The RobotAgent Story
(or, How an Innovative Attorney Discovered the Last Great Internet Opportunity)
Craig Blackmon has been a lawyer in Seattle for two decades. 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 already 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 real estate brokers.
But people wanted (and frankly needed) the unique professional services offered by real estate brokers. Plus, it was obvious that real estate broker commissions represented an outstanding business opportunity.
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). When working for a buyer, WaLaw rebated the balance of the commission — and with a flat fee, the rebates were huge. Just like Redfin, he was leading the way to disruption.
In 2013 Craig had his (very modest) exit from WaLaw Realty. He launched a new entry in the “reduced listing, buyer rebate” market space (with his broker/lawyer extra value), Quill Realty. It did not take off.
In 2014, Craig had an epiphany. Rebates were never going to work on a broad-scale basis. The only way to disrupt real estate and capture the buyer’s commission? Stop offering it. So Quill Realty left the local Multiple Listing Service, with some initial success.
In 2017, Zillow, Craig’s primary listing tool, changed the rules. It no longer allowed listings from non-NWMLS real estate brokers. Absent this access, Craig realized there was no easy way to skip the MLS and its buyer’s commission.
Rather, he needed to create a new online marketplace that would be broadly used by consumers. It had to be completely free. Who works for free? Robots…. And in the meantime, a new national MLS gave Craig the ability to once again list on Zillow. And Trula. And Realtor.com. RobotAgent.com was born soon thereafter.