When we joined Compass in the summer of 2018, it was clear that the evolution of residential resales was trending towards off-market sales. I said then, “we have to make sure that we’re on the right team”.
The National Association of Realtors tried to affect the outcome with their Clear Cooperation policy by making off-market sales acceptable as long as they are done in-house with no public marketing. Like all policy-making done by ivory-tower types who don’t relate to the reality on the street, they have legitimized a new opportunity for gaming the system.
I think the intention of NAR was to allow for the occasional private sale by celebrities. What they must not have considered was that all brokerages would design their own in-house system to provide privacy for anyone who wants it.
Then the coronavirus starts sweeping the country – won’t every seller want their privacy today? Are you going to let dozens of strangers into your house? You and your family could die! You need to sell your home privately.
The NAR policy makes sellers and listing agents pick a path – either the property gets listed on the MLS within 24 hours after public marketing begins, or you sell it off-market. If the private sale doesn’t work, sellers can opt for the more-public MLS sale later, so trying the safer route will be an easy choice for many.
Who do you list with?
What brokerage has the best chance of selling your home for top dollar now?
Compass has the in-house system, over 800 of the top agents in San Diego County, and we are ranked #1 in market share in Carlsbad and Encinitas. We are ideally suited to serve the private-sale market, and now we’re advertising it publicly.
Eventually, the MLS (and Zillow) will become the online marketplace of last resort like Loopnet, and buyers will be forced to work with an agent in every brokerage if they want to see all the inventory.
A broker from The Agency is hoping to mobilize support against the National Association of Realtors’ controversial ban against pocket listings, drafting a new petition to urge the repeal of a policy that many agents feel will disrupt the market and hurt their livelihoods.
“It feels as if it was done without a whole lot of thought for the person impacted the most, which is the seller,” said Jamie Waryck. “I, along with several colleagues, find that very frustrating.”
NAR’s policy, which was approved in November and is scheduled to take effect May 1, requires brokers to submit a listing to the Multiple Listings Service within one business day of publicly marketing a property.
NAR argues it will help make the business more transparent, but brokers, particularly in high-end markets like Los Angeles, Miami and New York, argue that pocket listings help protect sellers’ privacy and allow agents to be more flexible with asking prices.
“A homeowner should have the right to work with a realtor and decide for him or herself whether the home is sold with full exposure to the public, with limited access to the public, in total privacy or through a combination of any of these based upon the homeowner’s personal wants and needs,” the petition reads. “The National Association of Realtors has decided to remove this right from you.”
Top L.A. agents have previously spoken out strongly against the policy, including Agency CEO Mauricio Umansky and Hilton & Hyland’s Gary Gold.
“I think we should be policed somewhat,” Gold said in October, “but not treated like children.”
Let’s touch on this topic one more time as a new season opens up.
While our 2020 market should be promising, the actual results won’t be as obvious.
Reasons to be optimistic about this year:
Rates are really low, though we expect that now and it won’t set off a frenzy.
Prices have been moderating, which gives the buyers some confidence.
We are overdue for more boomer inventory.
But don’t expect to see a bunch of hot buys hitting the MLS.
Now that the N.A.R. has laid down specific rules for off-market sales, agents are going to take advantage.
While every brokerage will have an internal network to promote new listings within the company prior to MLS-input (which is allowed), the individual realtor teams will run their latest hot listings through their stable of buyers first, before giving the rest of their company a crack at it. Only when those attempts have been exhausted will a listing find its way to the MLS.
It may only be 5% to 10% of the market, but it will be the very best 5% to 10% – those listings that every buyer wants. Without seeing those hot buys flying off the MLS within days, there will be less urgency and a false malaise setting in with those who are judging the market just based on the MLS activity.
The public won’t have a clue, either. They will be forming their own opinions about the market based on what they see on Zillow, never knowing there is a secret pre-marketing – and selling – of the best listings. It will only be those who attend open houses who will get pitched to leave their contact info to receive their off-market buys (it will be the most-heard pitch of the year at open houses).
Don’t sellers object? Not really, not when it is presented as a better alternative to having strangers traipsing through their house at all hours with little or no notice. It also becomes the happy option in between selling to Zillow for less and taking a chance on the open market.
