Kelman retains his top five ranking this year, as Redfin (NASDAQ: RDFN) continues strong showing while introducing new initiatives and programs that spur conversation in real estate boardrooms and Wall Street. It has been a remarkable year of growth, change, and experimentation for Redfin, which is par for the course for the company. And the man at the helm, the unquestioned leader of Redfin, some call the most astute CEO in the business: Glenn Kelman.
Similar to its performance in 2018, Redfin grew at a torrid pace in 2019. For the first nine months of 2019, Redfin posted these numbers:
¥ 49,094 closed transactions (up 16.9 percent from the same period the previous year, with 8,981 transactions completed by partner referral agents at other brokerages).
¥ $23 billion in sales volume, up 14.8 percent from the same period in 2018.
¥ An average of 35.6 million monthly unique visitors, up 21.9 percent from third quarter 2018.
¥ An estimated US market share of 0.96 percent, up from 0.85 percent in the third quarter 2018.
Redfin accomplished this growth without any acquisitions and by hiring only 182 more lead agents, which makes it even more impressive. Organic double-digit percentage growth stands out in any industry, and even more in the hypercompetitive real estate industry.
In addition, Redfin continues to grow its iBuyer business, RedfinNow, by opening new markets in 2019 including Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio in Texas; Denver; and Los Angeles, San Diego, Inland Empire, and Orange County in California. That business brought in $141 million in the first three quarters of 2019, a 500 percent growth from the same period a year ago.
Perhaps even more significant, Redfin inked a partnership with Opendoor that sends inquiries from consumers interested in the iBuying service that it could not handle itself to Opendoor in exchange for a referral fee.
In 2019, Redfin also launched a controversial new program, Redfin Direct, which allows unrepresented homebuyers to make offers themselves on Redfin listings using an online tool. In the program, buyers receive a price break, and sellers avoid paying the buyer agent commission, and Redfin gets an extra 1 percent in its listing fee. While not prevalent yet (just 68 direct offers in the third quarter 2019), one Wall Street analyst singled out Redfin Direct as a “potential game-changer.”
Kelman entered real estate twelve years ago as a software engineer and raised $12 million to build a discount real estate website. Previously, he co-founded Plumtree Software, which he helped take public. When he became CEO at Redfin, he thought it would be just another funding experience, but over time has decided that building a consumer-centric brokerage is his life’s calling. Raised in Seattle, he graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley.