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“This is an industry that is ripe for change and that change will come through technology,” he said. “But real estate agents are a value-added portion of the transaction.”
Lesinski isn’t the first broker to try to minimize the role of agents.
When Redfin, a national brokerage based on the West Coast, was launched in 2002 by a software programmer, the company set out to revolutionize the market by limiting the role of agents.
But feedback from clients suggested that they wanted more support, not less, because real estate transactions are so unfamiliar.
“Even though most people are doing their own research, they still want to talk to someone who will be on their side, who knows their neighborhood and has been involved with the most-recent bidding war on that block,” said Rachel Musiker, a senior public relations specialist for Redfin.
The company shifted focus by getting agents more involved in the transaction, but the company still differentiates itself from others by paying its agents a salary rather than a commission. For Redfin agents, the incentive comes in the form of a bonus that is paid based on the results of a post-sale survey.
“People like Redfin because our agents aren’t waiting for their next sale to pay their mortgage,” Musiker said. “We felt that the commission structure of traditional brokerages stand in the way of true advocacy.”
Redfin now operating in 22 states, not including Minnesota, but that’s about to change. The company has posted a job on its website for a real estate market manager for the Minneapolis area with an unspecified start date.
Musiker said that the company won’t say when it plans to open shop until it has assembled a sales team.
Already, most Twin Cities brokerages are increasing their dependence on technology. ReMax Results, for example, recently launched several enhancements to its website, including a feature that enables buyers to search for a home by commute time vs. searching distance.
When Sal Masotto recently decided to buy a house, he was ready to get more involved than he had during previous purchases. After spending several hours perusing listings on the Web before identifying a house in Mound, he contacted Empower Realty to set up a showing. That experience confirmed that he wanted to move forward.
“From there, it was easy to make an offer electronically,” Masotto said. “It was cool. I was notified by text the moment the seller accessed our offer and again when the seller accepted it.”
Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376