Pocket listings are on the rise

The surge in off-market “pocket listings”—those held off the MLS in favor of secret channels and networks between agents or within a brokerage—is a growing issue in the real estate industry.

In markets starved for inventory, real estate professionals are struggling with being kept out of these secret dealings for homes that their buyers could potentially want.

In markets such as Los Angeles, for example, reports say that up to 30 percent of sales are being withheld from the MLS for the sake of more private channels, according to some brokerage estimates.

Posting your listings on your website

In response, some brokerages—and even MLSs—are looking for ways to expose these listings to a larger audience. One of many recent launches in the past month came from the brokerage Compass, which allows its real estate agents to post their listings to Compass’ website days before sharing them with the local MLS and third-party portals, like realtor.com®. “Compass Coming Soon” is available nationwide in markets where the brokerage operates.

“This will help our agents get a head start on marketing while still getting the property ready for market,” Compass CEO Robert Reffkin reportedly shared with Compass real estate professionals in an email. “By harnessing the power of pre-marketing, [the listing] actually shows up twice in everyone’s alerts: once when it hits Compass.com, and again when it hits the open market, doubling potential exposure.”

MLSs are searching for the answer to expose these homes listed for sale, which the seller may wish to keep secret. The Chicago area MLS, Midwest Real Estate Data, launched the Private Listing Network in 2016 as a separate feed to share information to registered brokers about “coming soon” listings. These are not displayed publicly. MRED officials cite it as a way for real estate professionals in their area to premarket listings that aren’t ready to show yet or that are in the process of being renovated, repaired, or staged prior to being marketed publicly. It’s also a way to test the price, as a range can be entered.

MLS is fighting back

But some brokerages and MLSs are taking a firm stance against the practice of pocket listings or “coming soon” forms of premarketing. Since 2013, Northwest Multiple Listing Service—serving the Seattle area—has prohibited its members from promoting or advertising a property until it is listed in the MLS.

Off-MLS deals amplify concerns about limiting exposure of the property “to a select group of agents to the detriment of the seller and other MLS members,” Tom Hurdelbrink, president and CEO of NWMLS, told REALTOR® Magazine.

Conclusion

Nobody wants to project how this will play out, but it seems obvious.  Every brokerage will operate a Coming Soon program, and the MLS will become the marketplace of last resort.

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