Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman has grown up, and so has his innovative Seattle-based company. He tries new things, he is constantly tweaking his model, and he spends less of his time taking shots at the industry — showing the kind of maturity that makes for a successful executive.

  • Lots of learning with on-demand showings, which are going slower than Kelman would like.
  • “Employee model works for us, not sure about anyone else,” he said.
  • Redfin is now in 80 markets and growing.
  • On being more collaborative with the industry: “You grow up and get along. We don’t have to give anyone the middle finger.”
Glenn Kelman

Glenn Kelman

Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman has grown up, and so has his innovative Seattle-based company. He tries new things, he is constantly tweaking his model, and he spends less of his time taking shots at the industry — showing the kind of maturity that makes for a successful executive.

That’s one reason why Glenn Kelman is Inman’s 2015 Real Estate Executive of the Year.

“The market needs Redfin and it needs Coldwell Banker — neither are going away,” said Kelman.

Redfin has a different business model than other real estate brokerages. Its real estate agents earn bonuses based on customer satisfaction, not just commission. The firm also gives part of the commission back to the buyer in the form of a refund. When they help someone sell a home, they charge a fee of 1.5 percent of the price of the home, instead of the typical 3 percent.

Kelman talks about the real estate industry differently today than he did a few years ago, when he was a harsh critic of the old guard, pummeling traditional brokers for not being customer-focused and for welding themselves to the 6 percent commission. He still is very customer- and technology-focused, but he has softened when it comes to discussing others in the industry.

One innovation this year was Redfin’s “Book It Now” feature, which promises to make booking a home tour as easy as ordering a car service. Uber for real estate? Not quite, but it includes features that look like Uber and other on-demand services.

Kelman contends a growing segment of the real estate consumer base is eager to have on-demand services. At one time, he believed that having a single point of contact with the same agent throughout the process was critical to delivering good customer service.

But many younger buyers are not attached to the idea of a deep agent relationship. Redfin has learned that some buyers are much more interested in seeing the house as quickly as possible and are unconcerned about who is showing them. On-demand services is about getting what you want, right now.

Redfin services also require a team approach to real estate sales, which is something franchise powerhouse Keller Williams has figured out.

We expect other innovations from Kelman next year.

He says that “on-demand” services go beyond just showings. “I not only want to see the house now, but I want to make an offer now.”

He also sees a growing segment of the public willing to make decisions to buy a home without viewing the house. He said Redfin’s 3-D product from Matterport has been “a game changer,” helping to facilitate those types of transactions. And 3-D technology is also a screening device so that time is not wasted visiting homes that a buyer would not buy.

Like traditional brokers, Kelman says his challenge is to get more agents and more listings. “We can make up new rules once we have more listings. And the more agents we have, we can do different types of things,” he said.

Real estate is still local and you can’t solve the problems of a transaction with call centers in India, said Kelman. “How do we make the market move faster — it is people and technology.”

Email Brad Inman.

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