It may seem trite, or obvious, but the notion of “Clients First” guides everything we do at 8z. Every decision our agents make and every major brokerage initiative is filtered through this lens: Are we putting our clients’ best interests before our own?
And it’s becoming increasingly complicated.
We’re all familiar with the current real estate headlines – record low inventory, high demand, skyrocketing home prices. Today’s market is, quite simply, cutthroat. Sellers are receiving, and frequently exceeding, list price, while buyers are struggling to secure accepted offers amidst this frenzy. While the future looks like a more balanced dynamic, the combination of these factors, mixed with a recently-revived selling tactic, has created a perfect storm.
This practice, known as Whisper Listings or Pocket Listings, has grown on a larger scale to now encompass Office Exclusives. The purpose of this tactic is to market homes among a private group, without ever listing the property in the MLS. Typically, Whisper Listings are implemented in rare circumstances when a client’s privacy, and wide exposure of their property, is a concern. For the vast majority of homesellers, this isn’t the case.
Today, Whisper Listings are quickly gaining traction and spreading from an individual, off-market listing to a pooled, brokerage-wide practice. On face value, “exclusive” marketing may seem like a positive, but the ramifications are anything but – especially for those Office Exclusives are meant to benefit.
Sellers may get their home sold quickly and discreetly, however, they’re losing out on receiving maximum value, and more favorable terms by not listing on the open market. Similarly, when big-box brokerages combine Whisper Listings into Office Exclusives, they take a larger portion of the already minimal inventory and broadcast it purely to a select group of opt-in buyers.
Enacted over a year ago, NAR’s Clear Cooperation Policy was meant to end the practice of Pocket/Whisper Listings, ostensibly giving everyone – REALTORs and clients alike – the same access to a property. Office Exclusives are a new loophole, designed to share listings within the same broker- age and never marketed to the public. Note the root word of “exclusive” is exclusion – and this is where the practice becomes even more problematic.
As an industry coming to terms and attempting to remedy a decades-old practice of redlining, Office Exclusives inadvertently exacerbate this issue. When the general public does not have equal access to all listings, the result is simply exclusion. Not surprisingly, the communities often being excluded are typically the historically underserved, as Office Exclusives occur more frequently in predominantly affluent neighborhoods. Thus, this tactic is diametrically opposed to fair housing and an unfortunate step backward.
We believe the Clear Cooperation Policy is a solid start to removing unfair marketing practices but should be amended with clearer guidelines against exclusives of any kind. While brokerages may tout their Office Exclusive program as a value-add for clients, we recognize the underlying motivation: more transactions, more in-network business, more money in the brokerages’ pockets.
As agents, we stand firmly behind NAR’s Code of Ethics, but perhaps more importantly, 8z will always follow our own moral compass, where true north is our clients and their needs.