Pocket listings should keep the excitement level higher for now.
From the Business Insider:
The ultra-wealthy are known for being exclusive, and the way they handle the purchases and sales of their multimillion-dollar homes is often no exception.
Now, that’s not to say the market hasn’t seen some very prominent, top-level listings. There’s the most expensive home for sale in the Hamptons, which is listed at $150 million, and, of course, Los Angeles’ Chartwell Estate, which was listed at $245 million and, before getting a major price cut, was the most expensive listing in the US.
But for those looking to keep the sales of their homes a little more under the radar, there are whisper listings.
Whisper listings, also known as pocket listings, are for-sale homes that aren’t available to the public. Off-market listings are popular among the ultra-wealthy and are bought and sold by word of mouth.
Los Angeles real-estate agentAaron Kirman recently told Business Insider that he’s a veteran whisper-listing agent -and revealed three main reasons why sellers keep their homes off the market.
Kirman is a top real-estate agent at the real-estate company Compass. He’s been in the industry for 24 years and has sold over $4.5 billion worth of real estate since the start of his career. In 2019, REAL Trends named him the 10th-best real-estate agent in the country by sales volume.
Here’s a look at what compels wealthy homebuyers to keep their houses off the market and to instead opt for whisper listings.
1. Sellers can list their homes for higher prices through whisper listings.
By not putting a home on the market, the seller avoids value expectations, Kirman explained to Business Insider. With whisper listings, sellers have the advantage of pricing their homes above an area’s median listing price.
According to Kirman, sellers see this as an advantage because they are able to price their homes as high as they want regardless of the current state of the market.
“If you go live on the market, you have to publish a price. By not going live, you’ve never been public on a price so you don’t necessarily have to go down,” Kirman told Business Insider. “I’ve had sellers up the price of a whisper campaign because they have nothing to lose.”
2. Whisper listings can be used to keep a seller’s personal business out of the public eye.
Whisper listings can serve specific purposes, particularly when it comes to privacy.
For example, if a seller doesn’t want to put a home on the public market for political reasons, such as a divorce, they’ll use a whisper listing instead.
“Sometimes there’s political reasons as to why people don’t like them on the market whether it’s divorce, business reasons, or they just want to keep it quiet,” Kirman told Business Insider.
3. Whisper listings are exclusive and often viewed as a symbol of wealth.
Some sellers prefer to use whisper listings because they are more exclusive than public listings and, as such, are oftentimes seen as a symbol of wealth. However, Kirman told Business Insider that he doesn’t think using a whisper campaign, for the sake of exclusivity, is effective in today’s market.
And within that, there’s the potential downside of missing a prospective sale simply because the agent is not connected to the right person.
“The thing is, I don’t know everybody. So I always tell people there may be that one multimillionaire or billionaire that, because you’re not out there [on the public market], you missed – and they will go buy another house that was public,” Kirman told Business Insider.
We’re excited to be hosting our first ever ZOOM meetup with James Harris (Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles & Founding Partner, ThePLS.com). We’ll be discussing Los Angeles real estate market trends for Q2 (and beyond) and James will be sharing his take on things.
There was a CB realtor from Santa Monica who said his market has slowed down, with many price reductions, fewer multiple offers, and longer market times. A discussion ensued – my takeaways:
A. The market is level (at best) and sellers need to be realistic. You can spend a million dollars on advertising, have the best photography and videos, and do open house every day, but if the price isn’t right, it still won’t sell.
B. James thought open houses are a good way to expose a property to the market, and for knowledgeable agents to impress the attendees about the value.
C. James also said that when it’s slower, it’s better to test pricing off-market first. (But wouldn’t it be natural for sellers to say, ‘let’s test the price on the open market to find out for sure.’)
D. When a home is on the open market but not selling, it’s better to lower the price in weeks, not months.
Those sum up the basic fundamentals for today’s market.
I suggested that to enhance the value of private-listing clubs, they should limit membership to the top agents only, but they didn’t want to get into it. They did like my idea of having more webinars where agents can discuss topics and listings.
The club hasn’t made much of an impact yet in the San Diego area. There are only 34 listings county-wide on the website, and some are older and/or already sold. Curiously, one had been on our MLS this year, but expired and is now on the PLS only as an off-market opportunity at virtually the same price.
The other large private listing club, Top Agent Network, is limited to the top 10% of agents in a region (based on volume). They were thinking of opening in San Diego, but I haven’t heard any updates lately:
There may come a day when the private listing clubs have an impact, but it would take their leaders to constantly sell the benefits to agents – and those are people who have become wary about the benefits from the traditional MLS (if any). If an agent wants to pursue an off-market sale, then it’s too easy for them to throw a sign in the yard and wait (if the price is right).
I was the 160th agent hired in the region. Now there are 565 Compass agents in San Diego County!
In the beginning, we thought that Klinge-Realty-Powered-By-Compass had a nice ring to it, but it proved to be a mouthful, so we changed to the Klinge Realty Group for ease of use.
We’ve hired Brittnie Dixon to be our licensed assistant. She has been doing a wonderful job with marketing and special projects!
We’ve joined the company’s sponsorship of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, which means you will see Donna and I in the race program this weekend.
We are also contemplating a move to the office at the La Costa Resort.
We have a new website being developed that should launch in the next few weeks. I was hoping to combine it with bubbleinfo.com but formatting them together is still being explored. There will be a blog!
Most of all, I’m glad Compass has a strategy to dominate the real estate universe. It’s not perfect, but at least we have a strategy! I’ll get into our Coming Soon program in more detail as time goes on, but consider how the entire industry has rushed to Coming Soons as a primary marketing device.
Want a sample of how the public perception has changed about selling homes?
A consumer (not an agent) said this month, “If you don’t sell your home off-market, and have to put it on the MLS, then people think something is wrong with it…..or the price.”
Home prices have been on a tear for ten years straight, and are at their highest levels ever.
Is this bubble going to pop too?
Let’s look at the statistics first. I took the most recent 45 days to get the latest scoop, plus the MLS prefers to calculate the smaller sample sizes.
NSDCC Detached-Home Listings and Sales, April 1 – May 15 (La Jolla to Carlsbad)
# of Listings
# of Sales
It is remarkable that all-time-high prices aren’t causing more people to sell!
In previous markets, once prices started reaching new highs, homeowners would jump at the chance to move. The inventory would grow and cool things off, and/or we’d hit an economic downturn and foreclosure sales would direct the market. But not today!
We are a mid-level luxury market. The more-expensive areas like Los Angeles, Orange County, and the Bay Area feed us downsizers who think we are giving it away.
Homebuying has de-coupled from jobs. We do have substantial employers like Qualcomm, bio-tech, etc. but not near enough to justify these lofty prices. How do we keep afloat? It’s the big down payments; either from previous home sales, successful business ventures, or the Bank of Mom & Dad.
They changed the rules. Banks have to give defaulters a chance to qualify for a loan modification before they can foreclose. With everyone enjoying their equity position, they will find a way to hang onto their house or sell it for a profit, instead of lose it.
Reverse mortgages are an alternative for those who need money. They might crank down the amount of money you can tap, but as long as homeowners are flush with equity, they will be able to get their hands on some of it via reverse mortgages or the typical equity line.
Buyers have been full of money, and willing to blow it. I’ve seen sales close for 10% to 25% above the comps this year, so it doesn’t seem like people are worried about a bubble. Those sales could be creating unsustainable comps, and be short-lived values, but will the next buyer question them enough?
Coming Soon vs. ibuyer. We need a gimmick to transition us to the ibuyer era, and the ‘Coming Soon’ off-market sales will be the sexy distraction. The price of an off-market sale isn’t necessarily lower than retail, and in some cases they can be higher when the buyers get jacked up about the opportunity.
The ibuyer era could be the last hurrah for open-market real estate. If the big-money corporate buyers can build enough credibility and begin to dominate the space, they will be able to dictate the prices paid for their flips, and control the marketplace. If so, they will make sure we won’t have another down market!
In the meantime, we might see prices start to bounce around, instead of the constant trend higher. But if it gets harder to sell, then many will just sit tight instead.
If you think a bubble pop will happen, ponder this question. Who is going to give away their home now?
Thanks to reader Just Some Guy for sending in this article from last week – and who wondered why more people don’t live here and commute to the Bay Area?
Buyers like off-market listings because it lessens the competition. All agents have to do is convince sellers.
After five-plus years of aggressively putting money away in savings, Jason Baker and his wife recently accomplished the seemingly impossible and purchased a four-bedroom house in a high-performing school district in the Bay Area.
The process to find a home base for their growing family took three months. They considered both the East Bay and North Bay and quickly learned the competition is tough in communities with desirable schools such as Lafayette and Mill Valley.
The couple made offers on four houses that they didn’t get, before finally uncovering an unlisted home in Marin County and making an offer that was accepted.
“The three months when we were looking was the most stressful time of our life,” said Baker, 38, who works as an engineering manager. “It was more stressful than the wedding, more stressful than the first month at home with a newborn.”
Open houses at properties that were affordable by the Bay Area’s crazy standards were mob scenes.
“When you went to a house and there was a crowd, you just set your expectations to know you’re not going to get the house,” Baker said. “When there were a lot of people, you knew the odds were high someone is going to make a really high offer.”
Through this ordeal, Baker got an inside look at the buyer’s side of the Bay Area’s real estate market and below he shares what he learned.
1. Listing prices are just “marketing” prices. In a region where homes frequently sell for well over asking and agents often list homes with low prices to encourage bidding wars, you can’t trust that a listing price reflects a home’s value. Buyers can find the true value of a home by looking at recent comps, said Baker. “Redfin and Zillow do an OK job of estimating these,” he says. “One of the problems is there is so little turnover in good school districts that there may only be two or three comps in the last one or two years.”
2. Money wins over everything. Love letters to the sellers are nice, but moot within the Bay Area’s market of high price points. “Unless your bid is significantly higher than the second place bid (more than $50,000), expect the seller to ask you to go into a bidding war,” he shared.
3. Forget about contingencies. “We lost a bid on a house that had no inspection report in its disclosures packet, very rare for the Bay Area,” said Baker. “The seller was not willing to accept any offers with an inspection contingency, and there was water in the basement.”
4. All-cash offers win. If you want the slight edge of all-cash, and you don’t have it, Baker suggested a service called Flyhomes that makes all-cash offers on your behalf. “They buy the house, then sell it to you immediately after closing with a traditional mortgage,” he said. “Ultimately we did not end up buying with them, because they don’t have knowledge of Marin like they do San Francisco and the East Bay, but I would recommend them if you were looking there.” They act as the buyers agent, and their fee is paid by the seller.
6. The price point where the crowds thin out at open houses is about $1.5 million. Priced below that, hordes of people will go to the open house. Above that, it’s more like one or two dozen families.
7. Look for unlisted homes. Try to find a well-connected agent who has knowledge of upcoming listings, and use sites like aaltohomes.com to find unlisted properties, advised Baker. “Some sellers don’t want to deal with listing on the MLS or open houses,” he said. “The house we bought was unlisted, and there was only one family bidding against us instead of six.”
8. Get fully underwritten by your lender, not just pre-approved. “Many houses go on/off the market in a matter of days, so you’ll want a letter ready to go in your offer packet with the bank saying ‘Yes, we are prepared to loan them the money,'” Baker shared.
9. You will most likely lose your first offer, and it will crush you. “It will be sadness on the level of a pet dying,” he said. “Try to remember the family that just outbid you is no longer in the market, and you just moved up a spot.”
The largest agent club in Southern California is growing its membership quickly, as the erosion of the cooperation between brokers continues.
We’ll hear more about the disrupters, discounters, and consolidation, but the underlying theme is that agents are only going to be sharing their listings with one another as the last resort if they can’t sell them off-market.
The realtor groups on Facebook are bursting with off-market talk, though we don’t know how many deals are actually being done. But with so much focus on the off-market space, it is inevitable that more transactions will result.
The PLS only has five listings in San Diego, but it’s just getting started here. One of the five is an active listing on our MLS, but the rest look like they expect some off-market action as a result of being listed here:
With no one in the industry objecting, expect more of this in the future.
The real estate industry has never felt the need to create a powerful search portal in response to Zillow. There should have been an industry-wide effort to create a realtor-centric website to support our business, but NAR and others just shrugged it off.
Traditional realtors should be demonstrating why our experience, our advice, and our gravitas is a better solution for consumers.
It starts with realtors having the best real estate search portal – and Compass has committed to producing it! Our website will make it clear who the actual listing agent is on each listing, regardless of company.
There is another benefit – we put our Coming Soon listings in the front of the search, which will hopefully cause consumers to keep coming back, and help build the traffic faster.
From our CEO:
The future of the real estate industry will be defined by the company that creates the best experience for buying and selling a home. I believe Compass is going to be that company. To achieve our mission of helping everyone find their place in the world, we must make it as simple and straightforward as possible for people to navigate the process of buying and selling a home. We must also put the person who knows how to create a world-class customer experience front and center: the agent.
