Buying a Home with Redfin vs. Full Service Agent

When we were purchasing our “forever home” a couple years ago, we did a lot of the searching on Redfin.com but made the purchase with a full service agent.

Redfin.com is a real estate search site that has full-service agents on staff to help you close on a home.

I would do all of my searches with Redfin.com, go to open houses, and otherwise use the service like my own personal home search engine. At the same time, we had a full service agent who was willing to continue scouring the MLS (multiple listing service, the real estate registration service used by brokers in our geographic area) knowing what we were looking for.

We would eventually find our home through very creative legwork on the part of agent, which I’ll explain below.

In using this dual system, I became familiar with the advantages of both methods (Redfin vs. full service agent).

Advantages of Redfin

The number one advantage of Redfin is in cost savings. The standard brokerage commission on a home sale is 6%, with 3% going to the buyer’s agent and 3% going to the seller’s agent. When you buy with Redfin, they get their 3% Buyers’ Agent commission and splits a portion of that with you. The amount is based on a sliding scale and that amount is shown on each listing on Redfin.

I just peeked at a listing for a $397,000 townhome nearby and the commission refund was $2,780 (0.7% of the purchase price).

Redfin is able to do this because they pay their agents on a flat rate, rather than a percentage commission.

Redfin’s other advantage, which you get even if you don’t buy through them, is one of the most well-designed real estate search engines available. I’ve looked on some of the local and national real estate brokerages and their searches are abysmal. While you don’t get the up to the minute results like with the MLS, it’s good enough in a market like this one.

Another advantage in the data each of the listings pull in. If you’ve ever seen a standard real estate listing, it doesn’t have much outside of the specifications of the property. Redfin pulls in from various data sources to include a lot of local pricing data, schools, and even notes from other agents who have visited. It just speeds up the research process.

Advantages of a Full Service Agent

Hands on attention and a better understanding of the area you’re looking in. A full service agent, in helping you buy a home, will be vested in trying to get you into your ideal home as soon as possible and should spend the time to understand your needs. They don’t get paid when you look at houses so they’ll only want to show you the ones they know you’ll like.

They will also get creative. When we purchased our second home, our agent knew we liked a certain area and scoured the unsold listings from the last few years and contacted the listing agents. We found a home we loved, arranged a visit, and ultimately purchased the home. You will only get that from a full service agent.

Real estate agents are like anyone other service provider, quality will vary. If you get a really good one, like we did, and it’s fantastic. If you get an unresponsive one, someone who isn’t as committed or interested in your success, then none of these advantages matter.

What’s the big difference?

It comes down to this — Redfin pays you to do more work and helps you with some tools.

A rock-solid full service agent cannot be beat. Someone who is hungry, attentive, and knowledgeable will beat out every single time.

The problem is when you get a full service agent who doesn’t give you full service. To avoid that, I’d ask for references or look up transactions they were involved in to learn more about their process and techniques. Do your research because there’s a world of difference between a good and bad agent.

Besides the specific agent you get, one big difference is that Redfin will never require you to sign a contract to start looking at houses. Some agents will.

I’ve heard horror stories where an agent required a buyer sign a contract for a year before the agent would show them any houses. The buyer, not knowing any better, did and then found a new construction they loved which didn’t require or need them to have a buyer’s agent. They had to either pay off the agent or wait for the year to expire before buying a home! (and you can imagine it was not a pleasant experience)

I understand why an agent would want a buyer to sign a contract. Showing homes is time consuming but I believe that cost is part of the business.

In the end, you get what you pay for. I’ve never used Redfin to buy or sell a home but folks who have tell me it’s very transactional. If you’re a DIY type, it’s perfect for you. If you need guidance or you’d like someone to search for you, then it’s not as hands on as a good full service agent might be. Then again, a bad full service agent is not worth the extra so it comes down to finding a solid agent.

This article supports our Buying Your First Home Guide.

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a thirty-something father of three who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and a farm in Illinois via AcreTrader.

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These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  1. kk says

    We used Redfin to buy our house. We actually started out with a full-service agent that was with an agency who had a relationship with one of our employers. She was very traditional and felt that her “knowledge” of the market exceeded any research we did on our own. Further, most of the houses my husband and I identified were a result of our efforts, not her’s. Once we came upon Redfin, it was the perfect solution. Our agent was much more technologically savvy and comfortable with how people search for houses these days. Realtors’ value isn’t what it used to be – potential buyers can peruse the internet at their whim and identify houses as soon as they are posted on the MLS. Further, potential buyers have access to a ton of data regarding past sold prices to understand market trends. Our Redfin agent appreciated that we were knowledgeable buyers that wanted to understand the market that we were investing. And in terms of her time investment, she was very responsive to all of our calls/questions and had no problem spending full days at a time (we were out of town buyers flying in to look at houses) showing us houses. And when it came down to he rebate, yes – we got $6000 plus back at closing – without a doubt, it was worth it. In fact, that covered the majority of our closing costs – why spend money on services that aren’t needed?

    • Jim says

      Exactly!

      If you have a plain vanilla real estate agent, you’re over paying. If you have someone who is a rockstar, attentive to your needs and goes above and beyond (which says something, to have to use that qualifier), then they are worth the fee. Would you pay $6,000 for someone to find you a house you couldn’t find on your own? To send out fliers or mailers to a neighborhood, to scour old unsold listings, and other creative methods? Sure.

      But to pay $6,000 extra to print out a list of houses on the MLS? No thanks.

      Redfin is pushing agents to do more to work for their commission, rather than collect a fee for the standard stuff.

      • Satbir Gill says

        Buyers don’t pay agents out of their pocket when they purchase a home. That fee is charged to the seller. What you are saying is incorrect.

        • Jim Wang says

          The seller will take this into account in any pricing decision, the actual individual handing money over to the agent is irrelevant. If instead, the buyer paid the commission, then housing prices would adjust accordingly.

          • Stuart Scholer says

            All commissions paid are part of the cost… whether you are a Buyer or Seller. If the total commission is less then the Seller is able to lower the asking price if necessary. The Market decides the price but individual circumstances (including Agent knowledge and competence) and liquidity needs will make that “asking price” vary several percent plus or minus. Real Estate is not liquid like an ounce of gold. In every large market there are individual Agents that can meet or beat Redfin’s model. As Mr. Wang says you just have to figure out which one will work for you.

