High-tech real estate company Redfin today announced the launch of a referral network that seeks to grow the company’s reach to new markets without adding more feet on the ground.

The referral network includes 35 non-Redfin agents for consumers to peruse and choose from at the company’s Redfin.com site — the agents work at 12 brokerage companies. The size of the referral network exceeds Redfin’s own staff of 20 agents.

Agents in the referral network are labeled as "Partner" agents at the site, and Redfin has conducted individual interviews and provides client reviews and past transaction details for all of the agents in the network

Redfin will earn a 30 percent referral fee for deals closed by partner agents, and will refund half of this fee income to consumers who use the partner agents.

Redfin will hand over the full 30 percent fee to consumers who aren’t satisfied with the performance of the partner agent they worked with, said Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman, and Redfin-referred clients can step away from their relationship with partner agents at any time.

Agents must have a minimum of 15 closed real estate transactions and three customer references to participate — the average agent in the initial referral pool has completed more than 130 transactions, Redfin reported.

While the initial group of referral network agents work in market areas where Redfin does not currently have a presence, Kelman said it is possible that Redfin agents and referral network agents will at some point work in the same market areas.

"Our goal is to have a free market … (to) see different agents at different price points," Kelman said.

"We couldn’t become a truly national site until now," he added, because it was too costly for the company to open offices and hire agents in every U.S. market.

"There were a whole bunch of markets that weren’t really economic for us to enter," and he said the referral network will allow Redfin to offer its online audience the opportunity to work with agents everywhere.

The referral network expands Redfin’s reach to parts of California’s Riverside and San Bernardino counties, Ventura, Solano, Sonoma, Napa and Santa Cruz counties; Washington’s Kitsap County; and South Cook County in Illinois.

The company plans to build its referral network in the next three months out to California’s Palm Desert area and to Monterey County; expand into Will County, Wash., and in parts of Pierce County, Snohomish County and King County in Washington; and also in Will County, Ill.

In October, Redfin announced a layoff of about 20 percent of its employees. The following month, Redfin announced a new service offering and cost structure.


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