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Pocket listings go online

By Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood writes on Home design, do-it-yourself and real estate for The Charlotte Observer. His column appears each Saturday.

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Zillow’s new “Coming Soon” feature allows agents, brokers and listing services to market homes online for up to 30 days before they hit the MLS. Industry insiders across the country are abuzz. I spotted one poll that said agents and brokers disapprove of the idea by a margin of three to one.

It hasn’t generated many headlines here – but it has not gone unnoticed.

The N.C. Real Estate Commission has urged agents and brokers to tread carefully.

Debbie Wey, assistant director of policy for Charlotte’s Carolina Multiple Listing Services, said the commission in its annual update course “strongly cautioned” licensed pros to follow the rules on pocket listings.

And, to state and local leaders, a “Coming Soon” listing is a pocket listing. “If you’re leaving the listing out of the MLS, to us, it’s the same,” Wey said.

Pocket listings seem to be growing, as I wrote last summer. “Coming Soon” sort of ramps that up to warp speed.

A pocket listing occurs when an agent keeps the listing out of the MLS but shares it with a circle of fellow agents. Those who’re in the loop face less competition for commissions – and those outside often howl.

Pocket listings have to be done with the seller’s permission – in writing. There’s even a pocket listing form for the client to sign. It’s “Certification by Seller to Withhold Listing from CMLS.”

Some sellers see benefits in pocket listings. An occupied rental property can be hard to show. Pro athletes and high-profile executives might not want rubberneckers trooping through. Some sellers might think their homes will sell for a higher price with a private, exclusive listing.

Wey, like other CMLS leaders, says full exposure in the listing service is almost always better for everybody. Sellers expose their homes to a larger pool of prospective buyers. All agents have the opportunity to participate.

Some of those who dislike “Coming Soon” say that it’s a way for listing agents to earn money from both sides of the transaction. “There may be legitimate reasons for keeping a listing out (of the MLS),” Wey said, “but keeping both sides of the commission is not one of them.”

Zillow says that “Coming Soon” listings are likely to end up in an MLS. Of course, aggressive types can pounce before the listings get there.

To investigate “Coming Soon,” go to Zillow.com. Scroll over “Homes” on the top bar, then click on “Coming Soon Homes.”

Special to the Observer: homeinfo@charter.net
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