    • Tim Stites says

      Do you understand that not all properties available or coming on the market are listed on the MLS and good full time agents know about such properties? Stop being delusional, RedFin will lose you money!

      • Jim Wang says

        While true, I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to skip Redfin completely. I’d argue that an agent who sells a home without listing it on MLS, and getting it in front of as many people as possible, is not fulfilling their responsibility to the seller.

        • Helping Hand says

          I have to tell you that you are incorrect in regards to a new home purchase and someone signing a buyers contract. There is no paying off a realtor. That is not legal nor is it ethical. I have never come across that scenario and I don’t know who you spoke to and how much research you did. Quite honestly it sounds like you made it up on the fly. The commission on a new home is built into the price including incentives. So if a full service agent doesn’t receive it the builder will. I most recently was able to get my client all his closing costs paid plus his HOA for two years. Including all his appliances window treatments and Alexa smart home features including a ring camera for the front door. A knowledgeable agent will know the market and find off market listings and go the extra mile for the client. I can tell you there is much more involved in the buying and selling of a house successfully than sticking a sign in the ground and collecting a commission. I negotiated a 25k discount off the price of another home. 5 bedroom fully furnished home with everything you need it was a brand new vacation home and the people who owned it were from out of the country and I noticed it was going into foreclosure after my research. I was able to get this home with all the bells and whistles and had the owner pay all the closing costs. It is an honorable profession for us. Maybe there are a few like with any career that don’t live up to standards but most of us work hard and care for our clients and their families well being. To me they aren’t just dollar signs. You can’t even pay to have that type of guidance and loyalty.

          • El Guapo says

            Sounds like you’re trying to defend your profession against the winds of change… Like a rude cab drive that doesn’t care that his cab smells, or that his abnoxious music is too loud, or that the Uber/Lyft driver next to him at the stoplight is giving better service, with more comfort, making a better living, and is charging less..

            I sold homes for a home-builder, and let me tell you – when a realtor came in with a customer, we knew we were losing $, so we didn’t give the customer the same incentives they would have had without a realtor. The customer lost out on that transaction – not me, and the realtor – all they did was peruse MLS listings and tour the poor buyers from house – to – house – to house. You’re tooting your own horn about how you negotiated 25k, but the reality is – if the buyer is savvy and knows how to negotiate – they can do that themselves. The difference is – you’re talking to the seller’s agent, and the only leg up you have is that you know which questions to ask, but now we have the internet – so buyers don’t need you as much a they used to.

            Can you feel it? Can you feel those winds of change?

    • Barb says

      I am a Redfin agent and have worked as a traditional agent as well. I have never changed the service I give to a client. I work just as hard if not harder now for both my buyer clients and my seller clients. I’m not sure where you area all hearing Redfin is just an online service. We are real people/agents stomping ground in neighborhoods throughout the country.

  2. Enzo says

    I did not care for Redfin, they have agents show the property and the agent they assign to represent you often never even saw the home they are going to “represent” you on. The Redfin agent did not know to include some mounted speakers and appliances as the Redfin agent did not even know they are there and never has been to the home. So they offer you a rebate but you loose in on the other end. On the selling side they lowball the target list price, it seems they only want to go after the low hanging fruit for an easy sale. They will refuse to take the listing over a price they suggest, she told me they get reviewed and have to sale the home. We listed for $15k more with a non-Redfin agent it sold in the first week and we had 2 offers. Not only did our agent match the same commission Redfin offered but we got $15K more. Redfin hires mostly failed agents that cannot make it in a traditional Real Estate office, beware!

    • Jim says

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, I think it’s important to note that you can’t expect a full realtor experience when working with Redfin because they rely on higher volume since they earn less per unit sold. I imagine that a rock solid real estate agent will beat Redfin every single time but there are plenty of mediocre or new or bad agents that overcharge compared to Redfin, right?

      • Jennifer says

        I heartily disagree Jim. You SHOULD expect a full service experience with your Redfin agent and if you don’t get it, you should rate them on their survey accordingly.
        We are paid a salary with benefits, but we DO get a bonus at the end of the transaction that is directly connected to a customer service survey. We send them out a few days after the closing and all of them are posted to the agent’s profile. ALL of them. Good or bad. Trust me, the bad ones hurt, because we go out of our way to earn a 10 out of 10.
        I would also say that the “VS” in the title of this article puts me off. Redfin IS a full service brokerage with a very different business model and the advantage of some really spectacular software. The rebate is icing on the cake. We do not have buyers sign agency agreements until they are putting an offer on a house, and the agreement is specific to that house, so there is no pressure to continue working with us if you are unhappy. We can also change your primary agent if you are not “clicking” with them.
        I’m really sorry that you had a bad experience Enzo. All I can say is that we are continually growing and learning. Redfin is a relatively new company and the concept is also very new. Unfortunately, we will have some duds out there, but that is why the reviews are so important. We don’t want “failed” agents. We want experienced agents with excellent customer service skills.

        • Jim Wang says

          Hi Jennifer, it could be the timing of my original review and the experiences back then. Many years have passed so it’s very possible that things have evolved since then (as many companies often do) and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts!

          • chang says

            Redfin please please please be the Uber of real estate , consumers are in great need of a company that is well structured and actually have a modern business model. There are good honest agents out there, but there are far too many fly by night agents, hence the industry needs a major overhaul. Most of the bad agents only cares about you when they can make a buck from you and runs when they can’t. I always end up doing the leg work myself. Think about this why do I have to pay a 6% fee to list my house, and all they do is show up at the open house with a fake Armani suit, stand around say a few words, while you the owner work hard to get the property in showing condition(painting, fix odd and ends, mow lawn, rake leaves, etc… ). If Redfin can also privode this service, I would use Redfin in a heartbeat and gladly pay 7% to list!!!! This is not just from me… most people I talk too says it would be nice if all you have to do is just click on a big red button and everything just happens. Even the negotiation part can be automated, algorithms can be created to handle it. In the next couple of years millennials who prefers to interact with a computer vs humans will start to sell their homes and move up.. Please take advantage of the opportunity… Let me know if you do so I can buy your stocks during IPO.

