What is a Pocket Listing in Real Estate
One of the questions I get asked from time to time is what is a pocket listing. Clients and customers hear the term pockets listings and wonder what the heck it means.
An in-house home sale – where the listing agent sells a home to a buyer without marketing the home to other potential buyers – is something that happens from time to time.
Real Estate agents often refer to this as having a “Pocket Listing.”
While there are rare circumstances where the practice makes sense, in most cases, sellers are ill-served by an in-house sale or pocket listing.
Whether you are a seller being encouraged to allow your listing agent to sell your home without advertising it, or you are a buyer who is being told you are getting a great deal by getting a home before it is listed, beware.
Chances are you would be better off going the traditional selling or buying route. Pocket listings are especially dangerous for sellers who desire to maximize their home’s sales price.
Let’s take a deep dive into what you need to know about pocket listings.
What is an In-House Home Sale or Pocket Listing
A home sale that happens ‘in-house’ is one where the listing agent finds a buyer for your home without going through the usual channels or traditional methods like having the home on the open market.
In real estate circles, it is known as “double ending a deal.”
For agents, this is real estate nirvana because they don’t have to give another real estate agency half the commission. They get to keep the whole thing.
In a standard home sale, the listing agent will list the home on the multiple listing service (MLS), which is where the vast majority of buyers and real estate professionals search for properties to buy.
Instead of advertising to the market that your home is for sale and you are looking for buyers, the transaction happens in-house with a buyer the listing agent finds. Essentially, only you, your agent, and the buyer that the real estate agent finds know about the sale.
The perfect example of an attempt to have an in-house sale by a real estate agent is when you see a real estate sign that says, “coming soon.” A coming soon listing is not officially on the market in regular marketing channels, but the agent is attempting to find a buyer nonetheless.
Marketing this way is usually not in the client’s best interest. The agent gets phone calls from potential buyers who could end up purchasing before the general buying public knows about the house.
In-House Sale vs. Pocket Listing
When discussing this subject, however, the term “in-house” can be a bit misleading. Many people in the real estate industry consider an in-house sale to be where the company marketing the property has the listing side and the transaction’s selling side. It does not necessarily mean that the listing agent also brought the buyer.
Another agent within the real estate company could have brought the buyer, and it would be considered an in-house transaction. As long as the home is being exposed to the entire real estate market, there is nothing wrong with an in-house transaction. Most real estate companies want to sell their own listing, and that is perfectly acceptable.
Confused yet? Don’t be – you are going to see the pros and cons of a pocket listing very quickly. In most cases, the downsides significantly outweigh any upsides when the property is not exposed to everyone.
Pocket listings are almost always a disservice to a home seller. So when referring to “in-house” sales I’m referring to no cooperation with outside agencies.
NAR Has Banned Pocket Listings
Want to know something really telling? The National Association of Realtors banned the practice of pocket listings. So pocket listings are now illegal if you’re a Realtor. As someone who is always looking out for their client’s best interests, this makes perfect sense!
The mandate is referred to as the clear cooperation policy. The new rules went into effect on January 1st, 2020 but did get implemented until May 1st, 2020. The original implementation was delayed to give more than eight hundred multiple listing services time to educate its users and make any necessary technology changes.
Under the clear cooperation policy, real estate brokers are required within one business day of marketing the property to the general public to submit the listing to the local MLS.
Under the NAR policy, public marketing includes yard signs, digital marketing on websites, flyers in windows, open houses, email blasts, and other real estate marketplaces.
Having a market listing places the client’s best interest first. The next thing they should do is ban dual agency as that does nothing for consumers either!
There is already a set of real estate agents complaining about the ban of pocket listings in online forums and on Facebook. Frankly, it really sickens me, as these are the type of agents that always do what’s best for themselves and not the client.
Exempt Listings to The Clear Cooperation Policy
Is it possible to have an exclusive right listing without it going into the MLS? Yes, it is. In order for a home not to be listed in the multiple listing service, the property owner must have their wishes put in writing.
The listing would become an office exclusive. The property would still need to be submitted to MLS by the listing broker like a traditional listing but would not be disseminated to the participants.
The document stating the seller’s wishes would accompany the signed listing agreement.
Pocket Listing – The Pros and Cons Explained
Pros of Pocket Listings
As you can probably tell already, I’m not a big fan of pocket listings. However, there are a few benefits that are worth looking at before we get into all the drawbacks.
In other words, what is the purpose of a pocket listing? Why would a seller do a pocket listing?
You Avoid a Lot of Traffic Through Your Home.
If you are seriously ill or have some other reason not to want multiple buyers looking at your home, an in-house sale can help you avoid the inconvenience of showing the house to different people.
The only buyer that will know about the sale is the one that the listing agent communicates with, which likely means that you will only have to show your home once.
For some sellers, accepting what is probably a lower price than market value is worthwhile to avoid showings and to deal with multiple potential buyers.
This is the #1 reason any seller would want to accept a real estate agent having a pocket listing.
