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The Powers and Limits of the All-Mighty Redfin

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Curbed contributor Danny Ahkiam is going through the agony and ecstasy of trying to buy a home in Los Angeles. He'll periodically share his thoughts on the process, and in his first dispatch, he provides some thoughts on the most popular web site of all, Facebook. Hah, just kidding. Everyone knows the Redfin is the most popular site of all:

Ahkiam writes: "For the last 6 months my wife and I have been trying and trying...and trying to buy our first home in what our kids will one day call North Central LA. Our price range has always been decidedly closer to dilapidated stucco death trap than shameless pleasure palace, but then the housing market crash brought a set of actual livable properties into the range of feasibility. Very exciting! I quickly became a Redfin addict, and almost every morning I get an email with price reductions and sales updates. More than a few times those update emails lead to desk pounding as some attractive craftsman duplex with avocado trees switches from "active" to "contingent."


Redfin is a wonderful tool and its user interface makes it easier than ever before for a buyer to find properties and track them over time without the help of an agent. It's perfectly suited for a cheap yet picky potential buyer like myself, who rejects out of hand 90%+ of the listing suggested to me by our agent.

However, the usefulness of an entry on Redfin is completely dependent on the thoroughness of the seller's agent.

They may not realize that now they're marketing directly to owners or may not understand exactly what's required of them in the online real estate marketplace. As a result, too many listing are like this one in Echo Park on Morton Ave for $440,000:

TWO HOUSES ON A LOT BACK UNIT BUILD ON TOP OF THE GARAGE FRONT HOUSE IS A ONE BEDROOM ONE BATH, TILE FLOORS , LOTS OF PARKING SPACE, SECON UNIT HAS BIG KITCHEN WITH A DINING ROOM, COVER PATIO PERFECT FOR OWNER TO LIVE IN THIS UNIT. UNITS CAN BE VACANT AT COE


The all caps and the grammar grate, but set that aside for this quick reading comprehension test: How many units are there? With how many bedrooms each? You can’t figure it out from the text above, but the agent says it’s a 3 bedroom house, with a 2 bedroom unit above the garage, and ZIMAS (LA’s online database of parcel information) backs the agent up.

This information wasn’t that difficult to find out, but it required phone calls and waiting, and would have if the property’s stats were all clearly laid out. Ultimately these type of listings hurt the seller more than anyone, so presumably industry standards will change as sellers demand more effective online representation. But until then, it's hard to realize the full potential of Redfin.
· 616 North ALVARADO St [Redfin]
· 1115 CALLE VISTA Dr [Redfin]
· 1728 MORTON Ave [Redfin]