Seattle-based Redfin carries online savvy, agents on salary to Charleston area after entering market this spring

Redfin, a national real estate agency based on the West Coast that’s just expanded to South Carolina, listed this home for sale in Charleston.

Back in 2006, Tommy Schueler was a C-17 production test pilot for Boeing in Long Beach, Calif., interested in at least checking out the home ownership market.

He’s not sure how he stumbled onto Redfin — then a new real estate company geared to helping consumers by way of the Internet and through apps on mobile devices — but thinks it was an online search.

“I ended up not buying a home there, but they provided many helpful tools,” he says. The agency, launched in Seattle, supplied “a regular email update on the neighborhood that I had been looking in.” The electronic snapshot offered such things as “new listings, recently sold homes and average asking and selling prices by square foot,” he says.

That’s not all. Redfin highlighted a spiff in which it passes along a commission refund to the buyer. The money-back deal “is appealing obviously,” he says, “and their website was very user friendly and had a lot of information available.”

Schueler liked another Redfin concept: Agents were paid a salary and received bonuses based on customer satisfaction ratings.

By 2015, the retired Air Force pilot had moved to the Charleston area. He’s a production test pilot for Boeing here, too, this time flying the 787 Dreamliner commercial jet. As it turns out, Redfin had just entered the Lowcountry market in April, opened an office in Mount Pleasant and brought on agents and staff.

“When I was looking to buy a new home here in Charleston and saw that Redfin had just recently started here, it was an easy decision to use them,” Schueler says.

The test pilot says he found a home he wanted through builder DR Horton’s website but used the Redfin online site “to finalize my decision to purchase.”

Furthermore, Schueler’s real estate agent Stephen Kiner “has been terrific to work with. He’s been very helpful and responsive through the entire process.” Schueler expects to close on the home by mid June.

“I know they are just getting started in Charleston, but I think the concept will work well here and I’d be surprised if they aren’t very successful,” Schueler says.

Along with his test pilot client, Kiner — local market manager — has already been helping Charleston area shoppers finalize home purchases, with one buyer receiving a refund of more than $7,000 at closing, the company notes.

Billed as a next-generation real estate brokerage, Redfin had opened its business in 29 states before coming to South Carolina. But the full-service agency, which counts more than 1,000 agents nationwide, has more than made up for its paced entry with rapid-fire moves into the Columbia and Greenville markets in March, then adding metro Charleston. “We are just completing 60 days,” Kiner says. The venture’s local headquarters is at 856 Lowcountry Blvd., but agents are just as likely to meet home seekers at a coffee shop or their current residences as at the office.

Redfin marketing specialists and managers this week spelled out advantages of its real estate system, including high-tech enhancements, agent compensation and home closing refunds that average about $1,500 on a $300,000 home. “To date, we’ve saved our customers more than $200 million in fees,” says Rachel Musiker, senior communications manager.

“We use technology to make the entire homebuying and selling process easier, more efficient, more transparent and more fun,” says Jon Whitely, public relations specialist for Redfin.

“Since our agents don’t have to spend time looking for new business, we pass on our savings to our customers,” Whitley says. “We list houses at 1.5 percent (commission) instead of the traditional 3 percent and give our homebuying customers a refund based on the list price. We also have free 3D Home Scans for all of our listing clients,” he says.

Other technological perks include:

Deal Room, guiding customers through the closing process, including setting milestones and deadlines.

Instant Tour Scheduling, enabling a shopper to set up a home tour with a Redfin agent right away via “a single click from a browser, iPhone, iPad or Android app.”

Instant Updates, which are email and smartphone notifications letting customers know as soon as a home hits the market.

Redfin Hot Homes, which indicates “homes for sale (that) are likely to sell within two weeks,” the agency says.

Search by School, listing all the homes for sale served by a certain school.

By earning a salary, receiving medical benefits and being paid bonuses based on customer satisfaction rather than sales, agents command flexibility and worry less about money, Redfin says. “Our agents will tell you when a home is right for you and, more importantly, when to walk away — without fear of making ends meet.”

According to Redfin, the agency gathers all of its real estate listings straight from the local Multiple Listing Services. Its website updates every 15 minutes, so “you don’t have to worry about falling in love with a house that is no longer for sale.”

Kiner brings more than 15 years experience in the real estate business in Lowcountry, having worked for Carrington Real Estate and Coldwell Banker.

Describing Redfin’s eventual impact, Kiner says, “It’s kind of new, just something that’s going to change the market.”

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Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or