          • Rob says

            Chang, From what I have read there is not a chance in high heaven that you will pay 7% to list your house. Not if you are looking for push button service. To think that all it takes is to stand around in an open house to get the job done, again your sadly mistaken. As a home seller using a full service agent, you don’t pay for the marketing, photo’s, virtual tours, flyers, direct mail or the websites that are created for your property. Only when the home sells do you pay. If the home does not sell you do not pay. If the agent does not keep you happy and you fire them. You do not pay. The agent pays for all that upfront working hard for you to sell your house. Does a redfin agent pay for all that? I don’t think so, but I don’t know.

            Being a real estate agent is about building that network of people that trust you. There is potential to make a lot of money as an agent. It takes time and hard work to get there. GOOD full service agents are goal oriented and driven, self starters and creative. Many salaried employees are not. BAD agents go find other jobs.

            Most Real Estate agents are independent contractors. Why is a buyer agency agreement important? Because, even though you are not paying for the agents services. The agent believes that their time is worth something. Do you work for free? If they are going to put a lot of time and effort into finding you a home, previewing homes while you are working, opening those doors for you, being available on your schedule and making sure that the home you want to buy is a sound purchase. They need some kind of commitment from you. You have the option to fire them, as well as the agent as the option to fire you! Really is that too much to ask for? You are asking for professional services aren’t you?

            If you are a serious buyer, find a good agent and hire them. Otherwise get paid by REDFIN to do your own work. Of course you can find a great home. Remember there is a difference between an agent that only gets paid with a completed transaction and one who gets paid a salary. With Redfin you’re the only one who does not get paid if the transaction fails. Weather you’re the buyer or the seller. The redfin agent gets paid.

            You really think that a salaried agent is going to put more effort into finding you a good deal and negotiate harder? No, redfin lets you do all that. They have a great site. You’re being paid. Have fun.

            No I get it. Good thing you’re not picky and willing to be satisfied with what ever results you get. Heck then maybe next time you decide to roll the dice with redfin. The agent you get assigned to will be better. It’s not all about that one transaction. Enjoy being processed like a paid consumer instead of as a new home owner making one of the largest purchases of your life.

            Real estate is a career move for me, not just a 9 to 5 job. My clients deserve to be more then just a transaction and a happy reviewer. I want my clients to know that when they refer someone to me that they will get the same great service that they received.

            If getting that rebate is your number one goal. Redfin should be your choice.

            If you need a good real estate agent. I can find you one in your area. If you don’t care. Again, redfin will be a good choice.

            Redfin agents! I know you are full service agents in a different business model. I know it works for you. You have good systems in place. I’m just trying to emphasize a point here. As proven there is no shortage of buyers and sellers willing to use your business model.

      • Abe says

        Well, I’ll chime in here and say that we just had the _worst_ experience with a realtor. The guy knew less about the homes he showed us than we did, communicated as well as a rock, and dropped us as clients via a long email detailing how we weren’t a good “fit”–all because it’s a “hot seller’s market” right now, and “not a bubble,” and he doesn’t want to present an aggressive offer in this market. All because of his “reputation.” But what does he think this behavior does for his reputation? Does he not know that we’ll review him online and share our experience with him? Sure, we’re maybe modest fish (shopping under $300K), but we’re still fish who need a home and are worth something. I suppose he just ran the numbers in his head and decided that there’s only so much hand-holding he’s willing to do, only so much effort he’s willing to put in, for the relatively modest commission in a $200K-$300K sale. But it’s such an idiotic, short-sighted way to be. How in the heck did this guy get elected President of the Realtor’s association? We won’t always be little fish, and when we’re big fish we certainly won’t send our business his way. Nor will we recommend him. In fact, if anyone asks for recommendations, I would explicitly not recommend him. From where I sit now I can’t imagine ever using an agent again. I thought they were supposed to be useful, provide guidance (especially for first timers), negotiate, inform, etc.

        Next time we’ll definitely be using Redfin, and we’ll see how they compare to our experience with Mr. Ex-President of the Realtor’s Association.

        • Jim Wang says

          I’ve never understood this type of short term thinking – small fish, big fish, whatever. Don’t think in terms of fish! Just give the best service you can because it’s more than one transaction.

        • Susan Wood says

          That seriously isn’t cool how you were treated. I am sorry you had that experience. I wish I could have been all you should have gotten and above all expectations.

    • Matthew says

      I listed my house with Redfin and it was the worst experience I ever had. They did not advocate for me as a seller but just wanted a quick sale. They told me that I needed to take the first offer period. Our agent was friends with the buyers agent and talked me into listing the home lower than I wanted so her friend could get our home at the price the buyer wanted to pay. They are not helpful and truly hang you out to dry. The commission reduction and this model does not work. Their getting a salary means that they are not motivated to help you at all. No survey will make someone accountable. Sellers beware of Redfin and try somewhere else. You will be sorry if you list with this company. I do not want what happened to me to happen to someone else.

  3. Thomas says

    Great breakdown of the differences of hiring a full service Realtor or Redfin’s discounted Realtor services. I am a Mortgage Broker and have worked with Redfin before in the home buying transaction. The borrower had a great experience with them and the discount that Redfin gave them paid for a portion of the closing costs for the home buyer. But that is just one experience. I think you are spot on your details helping a home buyer decide which way to go with a Realtor choice.

