SEATTLE — Quill Realty today became the first and only real estate brokerage in Seattle to withdraw from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This allows Quill to list and sell houses without offering a commission to a cooperating buyer’s agent. In other words, instead of the typical MLS 6% listing fee, sellers can pay just 1% to a real estate broker to sell their home.
Quill founders Craig Blackmon, Imants Holmquist & Hamilton Gardiner
Quill and its brokers are fully licensed in Washington and are members of the National Association of REALTORSŪ. Accordingly, they have the same legal and ethical obligations to their clients and other real estate consumers as any other real estate broker. Leaving the MLS, Quill will rely on the many real estate websites and online marketing platforms that are now a fixture in the industry.
More than half of all home buyers find their homes themselves and without an agent on the internet. Most of them use web sites that include non-MLS listings. “Particularly here in Seattle, home of Redfin and Zillow, buyers are searching on the sites where Quill will post its listings,” said Craig Blackmon, Quill’s founder and designated broker. Quill will leverage what was, until today, the FSBO market.
Before Quill’s withdrawal from the MLS, a “For Sale By Owner” seller could not get the assistance of a real estate professional. An MLS broker must list on the MLS, and listing requires a seller to pay a cooperating agent commission. This “selling office” side of the commission has proven to be particularly immune to price pressure. At closing it is a seller’s biggest cost.
“Thanks to the internet and more efficient business models, sellers can easily find a broker to list the home on the MLS for less than the historical norm,” said Blackmon. “But after ten or more years of aggressive and large-scale efforts to drive down the selling commission by rebating a portion to the buyer at closing, it remains stuck at 3%.”
According to Blackmon, about 85% of average priced houses listed on the NWMLS offer a 3% selling commission, and almost all of the rest offer 2.5%. “The lesson is obvious: the selling office commission will come under significant price pressure only when sellers stop paying it,” said Blackmon.
Today, there is no reason for sellers to pay it. Instead, they can employ the services of a real estate professional who will provide a single broker listing, with all of the other professional services needed to sell a home for fair market value.
Quill’s evolution has been a long time in the making. Founded in 2013 by local real estate attorneys, Quill has always been at the forefront of delivering more value to real estate consumers. Unlike any other brokerage, Quill has from its beginning provided its clients with an affiliated attorney as well as a real estate broker.
That hasn’t changed. In fact, it is Quill’s close relationship with attorneys that allows it to withdraw from the MLS in the first place. Quill has its own transaction forms for use by its brokers in selling Quill-listed homes, and it does not need access to the NWMLS forms. In addition, because every Quill client is represented by an attorney and a broker, Quill can confidently handle any transaction, from the simple to complex. Where the client has an issue that is beyond Quill’s ability to address using its standard forms, the attorney will provide the services necessary to protect the client and close the sale.
But instead of charging its sellers a 5% listing fee (with the remaining 3% paid to the selling agent), Quill now charges 1%. No longer do sellers need to pay the selling office commission in order to sell their home. “We have three signed listing agreements in hand, and we expect many more based on the great response to our initial announcement of six weeks ago,” said Blackmon. “We’re excited for the future.”