“Shadow Listings”

“Don’t be an undercover agent.”

–Advice routinely given to new Realtors (i.e., let people know you sell homes)

Here’s another explanation for the scarcity of local (Twin Cities) housing inventory, in what should be the busiest time of the year for new listings:  stuff’s for sale — but it’s non-MLS.  See also, “The Mystery of the Missing Housing Inventory.

questionFor the uninitiated, it’s always possible to be “For Sale” without formally being on MLS.

But, it makes no sense.

Or perhaps more accurately, it’s not the best way for Sellers to maximize their price — especially in a Seller’s market with a lopsided number of Buyers.

Seller’s Rationale

So why do it?

I’ve heard of three rationales:  1) it’s a low-risk way* for Sellers to test the market (and a target selling price — usually unrealistic; see below); 2) it’s a way for Sellers to see if it’s possible to sell without putting big money into needed updates or repairs; and/or 3) it’s attractive to Sellers who don’t want the hassle and scrutiny that comes with being on the market (that can also be associated with Sellers who have health or mobility issues).

While I’m sympathetic to all those situations, the fact is . . . moving IS a hassle. 

It’s also axiomatic that more Buyers = higher price, fewer Buyers = lower price.

Finally, a good listing agent should be able to minimize the disruption associated with being on the market.

Minimizing Seller Wear & Tear

For example, it’s always possible to skip the “For Sale” sign and Sunday open’s, and set more restrictive showing instructions (but not overly so).

rockAs far as health issues go, yes, those obviously have to be addressed, but often times the better solution — finances allowing — is to first focus on lining up the Seller’s new housing situation, getting them into it, and only THEN tackling their home sale.

Surprise, surprise, all those Sellers whose stance is “I’ll only sell if I can get $X for my home” have a funny way of overshooting on what $X is — and not exactly being committed to the staging and prep needed to achieve $X.

In other words:  they ain’t so motivated.

And any Buyers they happen to attract — MLS or non-MLS — can tell . . . . .

P.S.:  “Non-MLS” is not to be confused with what’s called “pre-list networking.”

The latter is a very smart thing to do, to build excitement and awareness about an upcoming new listing.

*Unlike “For Sale” homes active on MLS, Non-MLS listings don’t accrue market time.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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