Home Buying in Irvine>Question Details

W L, Home Buyer in Irvine, CA

I hear that real estate agents will have properties for sale not listed on MLS. Why is this done, and how do I find out about them?

Asked by W L, Irvine, CA Tue Jan 14, 2014

Do I have to reach out to many agents to find out about the properties? Any pitfalls of unlisted properties?

Help the community by answering this question:


There are a few reasons why agents do this practice. It may not be a "reason" but agents surely like to get both sides of the commission (google dual agency). For anyone to say there are "no pitfalls" I would surely have to disagree. Dual agency is rarely advantageous for anybody but the agent who double-ends the commission. WL, just search "dual agency" and you will see.

Though there may be some reasons to do a "pocket listing" in MOST cases it does not benefit the seller. The easiest and best way to sell a home is to make it available to the greatest amount of people. NOT putting it on MLS won't help market the home. Again, I know there are reasons, but for most sellers, exposure is the key. IMO, it's not a good practice for a listing agent to pick and choose a buyer for a home.

Nothing illegal or unethical, necessarily, about any of this. I just don't typically agree with having "hidden" listings, even if it is at the behest of the seller.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 15, 2014
We have what we call "DEEP SECRET" listings. These properties are very discreet and owned by very high profile folks that don't want to be disturbed or identified. We respect their privacy. Not all properties are openly sold.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 26, 2014

I am not sure about other brokerages, but here at First Team, we have what is called Sneak Previews. The Sneak Previews program allows sellers to prepare their homes for the market, or to find a qualified buyer without all of the hassle. These homes are not listed in the MLS yet. They will most likely come on the market at a later date, but they are available to show to qualified buyers immediately.

Currently, we have 150 homes in this program - 12 in Irvine. If you would like information on these homes, please e-mail me at jhong714@gmail.com and I will be happy to help!
Web Reference: http://irvinejoshua.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 26, 2014
My program is called 'First Look' and just as Joshua indicates, there IS benefit to the seller and buyer. Also note he stated, "..are not listed on the MLS yet."
This clearly indicates the home will be placed on the MLS when the 'Sneak Preview' opportunity is over.

Joshua,,,, who doesn't like working with folks who have vision?
Flag Mon Mar 31, 2014
Hello WL,

This practice is called a "pocket Listing". It is highly condemned by the local real estate boards, although perfectly legal.

Agents do this because they want to try and open end the sale. Meaning they want to represent the buyer as well as the seller, and not have to split the commission. As a buyer you will have a difficult time locating such listings unless the agent who holds the listing happens to be one known to you

Kawain Payne, Realtor
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 16, 2014
What Claudia says is somewhat true.....but it may depend on your area. In my area there are over 6000 Realtors who are members of my local board. Honestly, I've never met most of them. Can I possibly get pocket listings from all of them? I guess, if I had nothing better to do all day but call them. I have several clients looking in various areas this isn't likely.

I'm sure that many of us have "connections" to other Realtors and may know about homes before they hit the market. But in reality, it's impossible to know about all of them. That just isn't feasible. In other words, no matter which agent you pick you will never be aware of all (or most) pocket listings out there, IMO.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 15, 2014
Nothing better to do all day? hmmm,
Someone recently asked, "Is it possible to keep office hours in the current real estate environment?" Pom Frite Realty (sounds like) in Tampa has figured out a way. It is directly related to this topic.
Flag Wed Jan 15, 2014
Hi there,
I mainly present buyers, and this is my experience. I have been networking with other real estate agents in different areas, and they will send me their "pocket listings" first before they put on MLS, or let me pre-view for my clients first, because I always keep in touch with many agents and let them know what my clients are looking for. So my buyers can have the first shot to see the properties and make offers on them before the bidding war. In other words, if you are working with an agent who is actively looking for the type of properties you want to purchase FOR YOU and also has great relationship with other real estate agents in the neighborhoods you want to move in, you don't need try to FIND these properties. He or She will find your dream home for you. Usually good properties go fast and I would suggest you to be the first one to see and make a good offer on, and work with a real estate agent who can help you to see your ideal homes as soon as they are in the market is essential.

