Several real estate companies saw their stock prices plummet following news of the $418 million settlement reached by the National Association of Realtors last week over commission bundling and inflation, namely Redfin. But CEO Glen Kelman, who has held the position for nearly two decades, seems newly optimistic about Redfin’s future after the deal.

“For 18 years, we’ve been trying to change the game and give consumers a better deal,” Kelman said in an interview Wednesday with CNBC. “Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it was hard, but over the weekend it got easier.”

The business model of a discount residential real estate brokerage deviates from simply ensuring that commissions do not go into listings. Redfin charges between 1% and 1.5% selling and buying fees on its platform, compared to 2.5% to 3% from traditional brokerages. The company was hit hard by rising mortgage rates amid higher inflation, and from April 2022 to December 2023, Redfin cut its headcount by 40% and cut its lead agent force by 40% through “ involuntary layoffs and leakage,” the company said. Redfin hired an average of about 1,776 real estate agents last year, down from 2,426 in 2022. The company also shuttered its online home-buying and selling business, RedfinNow, in November 2022.

However, the day news of the settlement dropped, search for the listing jumped 14%, and over the weekend, homebuyer search was up 5% for Redfin on a weekly basis, Kelman boasted. Last year, Redfin saw an average of 50 million visitors per month to its website and mobile app. Kelman said the weekend demand spike isn’t just seasonal, although there may be a little seasonality; (spring is a prime season in the housing world known for sales and shopping). “This is an unusual signal for us,” he said.

It’s hard to say the dust has settled in the week since the National Association of Realtors reached a settlement over an alleged commission-rigging conspiracy. The nation’s largest trade association has agreed to pay $418 million in damages in multiple antitrust lawsuits — though it still denies wrongdoing. The real estate market index is down 19% on a five-day basis and 49% over the past six months.

Kelman, for one, doesn’t seem too concerned about the settlement’s impact on his business.

“We’re just getting more aggressive in selling homes directly to consumers,” Kelman said when asked how Redfin was adjusting after the settlement. “There are so many people who called us over the weekend after the news of the settlement broke and said, ‘I don’t want to pay a buyer’s agent.’ I want to hire you to sell homes directly to buyers.”

Kelman then went on to point out that Redfin has already saved consumers more than a billion dollars in fees, and that over the weekend he saw “greater affinity” for the company, with more people wanting to list their homes and be represented by Redfin. He mentioned Redfin’s business model and that they charge as little as 1% to list a home, or 2% if selling directly to a buyer – and if they represent a buyer in a listing from another brokerage, they refund a portion of the buyer’s commission.

Kelman suggested that everyone is just trying to figure out if the real estate world is really going to change. “Everybody wants to know, is this for real?” It’s real, but the settlement is still awaiting court approval and won’t go into effect until this summer. Kelman seems to think that buyers can go either way from here, whether they decide to seek the help of an agent or not.

“We just think people should have a choice; we are also buyers agents,” he said. “So we know people need guidance throughout the process … but they shouldn’t hire someone, they should do it because they want to — and when they do, they should have a say in how much they get paid of this agent. This is the premise for this industry reform.”

According to him, now that consumers know what’s going on, it will be difficult for them to go back to the old regime or the standard commission structure of 5% to 6% that is listed and split between the sellers’ agents and the buyers’ agents. So far, Redfin customers have asked if they can reduce or eliminate commissions for pre-existing listings, Kelman said. However, the number of homes listed over the weekend that no longer offer a buyer’s agent commission hasn’t changed much, he added. “People are still processing the news,” Kelman said.

Last October, Redfin announced it was severing ties with the National Association of Realtors. NAR policies were a problem, but there was more than one factor. “NAR still blocks sellers from listing homes that don’t pay a buyer’s agent commission, and blocks websites like from displaying for-sale-by-owner listings alongside agent-listed homes. Removing these blocks would be easy and would make our industry more consumer-friendly and competitive,” Kelman and others on the leadership team wrote in a scathing letter.

On the day the settlement was made public, Kelman wrote in a lengthy response that the change, which benefits consumers, is good for Redfin. But, of course, Redfin faces its own lawsuits — including the most recent one filed last month in California alleging that NAR, the California Association of Realtors, and Redfin colluded to inflate commissions. In his reaction to the settlement, he wrote that “the settlement does not affect the lawsuits against Redfin,” without elaborating further.

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