Brokerages Wrestle With Growth of Pocket Listings

October 23, 2018

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.

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.”

Growth of pocket listings

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Pacific Union International, which Compass acquired in late August, had launched its own solution to handling the disruption from the growing prevalence of pocket listings in May with “Private View,” debuting $400 million worth of exclusive property offerings. But its portal of off-MLS listings can be viewed by any registered users—real estate professionals from other brokerages as well as the general public. Registered users can see exclusively signed listings before they’re publicized on the MLS. The portal is currently available in northern and southern California.

In September, Long & Foster launched its own exclusive Coming Soon Portal to promote upcoming listings to its agents before they are on the market. It’s a way to gauge interest and create early demand for a property before it hits the MLS.

“Our agent-to-agent portal allows our sales associates exclusive access to Long & Foster properties that are not yet in the MLS,” Barry Redler, chief marketing officer for The Long & Foster Companies, said in a statement announcing the portal. “Having this platform not only allows us to respond to certain seller requests but also gives our agents a leg up on the competition by helping their buyers more easily find a home in a tight inventory market.”

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.

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.

Read more about how the industry is responding to the growth in “pocket” listings, as well as risky off-MLS scenarios.

Source: 
Managing the Disruption From Pocket Listings,” REALTOR® Magazine (September-October 2018)