Marketing for-sale properties as “coming soon” has emerged as a popular way to drum up interest in a property before listing a home on the local multiple listing service. But there’s another way — one that may be less likely to flirt with multiple listing service (MLS) rules — for listing agents to “pre-market” properties: searching “buyer needs” — posts that summarize the type of home a buyer is gunning for.

  • BuyerNeeds.com allows listing agents to search a database for buyers who might be interested in a listing.
  • The marketing platform offers an alternative or supplement to marketing listings as "coming soon" off the MLS.
  • Buyer's agents can describe a buyer's search zone by drawing on a map, potentially making it easier for listing agents to discover their clients.

Marketing for-sale properties as “coming soon” has emerged as a popular way to drum up interest in a property before listing a home on the local MLS.

But there’s another way — one that may be less likely to flirt with MLS rules — for listing agents to “pre-market” properties: searching “buyer needs” — posts that summarize the type of home a buyer is gunning for.

Austin, Texas-based BuyerNeeds.com is one of the latest startups aiming to bring order to the long-time informal exchange of buyer needs between agents.

Searchable database of buyer preferences

Launched by two real estate agents, the mobile-friendly website lets buyer’s agents input posts specifying the search preferences of their clients into a searchable database. Listing agents can then use the site to hunt for prospective buyers simply by entering a listing’s address.

Once buyer’s agents have posted a “buyer need” on BuyerNeeds.com, they can share the post on social media sites with two clicks. The post is also emailed on a weekly basis to other local agents. Buyer needs shared by buyer’s agents include map images, hashtags and descriptions that “easily relay the information to agents’ peers.”

While anyone can view buyer needs posted on BuyerNeeds.com, only real estate agents who register with a real estate license number can post or interact on the site.

Screen shot showing BuyerNeeds.com 'buyer need' listing.

Screen shot showing BuyerNeeds.com ‘buyer need’ listing.

Alternative to ‘pocket listings’

BuyerNeeds.com cast its website as an alternative to marketing listings as “coming soon” and a new tool for marketing “pocket listings.”

“Coming soon” listings are properties that are scheduled to be listed as “active” in the MLS but are first marketed off the MLS as “coming soon.” Pocket listings are listings that are withheld indefinitely from the MLS, often for privacy reasons.

MLSs often require agents to obtain written consent from a seller to market their properties off the MLS for longer than a certain period of time after signing a listing contract.

Agents who market properties as coming soon may be particularly likely to inadvertently violate such a rule, thinking that they’re in the clear because they’ll eventually post their listing on the MLS.

But listing agents who haven’t yet listed their listings on the MLS and only try to connect with prospective buyers through BuyerNeeds.com wouldn’t be in danger of testing MLS rules, says BuyerNeeds.com.

“Advertising ‘Coming Soon’ listings has always been a struggle, both legally, and logistically,” said BuyerNeeds.com co-founder Kasey Jorgenson in a statement. “Hence, BuyerNeeds.com was created. I can find the agents with the motivated buyers before putting it into the MLS.”

Of course, agents could also use BuyerNeeds.com in conjunction with marketing listings as coming soon or pocket listings. They wouldn’t have to swap one marketing channel for the other.

Small start, but already facilitating connections

Having just debuted, BuyerNeeds.com has a tiny number of listings. A search of Austin, Texas, its home market, only turns up 23 results.

But Jorgenson says the startup has already facilitated “several agent-to-agent connections” for “pre-MLS deal[s].”

Agents have traditionally marketed buyer needs to other agents by bringing them up in office meetings or posting to internal communication networks or Facebook groups.

“With BuyerNeeds.com, they just have to plug their listing’s address in and they’ll have instant results,” Jorgenson said.

BuyerNeeds.com also says it can help listing agents raise awareness of properties that they’ve already listed on the MLS.

“Often times, listings are discarded by buyers and/or missed when they might actually be a perfect fit,” Jorgenson said. “It lets the listing agents reach out to ask buyers’ agents that might not have shown it yet.”

Geospatial solutions

One challenge to creating a “buyer needs” databases has been that agents may describe their buyer’s search preferences inconsistently. For example, one agent may use a ZIP code to specify where a buyer is looking, while another might specify a subdivision.

BuyerNeeds.com says it’s overcome this obstacle by prompting buyer’s agents to describe a buyer’s target search location by drawing a search zone on a map.

New geospatial technology used by BuyerNeeds.com then assigns location information including counties, cities, ZIP codes, neighborhoods, schools and addresses to the buyer need. That maximizes the chances that listing agents will lock onto relevant buyer need posts, BuyerNeeds.com says.

Asked for the name of the provider of BuyerNeeds.com’s geospatial technology, Jorgenson said the startup’s developer uses “several open source tools to integrate our map search.”

Other startups looking to formalize buyer needs discovery, such as HipPocket, tend to be focused primarily on helping agents raise awareness of properties off the MLS.

BuyerNeeds.com is focused exclusively on enabling agents to search a repository of buyer needs.

“The dynamic search that we had built is the first of its kind,” Jorgenson said. “No other site out there has the ability to do what this does with the search.”

Email Teke Wiggin.

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