Anarchy, choices and a crowded forest


Your agent has a pocket listing or a “coming soon” listing. They decide to start marketing that property on facebook. Or on their own website. Taking what was once a private conversation to the public domain.

Agents believe this is simply a marketing play. MLSs, brokers and associations disagree. They believe the minute an agent triggers a public marketing campaign, the property must fall into a process built to preserve the sanctity of the real estate profession.

A growing number of agents disagree. They continue to aggressively add more and more homes to an increasing number of public websites focused on coming soon listings, despite the legal and ethical concerns they should be beholden to.


Agents are independent contractors. Everywhere they look they are surrounded by competition. Their office. Their neighborhood. Their city. Their state. At every turn, something or someone is compromising their position. Maybe it’s an agent from Chicago answering a question on Trulia Voices from a buyer in their own home town. Or maybe it’s an agent buying ad space on their listing on Zillow.

Agents have been hammered about the value of branding. Differentiation. Enhancing the consumer experience. They view the aggressive marketing of “coming soon” listings as just that – the very thing independent business owners do to beat the competition. They are always prepared to do whatever they want to crush competitors.  


Brokers, MLSs and associations believe agents are bound by ethical and fiduciary commitments. Disagreeing with those commitments is one thing, challenging them with reckless intention is another.

Their concern is that the public marketing of a “coming soon” or “pocket” listing outside of the confines of the MLS and the rules dictated by organized real estate drags the buyer and the seller down an uncharted and ungoverned hole organized real estate spent the last 100 years guarding.

These policies are the very stamp of professional status that separates a Realtor from any yahoo who decides to try their untrained hand at marketing real estate.


Broker Anthony Gilbert substantiates this in his April post, “Seller Market Shenanigans,” in which he asks his consumer audience, “Who’s looking out for you?” inviting them to weigh the issues associated with this practice. The “shenanigans” Gilbert describes play deep into the preconceived notions people have about agents and support the widespread negative stereotypes that plague this industry.

He has a point.


It’s plausible to assume that the moment a Realtor agrees to “market” a home, they’ve placed it and themselves in play creating a status for that home no different than Just Listed or Pending.

Consider the on deck baseball player. Once inside the circle, he is in play and subject to every rule of the sport. Or the physician who is called upon in public to assist someone in need. Though not officially at work, in scrubs and in receipt of insurance information, the second she acknowledges herself as a medical doctor, she is bound by every stitch of her Hippocratic Oath.

Brokers, MLSs and associations fear potential lawsuits from sellers along with the plethora of violations that ensue when agents act outside the confines of an organized industry. The havoc this could wreak on the Realtor brand could be substantial.

Agents fear the industry doesn’t recognize the value of pre-marketing homes by not creating new categories for listings (coming soon or pocket) along with rules that protect professionals and consumers alike.

They have chosen to stop sitting idle, which in their worst fear would permit industry outsiders the chance to build on this idea and charge agents to use it. It’s a legitimate concern.


Forest and the trees

The gist, the cliché, the stereotype, and the business-as-usual stances will forever be the innovator’s greatest enemies. Ones we all must counteract daily.

Vaclav Havel, playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician, reflecting on what the world needs described it as “understanding over explanation.” He believed we all must cease our view of the world as governed by finite laws allowing us to open up and better recognize the possibilities.

In other words, see the forest and the trees.

This is one of those defining moments of opportunity where established real estate could benefit from this point of view.

In an industry that often fixates on the individual leaves on a tree, it risks once again missing the rising changes taking place across the forest.

In today’s pace of innovation, there’s no time or benefit to that.

[Photo via David Blaikie]