  4. LaJuana Miller says

    I’ve been a Realtor for over 10 yrs now & I’m looking to see what’s new & innovative in the Real Estate industry, that lead me to this article. I’m not a Redfin agent nor have I had any dealings with one.
    I would like to tell anyone who cares to read this that I have personally worked with good & bad agents from many, many different companies. Old & young, experienced or new to the industry, there are agents that just should not be in this industry & agents that will bend over backwards for you, regardless of the commission. This is such an important purchase that I think it’s really important to find a real estate agent that is a good match for you &/or your family, as the writer of this article is trying to express.
    You should feel free to express your goals & expectations. Tell your agent, ” This is what I want & I don’t have the time to spend looking at properties online. Find them & schedule the showings.” OR “I love a bargain & I want you to send me everything in this area, in my price range. I’ll let you know which ones that I’m interested in seeing.” Whatever your needs or preferences, tell the agent.
    Don’t feel pressured to sign a Buyer’s Agreement. If you show up early in the game & the agent pulls out an agreement for you to sign, smile & politely say that you would like to wait & make sure that you are a good match. I’ve heard that there are agents that will refuse to open a door or continue the showings without the signature on the agreement. I would thank them for their time & walk away.
    You will likely be spending a lot of time with your new Realtor in the next weeks or months. Find someone that you’re comfortable withal; male, female, young, old, Somewhere in between… get referrals from family & friends. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
    Use someone that is not just a real estate agent, but a Realtor. They are held to a higher standard & the contracts that you will be signing will be fair to both the buyer & seller. No hidden fine print.
    If you have already signed a Buyer’s or Seller’s Agreement (i.e. contract) with an agent & you’re not happy with the service. You may contact the Real Estate Broker at the office of the agent & have a different agent assigned to you.
    I don’t want to co-op with a bad agent either. Don’t support them with your business!

    • Stephen Snee says

      If you are a broker, then you understand that a buyer’s agency agreement is VERY important. It protects the time that you’ve already spent with the buyers (could be years) and allows you to commit your time to that buyer without worrying about wasting your time. A buyer’s agency agreement is easy to terminate. Any buyer can terminate the agreement by sending an email or even a text to notify the agent. There is no risk for a buyer in signing a buyer agency agreement.

      • Matt says

        In the DC area, we are required by the RE board to get a Buyers Agency Agreement signed. It spells out my fiduciary responsibility to a client and does not bind them to me.

        • Vanita says

          This is a really great article. I am researching Redfin for a Masters program. It is refreshing to see the comments for and against the use of a different business model.
          At the end of it all, folks will do business with folks that like and feel comfortable with based on their goals and objectives. Thank goodness we have options.

          Additionally, the Buyer Agency Agreements (DC and Maryland) are time-based. So I am able to date the Agreement for the actual day of work with buyers for our first appointment, if they are uncomfortable authorizing more time together. The one-day agreement expires in 24-hours and there is no need to do a written cancellation. If we decide to continue our partnership then I update the Agreement.

          This way there is no pressure on either side and I meet the Agency requirements for the state, which also ensures the brokerage is compliant, especially in case of any audits or complaints.

  5. Adam Lah says

    As a skilled negotiator, that knows the area I service intimately, I can save you way more than your Redfin rebate. And I’ll be with you every step of the way.

        • Gordon says

          Classic realtor trying to push their point of view with falsehoods. Redfin is the BEST. I have bought 6 properties and sold 3 with them. I am a real estate professional and know what i am talking about. And the idea that you can fire you commission based realtor and just get another is a falsehood. Most often by the time you realize they lost you a lot of money it is too late to do anything about it. The difference with Redfin is that bad agents get bad reviews and get FIRED. I have seen this happen. What happens with a bad commission agent? Well as i said, often they still get to close the deal and get paid. I have seen this time and again when the agent on the other side screwed up. But there is no way to give feedback to anyone that cares at that point. So the bad commission agent goes on to their next client undeterred. That is the BIGGEST difference not mentioned here…

  6. Diana says

    I signed a contract with an agent. In a month and a half, he has shown us 6 houses, which I found. He never put me on an MLS listing email. It is nearly impossible to get him to show us a house because he is always busy. We have lost out on at least 3 good houses because he would not show them because he am was busy. I want to cancel the contract but don’t know how. I am completely frustrated and angry!

      • Sue Ann says

        Jim, I am sitting at my computer reading mostly about buyer’s agreements. I have the exclusive right to sell agreement listing agreement in front of me. On Saturday it will be 30 and my agent has not shown the house once. I have had showings with many other brokerages but my agent does not call and tell me what took place. She set up a Open House and didn’t even show up for it. On this agreement there is no period of time beginning or ending. I believe I do not have to honor this agreement…can you tell me yes or no? Redfin is calling tomorrow to talk about my listing and so I can’t judge the agent. Since I don’t have to sign anything or put out any money…I can’t believe they would be worse then the agent I have at the present.

        • Jim Wang says

          I’m afraid I don’t know much about those types of agreements (and nothing about yours specifically) and you’ll have to consult a professional on that.

  7. Cristal says

    I liked this article and also the replies. While looking at Redfin, I saw an agent who seemed he might be good. I read his reviews and the types of properties whose transactions he was involved in. I also saw that he is listed on other sites as well. Initially I considered contacting him directly, but after reading this article, I am at a quandry of which way to take. I would be interested in someone who can find listings before everyone else sees them. I live in Atlanta and want a condo on the say $110k range. These units are selling like hotcakes right now and the market seems to be escalating too rapidly. I’m a first time home buyer, so I need an agent’s help. What do you recommend? Contact him direct, or through Redfin, or through one of the other sites?

    Also, I’m open to a number of the counties in and around Atlanta. This agent handles the one I’m most interested in. Would it be kosher to get a 2nd agent who is knowedgable about the other counties, and use the agent who handles the county that I decide on?

    Thanks for your help and input!

    • Amy Jo says

      My best advice as a 22 year, full-time Realtor in Scottsdale Arizona – attend open houses to find and work with an agent who is active in the area! They often know of homes coming up as they talk to many neighbors in the community of their open house. No better way to find someone well-versed in the area you’re targeting. Look for open house times on Zillow and then visit open house until you find an agent you like and are comfortable with. Also, find out how long they’ve been in the business and whether or not they are FULL TIME or part time. Go with the most experienced, FULL TIME Realtor you meet.

      • Vanita says

        I agree with Amy Jo but would like to add that a newer agent can be just as beneficial as a more seasoned agent. I suggest you set up buyer meetings with 2-3 agents. Have your questions in hand and ask every question you can think of. Pay attention to how you and each agent vibe. Is this an agent that listens to you and are you listening to them? Is this agent someone you can see spending time with and working closely to achieve your goals?

