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A Sort-Of Secret Home for Sale

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Posted On: 06/21/2017

Since the economic crisis last decade, observers say there’s been a discreet build-up in “pocket listings,” whereby sales occur without the property ever being listed on the multiple listing service, the data networks brokerages share to spread information about available properties amongst realty firms.

“We have no way of tracking pocket listings since they are not on the MLS,” says Adam DeSanctis, economic issues media manager for the National Association of Realtors, Washington, D.C.

Pocket or “whisper” listings have long existed, though, because for some owners “the idea of having their home listed ‘for sale’ is distasteful,” says Rochelle LeCavalier, managing broker at Pink Palm Properties in Boca Raton, Florida.

Famous owners, for example, or those selling due to a divorce or other misfortune, fear a formal listing as an invasion of privacy, say agents.

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However, critics say the pocket approach limits the pool of potential buyers, and therefore may result in a less-than-optimum price. Indeed, LeCavalier believes that the strategy works best in the high end of the market, since the pool of agents representing lower priced homes is “larger, covering a wide geographical area, and is less connected/networked.”

In another approach, a seller wants to place his listing with a specific agent but isn’t ready for buyers to start viewing, explains Terry Denoux, principal broker at Cascade Sothebys International Realty, Bend, Ore.

“You let the public know and fellow agents know you have a coming listing,” says Denoux, adding that his local MLS doesn’t have an option to post a “coming soon” listing, which several other networks have started to incorporate. And, if sellers allow it, a “coming soon” sign on the property can also spread the word.

In another pocket practice, an ad for a property is placed on a real estate brokerage’s own website, which then may be picked up by real estate sites. That strategy though, doesn’t serve the seller well since it may be motivated by a brokerage trying to keep all sales commissions on the transaction in-house.

It’s human nature that when buyers feel as if they “have an edge over what everyone else is seeing” they are motivated to bid. And, the buyers benefit because they get a discount for buying early, he adds. Likewise, calling other agents about a property that will soon be ready or by personally inviting select agents to a brokers’ open house can add some panache, Denoux says.

LeCavalier says buyers often tell her they want a certain type of home, but low MLS inventory forces her to call owners of desired properties

“In some cases, there is no dollar amount that would have them sell. In others, there is an opening for dialogue and potentially a sale. The idea is to create a win/win for buyer and seller,” she says.

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