Why Most Sellers Should Ensure Their Listing is in the MLS and Not “Office Exclusive”

First and foremost, let me emphasize that home selling methods and practices are not a “one size fits all” approach. There are certainly situations where a different or unique strategy is required, including, in extreme cases, one that may not be in the seller’s best financial interest but favors a higher priority for the seller. For instance, I once handled a home sale for a woman with a stalker ex-husband who wanted her home sold discreetly – no sign, no ads, no MLS, etc. In her case, privacy and conducting the sale “under the radar” for her personal safety were more important than money. This article addresses the broader market and my opinion will apply to most sellers looking to sell their homes.

Now, let’s discuss an “office exclusive” listing.

Off Market Listings - Vest Pocket Listings

Understanding this concept is a great starting point and highlights one of the reasons I’ve been writing articles about St. Louis real estate, St. Louis REALTORS®, and the St. Louis real estate industry. I believe that, in general, consumers lack sufficient knowledge about these matters to make the best choices for themselves when selecting agents to work with. As a result, I aim to share the insights I’ve gained from over 40 years in the industry. For example, most non-agent readers may not know what an “office exclusive” listing entails or whether it’s advantageous or disadvantageous for them as sellers. So, what is an office exclusive listing? In short, it’s a listing that the agent will “keep secret” to a large extent, only informing agents within their real estate brokerage and withholding your listing from the REALTOR® Multiple Listing System (MLS). Consequently, your listing will not be distributed to the thousands of websites that obtain listing information from the MLS (Zillow, Realtor.com and StLouisRealEstateSearch.com?agent_id=02107 to name a few).

Wait, my listing won’t be in the MLS??

That’s correct; the name “office exclusive” is quite telling. It’s exclusive to an office. While these types of listings have been around for as long as I’ve been in the business, they have also been referred to by other names like “vest pocket” listings, “quiet listings”, “off-market listings”, “whisper listings”, and “pocket listings”. You may notice a common theme: secrecy and limited publicity for the listing.

Over 91% of the St Louis area agents will not see your listing nor be allowed to show it…

A significant issue with an office exclusive listing is that even if you choose to list with an agent from the largest firm in MARIS (the regional REALTOR® MLS that serves our area), over 91% of the 14,966 REALTORS® who are members of the MLS will not only be unaware of your listing, but they will also be prohibited from showing it. That’s right, even if your listing agent wanted to permit an agent from another firm to show your listing, MLS rules disallow “withheld” listings (office exclusive) from being shown by agents outside the listing office firm. Additionally, the MLS rules forbid public marketing of your listing, even by the owner. As the property owner, you are not allowed to share your listing on Facebook or other social media if your agent opts for an office exclusive approach.

Why would a seller want their listing to be private or non-public?

The answer is simple: if the seller prioritizes secrecy and privacy over achieving the best price and terms possible due to unique circumstances, then this is the route to take. However, for the overwhelming majority of St. Louis home sellers, this would not be a good strategy. Instead, they should opt for a listing that is publicly advertised, entered in the MLS, and distributed to thousands of websites.

Why would an agent want their listings to be Office Exclusive?

This is where the subject becomes somewhat sensitive. As I mentioned earlier, in certain circumstances, this approach with its limited exposure aligns with the homeowner’s desires and needs, but in other cases, it does not. When the “office exclusive” strategy is employed without the need for privacy or a “quiet sale”, many believe it is done to benefit the listing agent and the listing office. The listing agent’s chances of acquiring the buyer themselves, and consequently retaining the buyer’s agent commission as well, increase dramatically when the listing is not in the MLS. In the worst-case scenario, someone in the listing agent’s office will receive the buyer’s agent commission rather than an agent from another firm.

What should sellers do to ensure their listing gets maximum exposure to the market?

First and foremost, it is crucial to choose a listing agent in whom you have confidence and trust to act in your best interest. By selecting an honest, professional agent with integrity who takes their fiduciary obligation to you seriously, you will be in good hands. Moreover, when interviewing prospective listing agents for your home, sellers should ask the agent to review their marketing plan and confirm that their listing will be entered into the MLS, ensuring maximum exposure to the market before any offers are presented. While there is certainly more that a seller should inquire about, we will address those aspects in an upcoming article.

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