One day in 2002, a self-professed computer nerd named Glenn Kelman scratched his head. Why was it, he wondered, that he could get more information about a $20 book for sale at Amazon.com than he could for a $500,000 home listed on the national Multiple Listing Service?
Later that year, Mr. Kelman founded Redfin.com. He describes the site as a cross between Century 21 and E*Trade. A more pointed description would be to call Seattle-based Redfin a dart aimed at the heart of the real estate industry. Internet-savvy companies like Redfin are breaking MLS’s lock on listings data, which the industry uses to ensure that consumers buy and sell houses the traditional way: through real estate agents who are paid hefty commissions.