'Ghost Listings' Could Scare Off Business
April 1, 2014
In New York City, where the housing inventory is slim, there appears to be a significant number of "ghost listings" of properties that may not be on the market but are intended to drum up business for agents who hope to sell other similar homes.
What Sotheby's International Realty broker Nikki Field calls "the bait-and-switch" occurs when buyers inquire about a ghost listing, learn it has been rented or sold, and are offered a peek at what the agent says is a similar unit, only to realize the listing they are shown is not at all like their first choice.
"If you start with a bait-and-switch, these buyers will not be loyal," Field notes. While the practice may not be illegal, it is unethical, and some real estate professionals agree that databases need to be better policed.
Ghost listings tend to occur in the $1 million-and-under price range, are more common on Craigslist and other sites with little formal oversight, and more often involve rentals. Buyers can use Streeteasy.com and other aggregation search engines that are updated more quickly than brokerage websites to avoid ghost listings.
Source: "Is This Listing Real, Or Just a Ghost?" The New York Times (March 30, 2014)
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Updated: July 14, 2020