        Take a good friend to the meeting and also observe how that friend is treated. Is the agent more interested in collecting new business than communicating with you? What resources does the agent have? Are they a solo agent or part of a team? Will they attend closings and home inspections with or for you? If you purchase new construction, will they work by your side or just show up to pick up the check at settlement? Does the agent educate himself in addition to the state mandated courses?

        Successful agents gain an incredible amounts of experience from the very first transaction they manage. This partnership is ultimately a serious relationship for a season and a reason. Make sure you are comfortable and confident with your agent because buying and selling a home will be stressful and exhilarating at the same time. You will only select that agent after you have gotten a few referrals and met them in-person.

        Much success in your new home purchase!

  8. Amy Jo says

    I found this article interesting. It is helpful to know how consumers are doing business in these modern times. I will say, however, that as a 22 year licensed Realtor and not a Redfin agent, your article focuses primarily on the search for the home, and not the expertise a seasoned and experienced agent brings to the contractual/legal portion of the transaction. We have continuing education requirements and many broker meetings that keep us on top of situational hazards in the marketplace that aren’t covered at all in this article. What happens when you are in a contract where you feel the other party is in default of the contract or is treating you unfairly? Do you trust a transactional agent to take all the time and care needed to protect you, the client, and to know the contract thoroughly, so as to protect your earnest money and keep you out of trouble legally? A real estate transaction is a legal contract situation fraught with potential pitfalls and problems. I would choose a full-service, knowledgeable and experienced representative every time, and pass on a transactional agent who is unfamiliar with the area, or who is “letting the client” do the work. As in any field of business where I rely on the expertise of others to help me make a sound decision, I will always opt for experience, full-service and knowledge over “doing more work myself.” In the long run, trusting a full-service, knowledgeable expert WILL save you time, money and possibly legal trouble.

    • kk says

      Please correct me if I’m wrong, but real estate agents are not lawyers and therefore if one of the parties is in breach of contract, then they cannot give legal advice. What they can do is refer them to a lawyer.

      All of our experience with full service agents is that they can give their “thoughts” unofficially but always defer to the appropriate professionals – lawyers, home inspectors, etc.

      • Richard says

        Amy Jo hit the nail on the head! Most escrows are not easy to close and come with their fair share of obstacles. The negotiating aspect is hard enough and takes a seasoned agent, but buyers have to really consider what can happen when the poop hits the fan. I’ve been through escrows where the appraisal didn’t match the purchase price, loan didn’t get approved, tax transcripts not issued in time by the IRS, seller’s not able to move out as promised, fights over the per diem, the list goes on and on. I have dealt with some very bad agents on the other side that had no clue how to handle these situations and even gave their clients wrong information and bad advice. These can easily turn into lawsuits which I have seen and been a part of in the past. Let’s face it, getting a real estate license is not very hard, and because of that, I would say there are only 2 solid agents out of every 10 out there.

        Someone even commented, please be the uber of real estate. I really don’t think that person knows what they are asking for. Getting your drunk self home or being dropped off at the airport is worlds apart from selling or purchasing a home. And even then, I don’t trust uber drivers completely. They get reviewed as well but it doesn’t mean they won’t get lost, or get into an accident. Why? Because uber drivers are not trained, professional drivers and becoming one is easier than getting a job in fast food. Why would you trust your transaction to someone who’s ONLY accountability is a review section, which they can easily manipulate by having friends leave reviews?

        The real estate market drives the economy. If the sale and purchase of real estate is going to be run by salary based agents that couldn’t make it on commission alone, that scares me.

        On a final note, it really makes me laugh when people think they can go without years of experience, and learn everything by reading some data on Red Fin or zillow. Even the zestimate has a disclosure that it is NOT completely accurate. The rebate sounds nice and all, but I’d rather not risk such a big transaction like a home by putting it in the hands of someone that can cause more legal trouble and/or kill the deal.

        • Nanie says

          Richard, As a seller, I did research to find a productive agent to sell my house quickly. It is very difficult and I find the industry to be all “smoke and mirrors” and no transparency at all. I need truthful information – but it doesn’t exist. The reviews of real estate agents on trulia, zillow and realtor.com are all bogus anyway. EVERY agent has 5 stars and all glowing reviews because the agents pay the websites and don’t allow negative reviews to be published. They all say they are #1 in sales and have hundreds of closed sales.
          It’s difficult to find a committed agent to sell my home. So far, I’ve hired two – the first meeting, they’re all excited and confident that they can sell my house quickly. But, as the weeks go on, and the showings are few and far between, their only strategy is to reduce the price. Why not start bringing some buyers to my house? That’s what I’m looking for! They are all “list it and leave it” waiting for the newbie agents to do the heavy lifting and show my house. No wonder your industry has little respect.

          • Daniele says

            Nanie, the reason why your house is not selling is because it is over priced. The main reason why a house does not sell is because it is over priced. If a property is not priced right, the longer it stays on the market. A home that is on the market a long time, loses its value drastically. Properties that are on the market for a long time (here in DC and Northern VAn20+ days is considered a long time) become very stale. On the MLS people will no longer see the listing right away, even if you drop the price, because it does not come up as a new listing. If the agent is marketing your house like crazy, holding open houses every weekend, finding every possible buyer for you, then it is most likely not the agents fault. She is already asking you to reduce the price. This is the main problem with sellers. I know it’s tough, but hang in there! If you need a good agent over where you are, let me know and I will be more than happy to refer you the best agents in the area.

            Also, it is almost impossible to receive a fake review on Zillow. The review has to go through an entire process, which takes 2-3 days before the review is even posted. They even check IP addresses to make sure it is not a fake or posted by a family member (or even the agent themselves). I remember when I tried to write a review for a friend who was an agent (this was way before I received my license) and every single time I attempted to write the review it was rejected by the Zillow Review Board. They also do not allow lenders or other agents to review each other. Negative reviews are EASILY posted on Zillow. Zillow is like Yelp with negative reviews; they wont remove them even if you beg them to.

            If you ever have any questions, please feel free to contact me and I would be more than happy to help!

  9. Paul says

    I recently interviewed a Redfin agent to potentially sell my home. I never got the impression she was NOT a full service agent. The services seemed comparable to the other agents I interviewed. She’s also worked in the area for decades for other major brokers, and switched to Redfin a couple of years ago – negating claims by some that these agents have no knowledge of a geographic area.

