Redfin (where I work as a software engineer) is now open for business in Portland. This is now our 11th market, but it’s special — it’s the first market we’ve entered where state law prohibits us from passing savings to the home-buyer in the form of a rebate. In some cases we are allowed to apply some of this would-be rebate money to closing costs, and when that’s possible we will do it. But that may still leave some money on the table that we would like to refund to the buyer, but can’t. What to do? We decided that we will donate the rest of the money to one of four charities, buyer’s choice.
If you click to view the details of any home (for example 2320 NW Pinnacle Dr) you will see a link in the top right-hand corner that talks about these charities. Click it, and you’ll see this:
Notice that we give people a convenient way to contact their local representative and ask him/her to repeal the anti-rebate law. I’m really curious to see where this goes. Will there be a grass-roots movement strong enough to get the law changed? And if it happens in Portland, would it cause similar laws to be repealed more quickly elsewhere? If so, then Redfin will truly have achieved something tangible in our goal to change the real estate industry. It would be HUGE.
Now, if the Portland law is repealed, I’m also curious to see what happens next. Right now we try to save money for consumers, but where we can’t, we give money to charity. What’s not to like about that? But if the anti-rebate law is passed, presumably we would start giving consumers the option to keep all of the rebate for themselves (and skip the charities), and my guess is that most people will take that option. How would we all look then?? I guess we’ll deal with that problem when we get there.