Registered users of Redfin’s website can now see what the brokerage’s agents thought of listings they’ve toured, whether "the lawn needs to be mowed" or the home "showed well," CEO Glenn Kelman announced in a blog post.
The comments that Redfin agents make in "Agent Insights" notes will also be e-mailed automatically to listing agents, Kelman said.
Given the sheer number of homes Redfin agents tour, the new feature will be a "game changer," for consumers, he said. The 13,793 Agent Insights currently available for homes on the market represent 35 percent of active listings in Irvine, Calif., and 31 percent of Seattle listings, Kelman wrote.
Redfin will give the client who requested the tour two days to decide whether they want to suppress Agent Insight comments.
"The reasoning behind this is that if you tour a hot property with Redfin, you shouldn’t have to worry that your agent will tell everyone else about it before you’ve had a chance to make your own move," Kelman said. "The customer who requested the tour comes first."
Only registered users of Redin’s virtual office website (VOW) will be able to see Agent Insights.
Under the terms of a November 2008 settlement between the Department of Justice and the National Association of Realtors, Redfin and other VOW operators are allowed to provide registered users of their sites with a broader range of property data from multiple listing services, which Kelman said includes the notes that agents take on home tours.
"This is exactly the kind of communication the Department of Justice’s historic settlement with the National Association of Realtors was designed to protect," Kelman wrote.
That doesn’t mean that buyers and sellers will be comfortable with this "degree of candor," Kelman acknowledged.
He said Redfin almost offered access to agents’ notes 18 months ago, after the settlement was finalized, but "couldn’t find a way to make it work for our agents, our buyers, our sellers, our peers in the industry."
By e-mailing "Agent Insights" to listing agents and giving prospective buyers the power to suppress their public display, the company hopes it has found a way to balance the interests of those groups, Kelman said.
The company plans to pay close attention to the feedback it receives on the new capabilities.
In 2007, Redfin was fined by Northwest MLS for publishing reviews of properties for sale on the company’s Sweet Digs blog. The reviews were authored by writers hired by Redfin to visit the properties in person.
Redfin appealed the fine, but shifted the focus of its blogs to be sources of information about markets it serves, analyzing price trends and recent sales.