Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comment from @properties that the @gent app is not intended to be used to keep deals in house. Unless sellers have requested that properties be treated as "pocket listings," @properties places them in the multiple listing service within 48 hours of receiving a signed listing agreement.

Chicago-based brokerage @properties has developed an app that allows its 1,100 agents to market their properties to each other before they’re listed in the multiple listing service.

The app, @gent, functions like Twitter, allowing the company’s agents to post, exchange messages and track topics of interest using hashtags, @properties said.

Conversations that develop in the app — which @properties says is compatible with mobile devices, tablets and desktops — have helped agents close deals on pocket listings (listings that aren’t posted on an MLS).

"Our 1,100 agents form a powerful ‘market within a market.’ The app makes that market incredibly efficient," said Thaddeus Wong, who co-founded @properties with Michael Golden, in a statement. "It has generated about a dozen off-market transactions since the launch. It’s a game changer for our brokers and a huge benefit to their clients."

The app, designed by Chicago-based startup Yapmo, may also increase the odds that @properties agents end up representing both sides of a transaction, since only @properties agents have access to it and the listing information stored in it. Illinois law allows two agents at the same brokerage to represent the buyer and the seller in the same transaction as "designated agents."

A spokesman for @properties, Peter Olesker, said the purpose of the app "is not to limit exposure in order to keep deals in house," but "to maximize exposure by allowing listings to be marketed during the dead time between getting a listing agreement signed, getting the home ready to show (taking photos, entering property into the MLS, creating brochures, etc.) and getting it out there on the MLS."

Olesker said @properties clients approve the "on market" date for all pocket listings. Otherwise, listings are entered into the MLS within 48 hours of receiving a signed listing agreement, in accordance with Realtor association requirements.

In addition to providing an exclusive marketplace for pocket listings, the app offers assistance to agents in other forms, @properties said. Those include vendor recommendations, advice on topics like short sales, and client-referral opportunities, according to the brokerage.

"If someone wants to sell a car or find tickets to a Blackhawks game, they can do that, too," @properties said.

If an agent follows a particular topic or person, the agent is notified of any posts that relate to the topic or person when they surface on @gent, @properties said.

Beyond those topics or people that an agent follows, an agent may also use a built-in search engine to manually turn up posts or messages relating to other topics or people. The filtering capability of the app helps agents manage their email more effectively, @properties said.

"Now, our brokers tell the app what information they want to receive, and the app delivers only that information," Golden said, referring to the company’s agents. "When they want info on another topic, they can search the app and find all past conversations on that topic."

(Illinois stopped issuing real estate "salesperson" licenses in 2011. Since May 2012, all agents who provide services to buyers and sellers must be licensed as a "broker" or a "managing broker.")

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