Hooray! Redfin just expanded to Charlotte and The Triangle in North Carolina. To get to know everyone, we’re hosting a party Wednesday, March 6 at The Architect in Raleigh and Thursday, March 7 at Byron’s South End in Charlotte. If you’d like to talk to a Redfinnian about where the North Carolina market’s headed, or if you have ideas for how we can build our Carolina business, come on by!

What’s the big deal? Well, for the first time, folks in North Carolina can use a top-rated website and mobile tools to see all the juicy details that a real estate agent sees about listings and recent sales, drawing directly on the local databases real estate agents use to move homes on and off the market.

More importantly, we’re giving Carolinians a different kind of real estate agent to help in the purchase or sale of their place. Unlike traditional agents, Redfin agents are paid customer satisfaction bonuses rather than commissions, so you can always feel sure we’re on your side.

For each Redfin agent, we publish a map of where we’ve succeeded and failed at selling homes, and what every single customer had to say about us. And we use technology to make the process easy at every step, which allows us to deliver better service while saving folks thousands in fees, about $7,000 when you move from one $300,000 home to another.

So what took us so long? Well, unlike other online real estate companies, we expand one market at a time, hiring our own local agents and drawing on data from the local Multiple Listing Service. This means we get about 20% more agent-listed properties than Zillow or Trulia, often a week faster. It also means we have to do a lot of local software plumbing whenever we open a new market.

And since we make a living representing buyers and sellers, all while paying agents salary and benefits at about what the top 10% percent of full-time traditional agents earn in that market, we are picky about which markets have enough mid-priced homes for Redfin to turn a profit, and where we’re likely to meet the kinds of tech-savvy folks who prefer Redfin.

Julie McGee Sharpe

In Charlotte, the price of a typical home is half the Redfin average, which also halves what we can charge our customers. But as Redfin has expanded, we’ve figured out ways each year to deliver better service at lower cost, in large part by carefully analyzing the services different customers need at different points along the way: we don’t try to get people to tour a home who really need to talk to a lender first, and we know when a neighborhood has enough website activity to support hiring another agent. As a result, we can afford to operate in Charlotte now, but couldn’t have two years ago.

This is good news because it turns out that a fast-growing, progressive city like Charlotte is loaded with the kinds of people who love Redfin, and that this is probably even more true of The Triangle. Our most successful market launch so far was last April in Austin, in a college town similar to Chapel Hill. We expect Austin and now North Carolina to join other markets Redfin recently launched that are now contributing significant revenues: Denver, which opened in 2011, grew 337% in 2012; Dallas opened in December 2010 and just grew 346%.

To run our North Carolina business, we hired two local folks with 25 years of collective real estate experience. Julie McGee Sharpe, who will manage all of North Carolina for Redfin, lives, eats and breathes real estate. She started at Coldwell Banker in 2000, then moved to Helen Adams Realty. She has spent her whole life in the Charlotte area except for a year studying piano in Winston-Salem.

Allen Wyde, who runs our Triangle business, has owned and operated two brokerages since getting his license in 2001 and he is also an active real estate investor. Both came to Redfin to put the customer first, and we’re proud to have the two of them representing Redfin in North Carolina.

Next up is Houston, the Bronx and then Delaware, all of which we expect to launch in the next few weeks. In the space of a month, we will have added more than 3 million properties to our website and mobile tools, and increased the number of active listings available on Redfin by 14%. It’s strange to think, six years in, that we’re still just starting out, with more than two thirds of the country a vast wilderness yet unknown to Redfin’s service.

A brokerage is a hard business to get going, but once you do get it going, it’s a hard business to stop.

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