Editor’s Note: Redfin sent this email from CEO Glenn Kelman to all of its employees, including its 1,500+ real estate agents, on Wednesday evening, following its announcement of Redfin Direct, its new service enabling customers to place offers on Redfin-listed homes on the company’s website without a buyer’s agent. The company forwarded the email to Inman on Thursday morning.

Hi everyone,

Today we launched Redfin Direct, our online tool for unrepresented buyers in Boston to make an offer on a Redfin listing. In our public announcement, we were clear that we expect the vast majority of people buying a Redfin listing to use a buyers’ agent.

We were also clear that we expect to hire many buyers’ agents of our own for as long as Redfin continues to grow.

A sensational headline

Inman News nonetheless published a headline saying we’re introducing an option to eliminate buyers’ agents. It’s true that Redfin Direct is an option to buy a home without a buyers’ agent, but the headline is misleading: The elimination of buyers’ agents isn’t Redfin Direct’s goal, nor is it even a consequence that’s within the realm of possibility.

We’ve sold five homes to Redfin Direct buyers.

The only way to protect our agents’ future is to put our customers first

But we should be clear that we want Redfin Direct to succeed, because it benefits us all. The only way Redfin can honor our commitment to our agents’ future is by giving you the best product to sell to our customers.

The best product for a homeowner is one that gets more offers for her home, without requiring her to pay a commission for a buyer who would have bought that home anyway.

We could take a different approach, refusing to consider any product, regardless of whether it fulfills our mission or drives more sales, unless it employs agents in the exact same way as before.

This would force consumers to pay for service they don’t want. By this logic, we’d wouldn’t accept cash offers, for fear of putting Redfin’s mortgage advisers out of work; we’d require homebuyers to include every contingency, so we could keep our coordinators busy.

The agent of change, not the victim

But the truth is, we’ve decided that the only way for all of us to prosper is by being an agent of change, not a victim, by being an advocate for consumers, not just for ourselves. We aren’t going to wait for another company to give consumers a better deal and then scurry to figure out how we can talk people out of it.

We’re going to imagine a better future for our customers, and build a company where everyone benefits from our success. This is what every broker that cares about its agents should do.

As we’ve already established, that means that any Redfin agent working with a buyer who decides to make a Redfin Direct offer still gets half the bonus, without having to do any further work on the sale. But over time, it means that we’ll also challenge ourselves to come up with new products that customers want from our buyers’ agents.

A culture of service

Of course there are companies that are ruthless about satisfying their customers and heedless of how that affects their own employees or society at large. Redfin isn’t that company.

In our first seven years, we nearly went bankrupt time and again because we rejected hiring agents and coordinators as contractors, choosing instead to build this company together, as one Redfin.

We pay for salaries and health insurance and limit hiring to the number of agents we can support with the customers our website provides, so everyone has an opportunity to earn a good living.

This doesn’t put us beyond reproach; there are still a thousand ways we want to be a better employer. But you should know that our deepest belief is in the people who have built this company and in a culture of humble service.

We don’t just tell you that. We tell the folks on Wall Street that, even though some might prefer a more calculated approach. Here’s how we ended our earnings call today:

“The winner [in our industry] will have a culture of service and financial discipline. That culture depends on a thousand friendships between agents, engineers and lenders, on love disguised as hard work, and hard work disguised as love.”

What’s so strange about our society today is that we believe there’s more magic in a company’s technology than in the people using that technology or in the way those people treat one another.

Redfin believes in technology, but technology on its own is just a glorified toaster oven. Our culture is our deepest source of competitive advantage. It’s why we are more sure than we’ve ever been that we can win.

If you have any questions, comments or beefs, please send ‘em my way!

Love, Glenn

Email Inman

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