Are the off-market sales valid comps? Everyone is going to assume they are, so let’s include them and figure they may have fetched a little more on the open market.
The rest of what happens in 2020 should look similar to what we had in 2019 – with the amount of inventory dictating the outcome. Even though buyers may be more active early on, as Diana claimed today for a second time, the higher-end areas should find the buyers being more deliberate, especially if they can’t get their hands on those prime listings.
The new C.A.R. forms for 2020 are available, and the most interesting is the MLS-exclusion form in light of the NAR Clear Cooperation policy that begins on May 1st.
Last year I asked the C.A.R. lead attorney about their stand on Coming-Soon and off-market listings, and Gov said it is up to the brokerages. Their new form reflects it too – they have left it optional for agents sellers to choose to comply:
The form does a better job disclosing the listing-agent shenanigans, and makes them a choice for the seller. But will the listing agent discuss the choices? Or just write it up and send for sigs? The sellers just want their money – they assume their agent will be implementing the best ideas to achieve top dollar.
On May 1st, the Clear Cooperation policy will be in effect, which was intended to discourage off-market sales. But in paragraph 9A you will see that office exclusives are permitted, which will legitimize selling properties in-house. The realtor shops with the most listings will prosper if they pitch them hard to their fellow agents – and most already have an internal marketing system to facilitate.
There is an argument that off-MLS sales are good for the seller because the buyers are pressured to pay all the money before the property goes on the open market.
But off-MLS sales add some uncertainties:
Did the buyers steal it, or did they over-pay?
Were there other buyers that would have paid more?
Are the off-MLS sales legitimate comps for the next guy (seller or buyer)?
Are we still committed to sharing our listings with other agents?
The MLS will still exist, and be the market of last resort because the best properties with the best prices will be sold in-house, or to the aggressive, professional salespeople.
Richard just procured a new sale for his investor client by calling agents who had sold similar properties recently. One told him that he did have a Coming-Soon that was a 6-cap, and gave him the address. Richard hustled his buyer over to the property and promptly submitted an offer, which got accepted yesterday!
Why are Coming-Soon/off-market sales attractive to listing agents? Because they can save time and money on marketing, and hurry up to the next deal. But that selfishness will change the landscape for buyers and buyer-agents, and both will need to be well-connected to succeed.
Compass intends to comply with NAR’s Clear Cooperation Policy MLS 8.0. In addition, the corporate staff will work the MLS to see if we can create a Coming Soon section, like many other areas are doing.
The 8.0 policy legitimizes the Coming Soon marketing, and allows for the Office Exclusives, which is already set up on our internal website. This is why we went to Compass, because it was clear that the game was changing, and the biggest brokerages with the best listing agents would be the most successful – while the little guys get squished.
After less than two years in business, here’s how Compass is doing in Encinitas. Year-to-date sales:
The MLS Statement 8.0 Clear Cooperation Policy is ‘a lightweight, middle-of-the-road policy that will just make the problem worse’ because it doesn’t go far enough. It’s so full of holes that it will only exacerbate the problem, and by the time they figure it out, it will be too late to fix it. It might be too late already.
The new policy just helps to define the ways that agents can avoid putting their listings on MLS:
Office Exclusives Are Allowed. Agents will shop around their new listings for days or weeks among their fellow agents in the office. Only once that avenue is totally exhausted will listings find their way to the MLS.
Submitted to MLS Within One Business Day. From now on, all listings will be signed on Fridays (or postdated).
Sellers Can Market Publicly. The listing agent isn’t supposed to publicly advertise the home, but……..
Showings Aren’t Required. Just because a listing is in the MLS doesn’t mean agents can show it. This is the oldest trick in the book. When an outside agents calls to arrange a showing, he/she is told that the property can be seen any time….as long as it’s between 5:00-5:05pm next Thursday.
No Penalties Mentioned. There has never been a MLS police, so any enforcement will be sketchy at best. But realtors love to rat out their fellow agents so complaints will be flying – but what will be the penalty? Most likely it will be the usual, which is a letter in the offender’s file for six months. Will it be that much?
