SAN FRANCISCO — Tech-focused brokerage and referral site Redfin has been on a growth streak as it eyes both national expansion and a possible initial public offering.

speaker-glen-kelman

Glenn Kelman

Speaking at Real Estate Connect, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman today shared some insights into what the company has learned in its 10-year existence as a well-funded startup that balances a life as tech engine and real estate brokerage.

The Seattle-based firm has more than 1,000 agents in 29 markets that it pays as employees with salaries and benefits, rather than as independent contractors, as is the norm in the industry. Approximately half (46 percent) of those agents came to Redfin from an industry other than real estate, Kelman said.

Redfin’s raised approximately $100 million to date, but Kelman said some tried-and-true practices the firm has implemented are free or low-cost. These include:

  • Routing phone calls through a service like Twilio that ensures that modern consumers who expect on-demand service get connected with a Redfin agent even if the specific agent they’re trying to contact is unavailable at the time.
  • Syncing an office’s Google Calendars, so when a potential client wants to see a house “now,” the office manager can route to an available agent.
  • Emailing contacts and leads at the right time with a catchy headline. Open rates on emails that Redfin sends out jump to above 40 percent on the weekends as compared with below 30 percent during the middle of the week, Kelman said. Email headlines that include numbers also lead to a higher likelihood that the email will be opened, Redfin has found.
  • Polished real estate agent photos from a professional photographer in a studio-like setting increases conversion. High-quality photography is costly, Kelman said, but Redfin has seen dividends: Since rolling out professional agent photos for all of its agents, lead conversion has gone up 16 percent.

Redfin’s millions of dollars in tech investment also powers its unique business model.

That investment helps streamline Redfin agents’ workflow, Kelman said. The average Redfin agent closes more than 40 transactions per year because they spend more time actually working with clients than prospecting, he said.

In addition, looking to serve the traditionally underserved seller on the Web has paid dividends, Kelman said.

Adding a

Adding a “Sell My Home” call to action on its home page has increased listing presentations by 54 percent, Kelman said.

Since adding a “Sell My Home” tab next to its home search section on its home page, Redfin has seen listing consultations jump 54 percent, Kelman said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that Redfin is 10 years old.

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