Zillow’s new ‘coming soon’ feature puts pocket listings on steroids

Agents will be required to certify compliance with MLS, broker, state licensing rules

Zillow has rolled out a new “coming soon” feature that allows agents, brokers and multiple listing services to market homes on its site up to 30 days before they hit the MLS.

The feature is restricted to agents who advertise with the portal and the brokerages and MLSs who provide Zillow their listings in a direct feed. “Coming soon” listings do not feature ads for agents other than the listing agent.

Agents can manually upload their coming soon homes to Zillow while brokerages and MLSs can opt in by adding a “Coming Soon” field to their current feeds or building out a separate, new feed dedicated to coming soon listings. Agents can renew a coming soon listing for up to 30 additional days.

The feature allows a listing to land on the MLS with a “ton of velocity” with buyers dreaming home-specific dreams and ready with preapproval letters from lenders, Zillow Chief Revenue Officer Greg Schwartz told Inman News.

In addition to driving up the number of agents who advertise with the portal and the number of brokerages and MLSs who send it their listings directly, Zillow added the new feature because it saw a need for a premarket category in its ecosystem, Schwartz said.

Zillow frequently sees listings posted to Zillow’s site before they hit the MLS, and this feature puts a framework around the practice on Zillow, he said.

The feature will “shine a bright light on pocket listings,” he added.

Pocket listings — whereby agents market, and sometimes coordinate the sale of, listings outside of the MLS — are becoming increasingly prevalent in the real estate industry. A recent study by CoreLogic suggested that nearly 50 percent of homes sold last year were sold outside of the MLS.

Zillow’s new coming soon feature puts pocket listings on steroids, giving them exposure on the most-visited real estate site in the U.S. In April, Zillow attracted 45.1 million unique visitors to its site from mobile devices and desktop computers, according to comScore.

In some cases, listings kept off the MLS increase the odds that agents can represent the buyer as well as the seller of one of their listings, a situation known as dual agency. While there is debate about whether dual agency is detrimental to buyers and sellers, Inman News columnist Teresa Boardman has pointed out that some sellers can negotiate lower agent commissions when deals occur out of sight of the MLS.

Some MLSs have instituted policies that forbid premarketing of listings, while others have added their own “coming soon” status on their platforms, albeit with the caveat that such listings can be marketed only to fellow MLS members and not the general public.

To ensure that agents who upload coming soon listings to Zillow are on the right side of industry policies, Zillow requires agents to check a box that certifies that by uploading the ‘coming soon’ listing they are complying with the rules and regulations of their local MLS, local association of Realtors, their brokerage and their state’s licensing laws. Agents also certify that they have their seller’s permission to market the home before putting it in the MLS.

Zillow requires agents to verify that they comply with MLS and/or local Realtor association rules each time they upload a “coming soon” listing to Zillow.

For example, if an MLS requires agents to enter a home in the MLS within 48 hours of signing a listing agreement, that listing would only be able to be on Zillow as a “coming soon” listing for that time period legitimately, Schwartz said.

“We fully expect all ‘coming soon’ listings on Zillow to hit the MLS,” he added.

Zillow retains an audit trail for each “coming soon” listing that goes on agents’ permanent record at Zillow, so if there’s ever an issue about breach of an MLS, broker or state real estate policy with this new Zillow feature, there’s a way to verify that, Schwartz said.

MLSs and brokerages agree to the terms of the Zillow “coming soon” listing requirements — that they have the right to market the listings and are complying with rules/regulations — in their direct feed agreement, Zillow spokeswoman Amanda Woolley said.