The Listing Agent May Discount The Commission.
Your real estate agent might discount the traditional commission rate. This isn’t actually a benefit for the seller, which is unfortunate since it is arguably the most significant benefit of an in-house home sale.
Under normal circumstances, a listing agent would probably split the commission with the agent who brings in a buyer – but since the listing agent is the one bringing in the buyer, they get to serve both seller and buyer.
However, it is impossible to serve the best interests of a seller and a buyer. A seller’s agent should seek to get the best terms for the seller.
A buyer’s agent should attempt to get the best conditions for a buyer. One agent can’t do both. It is hard to believe that an agent encouraging an in-house sale is serving anyone’s interests but their own.
So, while the agent may charge you a lower commission, you may not be getting the full scope of services from the agent if they become what’s known as a dual real estate agent.
If you are selling your home in-house, you should insist your agent remains a seller’s agent. Never accept a single-agent dual agency where your agent becomes a neutral party. The practice is so bad some states have made it illegal altogether.
If the agent you hired remains a seller’s agent, they will be able to give you guidance and advice. If you allow them to practice dual agency, they will not be permitted by law to provide you with any advice.
Dual agency is one of the ways real estate agents deceive their clients.
With a Pocket Listing, You Can Test The Market and Get Feedback
Another claim that real estate agents like to make who are advocates of pocket listings is that a seller can “test the market” and get feedback.
If a real estate agent doesn’t know that the dark brown kitchen cabinets from the 1970s and the rose-colored wallpaper in the dining room aren’t going to be drawbacks, you should hire another agent.
These same agents will claim that an open house will do the same thing, once your home is officially on the market. They will let strangers into your home all for their own personal gain rather than explaining any of the downsides to hosting one.
You should ask yourself if testing the market is really necessary. A good idea would be to ask a family member or friends for advice. I am sure they will be able to help.
Some Sellers Want Privacy
Believe it or not, some sellers will put privacy ahead of selling for the highest price. They will forgo a higher price by letting far fewer people know their home is for sale. These sellers will rely on word of mouth to get their homes sold.
Examples of this would be celebrities or public figures. Even though doing business this way would eliminate tons of qualified buyers, it’s what they prefer.
Cons of a Pocket Listing
Now that we have exhausted the pros of an in-house sale – didn’t take long, did it? – We can look at the cons. Just like selling a house for sale by owner, there are more disadvantages than advantages.
Real Estate pocket listings almost always benefit an agent more than any other party to the transaction. Less competition among qualified buyers leads to a lower sales price. It is highly unlikely to have a bidding war on a pocket listing.
If you want the best deal, use of the MLS is imperative to get the word out. It is the best choice and an important factor to selling for top dollar.
Pocket Listings Get No Exposure Through Regular Marketing Channels.
Keeping the fact that the home is for sale hush-hush means that none of the regular marketing channels are used by the agent to get the word out about the sale. Exposure of the home will be limited.
There is no MLS listing, no advertising, no social media marketing, or any other type of marketing. To get the best price for your home, you need to have the maximum exposure possible.
Marketing a home takes a lot of work, so it is obvious why the listing agent would want to avoid it if possible. But the hard work that goes into marketing is what attracts all the offers that a seller will typically get. You obviously want the best marketing plan to sell your home.
Low ball offers, average offers, and spectacular offers are all avoided. The seller gets the proposal from the buyer that the listing agent has pulled into the deal, and that’s it.
With Pocket Listings, There is No Opportunity to Encourage a Bidding War.
Bidding wars are not always desirable for real estate agents. But it would be dishonest to say that most sellers don’t hope for a situation where buyers try to outdo one another.
Understanding how to get a bidding war on a house is something most clients want.
If the seller is in a hot market, it is often possible to get more than the asking price when good marketing attracts a variety of buyers.
Sellers in such situations can walk away with more money than they expected. More often than not, they will be selecting a buyer that meets all of their terms as well, such as their desired closing date.
However, if the house is not marketed, and multiple buyers do not have a chance to make offers, a bidding war is guaranteed not to happen.
Pocket listings foster less competition. They are not in the best interest of the client.
Dual Agency is Likely – Which Never Benefits Clients.
If the listing agent is not only serving the seller by listing the house but also helping the buyer as well, then the situation is known as dual agency.
As I mentioned earlier, an agent cannot serve the best interests of a buyer and a seller at the same time. It just isn’t possible.
With single-agent dual agency both clients lose out, and the agent is the only one that benefits – which is why many states have made dual agency illegal.
Even where it is legal, it is usually required to be disclosed to the clients before any transaction can take place.
Whether you are a seller or a buyer, you don’t want an agent representing you and the other party.
Why put yourself in such an undesirable situation, when you could easily find a real estate agent who would happily serve your interests exclusively for a split commission with an agent serving the other party?
Most consumers hire a real estate agent for their guidance and expertise. When you allow dual agency, you don’t get any unless the agent provides it illegally!
Pocket Listings Disrupt The Market.
