The RobotAgent Story
(or, How an Innovative Attorney Seized the Last Great Internet Opportunity)
Real estate attorney, broker, & entrepreneur.
Craig Blackmon is a Seattle lawyer. Since 2005, he has focused his practice on residential real estate. Back then, with internet-driven change obviously coming, Craig left litigation and got to work carving out a niche in the newly evolving industry.
He began by offering buyers and sellers the opportunity to buy or sell a home without using a real estate agent. The internet allowed buyers and sellers to find each other, so all anyone needed was a lawyer. And a lawyer, ironically, was (and still is) a whole lot cheaper than a real estate broker.
But people wanted— and frankly needed — the unique professional services offered by a real estate broker. Plus, it was obvious that real estate broker commissions represented an outstanding business opportunity, both as income and as a mechanism to bring efficiency and disruption to the industry.
So in 2009, Craig earned his real estate broker license. He co-founded WaLaw Realty, a real estate firm offering fantastic value. WaLaw (and its affiliated law firm) provided the services of a lawyer and a broker for a flat fee (rather than a big commission.
In 2013 Craig left WaLaw Realty with a vision for the future that differed from his partner’s. He launched Quill Realty, a new entry in the “reduced listing, buyer rebate” market space (with broker/lawyer extra value). It did not take off.
In 2014, Craig realized that rebates were never going to work on a broad-scale basis. What else explained Redfin’s evolution? Disruption required something revolutionary. So Quill Realty left the local Multiple Listing Service (and stopped paying a buyer agent’s commission) with some initial success.
Several iterations followed. Over the years, the Seattle market cooled. Today, it is much, much harder to sell a house — making a revolutionary model no longer possible.
So Craig (now as RobotAgent) has rejoined the NWMLS. Today, he sells houses like any other broker, and offers the same ol’ 3% commission to a buyer’s agent.
With a twist. When a buyer uses the RobotAgent platform, there is no buyer’s agent, and the seller can save that 3%. So homes on RobotAgent sell for 1.5% less — and the seller nets 1.5% more (together, the 3% savings). Cool! Plus he didn’t forget his early success, and he is back to offering reasonable flat commissions.
Together, these two value propositions will hopefully be enough to get this latest model off the ground and finally bring meaningful change to the industry.