When I first drove by and saw this sign on a new Lake Norman listing I was actually a bit surprised and decided it was time to write about listings like this one as well as what Realtors call “pocket listings” to give you all a heads up as to the whys and what’s related to these terms.
Okay so what is a pocket listing or a coming soon listing? They are simply properties that are available for sale but are not yet listed in the MLS. Here are my pros and cons:
- Privacy. A true pocket listing will not have a sign like the one above and in most cases the seller desires a high level of privacy. This is particularly common in the luxury homes market. Back when I was a Realtor in California where we had a lot of wealthy and famous clients the best way for us to serve these clients was by networking with other luxury home agents. No signs, no marking, no MLS. I knew who to call to find out about pocket listings or to let know about a new estate I had listed and we all worked together quite well no matter what company we were with. In the good old days we also had a paper notebook at the front desk of our office where agents could write about listings that were coming on the market and we discussed them in our weekly office meetings which we actually attended :-). For sellers who want privacy, the Internet changed some of these practices but not a lot.
- Take advantage of the time when an agent gets a signed listing agreement until the property is ready to market and put in the MLS. Why not let agents know about a new listing even it is not quite ready for showings? (See below for my answer). This would most likely be the case of the “Coming to MLS Soon” sign above. This is especially appropriate in a seller’s market when this may be all it takes to bring in a slew of interested buyers. This might also be used in a relocation when the sellers just found out they are moving but the property isn’t ready for showings.
- Lack of exposure to the widest pool of potential buyers. Thanks to the Internet and sites like Zillow and Realtor.com there is a huge pool of buyers out there who are searching on their own and haven’t connected with a Realtor yet. A listing agent should take advantage of every tool available to market a new listing. The first two weeks a home is on the market are when they will get the most activity and the most “eyeballs” looking at their property online. My personal approach is to have every piece of marketing designed and ready to publish the first day I list the property. When that first group of buyers sees it in their online updates they will see professional photos, videos, and an immaculate, well-staged home with full-color “buyers books” ready for every showing. So a “coming soon” teaser, in my opinion, is actually a disservice to most sellers as it might lessen the impact of the initial marketing and therefore bring in fewer buyers at the most critical time of the listing.
- Some large firms encourage “in house” sales so that the company gets both sides of the commission. Some firms even compensate the agents more if they can sell it “in house”. This may be good for the firm but I believe it hurts the sellers by limiting exposure and competition.
- I rely on our MLS for data for my monthly analysis and comparative market analysis for my clients so the more sales that are in our MLS the better the data will be.
Pocket listings have always been controversial even back when I started in real estate in 1991 because many Realtors felt left out or real estate firms felt it was unethical to favor “in house” sales and that there should be a level playing field so all agents/buyers have a fair chance at every listing.
Zillow recently added fuel to the fire when they created a new category of listings which is called “Coming Soon”. This resulted in even more wrath towards Zillow from Realtors because it challenges our “sacred cow” the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and further erodes our efforts to control listing data. But seriously, that train has left the station so I just don’t understand why many Realtors and organizations continue to cling to the belief that we “own” listing data and therefore must protect it at all costs. Just sayin’.
Here is the reality for Realtors and the cause of their angst. If a listing is not in the MLS then not all Realtors have equal access to it and there is no guaranteed commission contract with the buyers’ agents. (In the MLS the amount of the commission for the buyer’s firm is stipulated in every listing which serves as a promise/contract from the listing broker to the selling broker.) Since its inception MLSs have had very strict rules requiring that all real estate agent who work under a broker who is a member of their local MLS must also join and pay dues to the MLS. And, if you are a member of the MLS then you are required to place any and all of your listing in the MLS unless you have a seller sign a form stating that they have instructed their agent to keep their property out of the MLS. So, as long as MLS’s control listings, brokers will be in control of their income/commissions and this is one sacred cow that will be held on to as long as possible.
So there you have it; the inside scoop on pocket listings and “coming soon” listings. It will be fun to watch as the real estate industry evolves over the next decade. Some predict the demise of Realtors but on that I totally disagree. I know that buying and selling a home is a very complicated, emotional and intense experience. Most buyers and sellers truly need and want a professional guiding them through the process. The real estate process has gone from a 2-page purchase contract to a 12 page contract here in NC. It is not getting easier, but rather more complicated as time goes by. I plan on being here a long time!
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