Are Realtors sabotaging MLS® with “grey market” listings?

We have experienced a relatively strong market over the last 18 months and listing scarcity has become an issue, as many areas have only a month or two of listing inventory. Listings in 2017 were down approximately 25% from the previous year (35% over 2 years) and with healthy sales, this made things difficult for buyers and their agents, especially those with an existing property to sell.

“Grey” market listings abound: (non MLS®)
In the face of dwindling listings, many Realtors (and their sellers) are getting creative about how they plan to market the listing to the best advantage of seller and Realtor. This includes the use of “exclusive” listings, “pocket” listings and future sale listings.  In most of these types of listings the listing agent does not publicize the listing widely/openly on the MLS® system.  (or at least initially) Instead these Realtors market via social media and a variety of 3rd party online sites.   Have you seen those “Coming Soon” or “Exclusive Listing”signs on front yards in your neighbourhood?  This is most likely an indication of a grey market listing.

How is this advantageous? (and to whom?)
Realtors do this for a number of reasons in our opinion:
-Realtors leverage the listing to potentially generate other buyer or seller prospects
-Realtors have a chance of “double ending” the listing, if they are able to find a buyer without having to pay another Realtor.
-The listing agent in many cases will have used these marketing concepts, combined with a lower listing commission to help close the listing in the first place.
-Realtors may be able to avoid the cost and time involved in some steps of the listing process ie professional photography, staging and also get to a sale sooner.
-are all the above consistent with the Realtor pledge of “first duty to client” or is the Realtor’s own marketing and prospecting activity subverting their principal duty to their seller client?
-some sellers may prefer not having a “wide open” MLS® listing where everybody and their brother are free to book random appointments to see their home.

So what’s the down side?
-these “ secret” listings become a bit of a holy grail and many Realtors really play this up:  Ie “ deal with me and I will get you the inside scoop on all the new listings, so you get to consider them BEFORE they hit MLS®.  Nobody, has access to all the “secret” listings, no matter how strong they may be in the neighbourhood.  The fairest and most democratic way is for all listings to make their way to MLS® where they can be considered by all buyers and their agents.
-all buyers do not get to consider the property and therefore demand is generated by only a small portion of the overall market.
-Buyers may be encouraged in to making a more impulsive offer, given the relative scarcity. This can result in buyer’s remorse and more conditional sales falling through which has been a factor in our market.
-these grey market listings that do not get to MLS®, also then further diminish the level of listing inventory available to MLS® buyers and therefore enhance the supply shortfall and help cause prices to rise.
-MLS® in recent years even includes most of the FSBO listings, so it is a fantastic central repository and marketplace. By withholding listings from MLS®, Realtors are not doing their seller, buyers or Realtor colleagues any favours.  Think for a moment if there was no MLS®?  Would you want Google or facebook to decide what listings you got to see?  MLS® is still ad free, too!
Do you want to have to scour hundreds of websites daily to find and stay on top of new listings in the marketplace?

Selling scarcity is nothing new:
Realtors, buyers and sellers will always adapt to scarcity and attempt to find ways to take advantage and this is no different, unfortunately, it can also lead to further scarcity in MLS® listings and possibly further demand spikes and price increases which is not good for buyers. It also removes some credibility from the MLS® system, if “ new”  listings are deemed to be old news by the time they are published on MLS®.

Seller choice:
A seller may find a deal without having to go through the full-fledged MLS® prep and marketing process and if they are happy with what they get, then so be it. Clearly, however, the best market value is to be obtained with the widest possible exposure to all buyers and their agents and that only happens with a listing on MLS®

Proponents will argue that they are only “getting the best deal” for their seller client but in many cases, we believe Realtor marketing and differentiation are the principal reason for use of these “grey marketing/non-MLS®” listings and that on balance this is not good for the overall market as it fractures and weakens the  central source of MLS® supply and exacerbates already existing supply problems.

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Dawn Davey, Broker
Oasis Realty Brokerage 613-435-4692  oasisrealty@rogers.com www.oasisrealtyottawa.com

12th year in business as a lower cost brokerage

 

Published by

Gord McCormick

Brokerage owner and Principal Broker for 11+ years, Senior Member of Ottawa real estate board and former VP sales.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *