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Redfin Exposes Its Culture

mr. nice company?
Photo Credit: Erik Hersman

Shaking My Head

While I understand Glenn’s position to the attack on Kris Berg, and have read his follow up article, I really have to take into question a few things- not about Kris Berg, they know each other- but the overall level of respect for their peers outside of Redfin.

He (Glenn) mentions culture at Redfin, and when using that word, one has to draw the conclusion that this is *exactly* the culture at Redfin.

The strategy used in the launch of Redfin says basically the same thing (we Realtors are greedy villains). The CBS interview was virtually a carbon copy of this post in tone, and I for one am glad to see some light on the true feelings of Redfin. Consumers see though the veil of polished spin only to understand they’ve walked into something they want no part of:

#1 reason visitors don’t buy through us, 2 years straight: “fear of discrimination” -Glenn Kelman

Isn’t it conceivable that stigmas attached to the “Revolution” are reinforced when consumers consume the Redfin site’s war-like propaganda only to be reminded of the Redfin lightning rod?  Why is this negative propaganda even necessary?  Your own policy states that you do not talk about competitors.

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The Bigger Picture

The anti-Redfin treatment and quote is mentioned in Glenn’s follow up post, but I’ll remind Glenn that 99.9% of America had no clue who you were before Redfin blindsighted us all on CBS with twisted political style tactics, facts, and misleading statements about the entire profession- are agents not human? Redfin came out swinging before even a handful of agents knew their name. The truth is, the attack on 1.4 million professionals attacked 1.4 million tiny start-ups most of them built from the ground up with their own hands. The vast majority of professionals working tirelessly for their clients, blindsighted by some start-up in Seattle. Self defense or not, I condemn the personal attacks, and ignorant reactions in either direction, but looking back to where it all began is an easy to see the failure, and also Redfin’s road to salvation.

If this tide is to change (which I honestly believe it has, now that the other 99.9% of us know who and what you are), it will change more quickly by articles of positive things and commonalities between Redfin and the profession being written and said not because damage control is needed, but because they are true.

I’ll remind everyone that the CBS interview is still glorified on the Redfin site as well as other antagonistic materials that truly define exactly the culture nurtured at Redfin- why fire this writer, isn’t she really guilty of just saying out loud what’s already been implied? Isn’t she just a fanatic in the Revolution?

What Now?

Isn’t Kris Berg just collateral damage of your so-called “revolution?” Although this fact saddens me to no end, it is the truth- everything written here today is the truth. An even bigger truth is that I like Redfin, it is a breath of fresh air in the paradigm that has become the approach to real estate on and offline. It is permission to bring your real estate to your own consumers in true high definition, and colorful brilliance. Redfin breaks the mold of static and makes exciting what had once become boring. On the other hand, Redfin need only look inward at the endless propaganda disguised as marketing and advertising to understand why consumers fear the lightning rod that has become Redfin.

Thank you Glenn (Redfin) for defending Kris Berg, your article was a great start and needed to be said, but what about the other 1.399 million of us that are the target of your so-called revolution who really just want to do great real estate who will inevitably be caught up in a battle of the Revolution you wage.

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End the Revolution, Change the Culture, Keep the Personality.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.



  1. Jon

    April 23, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Far be it from me to come to Glenn’s defense. But, Benn, you’ve stepped in the same trap that robs us of our credibility and gets us in trouble with the public on a continual basis. Toward the end of your post, you state,

    “what about the other 1.399 million of us that are the target of your so-called revolution who really just want to do great real estate…”

    Unfortunately, the reality is that there aren’t 1.399 million of us who really just want to do great real estate. There are plenty of “us” who can’t write a contract, don’t know how to negotiate and never had time to learn what service really means. These are agents who jumped on board the real estate train when deals were falling from the sky and big commissions didn’t have to be earned. And these are the agents that, through their own professional shortfalls, set the table in the marketplace for business models like Redfin.

    Redfin doesn’t have to try and take the agent out of the real estate equation. Plenty of agents, through their own actions, do it to themselves — and to anyone standing nearby!

    It would be great if this were an industry populated by thoughtful, well-meaning professionals who rise with the sun to add value to their clients’ lives. But there’s a reason that in one Harris poll after another, “real estate agent” carries less credibility than “used car salesperson”, and the reason
    isn’t Glenn and it’s not Redfin. It’s not even 60 Minutes.

    But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have respect for our competitors. In fact, I think the real estate community is well-practiced in this…at any one time, one of us is probably competing for a listing with the agent at the very next desk or right down the hall. But professional respect means respecting each other regardless of the business model that we happen to advocate. And that hasn’t happened yet. Not even close.

    A Redfin-paid blogger went too far in their hatchet job on Kris. Glenn addressed it appropriately. But for all of the great agents out there — and Benn, I’d be pleased to count you among them — there are still an awful lot (yes, I believe it’s a majority of them) who do more harm to the public’s perception of our profession then Glenn will ever do.

  2. Benn Rosales

    April 23, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Jon, that was the reported number when CBS ran the interview. Big picture, total view, how we arrived at point z. Thanks, but there’s no need to defend Glenn, he’s a decent guy, but is not the point of the article.

  3. BawldGuy Talking

    April 23, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Jon — You make some salient points. It appears though by at least my inference, you’ve said most of the 1.4 million agents out there aren’t necessarily doing the job as it should be done, but that Redfin’s agents are all hitting that gold standard.

    In my experience that’s a dubious premise at best.

    Benn — You like Redfin’s concept, but not their culture. Makes sense to me. Know what it sounds like from the outside?

