Real estate brokerage company Redfin Corp., which has made a name for itself with low-cost services and an unconventional business model, today is launching message boards to facilitate real estate conversations among consumers.

The company announced that its Redfin Forums message boards will feature discussions about neighborhoods in which Redfin operates.

Cynthia Pang, a company spokeswoman, said that Redfin may be among the first brokerage companies to launch such forums, though the concept is not new to the industry. Zillow (Home Q&A) and Trulia (Trulia Voices) have launched online question-and-answer communities that allow consumers and real estate professionals to talk about properties or neighborhoods online, for example. And Move Inc., which operates popular real estate search sites Realtor.com and Move.com, has announced similar plans to facilitate online real estate discussions.

Redfin earlier ran into trouble with a regional multiple listing service over its Sweet Digs blogs, which have featured discussions about for-sale properties. Washington’s Northwest MLS fined the company $50,000 and threatened to remove the company’s MLS access, charging that Redfin’s blogs violated MLS rules by featuring properties that were listed for sale by other brokerage companies. Redfin, which appealed the fine, in May took down the blog sites before relaunching them last month.

While Northwest MLS rules prevent members from commingling listing information with other non-MLS information on a Web site, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman has said that the reviews on the blog site were separated from the property listings displayed on Redfin’s site.

Pang said that Redfin is awaiting an arbitration date related to the MLS fine. “It’s not a settled issue with us.” The content of the Sweet Digs blogs has changed somewhat in response to the MLS complaint, Pang said. “Mainly, we can’t do in-person property reviews and it’s more of an analytical format.”

Jeff Coop, legal affairs manager at Northwest MLS, could not be reached for comment about the status of the alleged rules violation and Redfin’s newly announced forums.

The MLS rules do not appear to restrict consumer forums, Pang said. “In this case we are providing a forum for people to talk about real estate. They can’t tell our customers what to write about,” she said. “We’re creating (the forums) just for consumers to talk to consumers.”

Redfin employees may also contribute when there are questions about Redfin, she said. “We’ll answer the ones that are Redfin-specific. If we’re asked about specific homes, we’re not going to address those unless they are our properties.”

The forums, which Pang said were expected to launch at noon Pacific time today, will be focused on various markets in which Redfin now operates, though consumers can also ask questions about other markets. “We’re hoping that it’s going to be really diehard real estate fans” who use the message boards, Pang said.

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