Many technology companies are doing the exact opposite. They’re confusing consumers and taking advantage of agents in order to maximize their own profits. They most commonly do this by hiding the true listing agent and monetizing the client lead in a variety of ways.
At Compass, we are not just looking to elevate ourselves, we are looking to elevate the industry. Being the first company to show the true listing agent on every listing will not only help bring clarity to the home-buying process, but it is the right thing to do.
It is part of a 3-step strategy to win the consumer:
Make the Compass website and mobile app just as good as the best aggregators by end of summer 2019
Invest millions of dollars advertising our Coming Soon inventory to consumers around the country
Put the listing agent on every listing, making Compass.com the only site in the country where consumers can always find the listing agent
It means we are gently nudging consumers towards connecting with the listing agents directly, making that trend more obvious to all. If the business is going that way anyway, we might as well be out in front of it. JtR
The DRE has finally issued ‘guidance’ on the Coming Soons. Ignored are these facts about agents making off-market deals with no MLS exposure:
We see top agents doing it regularly,
There is no enforcement whatsoever, and
You give us the forms to CYA (last paragraph).
Burying this advice in the back of the bulletin isn’t enough. Until we see realtors being prosecuted and found guilty, nothing will change.
DRE Weighs In on “Coming Soon” Advertising: “Be Sure to Maintain Fiduciary Responsibility for Your Client or Face Civil and Regulatory Liability”
The Department of Real Estate has included in its 2018 Winter Real Estate Bulletin an article which discusses the risks of “Coming Soon” marketing. It includes a statement of the DRE’s view of “best practices” for listing agents:
“Coming Soon” advertising CAN benefit the seller if handled properly. Such advertising can increase exposure time of the property and generate interest in the public about a soon-to-be marketed property, helping potential purchasers prepare to tour the property or make an offer when the property is put up for sale. A practice of “Coming Soon” advertising coupled with initially not showing the property is sometimes known as a “Coming Soon—No Showing” strategy (or similar) and can well serve a client. In such a strategy, the property may show as “Coming Soon” on a multiple listing service, but also as not yet being shown to potential buyers. After a time, the property is broadly marketed as for sale. There are likely multiple listing service requirements that must be met to advertise a property as “Coming Soon—No Showing” or similar.
The potential conflict a “Coming Soon” strategy can have with a licensee’s fiduciary duty comes when the listing agent begins accepting offers before the property is exposed to a larger audience via a multiple listing service or by other means. When a property is not exposed to the full market, a client’s best interests might not be served, even when a full price offer is received (because the property may well have sold above the marketed price if better advertised). Imagine the dilemma for a listing agent if a seller accepts an offer on a poorly marketed property and then receives much higher backup offers as the property receives greater exposure.
At a minimum, an agent should disclose that a better sales price could be obtained if the property were to be marketed on a multiple listing service and obtain the seller’s prior written permission that she or he agrees to not fully market the property.
A listing agent who encourages the use of a “Coming Soon” program, without broadly advertising a property via a multiple listing service or other means, especially exposes himself/herself to the potential for an increased chance of civil liability and regulatory action when the agent also then represents the buyer in a dual agent capacity. Such a dual agent would need to be able to demonstrate that the agent acted in the best interests of the seller to obtain a purchase price that was as high as could be expected for a fully marketed property. This agent, who receives commissions on both ends of the transaction, could face scrutiny questioning whether they worked to obtain the best offer possible for the seller or was acting in such a capacity for personal financial gain.
The following are some best practices for agents when representing a seller:
• Market the property via multiple listing service or other broad advertising means.
• Make sure the seller agrees to and understands how the property will be marketed.
• If using a “Coming Soon” strategy, do not accept and act on offers until a property has been broadly marketed.
• If the property will not be fully marketed, obtain prior written permission from the seller that demonstrates they understand that such a “Coming Soon” strategy may not result in receiving the best sales price.
• Avoid double-ending a property that is not fully marketed—it is best to refer potential buyers to another agent.
The C.A.R. Residential Listing Agreement explains the benefits to the seller of using the MLS and the impact of opting out.
For the seller to instruct the agent to opt out of the MLS, the seller and broker must initial paragraph 5 of the RLA. Additionally, the seller must sign form SELM (Seller Instruction to Exclude Listing from Multiple Listing Service) or the comparable form provided by the MLS.
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