Redfin, a real estate brokerage company that offers deep rebates to buyers, is testing out a new service option in the Seattle area that allows buyers to participate in an unlimited amount of tours while reducing the company’s rebate rate.
Under the company’s standard plan, called Redfin Direct, prospective buyers receive two agent-led home tours free of charge and pay $250 for additional home tours. These consumers receive a refund of two-thirds of the commission that is paid to Redfin in a home-sale transaction.
The new Redfin Select plan offers a 50 percent commission refund but does not charge a per-tour fee. Participants in this service plan are limited to two tours per week.
Customers can choose to switch from the Direct to the Select plans after the first two free tours.
Traditional full-service real estate companies typically do not charge a fee to take buyers on tours of for-sale properties, though these companies also do not typically offer to refund a large amount of their commission to buyers.
Redfin’s tours last up to two hours each, and can include up to five or six homes. Homes are selected by buyers.
The tours can be scheduled from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, and the company also offers 40-minute rush-hour tours from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Participants in the Select plan must be pre-approved for a mortgage for the amount of the expected offer, must be searching for a home in the Seattle, Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue or Mercer Island market areas, and must share the tours with a partner if you are buying a home with a partner.
Redfin estimates the typical refund for a buyer in its standard program would be $10,000 based on a purchase of a $500,000 home, or $7,500 for the same home under its Select plan.
"We’ve been asked, ‘Are you going more toward a traditional model? Are you going to eventually turn into everyone else?’ " said Cynthia Pang, a Redfin spokeswoman. "It never has been for us: Traditional vs. non-traditional. It has been more about customer service." Consumers have expressed a desire to participate in more agent-guided home tours, she said.
Redfin is initially opening the program up to 20 clients and may expand the program to other markets, Pang said.