Redfin today relaunched its local real estate blogs known as Sweet Digs after pulling the plug less than a month ago due to a multiple listing service rule that prohibits brokers from advertising other brokers’ listings.
Under pressure from Northwest MLS, Redfin in May shut down the Sweet Digs blogs, which at the time offered in-person reviews of local properties for sale in Seattle and San Francisco neighborhoods.
The broker-owned listing service, Northwest MLS, of which Redfin is a member, ruled that the reviews violated its regulations against advertising other brokers’ listings. The MLS issued a $50,000 fine to Redfin and threatened to terminate the brokerage firm’s access to MLS data, which it displays on its Web site.
Redfin said it is appealing the fine and has given no updates on the appeal.
The company explains the new format of the revamped Sweet Digs blogs takes a more analytical approach and aims to give insights on prices, inventory levels, bargains and open houses in San Francisco- and Seattle-area neighborhoods. The company said it plans to launch similar blogs for Southern California and Boston later this summer.
The new Sweet Digs blogs will add coverage for Oakland, Menlo Park, Newark, Redwood Shores and Woodside in the San Francisco Bay Area; and Beacon Hill, Belltown, Central District, First Hill and North Seattle in the Seattle area.
Redfin is an online brokerage that rebates a portion of its commission back to home buyers in exchange for buyers doing most of the research themselves. The company also offers to list homes for sale for a flat rate.
Redfin has spoken out at congressional hearings about rules and regulations set by the industry that the company says limit its ability to innovate. Industry insiders have fired back criticism that the company has used this as a crutch to make itself look like an underdog.
“We’ve said before that all the MLS rules form a thousand tiny shackles on our ability to innovate,” Kelman told Inman News in May when the Sweet Digs blogs were shut down.
He noted that the MLS has a policy against commingling listing information with other non-MLS information on a Web site, though he said that Redfin’s reviews were clearly separate from the listings on its site. What concerns the executive about this policy is that in a Web 2.0 world where information is constantly being mashed up together in new ways, consumers won’t be getting what they are looking for in real estate sites, he said.
In conjunction with the revamp of the new Sweet Digs blogs, Redfin said it surveyed 300 of its blog readers to find out what information they thought would be “very interesting.” Sixty-three percent chose price reductions, 62 percent chose past sales, 61 percent said inventory levels, and 61 percent also said open-house reviews.
“Every neighborhood has a real estate agent publishing postcards on recent sales, price reductions and open houses,” Kelman said today in an announcement. “Now we’re putting that information in an online newsletter, for every market we serve. We may allow customers to review active listings at some point down the road, but the MLS’ interpretation of the rules just didn’t allow us, as a broker, to author these reviews.”