Full disclosure: WaLaw Realty is a Seattle Bubble advertiser
Read the series intro: Alternative Brokerages Flourishing Around Seattle
My wife and I used WaLaw to buy our home in 2011. WaLaw co-founder Marc Holmes helped us throughout pretty much our entire homebuying timeline, wrote offers on five homes, and made buying a short sale seem easy. We are very satisfied customers and personally recommend WaLaw to anyone who asks.
Marc’s answers to the series Q&A are presented un-edited below.
What is the single most important advantage your brokerage offers vs. using a traditional agent?
WaLaw Realty has two significant differentiators from traditional agents: a flat fee instead of commission and a real estate attorney handles every deal.
In 200 words or less, what factors make your brokerage different from a traditional brokerage? e.g. – Cost, services offered, agent compensation, etc.
The flaw with the traditional commission paradigm is that it charges high fees despite great variation in the services people need or want. Many buyers want to conduct their own search and just need help accessing properties and managing the offer process.
For sellers, the cost of marketing a home has fallen dramatically yet the cost of agents has not. It shouldn’t cost three times to sell a $1,000,000 house as it does a $300,000 house when the services provided by the listing agent are virtually identical.
We solve that problem by charging a flat fee that better aligns the cost of the services required plus a reasonable profit. We rebate the balance of the commission to buyers and sellers avoid paying 3% to list. Moreover, by requiring the client to commit to paying our fee we allow them to self-select in a way that only serious consumers hire us. Thus, we don’t waste time giving “free tours” to people who may never actually buy a house.
Our other value add is legal counsel. Our clients are represented by a person who is both their broker and their attorney. This means they have a seamless experience and get more sophisticated advice through the whole process including negotiating the offer, reviewing title and closing documents, etc.
Our employees are all on salary and the company provides all of the clients. They do not have to sell their services and can instead focus solely on looking out for their clients’ best interest.
Who is your typical client? e.g. – Do you focus more on buyers or sellers, certain types of homes, certain price ranges, certain geographies, etc.?
In the first few years we had way more buyer clients, perhaps 80%. It took sellers awhile to believe you could sell a house without using a traditional agent. By 2012 that began to switch and became a little more balanced. In 2013 we took on more seller clients than buyers due to capacity constraints. In 2013 we’ve added another attorney and have not had to turn away buyers as we did last year. So, we’re pretty evenly split between buyers and sellers.
Most of our clients are in King County and we’re evenly split between Seattle and the Eastside. Our clients tend to skew to the higher end. To date our average sales price for buyers is $689,000 and $569,000 for sellers.
What is your fee structure? How much do buyers pay, how much do sellers pay?
$4,995 flat fee for homes priced under $1,000,000. An additional $2,000 for each million over a million.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your brokerage?
Only how much we appreciate The Tim, Seattle Bubble. First, for giving me a great warning in 2006 and 2007 to not buy a house which I completely ignored. And second, for being a fantastic resource that we can direct people to to better understand the market we’re all in.