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Pocket Listings in 2021

The Journal touched on pocket listings yesterday – excerpts:

Real-estate agents are selling more homes to select customers while bypassing the public market, a move that squeezes supply tighter for many buyers when inventory is already near record lows.

In the vast majority of transactions, an agent lists a home for sale on a local database and markets the property widely to drum up interest and get the best price. But in certain cases, a broker will show an unlisted property to a small circle of potential buyers more exclusively, often in hope of getting a deal done quickly.

These private sales are known as pocket listings, or whisper listings. They have been around for many years. But they are on the rise now even though the National Association of Realtors adopted a rule last year aimed at discouraging their use following complaints from some of its members.

Pocket listings persist in part because they benefit big brokerages, which can shop listings in-house and advertise to potential clients that they have properties that aren’t available anywhere else.

On brokerage Compass Inc.’s website, a search for active listings or those coming soon in San Francisco pulled up 1,320 online listings as of midday Tuesday. The website also said 105 listings in the city weren’t publicly available but were available through a Compass agent.

A Compass spokesman declined to comment.

Link to WSJ Article

My thoughts:

Compass is known for the in-house Private Exclusives program, and it was one of the main reasons I joined. If any big brokerage were to mount a strong in-house campaign, they could commandeer the market – especially if they had the #1 market share. I wouldn’t recommend it for my sellers, but it could be a boost for my buyers.

Last year I did four off-market sales with my buyers, and only one was with a Compass listing agent. But I haven’t even sniffed an opportunity this year. Why? Because in 2021 every seller and listing agent wants to go on the open market to see if they can get bid up. They’ve heard the stories of sales going for hundreds of thousands over list, and they want their chance at glory.

We still have a Private Exclusives section, but every time I contact a listing agent who has a home listed there, they say they are going on the open market (there is some confusion on what the PE program is supposed to be). I’m sure there are off-market deals happening, but I don’t think they are any more than normal – and they have been around since the beginning of time.

In Northern California, the Compass presence is huge, and I’ve been told that management there is really pushing the Private Exclusives. But in the WSJ article, they mentioned that only 8% of the listings were Exclusives, and my guess is that many of those are heading for the open market.

Another unintended consequence of the frenzy? Slowing down the off-market sales!

The Typical Bidding War

Here’s a great snapshot of how the vast majority of listing agents handle multiple offers. They just grab one, and kiss off the rest – which isn’t good for the sellers, it’s not good for the losing buyers who might have made a better offer if there was a highest-and-best round, and it’s not good for the buyer-agents who should have the right to compete fairly to sell the home.

But the listing agent gets to go back to sleep, so there’s that.

The most common response? “I just did what the seller wanted to do”. But isn’t it your job to advise them of a way to create a fair competition that could get them a better offer and more money? I think so.

Buyer-Agents Being Crushed

Home buyers deserve to have their own representation.

The broker cooperation system which allows every agent to share their inventory with all other buyers via the MLS has worked well for 100+ years.  But it has been under attack for years, and it may not survive the tight-inventory era where sellers and listing agents want to minimize or eliminate buyer-agents altogether.

An agent sent this in today:

Do you know that Lennar is no longer paying agents a commission or referral fee?

I have been working with a client for almost a year. She wouldn’t have known about the Lennar at Treviso community without me bringing her there. I registered her as my client and when her name got called on the list, they told her they’re no longer cooperating with agents and if she tried to include me she’d lose the house. Thank you Lennar for putting my client is a horrible position. Hey builders. Don’t ostracize the brokerage community! The market may be busy now but when the tides turn, you’re going to need us again. This is bad business.

I know for a fact that Lennar isn’t paying commissions on any of their SD communities currently.

I agree that it’s bad business to have an agent sign in their buyer as required to receive the commission, but then rescind their offer of compensation when the buyer steps up to purchase.  But nobody cares about buyer-agents, and the abuse will continue. Lower or no commission being offered, no clarity on how multiple offers get handled (other than the usual “I just let the sellers decide”, which is a lie), and no easy path to show and sell.

What is the result of buyer-agents being snuffed out?

Here you go:

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/17/64percent-of-millennials-have-regrets-about-buying-their-current-home.html

Buyers don’t recognize the need for getting good help.

An apprentice from a realtor team will suck them in with the promise of getting them an ‘off-market deal’, but then get sold a 1,200sf two-story house in a gang-infested area for 10% to 20% over value (true story).

We should probably just drop the seller-paid commissions – though they should have the right to offer a bounty – and have buyers pay their own agents. Those who value good help will seek out the best agents, and those who don’t will get what they get and wind up with regrets.

 

CCP and The Future

Two years ago, the National Association of Realtors began the Clear Cooperation Policy, a directive that compels agents to submit their listings to the MLS within one business day after any public marketing.

It was an attempt to quell off-market sales, but Glenn says that it’s done the opposite.

Specifically, because the CCP allows brokerages to have ‘Office Exclusives’, he asserts that more companies are withholding their listings from the MLS and selling them in-house without any attempt to include outside agents or buyers.

