This website/service can save you ten thousand dollars or more when you buy a house in certain cities. It is an online real estate broker that rebates 2/3rds of the usual agent sales commission back to you. Since you are probably doing most of the hard work in research, looking, and evaluation while shopping for a house anyway, why pay a real estate agent? On the other hand, there’s a lot of paperwork, regulations, and legal issues you really don’t want to handle, and a qualified agent should. So this is how Redfin works.

Redfin has a great online real estate website which we quickly found is one of the easier ones to use, with nice virtual walk thrus of each home, and good comparison data for the neighborhood. (The site is a joy to navigate, and we’d use it even if we did not get a rebate.) Then you, in the role of buyer and self-agent, do all the footwork of finding, visiting the various homes, checking out the disclosures, etc., and finally choosing which property you want. You are your own real estate agent up to this point. When you are ready to make on offer on a home, you do so online via Redfin, completing the necessary forms on the web. Then a human Redfin employee will take you through the final paperwork and signatures, and eventually visit the house with you. At the close of the deal they will rebate 2/3rds of their buyer agent commission paid by the seller, or 2% of the sale price, which in some areas of the country will mean at least ten thousand dollars.

We used this recently to purchase a home in the Bay Area and saved $15,000 this way. That is, after we closed the deal at the agreed-to price with the seller, Redfin gave us a check for $15K, in effect reducing our cost of the house by 2%. In our book that was enough to make the deal work.

The current drawback? This service is only available in a few cities in California, Washington, and a very few east coast cities. I have no experience in using Redfin in selling a house, although they claim you can save a similar amount.

– KK