On this episode of The Byron Lazine Podcast, Sean Black, the founder and CEO of Knock, joins me in a discussion on the future of his company, the importance of agents, and what we both see coming for real estate transactions.

Sean has been in the industry for over 20 years, working as a founder of Trulia since 2005, which went public and was acquired by Zillow. He’s continually working on ways to innovate and solve problems in the industry. While Zillow solved the problem of getting information directly to the consumer, Sean and his team are now working to “make the real estate transaction liquid and certain and convenient.”

The All-in-One Buying/Selling Experience

COVID pushed the industry to a mass adoption of technology, with the youngest generation being the biggest buyers. They don’t just want the convenience of real estate in their hands, they demand it to be on their phones. They want the same convenience and transparency they enjoy with other digital transactions. 

Currently, 63% of home shoppers are using one of their apps: Zillow or Trulia. Sean brought up the need for a digital solution for sellers that would add transparency to the process. 

“I do think everyone’s trying to figure out, for the consumer, how to make this thing simple, certain, convenient – and digital is the way to do that.” 

Sean Black

Veering away from replacing the agent

Since the early years of Zillow, many agents have had concerns over companies like Zillow and Trulia trying to make them obsolete. Sean has veered far away from eliminating real estate agents. 

Sean firmly believes agents are critical and central to the transaction. He and his co-founder’s aim with Trulia was to control the experience, to build the technology, and to figure out what parts can be automated and what can’t. 

They work with agents – both in-house and external – but they use them differently. 

“Even early on… we never wanted feet on the ground the way Glen does with Redfin because that doesn’t scale. What we did is we built an agent network and we paid them per task… “ 

Sean Black

Individual Agents vs. Teams

Sean and his team at Knock started out very inclusive. They focused on going wide geographically to plant their flag in as many markets as possible, working with both teams and individual agents. 

Sean and his team at Knock started out very inclusive. They focused on going wide geographically to plant their flag in as many markets as possible, working with both teams and individual agents. 

“The nice thing about teams and top-producing agents is we should be getting a consistent flow of customers if we’re doing our job servicing them.” 

Sean Black

Going Public – Or Not? 

Sean and his co-founder went public with Trulia in seven years and thought they could beat their own record. So, they went full speed ahead. Things didn’t go quite as planned, so they pivoted to a private round. Sean published a blog post about the expensive and tumultuous journey of going public. 

On the stage of T360, he talked about going deeper into their 75 markets and focusing on top teams. They’ll keep launching markets. They just launched Seattle, and they’ll probably launch in the northeast next.  

I asked what percentage of the market share is reasonable for Knock – or what number are they shooting for. Given the context provided by other companies in the industry – and Knock’s own growth stats – Sean is thinking they’ll be in the double digits before long. 

Going back to Sean’s mention of the northeast, I had to ask why this market is always last. As suspected, it’s the snow – and real estate sales graphs for the area make the seasonal changes obvious. 

No one’s buying a house when there’s eight feet of snow on the ground. 

What’s next for Knock? 

As for what’s next, Sean boiled it down to executing, going deeper into their markets, and reaching more consumers. What he hopes to see is “lots of completely new, innovative things” along with some consolidation from folks in the field. 

“Brokers need to figure out how to digitize. And if they don’t, I think they’re gonna become as irrelevant as Polaroid is now.”

Sean Black

Watch to the full episode to catch more of the rapid-fire conversation. 

Sisu increases brokerage & team annual volume by 107% and agent annual volume by 28%.