    I am leery of “full service” agents providing their comments here because, of course, they are going to sway you to go their way. As would anyone selling their services.

    My net experience so far is that Redfin services as advertised are comparable to full service, and I agree with the earlier poster that “VS” is not appropriate in this article’s title. If this article was originally written a while ago, perhaps it should be revised, not just have comments, as it can give an unfair impression if things have changed.

    I think the major point is that the actual agent is the most critical factor, regardless of what agency they work for.

    • Daniele says

      Hi Paul, do you really think good a good realtor would quit being a full service agent to go work for Redfin because Redfin has “better agents” and they make more money? All of the traditional, full service agents who do not make it in real estate quit or they end up going to work for Redfin. Why would anyone quit their highest paying job to go work for for another job where they receive much lower pay? Redfin agents make A LOT less than traditional agents as they have to share their commission with every Redfin agent (they make a salary) and pay people to work with them . So why would a good agent work for Redfin over a traditional brokerage where they can earn their own commission and 10 times more money? Well, maybe because they are bad agents who are not making it in the business and who are not making any money, so they have to resort to the less paying job because they are not qualified for the better job. How does this not make sense to anyone? They are discount agents for a reason. You may say that your Redfin agent was amazing, but that’s because you have nothing REALLY amazing to compare it to. Maybe you have worked with a terrible traditional agent, but that is not the agents fault, it is your fault. You did not do your due diligence when trying to hire a good realtor. So, how to weed out the bad full service agents? Interview a few realtors and ask them how much experience they have; ask them if they are full time agents (you do not want to work with an agent who is only part time, and if you do, then I am scared for you); ask them for a few past references, and actually CALL those references. Done. You’ll thank me later. Only 20% of realtors make it in the business. The other 80% either work for Redfin or they quit real estate all together.

      • JH Lee says

        I think the way you are saying is not persuasive because you are only blaming the sellers. As you know there are so many real estate agents making clients unhappy. As someone already said somewhere above, there are many reasons why “no wonder why no respect”.

  10. James says

    I recently represented a Buyer who was working with a Redfin agent. Price point, $1.3 Million. When my client inquired about money back at closing I told them to go work with the Redfin agent. My commission ranges from 3% to 7% depending on the transaction. I am not a discount broker, nor do I offer discount services. Plus I would never ask someone for 33% or more of their income because I think they make too much money. They ended up coming back to me and we quickly closed on a property Redfin or any other company had immediate access to. At closing my clients were notified they had acquired another $250,000 in equity at time of close. There home’s market value is now around $1.6 Million. The $20,000+ would have cost them $250,000. Yes, Redfin does have an amazing model and I enjoy working with them; it’s typically an easy win sale for my buyers and sellers.

    • Bob says

      You sure are dispelling the stereotype of arrogant, self-important, overpaid agents, James.

      Hope I laid that sarcasm on thick enough for you.

  11. Lisa Moroniak says

    Intriguing article and feedback.

    Treat your agent search as if you were hiring an employee. What preparation would you do before you got onto CareerBuilder, Monster, etc. to find your ideal candidate? What experience would you look for? Personality traits that mirror your own? How does an agent measure success? Every transaction has obstacles that will need to be overcome…what are some examples of challenges the agent has faced, and what was the outcome? Are they full-time or part-time? What’s their availability? How many clients do they carry simultaneously? What’s most important to you as the client – discount/cash back…or do you see value in paying a little extra for extras (e.g. level of service) in the level of service in return?

    My guidance, whether listing or buying, would be to consider no less than three agents from different brokerages and service models. The best fit will likely just feel right to you. And if it doesn’t pan out that way…remember virtually all brokerage agreements are “at will”, either party can terminate at any time.

    Wishing my best to all in your search for success in real estate!
    Lisa

    p.s. Matt Allen’s tidbits are invaluable

  12. Jamel Salter says

    It’s hard out there for a new agent I see.

    All I am reading on this board are folks shaming new and inexperienced agents..we WERE ALL THERE.

    You were lucky enough to get to where you are. No need to shame agents who are trying to get where you are.

    Real Estate is not rocket science. And any new agent with determination to learn as much as possible can knock it out the park..even outperform some of the “experienced” ones. It is what it is.

    • Vanita says

      I agree Jamal. I also addressed that in an earlier comment. No, real estate is not rocket science but it also is not necessarily a walk in the park.

      We are held to the highest ethical standards and we should be. We are privileged to be a part of one of the largest investments in a person’s life. It is also an honor to be welcomed into a part of their lives that includes their family and friends.

      We also have to educate ourselves every two years and if you are really serious about your craft, every day. Successful realtors are knowledgeable in writing, real estate, finance, psychology, security and safety, communication, technology, time management and task management, social networking. We must be patient in our dealings and in building a successful business. We also have to be incredibly good at deciphering a potential clients intentions because we actually advance our resources, tools and services up front and get paid once the transaction closes. All the while, we have many dues and fees to pay even if we do not close any business. We must be educators and nurturing. We must also have a healthy sense of humor. We must be good at delivering good news as well bad news. We must have the utmost ability to respect the confidentiality of our clients. We must healthy, happy and energetic to keep up with the schedule. We also must be thick skinned because life has many lessons — especially when some family members may leave you to attend to their parents and only show up at settlement to get their check. This is just to name a few things.

      Jamal, this only covers our professional life. Add on your personal life and take a deep breath!

      If you are a professional realtor then you understand this all too well. If you are a professional realtor, then you also know that this is one of the most rewarding careers you may ever have. This career will touch and grow you in every area of your life.

      I am so glad it chose me!

  13. John says

    I would definitely use Redfin again if I have to purchase down the line. It’s not really hard to do your own research as a buyer to find out where you want to live. By going with a Redfin agent we got a $4,500 rebate. If I went with a traditional one I would have gotten nothing.

    • Rob says

      John, maybe if you went with a traditional agent you might not have paid as much for your house. Or maybe you might have had additional buying options. Maybe your agent might have suggested a few outside services to help you. I am sure that the agent who opened the door for you was very helpful in helping you make a sound purchasing decision.