    Sounds like the folks who’ve watched in real time as the old USSR, it’s Eastern European satellite countries, Cuba, and China fail miserably with Communism as their economic foundation. Yet after seeing that approach fail everywhere it’s tried, they blithely (arrogantly?) argue that, “It’s just not been done right. We can do it much better, trust us.”

    I don’t mean you, Benn. You’d have told Glenn his mistakes before he made ’em. 🙂

    The whole Redfin approach, as you pointed out from Day 1, was a failure waiting to happen. They’re morphing towards the traditional model, but not nearly quickly enough. Truth is, Benn, Redfin is merely the latest in a long line of “We know it’s failed miserably every time it’s been tried, but we know better.”

    It simply doesn’t work, and until the model moves far enough in the direction of the traditional model it won’t begin working. Also, the end of this market correction, when it comes, won’t be their friend.

    Redfin isn’t in my view, heading towards acceptance by the rest of the industry, and won’t, even it they begin whispering sweet nothings in our ears. They can’t change what they are. And you called it again when you said we now know exactly who they are. They’re moochers who show up at dinner with a knife and fork, telling you they’re doing you a favor by their mere presence. Bandini doesn’t sell fertilizer that potent.

    I realize on Agent Genius I’m a dinasaur, but relying on the whole GenX/Y thing for success the Redfin way is like saving all your change from daily visits to Starbucks until you have enough to buy a home with 20% down. Not gonna happen on any scale worth talkin’ about.

    Glenn writes a post, makes a speech, goes on 60 minutes and either makes nice or spews venom. How many times have we all seen Castro talk about ‘the wonderful people of Cuba, for which we all risked our lives, so they could live wonderfully freedom filled lives…’ and wondered what we were missing, and what was he smokin’?

    The answer is — we weren’t missing anything. He was full of it and everyone in Cuba and the world knew it.

    Same with Redfin.

  4. ines

    April 23, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    The problem starts when people are on the defensive and misinterpret posts like this. Let’s make clear that I totally agree with Benn here. He is not knocking the different model, on the contrary….he welcomes it (as so do I).

    What I don’t condone and will never understand are personal attacks? Is there a need? If your model is so great, why put down the competition or different models at that? Why stereotype and say all Realtors are unethical…..the generalizations are as absurd and I personally find offensive.

  5. Jonathan Dalton

    April 23, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    I’d written about the same thing to someone privately this morning, Benn …

    My kids like to wrestle with me on the floor … let’s all jump on the big fat guy, he can take it … anyway, about the time that the tide is turning they surrender and no longer want to play. They had been the aggressors all along – jumping onto my back from the couch, cheap shots, you name it. But as soon as they find themselves in a friendlier version of the Figure Four leg lock, the game’s no fun anymore.

    “Why are we even playing,” they complain. “This isn’t fun. Why can’t we just have a hug?”

    If you want a hug, come ask for a hug. If you want to wrestle, then attack. But don’t attack and then say after the point all you wanted was the hug. The aggressor’s always the aggressor, even if they’re getting their tuchas handed to them.

    Don’t attack the vast majority of agents and then wonder why we don’t all get along. We’re not getting along because we’re reacting to the initial attack.

  6. Benn Rosales

    April 24, 2008 at 7:18 am

    @Jeff Very solid comparison in every way. But I am damn near positive you and I each could down a home on our change from Starbucks. Come on!

    @Ines One of the things I dislike most about the online real estate community is the need to self-sell while commenting or blogging. About how folks cannot resist the opportunity to say how “everyone else sucks but me.” The generalization is being used every day to discredit the profession and I for one get sick to my stomach at the first sign of it in a post or comment. I’ve learned that it is next to impossible to have an honest dialogue on anything anymore.

    As to your comment, you and I are exactly on the same page.

    @Jonathan I’d never have used the fat kid analogy, nor put anyone in a figure 4 but damn I should have. It’s absolutely dead on.

  7. Late Night Austin Real Estate

    April 24, 2008 at 7:29 am

    I think its a positive to have other companies out there like redfin. I think full service reputation is worth it but I dont have a problem with consumers having a choice. I don’t understand why Redfin has a need to attack realtors. I also think a lot of the investors in these companies have been duped. Did they realize that this “revolutionary” concept had already been tried multiple times and never got the huge returns I am sure they all hoped for.

  8. Benn Rosales

    April 24, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Ki, I absolutely agree. You and I being in the same market can testify that even in a small city the pond is deep enough for just about any brand, niche and model. I for one am a great fan of choice over an everything looks alike landscape.

    I’m wondering if you have a sense of whether Redfin can turn the tide and drop the revolution and be wildly successful as I do?

  9. Jonathan Dalton

    April 24, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Benn – I’m the fat guy, man, not the kids. When you go three spins, you may as well have fun with it.

  10. Thomas Johnson

    April 25, 2008 at 8:00 am

    No revolution was ever conducted where the revolutionaries had more money than the target of the revolt. There is such a disconnect between Redfin’s poor mouth rhetoric and the reality of having $20 million of other peoples’ money in the business. The evil empire (Realogy/NRT) was built by smart investors buying businesses that had been created by individuals from blood, sweat and tears. Redfin is just trying to buy enough revenue so that they can flip the company to another web buyer or an IPO.

    I have to wonder if Kelman is suicidal. If his “revolution” succeeds,in driving commission rates down, how is he going to pay the rebate and salaries and benefits? I don’t think listing brokers are going to take a pay cut as a donation to the revolution or Kelman’s VC masters’ enrichment.

    I imagine that Redfin is shopping the technology platform to major brokers a la’s sale to Prudential.

  11. Benn Rosales

    April 25, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Thomas, that poor poor nail you just hit on the head…

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