‘Coming soon’ listings are a lot of fuss about nothing

If it's not on the market, buyers aren't going to bite

Ever since Zillow introduced its “coming soon” listings section a few months ago, people have been talking about these listings. The subject is at more of a simmer than a boil right now, and we don’t see the emotion today that we did some months ago, but some are still debating whether there are merits to “coming soon,” whether the listings are worthwhile and beneficial, or whether “coming soon” is simply a marketing ploy.

It seems to me to be much ado about nothing.

In Gwinnett County, Georgia, one of the larger counties in the state, there are 4,259 listings for sale on Zillow. For-sale-by-owner listings comprise 119 of the total. There are 737 new homes for sale. The number of “coming soon” listings? One. Looking at the entire state of Georgia, there are a grand total of 10 “coming soon” listings!

Now, many have argued that “coming soon” listings are good for sellers and listing agents. But how? Five out of the 10 “coming soon” listings in Georgia have only one photo. Six listings have three or fewer photos. The most any listing has is 10 photos, which is hardly acceptable for true property marketing when we can input 25 to 36 photos in an MLS or realtor.com. If we are representing the seller to the best of our ability, shouldn’t we put a maximum number of photos into a “coming soon” listing just as we would a listing that was active and available on the market?

What I have seen, too, is that previously listed homes had older photos that will populate the listing again on Zillow, so you may have outdated photos that could be a detriment to the property. One “coming soon” listing showed photos on Zillow of a home that had been there for a few years, and those photos showed the house in a negative light. New photos were uploaded when the house went from “coming soon” to active in the MLS. Those photos showed new flooring, freshly painted walls stripped of outdated wallpaper and other improvements by the recent owner.

I can’t stress enough how critical both buyers and buyer’s agents can be of a new listing! I have an upcoming renovation listing for a seller right now that both he and buyers are dying to see on the market, but he is not 100 percent finished with it. I know that if I put it out there when it’s 95 percent completed, it will hurt the listing. On the other hand, I will be able to get good high-resolution photos of the entire house when all projects are completed, the tools and debris are removed, and the property is ready to show! A listing put out prematurely might be better served by waiting until it is ready to sell.

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Here’s another question: If a listing is “coming soon,” how can buyers view it today? It might whet the buyers’ curiosity a bit, but if they can’t see quality photos of the home in a “coming soon” status, why should they care? Buyers want to see homes today. A home that is not available for two to four weeks might be interesting, but why would a buyer who doesn’t even want to stop house hunting on Christmas Day wait on a “coming soon” listing? Waiting on a “coming soon” listing or an open house is not in the constitution of most buyers I have worked with!

This brings me back to my point: It seems like a lot of fuss over nothing. Maybe we can look at “coming soon” listings in the same way we do open houses: They are a good way to show your seller that you have some marketing ideas, but the reality is that neither tactic will necessarily appeal to buyers.

If I were going to buy a new car today, I could look online at the next updated car models, but what good would they be to me as a consumer if I need a car today? And car manufacturers have some of the best marketing strategies for “coming soon” vehicles — better certainly than the “coming soon” home marketing I have seen. However, the fact remains that I can purchase only what’s available for sale today. If I can’t buy a “coming soon” vehicle, why is any buyer going to wait on a “coming soon” home that’s not yet for sale?

Hank Bailey is an associate broker with Re/Max Legends and a Realtor for more than a decade who provides buyer’s agent representation and seller listing services related to residential real estate.