      I see that you would recommend Redfin to all your friends. Maybe they will get the same level of service that you received. Probably, not. A professional agent wants to earn your repeat business. Give your friends and family the same great service you received.

      There is a reason why Redfin pays you. You’re just a sale! You’re paid to overlook a lot of deficiencies in their real estate services.

      Congratulations! Good luck next time.

    • Rob says

      John,

      I work in one of the hottest cities in the country right now Seattle. This is where REDFIN is headquartered as well.

      My client bought a house last year. I negotiated the contract and he was able to get $20,000 in instant equity on this home. His family is growing and now he wants are larger home. A year later his house is now worth $80,000 more than what he paid for it.

      We just went under contract on another home, beating multiple offers and getting the seller to contribute $5,000 to his closing costs. The buyer wanted $7,000 and seller only wanted to pay $2,000. It took some late night negotiating (past the 5 pm closing time of Redfin agents) to work out those details.

      Plus, I am on top of managing that transaction to make sure it closes.

      But, the last time I dealt with competing offers from Redfin buying agents. One agent took himself right out contention, due to his attitude towards me. His client never knew that he lost the sale for her before the offers were even presented. Both offers were identical. The other agent didn’t have his contract filled out correctly, but we worked those issues out. What was funny was that both of those agents listed each other as team members.

      I hope you can see that there is more to it than just writing up an offer for the “Fully informed buyer”.

      Yes, I know that there are lousy agents out there that don’t work for REDFIN. Those agents don’t last long in the business. They go hungry faster than if they did work for REDFIN. Building a lasting business takes more than just processing client transactions.

  14. NorCal Realtor says

    In my Northern California market I enjoy it when Redfin agents offer on my listings.
    Don’t get me wrong, dealing with their layers of unqualified ‘showing agents’ that text at 3am from one phone number and require you return text at another automated line and then open doors while sellers are home because they cant or don’t read confidential MLS remarks (not published on sites) and then talking at the last minute with subsequent ‘offer agents’ that actually write the offers without seeing the house isn’t fun. However, they are always hungry for their closing bonus that Redfin pays them per transaction and they are consistently 5-20% higher than the second place offer. (Read that as $50,000-150,000 higher than the second place offer). Why are they consistently higher?
    Because they look at Zillow for data because they are either lazy, not full time or uneducated/inexperienced and require a salaried position because they aren’t talented enough to go full commission.

    Regardless, it’s great for my sellers, and the buyers that work with Redfin feel like they got a deal because of their “rebate” which in a deal that size might be $15,000.
    If ignorance is bliss, then welcome to Redfin’s paradise.
    Well done Redfin. Well done.

  15. Daniele says

    The people who are saying that their agent used to work for a traditional brokerage but now work for Redfin, make me laugh. Do you really think they quit being a full service agent because Redfin has better agents and is such a “great place to work”? It is not because they are not qualified to be agents. All of the traditional, full service agents who do not make it in real estate quit or they end up going to work for Redfin. Why would anyone quit their highest paying job to go work for for another job where they receive much lower pay? Redfin agents make A LOT less than traditional agents as they have to share their commission with every Redfin agent (they make a salary) and pay people to work with them . So why would a good agent work for Redfin over a traditional brokerage where they can earn their own commission and 10 times more money? Well, maybe because they are bad agents, who are not making it in the business and who are not making any money, so they have to resort to the less paying job because they are not qualified for the better job. How does this not make sense to anyone? They are discount agents for a reason. You may say that your Redfin agent was amazing, but that’s because you have nothing REALLY amazing to compare it to. Maybe you have worked with a terrible traditional agent, but that is not the agents fault, it is your fault. You did not do your due diligence when trying to hire a good realtor. So, how to weed out the bad full service agents? Interview a few realtors and ask them how much experience they have; ask them if they are full time agents (you do not want to work with an agent who is only part time, and if you do, then I am scared for you); ask them for a few past references, and actually CALL those references. Done. You’ll thank me later. Only 20% of realtors make it in the business. The other 80% either work for Redfin or they quit real estate all together.

  16. Kim says

    I’ve been on the other side of Redfin agents and I don’t feel their clients were represented. On one transaction two agents the buyer was passed along through, left to go work for traditional brokerages. The third was left with the work for two agents. The buyer missed some important information and the agents never saw the home he was buying. He closed thinking the home had a feature that was never there.

    On another sale the RF agent kept forgetting details like what County the home was in etc.

    Another ex RF agent told me that she would have 30 contracts at once. No wonder they don’t see the homes and just write the offers, so I don’t see the RF agents as “less than” just overworked. It seems the most important purchase many people make derserves more respect. Not just the data online sites provide. The information needs context. The thing with RF business model is people focus on that rebate and don’t know what they don’t know. RF also don’t list less than picture-perfect properties which will skew their numbers.

    On another sale the buyers were considering using a Redfin agent. I found them a home that day, and saved them 20k in a tight market. I used my personal contracting experience to craft an offer and negotiated the terms in a creative way to have repairs made and fees paid the seller. Their RF rebate would have been $1,500 the buyers came out ahead $18,500.

    I’ve talked clients out of buying a home and others let them know it’s the only house of its kind left in the market. Ultimately it’s always their decision. Because of the lack of concern for others, and I’m not going to give away hundreds of hours of my time and transportation costs and now require a buyers agency agreement. I bring value added service based on my life of experience of contracting and investing. The “Uber” nature of this business model assumes the client knows everything about the process, but most don’t. I can assure you everyone of my posted testimonials are real. I also take my fiduciary responsibilities to heart and see myself as providing a consistent service 7 days a week.

    If you want to tour a home with a college student you hail with your phone, have at it. Homes are wood, brick and mortar and are Interlocking building systems. I use several apps every day but they don’t and will never do what I do.

  17. Dr. Linus says

    We have purchased 3 places through Redfin in the past 6 years and were happy all 3 times plus the refund was a huge plus.

    It was interesting to read through the comments. I think this discussion mirrors the Financial Advisor vs the DIY 3-fund portfolio debate we have everyday in the personal finance blogosphere.

    Financial advisors make the case for personalized service, hand holding, inside deals etc but that comes at a cost. Or the argument taxi cab drivers were making when Uber came on the market.

