Friday Flash: A dark path

You sit across from him, on the edge of your sofa. 

He is a Realtor. He says to you:

I belong to a powerful and exclusive network of real estate agents that have buyers for a home like yours. I will tap into this network to get your home sold quickly, at the price you want, without the hassle of open houses and the violation of privacy that comes with marketing your home to the masses. Very few agents have this kind of access. But because I am at ______ I can do this for you. This business is about relationships, and I have them.”

You straighten your back and look past the Realtor into the middle distance, thinking about what this means. Faster. Simpler. Privacy. 

You focus your eyes back on the Realtor. 

“OK,” you say, “That sounds like the best path.” 

The battle over exclusive listings is heating up because the deadline for adoption of NAR’s Clear Cooperation Policy — which requires all listings to be placed on the MLS within 24 hours of marketing them publicly — was May 1st. 

Skirmishes are flaring up. Cases are being made.

Those who oppose the new policy frequently anchor their arguments in “consumer choice.” Sellers should be free to market their home however they like, they say. 

But I am not so sure a choice is being presented to most consumers. 

I suspect something like the dialog above happens in a lot of living rooms. An agent who doesn’t want to deal with the MLS, or whose company’s strategy hinges on exclusive listings, presents a very attractive case for a private sale. 

We like exclusive things. Being on the inside track. Having access that others don’t. Add the privacy angle and it’s a strong pitch. 

But how often is the other choice articulated honestly, or at all? I mean the choice that goes like this:

“I have a great marketing and advertising plan for your home, but the most powerful tool we have is the Multiple Listing Service. When I place your home in the MLS, it gets in front of nearly every active agent working with nearly every active buyer in the market. Yes, of course we can place your home on Zillow if you want to, but real estate agents working together through the Multiple Listing Service is how most transactions actually happen.

The Multiple Listing Service is a secure platform where all participants agree to rules that ensure privacy and fair dealing. And if you are concerned about privacy on public real estate websites and apps, we can manage what is displayed and not displayed there together.”

“Consumer choice” requires… uh, what was it again? Ah, yes … choices!

 Are we really offering them? 

Remember how disgusted we all were by the revelation of widespread discrimination and steering of home buyers of color on Long Island?  

I do, and I was

Consider now, in light of this debate about exclusive listings, how even more disadvantaged those home buyers would have been were it not for the MLS. 

That Asian family that got steered away from the neighborhood they liked because it “wasn’t right for them?” They could at least go to another agent, with another brokerage, to tour homes there. They could at least see a near-complete picture of homes for sale, without undue hassle, on the Long Island MLS’s public website, or on nearly any broker site, by virtue of IDX. 

Sunshine, as they say, is the best disinfectant for corruption. It also does the trick on housing discrimination. 

Now here’s the twisted thing: NAR’s Clear Cooperation Policy is actually going to push a lot of listings deeper into the shadows. Compass, for example, had bet big on “Compass Coming Soon” — listings that were marketed exclusively but publicly on To comply with Clear Cooperation, they’ve just launched “Compass Private Exclusives,” true pocket listings that aren’t displayed publicly anywhere

And I am more than sympathetic to brokers’ desire (increasingly a financial imperative) to sell their own listings. I believe that can be achieved without defecting from the MLS. Consider that the Broker Public Portal was conceived and built on the very notion of “your listing, your lead.” 

Alternate paths forward are in plain sight. 

We just need the vision to see them. 

Have a good weekend.