Claudia Chien
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 15, 2014
Claudia,,,,you SEE the value and you work it properly. And you and the listing agent gets paid. And the listing agent never expected to get both sides. What I can say with INCREDIBLE confidence is your buyers greatly benefit from your access to this invisible market. The seller does also BECAUSE your buyer is not a lowball, paper hanger.
Flag Wed Jan 15, 2014
If an agent has a listing not in the MLS they are allowed to ethically and legally as long as they have filed a 'Exclude from the MLS' form with their local board.
In my opinion a seller will only find out how much their house is worth if they go in the MLS. However, I often take listings and the house will not be in the MLS until it's "show" ready and I have all my marketing in place and professional photos done.
You need to find a local Realtor and choose one. If you choose a good one they will have access to listings before they hit the market. I always let my networks know about my listing before it hits the MLS.
If you only hit up listing agents you will have a harder time finding a house. Listing agents already have a relationship with the seller. The chances of you getting a "good deal" are slim to none.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 15, 2014
It is done so the agent doesn't have to split commussion. It is unethical and a disservice to their clients. A lot will place on MLS then put on hold do not show

There are times when a client will request not to be listed on the MLS but it's rate.

The practice is referred to as pocket listings
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 14, 2014
NO it isn't I'll explain above. Klye already has. There are many benefits to buyers and sellers. It is OK if you don't want to participate. HOWEVER, when you toss about words like UNETHICAL, you set yourself up for critical review.
Flag Wed Jan 15, 2014
I have them. Two SFHs located in Dunedin FL and one in Clearwater.

Most of the real estate I help sell is via the invisible market.
Keep asking agents if they have 'First Look' options.
When you find one that says yes, make a commitment, and they will plug you into the invisible market shared by the other special service agents.

You must be a serious buyer. Three strikes and you will be back on the "D" list.

Those who suggest this is a disservice to the seller are unaware of the needed solutions this provides both buyers and sellers. Those of us who do, are providing you an option.

Best of success,
Annette Lawarence, Broker/Associate
Palm Harbor, FL
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 24, 2014
This is also called pocket listings. Some agents like myself that work with investors sometimes have a few properties that are not on the market yet because the properties are currently being renovated or the sellers have instructed us not to list them yet. If you want to find out about homes that are not listed on the MLS yet try working with an investor friendly realtor. These agents frequently have homes that will be hitting the market soon and can give you a heads up so you are the first one to know when these homes will be available. You can try a google search of "Investor Friendly Realtor" to find these agents in your area.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 24, 2014
On one hand an agent is doing the customer a great disservice by not giving the whole market a shot at buying the property. It is the only way to be sure the seller got highest and best price for the home. On the other hand you can lead a horse to water but you can not make him drink. This is the case many times the customer just does not want to expose the house to the whole market.
Some agents though are trying to double end the property and therefore hold the property back. This is considered unethical.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 23, 2014
As a buyer, this is what I have experienced with pocket listings: Pocket listings are not good deals. They are overpriced, and because they often are passed to your agent through their brokers, it feels like your agent is towing the company line rather than having your best interest in mind. In my experience, if agents can't sell these pocket listings in this "exclusive stage", the listing winds up in MLS anyway, often discounted in price. If money is no object, and you're looking in an area with very little turn over, if your agent has a pocket listing in that area, then you're in luck. Be prepared to pay the premium for this opportunity.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 7, 2014
I've heard of these "pocket listings" too but I always wonder - does the SELLER know their house isn't listing in the MLS?? Seller's perceive the MLS listing to be THE THING they pay a listing agent for... so I can't imagine them being ok with such limited exposure -just so the agent can feed their greed and keep all of the commission...which is the answer to the question of WHY. The answer to the question of "how do you find them" - you'd have to call every single agent and ask... and if they are keeping it a secret for the reasons given above - they aren't likely to be forthcoming with you either. Sad.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 1, 2014
Hi there!

Thanks for asking this question on trulia as it is a very relevant topic. These so called pocket listings have been getting more popular.

Yes, agents have properties that are for sale and not on the MLS. There are a few common scenario's in which this happens:

1. The owner is famous (think: Julia Roberts) or well-known or in public service (think: judge). In that case the owner might not want a ton of people trying to come over to the house and just check it out because of who is the owner. They only want serious buyers...

2. The owner simply doesn't want to put their house on the market because they like their privacy and just don't want to ''deal with it''...

