Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman revealed Thursday that some of his company’s employees who were furloughed amid the coronavirus pandemic have now returned to work as the market improves.
Kelman made the comments during an earnings call with investors. In addition to revealing that Redfin’s financial performance beat analysts’ expectations, Kelman also said that 14 percent of the company’s furloughed employees returned to work on May 1.
Redfin had announced in early April that it was furloughing 41 percent of its agents, or nearly 600 people, as well as some support staff. At the time, the furloughs were expected to last until September.
The company also laid off 7 percent of its staff along with the furloughs.
Kelman didn’t get into details regarding which employees have already returned to work, but a spokesperson told Inman in an email that “everyone at the company is rallying around our goal to bring everyone back and we were thrilled to welcome 14 percent of our furloughed folks back on May 1.”
“We’re evaluating demand weekly and will make decisions to bring folks back based on local demand,” the spokesperson added.
But he did generally take an optimistic tone during the call and indicated the market appears to be recovering from lows it reached during the pandemic. Among other things, he said that demand has not fallen off in the ways that some people expected.
“It’s been really strong,” Kelman said of demand for real estate. “We’ve had enough time to feel somewhat confident that the demand is going to pull through, and even to feel that homebuyers are more serious now.”
Kelman added that some buyers appear to be more serious now because they are more confident that they’ll be able to win houses. Prior to the pandemic, many buyers were losing multiple bidding warns and may have had a sense that the process was “futile,” Kelman said. But that appears to be changing now as the consumers who remain in the market double down on actually getting a home.
The single family home market is doing particularly well, in part because it’s a market that caters to higher-income buyers and in part because there’s a long-standing shortage of new units coming onto the market.
“By and large, single family homes are doing well,” Kelman said, adding that he does not see significant price reductions on the horizon.
Additionally — and perhaps because demand has remained so strong — Redfin’s agents are swamped, despite some furloughs ending.
“Even with the return of some agents from a furlough, each agent is working with a large volume of customers,” Kelman said.
Kelman also revealed during Thursday’s call that his company is restarting its iBuying program, dubbed Redfin Now. The program will only resume in three markets, but should begin buying homes in additional markets in the coming months.
He added that “Redfin Now performed better in a downturn than we feared.”
Other iBuyers such as Opendoor and Zillow are also resuming their own iBuyer programs.
Asked during Thursday’s call about the broader iBuyer market, Kelman said that after the pandemic it “will be more rational” with all of the players focused less on trying to buy market share and more on making money from each property.
“I think it’s better for all the players,” he added.
Updated: This post was updated after publication with comments from a Redfin spokesperson.