Have you ever seen properties advertised as “Coming Soon” either online or with a sign in the yard?
That type of pre-market promotion has been like the Wild West for agents.
Individual agents each handled it a little differently since there was no real guidance. There were many misunderstandings, and some questionable practices, as both agents and buyers struggled to understand what “Coming Soon” meant on a property-by-property basis.
Although most agents promoted their listings responsibly, enough complaints were registered that someone decided to step in and act as a regulator.
Beginning today (February 4, 2019) new rules issued by the local Multiple Listing Service regulate how MLS members (basically all agents) must manage their listings at each stage of the listing process.
Specifically, two types of pre-market listings have been defined:
Delayed Listings: An owner has hired an agent, but the property is not ready for marketing. The agent is allowed to help the owner prepare the property during this time. However, the agent is not allowed to publicly market the home, and no showings are allowed. When the property is ready, then it is listed in the MLS and marketing and showings may begin.
Coming Soon Listing: An agent can publicly market a property before it is available for showings by entering it into the MLS in the “Coming Soon” status with a specific “Go Active” date. Although public marketing is allowed, showings are not allowed and the owner may not accept an offer until the “Go Active” date passes. Importantly, the “Go Active” date may not be moved up once it has been publicized. A property can only be in the “Coming Soon” status in the MLS for a maximum of 14 days.
Another new rule covers listings that are withheld from the MLS.
Withheld Listings: An agent can opt to not enter a listing into the MLS. This is discouraged since marketing properties in the MLS is the best way to maximize exposure to buyers. However, in some situations withholding a listing may be appropriate. An agent who withholds their listing from the MLS may not publicly market the property.
The new rules define “Public Marketing” to include open houses, displaying the listing anywhere on the internet, advertising the listing in written publications, placing a sign in the yard, sharing the listing on social media, or distributing the listing via email.
These rules mean that if you see a property advertised by an agent, whether it is “Coming Soon” or not, then you should be able to find out about that listing from any agent because there is a corresponding MLS entry. Public marketing is not allowed under these rules unless the property is already listed in the MLS. This is good for buyers, and it is good for agents representing buyers.
We’ll see how the new rules work in practice over the coming months. In order to be effective the agent community needs to know about the new rules, understand them, and buy in to the changes. There also needs to be a reasonable enforcement mechanism.
Amy and I have already discussed small changes to our pre-marketing strategy in order to make sure we comply. Our expectation is that other local agents will comply too.
That said, it will be interesting to see what happens this spring. The rules represent a meaningful reduction in the flexibility we previously enjoyed while building awareness of new listings.