It seems to happen like clockwork these days, Redfin launches a new feature on its website – Mike Arrington writes another fawning review on Techcrunch.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Redfin. I really admire what they are trying do. Plus, Glenn Kelman is a really nice guy and an absolute master at playing up his underdog story (see Forbes’ Swimming With Sharks). No wonder Arrington gets lured into writing nonsense like “[Redfin] is doing its best to completely remove real estate agents and brokers (and their absurd fees) from at least half of a home sale.”

Personally I’ve always felt that the fact they compensate their agents based on customer service is an intriguing idea and is long overdue change to the traditional broker model. But there’s certainly no question their discount model is a tough one to pull off, especially in this market.

That said – Redfin still has one of the best broker websites out there and the new release they pushed out overnight continues to build on their industry leading interface. A few highlights from their press release:

Redfin increased the frequency of listing updates from ten of its 16 member MLSs, allowing users to access new listing information as quickly as 15 minutes within a property’s being listed, re-priced or sold.

No brainer. More frequency means better search results. I doubt in most markets these days that inventory is moving as quickly as it was a couple of years ago, so having this freshness isn’t necessarily going to give buyers an edge. But it still nice to have.

Redfin also now provides for each listing:

  • a set of similar listings and recently sold properties
  • a complete history of any price changes since the listing became active
  • a second market value estimate from
  • local Redfin blog and message board conversations
  • photographic bird’s-eye views of the property.

I’m all for more data wrapped around listings. It’s the failing point for most brokers these days. And it’s one that search tools like Roost and DotHomes make so painfully obvious to buyers too – listing landing pages on most broker sites are absolutely horrible (see Building a New Real Estate Home Page).

(Aside – Interesting they chose to go with estimates from eppraisal and not their Puget Sound neighbors Zillow. Bad blood brewing in Seattle?)

More: users now can use neighborhood outlines as search boundaries, calculating median price, price per square foot and other metrics for that neighborhood. For the first time, users can download data to a spreadsheet for an in-depth analysis. Home buyers can use the data to prepare a comparative market analysis to estimate the value of a home.

Love it.

Can I say that again? Love it.

I’m with; this is the killer feature in the new release. Freeing up the data is another no brainer and even more so when it’s a move you can make to court buyers. Brokers of all shades should be thinking of ways that they can engage and retain buyers on their web sites right now. The buyers are out there (especially with the recent rate cuts) and I suspect the savvy ones will flock to the sites with the best tools.

The only thing disappointing with this release is that it reminds me that Redfin won’t be coming to Portland any time soon.

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