Zillow’s ‘Coming Soon’ listing feature: good or bad for the real estate industry?

Real Debate: Inman News readers sound off on 'premarketing' of listings on national portal

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The guest opinions presented below are responses to Inman News’ second “Real Debate” topic: “Is Zillow’s new ‘Coming Soon’ listing feature good or bad for the industry?” We invite you to share your own thoughts on the matter in the comments section of this article, and by particpating in the survey below.

For more background on the topic, see Inman News’ write-up on the rollout of the new feature here, and a follow-up story on reaction by industry players here.

online poll by Opinion Stage

“Coming Soon” listings are not new, Zillow just takes the practice to the next level

Bobbie Files

Bobbie Files

Bobbie Files, an agent with Success Real Estate in southeastern Massachusetts, says the practice of premarketing listings is not new. Zillow’s new feature is just another way to do it. 

I see both sides of the situation and understand the concern some have with Zillow’s “Coming Soon” feature.

However, as a listing agent I premarket my listings every day of the week, with no Zillow “Coming Soon” feature. When I know I have a listing coming up, I start talking about it, telling other agents, telling friends and family members, etc. That is my job!

There is the argument that by placing listings on Zillow before the MLS agents are limiting their market exposure and breaking the fiduciary obligation to the seller. I find that argument without merit. Premarketing a home is not limiting the marketing, it is adding to it.

Zillow, like it or not, is one of the most visited real estate websites in the U.S. By letting the general public know of an up-and-coming property on Zillow, I am exposing it to more people rather than less. That is just a statement of fact.

The suggestion that using Zillow to premarket listings breaks an agent’s fiduciary duty is also without merit. If a home is marketed on the most visited real estate site in the U.S. to gain demand and attention to help procure the most ready, willing and able buyers, how is that a negative for a homeowner?

There is also the argument that Zillow “Coming Soon” listings represent “pocket listings,” and that the feature is promoting “unsportsmanlike” behavior. That, too, is without merit. Zillow is not just available to the public — agents can look at the site, as well.

This Zillow feature is not much different than looking at for-sale-by-owner sites or Craigslist when searching for a home for a buyer. As a buyer’s agent I am making the assumption that agents are looking to identify all properties for sale for their clients, not just those listed by a real estate agent.

Furthermore, in a hot and active market like the one we are currently experiencing in Massachusetts, premarketing and off-MLS deals are happening without any real intent. If an agent is active in the industry and mingles with fellow agents, as well as with consumers, there is the likelihood of being able to match buyer and seller without the necessity of MLS.

Not all sellers jump for joy at the prospect of having their homes experience an onslaught of buyers and agents. And the convenience, ease, and relatively low stress aspect of a presell situation may be worth the few thousand dollars more that they may — and the operative word is may — be able to garner in the open market. Non-MLS is not synonymous with nonmarketed.

Agents in my area are currently doing something similar to premarketing on Zillow. They put the home in MLS on a Sunday evening and indicate that the first showing is not until the open house the following Sunday. What is the difference between that and premarketing on Zillow?

I don’t necessarily see the Zillow “Coming Soon” feature as a wonderful thing, but I also don’t see it as the problem some others do. If all the national franchisors forbid the practice, then it may end up being short-lived or it could give the small boutique brokerages an edge up on the big boys.

I see this new Zillow feature as a premarketing tool and not a preselling tool. The home will still be put in the MLS at the agreed-upon time and at the agreed-upon price as stipulated in the contract between the broker and homeowner.

Homeowners, as such, should have the choice as to where and when their home is marketed.

Screen shot of Zillow's new "coming soon" page.

Screen shot of Zillow’s new “Coming Soon” page.

Zillow premarketing feature may be a regulatory landmine for brokers

Sam DeBord

Sam DeBord

Sam DeBord, managing broker of Seattle Homes Group and Coldwell Banker Danforth, says brokers must consider the regulatory implications when considering whether to premarket their clients’ listings on Zillow.  

Unfortunately for brokers, there are new enticements every day to lead their agents astray from focusing on their clients’ best interests. Zillow’s new “Coming Soon” listing feature is just another example on a very large stage. The champions of broad Internet exposure are, ironically, inviting agents and their sellers into a limited-exposure marketing period on a single website that attracts plenty of eyeballs, but still less than 20 percent of all real estate traffic.