    Keep in mind that if you purchase and sell the same place through Redfin you will end up saving close to 3-4% total with the refund on the purchase and only 1% sales commission on the sale. On a 250k place that can be 9-10k.

  18. Tommy D. says

    These days you don’t need to go through a RedFin agent to get a commission rebate — most full service agents in my area would be willing to split the commission with you also.

  19. Paul says

    I’m a former full-time Realtor & ABR. I retired my license and flipped houses full-time. After being defrauded by a partner I’m considering a job with Redfin as an agent.
    Contrary to the misinformed full service agents comments here, Redfin agents actually make more than traditional agents based on their performance and surveys.
    According to National statistics, in 2017, Redfin agents on the job 9 months earned $90,000 in commissions vs a $44,000 median of traditional agents.
    https://www.redfin.com/blog/2018/01/how-much-do-redfin-agents-earn.html

    In doing my own research, and being a former full time great-Realtor, I believe this to be true.

    It’s up to the RF agents themselves to wow their clients and give them great service which is exactly what I plan to do.
    There are plenty of experienced bad traditional agents out there and I believe there a plenty of bad RF agents out there. Doesn’t mean that either side should be wrote off because of a few bad apples, ok several bad apples.

    Like it or not, RFs business model is working and they as a company are growing and as time goes on will be a force to be reckoned with.
    It’s time for an overhaul in the RE sales industry.

    My name is Paul, and this is between ya’ll.

  20. Edward Robinson says

    Most agents will be sure to ask you to let them accompany the buyer to any new construction so they can register as their agent. Clients understand that upfront before going into a transaction through the buyers representation agreement, i.e. the client engagement letter.

  21. Jim Cheney says

    No experienced successful real estate agent or broker would work for RedFin for a flat fee. You’re going to get some newbie who doesn’t value their own worth and is willing to take Redfin leads for less money. If you’re a buyer, find an experienced agent who knows your community and can give you good advice. Remember, finding a home is only part of the story. You still have a very important contract that needs to run its course, and when something goes sideways, you don’t want a new agent trying to straighten it out. Trulia, Zillow, and Redfin have all been trying to find a way into the real estate market. Congrats to Redfin for finally getting into the biz but I don’t think it will last.

  22. JudithSL says

    Have you actually read the contacts instead of just judging Redfin based on their ads?
    It’s not the deal you think it is and you never know what agent you’re working with on any given day. You may never meet the actual agent that writes the contract and earns the commission.

  23. Neal C. says

    Very interesting article and comments. First off, I am a Redfin agent, so I just want to put that out there in full disclosure. I have been licensed for five years and in the business for four – all with Redfin. I am one of the top 5-10 agents representing buyers in my market out of several thousand agents, having sold $25+M in real estate the past few years running. So claims that you get someone who is inexperienced are false. You have the same chances of getting someone who is inexperienced regardless of brokerage. And, unlike many brokerages, we are a very transparent company and each and every agent’s sales are online for everyone to see. This allows our clients to do their own research and come to their own conclusions concerning experience, including experience in a particular area or neighborhood. Along with these sales stats are unedited reviews of each client we represent, including those clients who wrote offers with us and were not successful getting their offers accepted. What other brokerage does this? I’d wait for an answer, but don’t have that kind of time.

    I love working for Redfin because we are truly trying to offer more to our clients. And not having to prospect for new clients allows me to provide 100% of my attention on the clients I already have. I also don’t have to pay for health care, advertising, professional dues, marketing, millage, my cell phone, computer, etc. and am offered very good compensation, including stock options. I have been offered a significant amount of money and other incentives to go to a “traditional brokerage,” though know that this is the place for me. I came into real estate to practice real estate – not to cold call, send out mailers, etc., which is not practicing real estate and is not helping your current clients.

    There is a brokerage for every agent and an agent for every client. It’s all about freedom of choice and I’m sincerely happy everyone has that choice. There are also good and bad agents at every brokerage. This is the reality of the real estate world.

  24. John Paul says

    150 successful transactions in 3 years. Thats what I’ve achieved since begining my deal writing career as an Agent at Redfin on both the Buy and the Listing side. And with that has come an INCREDIBLE education in the business with ALL sorts of situations, negotiations, inspection issues and more. And I’ve had amazing mentors and team members t lean on and get advice from, always striving to improve, always keeping the customer satisfaction at the center of the experience.

    Like Jim points out, there are some very “hungry” and talented traditional agents out there…and I believe that within Redfin the same is actually true as well…that some agents are more skilled or driven than others. So, what it boils down to is doing your homework no matter what. Meet your agent, read the reviews (all Redfin reviews are unedited and public on the Redfin.com website) and do your due diligence. Redfin is a compelling option out of many different options out there.

    One important note, a key difference using Redfin on the Buyside is the quick access to touring homes. Using the app, a Buyer can just request the time that best works for them and not have to wait for their deal writing agents schedule to match up. And if they want their deal writing agents opinion on the home, they can definitely ask for them to see it. In a competitive market, that speed and ease of touring is CRITICAL to success. I haven’t seen anyone comment on that other than some complaints about how the showing agents can be confusing to some listing agents.

  25. Chris says

    Redfin agents are full service agents. They give you a refund because their technology and team structure make them more efficient and they do enough deals they don’t have to be greedy. Redfin agents on average do 3-4x more deals a year then regular agents. This experience makes them experts in their area and they can’t be beat. Another huge advantage is when my redfin agent is busy with another client they always have another agent to show me any home I want to see that way I’m not missing deals because of a busy agent. I’ve closed 4 deals with Redfin over the last 5 years and 3 deals before redfin with traditional agents. I save more and get way better service with Redfin then I have ever had with traditional agents.

  26. John Smith says

    One huge disadvantage not listed here in using a “full-service” agent is in their motivation. While true, they are hungry and attentive, many real estate agents are just hungry. I have purchased and sold over 7 homes as a real estate investor. It’s a shady game of middle men (and women), looking to take a piece for merely being in the game. For a seasoned person willing to do the homework and lookup parcel numbers, shop for title companies, and compare bank rates, Redfin is a great option seeking to disrupt an industry that shouldn’t exist in the information age. The world can get by with a few less agents

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