that is $50,000 underpriced, then negotiate $50,000 off on a home that is $100,000 overpriced.” See video on bank bidding wars. And recently I helped a client win an over list bidding war (6 buyers) and we were NOT the highest price. According to Redfin’s stats I didn’t do as good as an agent that got below list (regardless if that listing is overpriced).
Did you know that over 50% of Prince William listings sell for OVER list price? (based on 35 recent sales, not counting subsidy, which makes the stats look more impressive.)
A.D.H.D. Sidenote: Also they don’t allow lowball offers. While I could use this as an opportunity to say “use us, we will submit your lowball” that would be a bait and switch, since I actually don’t believe lowballs work (see video on lowballing).
Why do I feel compelled to write this? Am I threatened? Nope, I just get asked a lot about them (like to match them, which I personally won’t), and this 3 hours to write post will save me the 34 minutes explaining why. I just send the link. I guess that is shellfish, but it lets me focus my time on saving clients a lower NET, and yes it takes actual human hours to do this.
So what is wrong with their claim that they negotiate better (besides % off list not being a good indicator)?
They left off something pretty big in their stats…
- SELLER SUBSIDY –
Seller Subsidy is also called Seller Paid Closing Costs, or Seller Contribution, where the seller will pay part of the closing costs (bottom line, the seller cares about their NET, but I highly recommend to MAXIMIZE this number as it makes your home close HIGHER, long story for a future post, make sure to subscribe to this blog).
Anyhow, Seller Subsidy has skyrocketed in this market vs the 2005 boomtime. And lenders have STRICT requirements for how much “cash back” (regardless if that is from the seller or the agent) will be allowed on the HUD1*. (*Update 1/8/09: Redfin does somehow give rebates OFF the HUD1, they found a legal way to do this)
The result? A rebater, like Redfin, has to adjust their offer accordingly.
A) $510,000 Published Close Price with a 2% Seller subsidy= $500,000 NET to seller
B) $505,000 Published Close Price with a 1% Seller subsidy= $500,000 NET to seller
Same NET to Seller!
The “Close Price” looks 1% lower in Home B vs Home A.
So the major flaw in their data is Redfin is using the “Published Close Price” (Home B) NOT the NET closed price.
I brought this to Redfin’s attention, and they told me that the areas that they calculated do not publish the seller subsidy on the MLS. How convenient. (note that Lane Bailey questioned this on Redfin’s blog months ago, with no reply, and minutes ago I found his post on it and more Redfin exposes).
(Update 1/7/09: Redfin maintains that the subsidy data is not available in the area where the study was made. Ok fine, but I maintain that a rebater should know that subsidies are lower, and thus disclosed to the public that their data could be off significantly.)
However in Northern Virginia, our MLS DOES publish this
data (No Va is NOT in their science analysis since it is “too new”). When I ran my ROUGH unscientific stats, it showed that Redfin was .75% WORSE, almost a full 1% WORSE in the seller subsidy department. Again this is because the lender HUD1 closing docs will not allow total cash back (subsidy or rebates) to be too high (Update 1/9/09: see workaround above). My #s were based on 65 Redfin purchase closings in VA, vs 100 closings on Dec 29th 2008, which I do NOT consider 100% scientific, mere food for thought. (Update 1/9/09 I also ran 100 homes on April 4 2009 and jan 4th and got 1.4% and 1.6%)
(I’d love to know how they do on Home Inspections re-negotiations. This can sometimes take TWICE the time of the initial deal.)
The Net is so important, that on FranklyMLS.com I barely show the Previous Close Price on listings (yeah we are the only MLS site in the DC area that has this data), FranklyMLS.com instead emphasizes the NET closed price after subsidy.
So a super sharp consumer will say “AHA”!
And try to catch me with “You used the phrase ‘Same NET to Seller’, what about the Rebate? I care about the Net to the BUYER, ie my bottom line ’savings’. You can’t fool me Frank!!!”
If you didn’t catch that, don’t worry. This stuff is tricky (I Pitty Da’ Fool) , and numbers can be easily warped and manipulated. (When anybody tells me their “team” is #1 at this office or that, I like to say that I was the “#1 Realtor in the USA, 30 and Under, in sales volume… in my First Year in the business“ a true statement, ask me for details though.).
In their science blog post (which is kinda confusing) they claim “on average 1.015% below homes’ asking price, while customers of other brokerages paid .087% below asking price.”
Well with my previous post on % of list data . I showed the average agent getting about 1.5% off (talking closing price, NOT NET).