Stop Using the MLS. If it gets too complicated to navigate the rules, agents will just stop using the MLS. This is why being on the right team is so critical now – if all the hot deals are sold in-house, then working at a small brokerage or being an independent broker will be detrimental. Those agents will only see the leftovers as the MLS becomes an afterthought.
Local compliance was first scheduled for March 1, 2020, but they pushed it back to May 1, 2020 so agents have six months to contemplate. Will we be sitting around discussing how important it is that we share our listings with each other via the MLS?
What’s missing is that no one in the industry is demanding that we share our listings with one another because that is what’s right for consumers and agents alike. Instead, our leaders come up with a lukewarm policy full of holes and no teeth. The spotlight will cause more people to find ways around the 8.0, and proudly conduct off-MLS sales because now they are the even-sexier option.
Yesterday, we entered into the final phase of the MLS implosion, with the latest blow being delivered by the National Association of Realtors themselves. Instead of strictly forbidding Off-MLS sales, they have tried to appease everyone by concocting a lightweight, middle-of-the-road policy that will just make the problem worse:
The National Association of REALTORS®’ Board of Directors approved MLS Statement 8.0, also known as the Clear Cooperation policy, at its meeting Monday. The policy requires listing brokers who are participants in a multiple listing service to submit their listing to the MLS within one business day of marketing the property to the public.
NAR’s MLS Technology and Emerging Issues Advisory Board proposed the policy as a way to address the growing use of off-MLS listings. The advisory board concluded that leaving listings outside of the broader marketplace excludes consumers, undermining REALTORS®’ commitment to provide equal opportunity to all. The policy doesn’t prohibit brokers from taking office-exclusive listings, nor does it impede brokers’ ability to meet their clients’ privacy needs.
Here’s the full text of MLS Statement 8.0:
Within one (1) business day of marketing a property to the public, the listing broker must submit the listing to the MLS for cooperation with other MLS participants. Public marketing includes, but is not limited to, flyers displayed in windows, yard signs, digital marketing on public facing websites, brokerage website displays (including IDX and VOW), digital communications marketing (email blasts), multi-brokerage listing sharing networks, and applications available to the general public.
MLSs have until May 1, 2020, to adopt the policy.
Rationale: Distribution of listing information and cooperation among MLS participants is pro-competitive and pro-consumer. By joining an MLS, participants agree to cooperate with other MLS participants except when such cooperation is not in their client’s interests. This policy is intended to bolster cooperation and advance the positive, procompetitive impacts that cooperation fosters for consumers. The public marketing of a listing indicates that the MLS Participant has concluded that cooperation with other MLS participants is in their client’s interests.
The National Association of Realtors is attempting to regulate a change in the Coming Soon environment – see above. The way it is written, however, will just take us back to the days when off-market deals were done behind closed doors because they are permitting the ‘office exclusives’.
Coming Soons were the industry’s public admission that we do off-market deals, and to give you a chance to get your piece of them. But now the N.A.R. wants brokerages to pick a lane.
1. Comply with the new rule, and change the name of your off-market deals to ‘office exclusives’, where no one can see them.
2. Don’t do anything, and pretend that off-market deals aren’t happening at your shop.
3. Declare publicly that off-market deals are a vital part of your business, and keep marketing them as Coming Soons to the public, in spite of any changes in the N.A.R. rules. What are they going to do?
Numbers 1 & 2 above are the less-transparent choices, and the easier way to go for the agents who justify their off-market deals by saying the seller got what they wanted.
Number 3 is the fully-transparent admission of the truth – agents like to pad their wallets with off-market deals, and don’t see anything wrong with that.
Off-market deals aren’t going away, regardless of the rules. The existing rules already state that all listings are to be inputted onto the MLS within 48 hours, but it gets ignored and there is no policing or penalties.
It’s better for everyone involved – agents, buyers, and especially sellers – to put every listing onto the MLS to ensure full exposure so everyone can compete. Buyers would feel they had an equal chance to buy, sellers get top dollar, and all agents get a fair chance to earn a paycheck.
But N.A.R. and the industry’s upper management looks the other way. It will take a class-action lawsuit or new regulations from the federal government to bring real change.