CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Sean Black thinks selling your house and buying a new one should be as easy as trading in a used car at the dealership.
Black, one of the founders of real estate information giant Trulia, is the CEO of Knock.com, an online sales platform that’s launching in Charlotte last week. The company, which got its start in Atlanta, is offering a different spin on real estate sales, one that the company hopes will slash costs and cut out some of the real estate agents people are used to using.
“It seems odd now, or maybe hard to imagine, but I think in five years it will be hard to imagine the way it is now,” said Black, in an interview Tuesday in Charlotte. In Atlanta, Knock.com has facilitated more than 2,000 transactions since starting in 2016. Charlotte is the company’s second market as part of a planned national expansion.
The company is geared toward buyers who need to sell their house to afford the next one, a majority of the market.
Here’s what Knock.com does:
When a homeowner wants to sell, they plug in their information and get an estimate of its worth online, using the same sort of data that Trulia and Zillow have compiled. An inspector comes out and confirms the price with an in-person visit.
Then, Knock.com helps the seller find their next house. The company buys it, with cash, and relocates the seller. Knock.com then fixes up the old house as needed, markets it, sells the house and settles up with the original owner.
Because Knock.com makes all-cash bids on the houses it purchases for home-sellers, Black said, the company is often able to win bidding wars – a critical selling point in tight real estate markets where there’s not enough inventory to meet demand.
“We’re not contingent on a mortgage or your house selling,” Black said. “We’re a sure thing.”
The company pays agents a salary plus bonuses, not the standard commission structure. Knock.com recently raised $33 million in venture funding, and has partnered with banks and other financial institutions to handle its debt, Black said.
The ultimate goal, Black said, is to become a common marketplace that people turn to as their first option.
“We think we’re solving the mass-market, everyday problem,” he said. In Atlanta, where the company has been able to list enough houses on its platform to start directly matching buyers and sellers, fees in those transactions are down to 4 percent, instead of the standard 6 percent.
Real estate agents, Black said, are often skeptical when they first hear about Knock.com. He said the company tries to work with them and show how they can be a positive.
“We play really nicely with the traditional folks,” he said. “We got a lot of agents, the first thing they do is throw their arms up in defense. But we’re going to show your houses and be really good buyers. It’s very symbiotic.”
Like it or not, however, Black said more technological disruption is coming to the residential real estate market.
“Like Jeff Bezos said, I didn’t invent the Internet, I just took advantage of it,” Black said. “It’s coming.”
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