(update 1/8/09, the below is not scientific, it uses some of Redfin’s Seattle numbers and intertwines my ROUGH Va numbers. This is not a “scientific” comparison, but food for thought)
So if Redfin
a) Gets their clients 1% off on negotiations (their scientific data in Seattle)
b) Only .75% subsidy (My rough Va numbers)
c) 1.5% off with a rebate (was 2%)
Redfin Total = 3.25% Total off
Average Agent in Virginia
A) Gets 1.5% off (my rough Va data)
B) 1.5% average subsidy
Avg Agent Total = 3% Total off
(rough) RESULT? Advantage Redfin= 0.25% vs an Average Realtor. (do you see where I am going?)
Again, this is not a bashfest. I have recommended people for Redfin (mainly their great search engine), and they have very sharp Realtors that I have met personally. I Like Redfin. They are GREAT for the business and for my business.
If you have no alternative, sure why not beat the average by 0.25% (heck I do that with how I buy stocks via index funds)
Shameless plug coming on. Turn away! Hurry! EARMUFFS!!
We don’t offer Average service, here Excellence Comes Standard ™.
Written by Frank Borges LLosa- Broker FranklyRealty.com
Encore? Ok, here you go.
Two bonus stories on Discounters.
Update: my first story is under review. Long story, will explain later
<!– 1) I sold a staged end unit townhouse (specific post coming soon, so SUBSCRIBE) that got bid up $10,000 with 4 offers (yes in 2008) that went for $75,000 higher than same sized interior unit ($40k nicer tops) two months earlier. So high we had to negotiate OUT the appraisal contingency (which isn’t easy!)!
One of those bidders was Redfin (they actually had the cleanest/nicest visually, but not highest, written offer). That buyer tried to contact me directly. I sent them back to Redfin.
Two weeks later, a neighbor with an end unit listed $15k higher (a very small community) than my unit closed for. I told my Redfin contact about it. (sidenote: is anybody still reading this? If so, if you follow my stuff, I got an A- in my Torts law school exam, end sidenote). He knew already since his buyer contacted him. I told the Redfin agent that there was a nearby sister community (technically a diff zip, so easy to miss) that just reset $75k lower since a Short sale closed. That community was now a MUCH BETTER DEAL.
His reply was something like “Sorry, I can’t tell my client about that. We don’t do that. That type of advice isn’t part of our business model.”
Let me recap this neighborhood, all sold with the ONLY unit on the market:
Unit 1 sold for $450,000 Net after $80,000 in slow drops over 200 days
Unit 2 sold for $525,000. $10k OVER list with 4 offers in 4 days. FranklyRealty Listing.
Unit 3 sold for $525,000. $5k under list. Bought by Redfin (while the sister comm. was tanking)
Unit 4 sold for $460,000 in 91 days.
Analysis? I might be biased (which I am), but seems to me that some great marketing and staging helped get us $75k higher, then another unit listed and Redfin’s client bought it. Then another listing came on, and it went back down to $65k.
“Advantage” Buyer (their client)? or Advantage Seller of Unit 2?
Our listings are so good, I even say “Don’t Buy Our Listings”
Example 2) Another client had a horrible experience with an average Realtor (or maybe below average), so in the future they vowed to use a big rebator. Until they read my blog. Actually ALL of my blog (ask if you want me to send you the blog in book form). They read EACH post, even saying to me “I see you didn’t buy a Saab” which was in reference to the car buying post. They signed an Exclusive buyer agreement, see Exclusive Buyer Agency Contracts. Don’t Sign Them… Yet.
We played hardball on one house. So hard we didn’t win it. So we Round Robined (“Round Robin” Buying System. Unearthing The Desperate Seller.)
over to another house. We were so aggressive and impersonal (long story on my stategy, heck I can’t put it ALL online, or the other agent will read it) that the seller felt the buyer didn’t want it as a “home.” Apparently I wasn’t warm and fuzzy, and this deal needed that. So, having never dealt with a no counter like this, I got creative. We wrote a warm and fuzzy letter. Including a photo of the buyers and about how much they loved the fountain in the back… stuff like that.
They accepted the offer. No counter. About $10,000 to $15,000 below what my clients were willing to counter and about $50k below list. Few Realtors will take all that extra effort to fight for that last $15k. We do that.
The End. Please report typos.
Disclaimer: I might come off kinda cocky here. Sorry about that. I just love what I do and I get all worked up. I promise to be calm in real life, like a real person. Also make sure you subscribe to this blog (at the top of the blog).
And don’t forget my more frequent Video Blog http://youtube.FranklyRealty.com