Redfin and transforming the Service Industry

I’ve been using Redfin to look for a house, and it’s pretty great.  Its listings seem comprehensive, it gives you powerful search and comparison abilities, it reduces your realtor fees, and it in general does what you would want a web-based realty service to do.

And it’s a great example of and template for web-mediated service industries, and a good reason for why you shouldn’t imagine that you can keep service-related jobs onshore in the way you couldn’t keep manufacturing jobs.  As far as I know, Redfin employees are in fact all local, but there’s no real reason they have to be.  There can be a few low-paid people in your area to get you into houses, and then everyone else could be located in India.

These kind of web-mediated services are on the rise, and though they can be tricky to figure out precisely how to implement, the really good ones are powerful and disruptive.  As I look forward into house ownership, I find myself wondering how to do web-mediated contractors.  A Redfin-like model for general contractors, part DIY with web tools, part less-hands-on experts, seems like it has some real potential.

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One thought on “Redfin and transforming the Service Industry

  1. I’m not sure that the Redfin model would work for a General Contracting service. There is an enormous variety of construction practices, materials, building codes, laws, etc. across the United States. For example, California has SB800 (the “Right to Repair” bill). Government-funded work triggers the payment of prevailing wages and slew of other requirements. I’m not sure how your model could address these kinds of geographic and legal differences.

    I think your idea could work, but the service-user should be the GC as an owner-builder, and the computer service could provide architectural services or bidding services. Your average Joe has at least a passing familiarity with the residential real estate market, and many licensed real estate agents are only somewhat helpful. Most people don’t have that for the construction industry, and those folks would not get what they needed from a computer service. In fact, they could be open to lawsuits, liens, and a lot more liability than they realized.

    Redfin has filled a need for well-educated consumers who are frustrated with unhelpful agents. I know there is a lot of frustration with GCs and construction “professionals”, but I don’t think a computer service can address it.

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