Rob and Sam, two industry titans, conducted a livestream discussion to see what else can be done.

Rob has the likely solution – that any agent who wants to exclude their listing from the MLS will need to get a signed waiver from the MLS committee to do so.

Yes, it has come to that – agents can’t be trusted to play by the rules, and will need a permission slip from the principal to officially withhold a listing from the MLS.

But it gets worse – I left a bomb in the comment section here:

https://notorious-rob.com/2021/05/in-which-sam-debord-and-i-solve-the-clear-cooperation-dilemma/

Pay-Per-Showing

We have another disrupter who is providing a service you didn’t know you needed until now.

Traditionally, a buyer’s agent accompanies their clients to show them the homes for sale, and to give expert advice about each house while on site. But other real estate companies – who don’t appreciate that valuable service – have dumbed it down by just paying door-openers that allow buyers into the house, but leave them on their own to figure out the rest.

A new company has taken it one step further, and is providing an Uber-like service where random agents can get paid for opening doors for other agents.

The company charges $39, and pays $24 of it to the door-opening agent – who agrees to not offer advice to the buyers, and to direct them back to the agent who paid the $39 showing fee.

https://showami.com/

Will it happen some day that the buyers will be charged a fee to see a house?

Disclosing Offer Prices

To say it’s the Wild Wild West out here is putting it lightly, and how realtors handle multiple offers is the primary reason. There isn’t a standard way to handle a bidding war – and heck, we don’t even agree on what is confidential, and what isn’t. Here is the variety of opinions from a FB thread:

Even when presented with a copy of the actual verbiage from our contracts, she comments, “Wrong”.

Is anyone surprised why buyers are so frustrated?

‘No More Showings’

We see it more and more these days – listing agents who shut down showings of their listings. I’m sure most would say, “What do you want me to do? I had 20-30 appointment times available, and they all booked up!”

When faced with having to work harder, smarter, or less, agents always seem to pick less.

  • But they owe it to their sellers to find a way to show their home to every possible buyer.
  • They owe it to their fellow agents too, and their buyers.

Work Harder:

An agent over the weekend was bombarded with requests to show a newer one-story home on a half-acre lot. She TRIPLE-BOOKED the whole weekend, and designated four stations – two inside, and two outside. As visitors arrived, she explained the process, and deftly guided everyone from station to station to keep the parade moving – and it went very smoothly.

Work Smarter:

Can we please require agents to produce YouTube video tours?

If you don’t like the way you sound or you’re afraid you might say something stupid, then just don’t talk. The video is a boost to understanding the flow of the floor plan, and and a way to highlight the biggest benefits. It’s not that hard to do – you’re doing videos of your grandkids every weekend, surely you can walk around a house with a videocam and pretend you’re showing the house to a buyer – of which you have plenty of practice!  Then the buyers who got shut out from an in-person appointment can view the video and have a fighting chance to compete.

Selling homes by video should have been commonplace by now. Let’s do it!

Realtor MLS Club

Selling a house is different every time – it’s truly the wild, wild west.

Because there are no standard rules of engagement on how to sell a home, everyone does it differently.  I had an agent accost me on why my offer was so low (it was full price), to which I said that it’s my preference to save my bullets for the highest-and-best round. She responded, “WE NEVER COUNTER”.

You just never know what to expect.

With real estate, every house is different, and so are the players (sellers, buyers, and agents).  Mortgage rates go up and down, loan-qualifying affects buyers differently, and resolving the condition of the home is a wild card on every deal.  Even if there was a simple way to navigate those, you still have to contend with the emotions and egos of the human beings involved – which can be extreme when dealing with a life-changing decision that might have to last you forever.

Now add the low-supply/high-demand environment, and it’s never been so crucial to get good help.

Yet, Zillow, Redfin, and others want you to believe that they can dumb down the process into a paperwork shuffle. They pitch lower costs, but never consider that a home’s sales price depends on who is selling it – and there is a wide variance in today’s market.

The NAR doesn’t get it either. They are creating a national MLS to compete with Zillow, but unless they spend multi-millions of dollars on advertising (very doubtful) the buyers and sellers won’t know they exist.

What we need is for realtors to stand up and save the model that has worked the best for all parties.

Last year was all fun and games as we got used to the new intensity.  But now it’s obvious that the low inventory is causing a sea change among buyers. In the Under-$2,000,000 market, the comps don’t matter any more, and winning at any price becomes the only goal.

Once buyers figure that out, they will appreciate getting good help like never before – and hopefully before it’s too late. If a seller picks the wrong agent, it only means leaving money on the table, which is the cost of real estate ignorance.

The best chance to ensure that the traditional model endures is for realtors to create our own private listing club, and these guys are on to it. They had 700 agents on this call, which is impressive but it’s early and they would need to commit massive resources to reach the entire country.  The word-of-mouth among agents could take them a long way, however.

Here’s a peek behind the scenes.  Decide if you think they can sell it, or if they might hit the eject button when the heat gets hot – because the outsiders are going to challenge this idea:

Get Good Help!

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