It can seem strange to think that a single home sale could disrupt something as big as the real estate market, but a pocket listing can do just that. Granted, it may not be a massive disruption, depending on your local market’s size, but it is still a disruption.
The reason pocket listings cause problems with the real estate market is that current home sale prices are based on recent home sale prices. When a real estate appraiser appraises a home, they look at comparable sales in the same area to determine the price – homes that are similar to the one they are estimating.
It is all interconnected. Buyers, sellers, and real estate agents all use the same systems – particularly the MLS – to ensure transparency in the marketplace. It is this transparency that provides that market values are accurate.
When a home is sold without going to market, that information is not available in the same way as other homes that are listed as usual. It creates an information gap that is not helpful to anyone. Further, if the house sells for under-market value because it wasn’t appropriately exposed, future home sellers suffer.There are significant disadvantages to selling your house as a pocket listing!Click To Tweet
Buyers Don’t Know If They Are Paying a Fair Price or Not.
Often buyers who are pulled into a pocket listing deal are given the idea that they are special and getting the home for cheaper than they would otherwise. But there is no guarantee that the price they pay is actually a good deal.
Sure, the home may be priced below market value. But it also may be priced above market value. The fact is, actual market value can only be determined by putting a home for sale on the market, not hidden away as a pocket listing.
Avoiding competition can seem like a great way to save money, but it may lead you to pay more for a property than you should. You may only find out that you paid too much later when you try to sell the home.
Keep in mind if you don’t have a buyer’s agent advising you, there is no way to know for sure if you are overpaying or not. The seller’s agent certainly won’t be advising you.
Other Names For Pocket Listings
It should be noted that real estate agents refer to pocket listings by other names as well. Buyers, sellers, and real estate investors should understand this lingo in case you come across it.
Here are the other common names for pocket listings:
- Exclusive listings
- Off-market properties
- Private listings
- Off-market listings
- Off-market homes
- Office exclusives
- Coming soon properties
- Coming soon listings
- Quite listings
- Hip pocket listings
- In-house listing
If you hear one of these terms, they are probably referring to a pocket listing.
Things You Should Know About Avoiding Pocket Listings
You could have a reason to engage in a pocket listing, but chances are you would be better served by buying or selling through the standard channels.
To help you avoid a pocket listing, here are a few tips:
Interview Real Estate Agents Before You Hire Them.
A reputable real estate agent will be happy to answer your questions and go through an interview process.
You can ask pointed questions, like how many sales the agent has been involved in this year, how many price reductions were needed, the average time on market for their listings, etc.
If you don’t like what you hear, feel free to walk away. There is always another agent you can hire. Never discount the importance of going through multiple interviews.
Consumers should be aware that there are differences between a real estate agent and a Realtor. Realtors are held to a much higher standard. They are required to follow the code of ethics and put the interests of their clients ahead of their own.
It is vital to hire an agent who has an exceptional reputation. Someone well respected locally for going above and beyond for their clients. Not someone who thinks through their wallet.
Trust me, there are tons of real estate agents out there who put the all-mighty dollar before everything else.
You Are The Final Word on Pocket Listings.
You hire the real estate agent, not the other way around. If you feel like your agent is pressuring you to sell a property in-house or you feel like your agent is trying to get you to buy a property in-house, you can say no.
You know the adage – always walk away when something seems too good to be true.
Pocket Listings Near Me
If you are a buyer, you might be wondering how to find pocket listings? When the inventory of homes for sale is tight, you need to pull out all the stops, right?
Try a Pocket Listing Service
There are a few websites that cater to marketing pocket listings. The most well-known is Pocketdeed. Pocketdeed lets real estate companies submit pocket listings to be seen by their private networks of home buyers.
Another site is HomeQT, but it is much less known. It is a pocket listing match-making site that puts consumers in touch with one another discreetly.
You might also try doing a Google search as well. The search term pocket listings near me might give you some potential home sellers or real estate agents to contact.
Of course, keeping your ears to the ground and letting friends and family know you are looking for a home may help. The more people you tell the better.
In hot real estate markets, some real estate agents try to entice buyers to work with them by telling them they have pocket listings nobody knows about. More often than not this is just a sales pitch to avoid.
Final Thoughts on a Pocket Listing
Not thoroughly discussing the pros and cons of a pocket or in-house listing does not act in a client’s best interests. Agents can be violating state real estate license laws, MLS policies, and the Realtor Code of Ethics. This kind of behavior gives real estate agents a bad reputation, along with the industry as a whole.
Is a pocket listing a good idea? Only you can decide that. The vast majority of homeowners would probably say no.
Every client should be well informed of the pros and cons of any real estate marketing strategy. More often than not, a pocket listing may not lead to the best results for a seller.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what a pocket listing is and why you may want to avoid being one selling your home. Pocket listings in real estate usually serve the interests of an agent more than anyone else.
About the author: The above Real Estate information on the pros and cons of a pocket listing was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 34+ years.
Are you thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate Sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton, and Uxbridge MA.