3. The house is coming on the market in a few weeks or months, but for whatever reason they don't want to ''officially'' put it on the market yet. This sometimes happens when the house is being fixed up or if the owners are looking for something else, or if the house is tenant occupied. The house will then be available for sale if someone happens to come along, but it will not be on the market until the time is right.

4. The seller doesn't want the tenants to know the property is on the market (has definitely happened before).

Really the best thing to do in my opinion is to find an agent at a larger company who is willing to really call around and spend a lot of time working for you.
The reason I say large company is that for example at Berkshire Hathaway agents often share their pocket listings with each other. The more agents, the more pocket listings. So even if your specific agent doesn't have the right pocket listing for you, they might still be able to find you one within the company. You can definitely call around, but I generally recommend trying to work with one agent, rather than 10. One agent, who knows that you will buy your home with them, will work much harder for you, than an agent who knows you are working with many other people and is unlikely to represent you in the transaction.

We have a lot of pocket listings. If you have any more questions don't hesitate to call me!

Have a great day,
Jaleesa Peluso
Realtor at Berkshire Hathaway Laguna Beach
949 395 0960
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 1, 2014
We also have similar programs for our home owners. Call me if you are interested:

Tiffany Quiroga (Lin)
?? ? ? ??
4010 Baranca Pkwy., Ste.120
Irvine, CA 92604
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 31, 2014
That is not true not every real estate agents have properties that are not on mls. Think about it the point of listing a property on MLS is to generate interest in the best interest of the seller. A property not on MLS will do this.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 24, 2014
In some parts of the country demand has far outweighed supply which gives listing agents the option of selling over the vast internet in a number of homes for sale sites rather than MLS. Needs permission of the seller but can save the seller a lot of commission expense paid to a buyers agent. It is legitimate and if the property doesn't sell in a predesignated number of days/weeks it can then be converted to an MLS listing very easily. The main caution is you, the buyer do not have a representative watching out for your interests solely. The selling agent has 100% fiduciary responsibility to the seller. Read the contract very carefully before signing. Or you can scan it and email to me at Rich@SeeNewhouse.com and I will advise you for a modest fee of $75. I can be reached at 602-375-9000.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 27, 2014
As others have stated POCKET LISTINGS are quite common in the real estate world. When there is a shortage in inventory listings become a SACRED COW and RE Professionals tend to covet them even more. There's nothing wrong with working with an agent that has them. In fact in many cases you could end up with a pretty good deal. I wouldn't hesitate if you're really in the market.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 19, 2014
This is what happens for those with vision.
Obviously I market extensively in pocket listings.
Buyers agents who understand how to bring real value and get those EBA signed, will call me.
(Like Claudia described)
Just yesterday I got a call from a 'Blackstone' agent.
"How many properties do you have like Dixon?' was the question.
I have three.
As you already know, Blackstone will pay 96% of market value and close quickly and without hysteria.
If you don't think this brings VALUE to the home owner, you would be mistaken. Backup is in place. Blackstone does not want to deprive those seeking to purchase a home from doing so. The public will get a window of opportunity, then every one moves. And no, the motivation is NOT to double side. Matter of reality, I never have double sided.
I like collaborating with agents who have the same mindset of Claudia.
Together we bring VALUE.
If you took Blackstone out of the picture and Claudia called and asked, "Do you have any 3 or 4 bedroom, 2000 or newer build, block construction in Pinellas County?" she would get access to 3 homes nobody knows about....IF, Claudia also participates in the FIRST LOOK option. You would be mistaken to think her buyers don't value a First Look opportunity and pay accordingly. The plan is about bringing value to those who can recognize value. EVERY organization on the planet has client retention or loyalty programs. Funny how that works. This works well when it a two way street. Membership has its rules and privilege. AND the membership fee is a pocket listing.
There IS a difference between working with those who recognize value and are willing to pay, and those who believe 'cheap' is the best deal. Claudia and I have found a way to avoid the dog fight and keep everyone elated.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 15, 2014
Glad you have vision, Annette. To each his own. If it works for you, have at it.
Flag Wed Jan 15, 2014
So what's the point of having an MLS if people are just going to keep listings hidden?
Flag Wed Jan 15, 2014
Hello W L,

First and foremost, thank you for posting a question here at trulia. I appreciate it. It's true some agents will have properties for sale but not list them on the MLS. One reason is because the seller does not want the exposure on the internet. Another reason could be so that the agent receives a greater commission. "Pocket Listings" as they are known, are popular but in my opinion don't attract more buyers. How do you find out about these properties? You can contact agents to see if they have what you are looking for but how many agents are you willing to call before one tells you that he/she has one? I don't have "pocket listings" but I can help you find what you are looking for. If I can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact me. I hope this answer helped.


