Full disclosure: Quill Realty is a Seattle Bubble advertiser
Read the series intro: Alternative Brokerages Flourishing Around Seattle
Today’s spotlight post in our in-depth series on alternative brokerages around Seattle is on Quill Realty’s real estate agent attorney team.
Craig Blackmon was the other co-founder of WaLaw Realty, and while still with WaLaw he also helped me with my home purchase in 2011. Earlier this year he launched his new venture, Quill Realty, to provide a different spin on the agent / attorney combo team.
Craig’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?
A real estate attorney. Quill Realty provides its clients with two real estate professionals: an agent, of course, plus an experienced real estate attorney. The Quill-affiliated lawyer monitors deadlines and legal obligations that are an essential part of the home buying and selling process. This helps the client to avoid surprises and allows the client to make informed decisions throughout the transaction. Because they have a dedicated legal advocate, Quill clients can rest assured that their interests are protected every step of the way.
By providing its clients with a real estate attorney, Quill Realty brings clarity to a complex transaction. A Quill client will never hear, “Don’t worry, it’s just paperwork.” Rather, Quill clients will have a complete understanding of their legal rights and obligations when they sign a contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, the very essence of buying or selling a home. Quill clients get the security, insight, and guidance that only an attorney can provide.
In 200 words or less, what factors make your brokerage different from a traditional brokerage? e.g. – Cost, services offered, agent compensation, etc.
Quill Realty is founded on two consumer-driven principles: (1) the internet has created efficiencies that are not captured by traditional real estate brokerages; and (2) a home buyer or seller is best served when legal services are provided by an attorney.
The first principle allows Quill Realty to charge less. A traditional brokerage relies heavily on the marketing efforts of each individual broker. In contrast, Quill uses comprehensive, firm-wide marketing. This allows Quill to more efficiently acquire new clients, and its brokers to spend their time providing client services. Similarly, listings today are widely available. Quill clients are actively involved in finding their next home, which reduces the work load for the Quill agent. Together, these efficiencies allow Quill to operate for less. Quill passes the savings back to its clients by charging a 2% commission.
The second principle lies at the heart of Quill Realty. Although agents can complete blanks in pre-printed forms, they cannot legally draft unique contractual language, or explain the meaning or impact of contractual terms, or advise the client on appropriate steps to better protect the client’s interests. Quill provides its clients with an attorney, who of course can do all of these things.
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.?
Currently, Quill Realty is focused on providing services for home buyers. However, Quill does take listings as well. Over the coming year Quill will formally “build out” the seller side of its business.
Quill Realty helps clients throughout the Seattle area. People who appreciate the understanding and protection afforded by legal counsel will most appreciate the Quill model. Because the typical seller pays a commission of 3%, Quill generally rebates 1% of the sale price to its buyer clients. So, the greater the price of the home, the more money a Quill client saves.
What is your fee structure? How much do buyers pay, how much do sellers pay?
At Quill Realty, we charge a 2% fee (compared to the 3% fee charged by a typical real estate agent). We require an initial up-front payment of $1000. The client then has one year to close on a transaction. The balance of the fee (i.e., 2% of the final price less $1k) is due only at closing, with a minimum of $5000. Absent closing, no further fee is due.
Buyers and sellers pay the same amount, although the buyer’s fee is paid out of the commission offered by the seller to the buyer’s agent. The balance of that seller-paid commission, after payment of the fee, is rebated to the buyer at closing. These funds are applied to the buyer’s closing costs as allowed by the lender and federal law.
This fee also includes, of course, the attorney’s fee. So a Quill client pays less than a typical real estate consumer, and in the process gets an attorney’s legal counsel as well.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your brokerage?
There are other real estate brokers, both traditional and alternative, who are also lawyers. They promote themselves by noting their legal expertise. A few even hold themselves out as lawyers who will both represent the client as a lawyer, as well as provide the client with broker services. However, this seriously blurs the line between these two distinctly different professions, which dilutes the value of having an attorney. While conversations with an attorney are always privileged and confidential, conversations with a real estate broker sometimes are not. By keeping the distinction clear and unequivocal, Quill allows home buyers and sellers to get all of the benefits of working with both a real estate agent and a lawyer.