Gary Gold and Mauricio Umansky expressed skepticism Wednesday about multiple listing service policies that would ban pocket and off-market listings.

Two high-powered real estate agents said Wednesday that they like multiple listing services, but prefer to have freedom when it comes to marketing and don’t want to be “treated like children” — comments which allude to an ongoing policy debate about off-market listings.

Both Gary Gold, executive vice president at Hilton & Hyland, and Mauricio Umansky, founder of The Agency, stressed at Inman Luxury Connect that they were are fans of the multiple listing service (MLS) system. Umansky went so far as to say that he’d “love to see a national MLS” — something other real estate leaders have also called for — and that MLSs facilitate agents’ ability to publicize listings.

But Gold and Umansky also expressed skepticism about MLSs increasing the rules that govern how agents list their properties.

“I think we should be policed somewhat,” Gold argued, “but not treated like children.”

“I do believe in off-market listings,” Umansky said. “I do believe in pocket listings.”

Gary Gold, second from left, and Mauricio Umansky, third from left, at Inman Luxury Connect | Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic

The comments, which were prompted by a question from the audience, come amid a growing debate in the industry over how agents should be allowed to handle off-market listings. Most significantly, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is currently considering a policy that would require agents enter any properties with public marketing into their respective MLSs. The policy would effectively ban off-market listings in many cases.

While that policy is merely under consideration, Bright MLS —  a major multiple listing service on the East Coast — announced Wednesday that it had adopted as policy a slightly edited version of NAR’s proposal. As a result, members of Bright MLS now already have to put their listings into the system within a day of publicly marketing them. Beginning Dec. 1, violators will face $5,000 fines.

Both NAR and Bright MLS have suggested that these types of policies encourage competition and transparency in the market.

Umansky and Gold, however, are not fans. The two agents work with famous and multi-million dollar properties, and Umansky argued Wednesday that leaving a property officially off the market gives agents greater flexibility to test the price and make changes.

Gold also argued that MLSs are “doing what’s in their best interest and not the agent’s interest.” As an example, Gold pointed to MLS rules that require agents to classify a vacant lot as “land,” which relegates the listing to an area of the system where “no one looks at it.”

Gold also said that for a variety of reasons, an agent may want to wait three or four days before entering a listing into the MLS. Gold argued that agents should be given the freedom to do so. He ultimately concluded that MLS policies that reign in agents’ freedom to market their properties are “actually a power trip.”

Both power agents also repeatedly praised the MLS system generally. Moreover, on Wednesday and in the past they have argued that agents should be trying to maximize exposure for their listings.

Still, the comments highlight how off-market listings and the emerging policies to police them continue to generate a lively debate within the industry that isn’t likely to die down any time soon.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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