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Real estate firm Redfin begins expansion into Western New York

Memo to RealtyUSA and Hunt Real Estate Corp.: There’s a new big player in town.

A national real estate brokerage firm that relies heavily on its online listings and mobile technology, alongside traditional agents on the ground, is coming to Buffalo as its first stop in upstate New York.

Seattle-based Redfin, a 9-year-old firm founded by software developers, hired veteran real estate agent and former health insurance industry executive Lesley Lannan as its first local agent and market manager in Western New York. It already has agents on Long Island and in Westchester County, but nothing further north.

Lannan, a longtime Buffalo resident who worked in nonprofits, health insurance administration and hospital marketing before switching to real estate, has already started working with local clients to buy and sell homes, and expects to add more agents as needed, based on demand.

“I have lived in Buffalo my whole adult life,” said Lannan, 61. “I raised my family here, I built my career here, and I’m excited to help support the local revival by bringing a next-generation company to my hometown.”

Lannan said the national brokerage saw new opportunity in Buffalo’s recent resurgence.

“So much is happening in Buffalo right now. You can’t walk around the corner without seeing someone with a big grin on their face,” Lannan said. “Redfin recognizes that. We want to be part of the growth, the revitalization, the significant opportunity that Buffalo is experiencing right now.”

Founded in 2006 to “reinvent real estate,” Redfin has sold $20 billion in real estate, and now operates in 65 major U.S. cities, using local agents, its website and its own mobile apps. The website, which updates every 15 to 30 minutes with the most current listings, claims to be the largest brokerage-owned real estate site in the country.

“Redfin has an enormous technology potential. It’s state-of-the-art, next-generation technology, married with the local knowledge of agents on the ground, who know the community and have experience in real estate,” she said. “It’s a very different model, where the customer is engaged right from the beginning.”

Unlike traditional brokerages where agents earn individual commissions, Redfin agents receive a fixed salary and benefits, and earn bonuses based on customer satisfaction, with customer reviews for individual agents published on their online profiles. And most customers come to the agency through its website, so the firm doesn’t spend heavily on marketing.

Redfin refunds part of the buyer’s agent commission paid to the firm and charges a seller’s listing fee of 1.5 percent, compared to the industry standard of 3 percent. That means, for a $300,000 home, a buyer using Redfin would get a $1,500 refund, while a seller using Redfin would pay $4,500 in fees instead of $9,000.

That makes it very similar to another locally based full-service real estate brokerage, J. Lawrence Realty, which is affiliated with Jed Carrol’s America’s Choice. But Redfin brings national resources with it.

“We can return some of our savings to sellers and buyers,” Lannan said. “People assume that there’s less service because the fee is less, but that’s absolutely not the case. That’s why I’m excited. It seems to me to be a win-win.”