3. Jargon Watch: Whisper Listings
This week we are trying something new, a look at popular jargon in real estate. Have a term you want to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join the exploration of our industry's often confusing lexicon.
Whisper listings, also known as pocket listings or "ours alone" listings, are properties that are not listed in the Multiple Listing Service. There are a variety of reasons that an owner will choose to keep a property off the public market. Some don't want their home's interiors displayed on public portals like Zillow because they feel it may expose them to risk of theft. Others simply don't want their neighbors to know they are moving or have a sign outside of the home. In Los Angeles and New York City, these listings proliferate because celebrities and wealthy people don't want their sale publicized.
The ways in which these listings are shared vary. Some are discussed at office meetings. Agents share them with their networks via email, phone, and sometimes social media. In Los Angeles, title reps are also part of this ecoystem. Because they move from office to office, title reps have a wide network to distribute information. Agents control access to photos via private Dropbox links or password-protected websites. The PLS, a pocket listing service only for licensed agents, was founded by the Agency in Los Angeles.
MLS organizations aren't fans of this practice, which tends to proliferate when a market is at its frothiest. Some states require an addendum to the listing contract to make sure that the owner knows that the practice limits the property's exposure and could negatively impact price.
Some but not all whisper listings, especially at the high end, eventually make their way to the open market once an agent has tapped the power of their network. In a world where data is easily shared, a good secret never stays hidden for long.