How One Association Fights Private Listings

March 14, 2016

The San Francisco Association of REALTORS® wants to prevent more sellers from secretly marketing their homes by avoiding listing them on the MLS. The association was alarmed after a 2015 study by PocketList showed that about one-quarter of San Francisco sales occur off-market.

SFAR, which operates San Francisco’s multiple listing service, believes that selling homes off-market could leave sellers and agents open to lawsuits for fair housing violations.

“A lawsuit could come from a home buyer who felt they weren’t allowed to put in a bid on a home,” Jay Pepper-Martens, the director of the MLS, told “There are a whole bunch of opportunities for abuse.”

However, Pepper-Martens acknowledges that some sellers may want to do a private listing so they can just test out the pricing or ward off public attention.

In response, Pepper-Martens has created a new system for pre-marketing listings: RealTime MLS, where agents can market properties directly to other real estate agents without having those listings available yet to the general public.

“We want an option that makes more sense,” he told “RealTime MLS is our response to this problem. … I think we’ve found a good balance between all agents getting a crack at it and still some exclusivity.”

But properties can’t linger on the RealTime MLS forever. The properties listed on the RealTime MLS must either sell or move to the regular MLS within 30 days (or file for an extension).

Pepper-Martens is trying to garner the industry’s support, visiting offices in the area to talk about the new service. The new platform went live in November.

He says currently there are about 450 unique users. A mobile app version will go live next month.

Source: “Can the S.F. Association of REALTORS® Lure Sellers Away From Private Sales?” (March 12, 2016)