Real estate in some parts of Philadelphia just got a little more high tech.
Redfin, an online data-oriented real estate brokerage, recently announced the expansion of its services into select parts of the Philadelphia real estate market, including Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy and Manayunk.
“We hesitated for a year or so because the average home price is below $200,000, which makes it hard to give customers a break on the commission and still deliver Redfin’s mind-blowing service,” said Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman. “But over the years, we’ve gotten more efficient, both through a thousand little operational improvements and by slowly bringing technology to every step of the process.”
Kelman says he has personal ties to Philadelphia, having run the Philly marathon and courted his wife in the city, but the company has ties here, as well.
“One of Redfin’s earliest and most insightful investors, Marc Singer of Osage Partners, is also Philly-based,” said Kelman of the suburban Bala Cynwyd centered firm. “So there was a little extra pride when we first hoisted the Redfin banner alongside the Liberty Bell.”
Redfin’s local office, however, is located just outside the city in Springfield.
The expansion increased the home listings on Redfin’s site by 8.5 percent according to the press release and a post on the new Philadelphia addition to its Sweet Digs blog network, the company launched.
Redfin, which is also operating in markets on the Main Line and in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware counties, offers two different types of services to Philadelphia customers. In addition to online listings database and locally-based Redfin real estate agents, the company also brings a suite of online tools, including agent reviews and home tour scheduling, as well as a mobile application for iOS and Android to the Philadelphia market, with the stated intent of putting more information in the hands of customers.
“All sorts of folks in Philly would love to work with an agent who uses digital tools at every step of the transaction, and most everyone here would love to save thousands in fees too,” said Kelman. “Redfin isn’t for everybody, but for some people in Philly it will be a very, very deep groove.”
Many of these tools are based on data from TREND, Philadelphia’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS) which Kelman says all local real estate agents use to list homes.
Kelman says choosing which Philadelphia neighborhoods Redfin would cover was a significant challenge, especially since Redfin is hoping to ramp up its coverage area faster here than it has in other cities.
“We need dozens of agents to cover every neighborhood, but we don’t have enough Philly business to support each one, particularly since we pay our agents benefits, a salary and bonuses based on customer satisfaction,” says Kelman. “We then divvied up Philly’s neighborhoods into areas our own agents cover and those our partners will mostly handle. This involved a lot of guesswork about which areas would be mostly likely to engage a Redfin agent, and which would be just as comfortable with a partner agent.”
As part of the expansion, Redfin has brought on local real estate agent Linda Wolbers to lead the Philadelphia-based team. Kelman told Technically Philly that Redfin will be looking to hire more locals as the business expands.
“It’s a great idea to combine local folks with Redfin veterans from other markets, but we haven’t done that in any Redfin markets, mostly because real estate is such an intensely local craft, with local licensing requirements,” said Kelman.
If you’re looking to buy a house in the Philadelphia area and want to give Redfin a try, the newcomer is hosting a community launch party at the Manayunk Brewery on March 28, 2012.