Melchor "Mel" Perez
BRE# 01842907
Star Real Estate South County
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 15, 2014
Zillow and Trulia do a good job of highlighting these properties- Have your buyers agent reach out and get the details of these homes on your behalf- You don't have a buyer's agent representing you? E mail me back if you are serious about buying in Irvine and my team and I will take care of you.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 15, 2014
Yes. And to find out about them you should get a real estate agent. I would be more than happy to recommend one to you. Also, have you been pre-approved for a loan? These are the first two steps in any home buying process.

Alex Greer
Loan Officer
NMLS #1056079

0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 15, 2014
Yes, Realtors can hold a property off the MLS, as long as the Homeowner agrees to it. Sometimes, the homeowner does not want it listed on the MLS because they don't want a bunch of "looky-loos" coming by. Also, they might hold it off the MLS while they get some cosmetic and repair work done. There are no "pitfalls" with these.
The advantage to the Agent is that they have an opportunity to sell it themselves, and collect double commission. We see this alot in a hot Seller's Market - where the listing agent is confident he can sell it without putting it on MLS.
If you are working with an agent currently, he should have a professional network of agents that he can reached out and see if any of them have "pocket listings". In addition to pocket listings, agents know when other agents have a listing coming up, and you might be able to get in before its up for sale (thus eliminating bidding wars.)
If you are not working with an agent, I might be able to help you, as I work in an office with 50 agents, and my company has over 1000 total. For example, right now we have an off-MLS listing in Temecula- due to the fact its a large estate with a working farm. The owner simply wants serious buyers only.

Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance to you!

Nicole Fedorchek, Realtor
Tarbell, Realtors
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 15, 2014
There are FOUR real estate markets that precede the home appearing in the Multiple Listing Service.
As Kyle Kovats, Agent, Roseland, NJ pointed out, there are SIGNIFICANT benefits to this.
I sell many, many homes through the FIIRST LOOK option. There's a real reason and benefit that buyers and seller VALUE! This is for SERIOUS BUYERS ONLY! If your intent is to 'low ball' you and the agent will be kicked out of the program.
One important benefit is maintaining control of the homes data. Too often when the home data is published to the MLS, the data is sent to sites like Trulia and Zillow through a third party, LISTHUB. These sites have proven themselves irresponsible regarding the deceptive manner in which the homes data is used. The homeowner loses control of their data...FOREVER.
Who will be held accountable when a burger access a home, causes great harm, because of information found on these sites? This creates a long enduring peril and hazard. A homeowner SHOULD hold every agent and broker involved in the transactions financially accountable for not disclosing the hazards created and failure to disclose to the buyer and seller.
Be aware, First Look does involve contractual agreements with home owners AND honoring Realtor compensation. This is not some exotic proposal. How do you get plugged in?
Ask your agent if they offer 'First Look' option.

Best of success,
Annette Lawrence, Broker/Associate
Remax Realtec Group
Palm Harbor, FL
Palm Harbor University High School distirct
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 15, 2014
Having a GOOD Buyer broker who will help you with this task may be best. A good buyer broker has contacts of the listing agents in their area and can check for these types of listings. If you do not want a buyer agent, than yes, you would need to contact each agent and see what they have.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 15, 2014
Sometimes the owner just doesn't want to deal with having multiple people come snoop around their house.

Some realtors actually provide enough value to the point where they can get deals done without even putting them on the market. Top agents usually prospect for hours on a daily basis and have inventory lined up for clients.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 15, 2014
Hi there!

Sometimes a homeowner will go ahead and get their house listed but will keep it off the MLS until a tenant moves out. Or wait until painting is done,etc. You don't have to reach out to many agents. Just find one that you feel good about and enjoy working with. Most agents have a good network with other agents that will know about listings not yet posted.

Cynthia Wong, Keller Williams Realty
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 14, 2014
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