A year after re-launching as a public-facing site, former pocket listing site The Property Listing Service is now The National Listing Service.
California-based The NLS, which started as a private listing network for real estate agents called The Pocket Listing Service, is most recently known for its federal antitrust lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors and three of the largest multiple listing services in the country over a policy designed to curb pocket listings. That suit is ongoing and has received attention from the U.S. Department of Justice.
On Jan. 19, 2021, The Pocket Listing Service relaunched as The Property Listing Service, a public-facing site with new agent services that complies with the NAR pocket listing policy.
But The PLS had done such a good job of promoting itself as a pocket listing service that continuing to be known as ThePLS.com hurt adoption of the company’s new offerings, co-founder Chris Dyson told Inman in an exclusive interview.
“Agents would say, ‘No, you’re the pocket listing guys. We’re not allowed to do that anymore. We’re not joining,'” Dyson said. “And we were like, ‘No, we’re not that anymore. We had to change. And we did change.’ So we felt that the NLS or the National Listing Service was a much more accurate description of what the platform is trying to provide now.”
The NLS’s founders are Mauricio Umansky, CEO and founder of luxury brokerage The Agency, and Dyson, James Harris and David Parnes, top-producing agents at The Agency. TheNLS.com has several owners: FASP Realty, Midnight Capital, Harris Family Trust, David Parnes Living Trust, Green Collective and Sidehill Ventures.
The NLS’s services are the same as those launched a year ago and its goal is to provide agents with a place where they can compete with “big portals” such as Zillow, Realtor.com and Redfin for control of their lead generation, according to Dyson. The platform operates on a “Your listing, Your lead” philosophy, so buyers who find listings on the platform can only reach out to the listing agent.
This philosophy has attracted some criticism in the industry because it is thought to promote dual agency, wherein an agent represents both the buyer and seller but is not a fiduciary with complete loyalty to either and nonetheless receives both sides of the real estate commission associated with the home sale transaction. This is also a criticism leveled at pocket listings, which are also thought to undermine fair housing by not making listings equally accessible to would-be homebuyers.
The NLS site is keeping its year-old slogan: “Where Real Estate Happens First.” The slogan references what the company hopes will be a key differentiator of the site: that listing agents will like its “Your listing, your lead” philosophy so much that they will post their listings on TheNLS.com first, before they post them on the MLS or on other portals that sell ads for competing agents next to listings.
This feature, NLS Exclusives, takes advantage of a loophole in NAR’s pocket listing policy, called the Clear Cooperation Policy, that allows agents to advertise a property for one business day — up to 72 hours if the property is advertised on a Friday — before it must be submitted to the MLS.
“You have three full days in full compliance with the only place that property exists [being] The National Listing Service and the only person that buyer can contact on The National Listing Service is the listing agent, if that buyer wants to, and that’s the key to that transparency,” Dyson said.
Asked whether the company considers the MLS a competitor, Dyson said, “How agents decide to use our platform is going to be up to them and the market will decide.”
The platform also offers a service called NLS Private that allows listing agents to share information about a property they hope to get a listing contract to sell by attracting buyer agents and their buyers. Listing agents can’t share the property’s address, but can share other information. The feature is compliant with the Clear Cooperation Policy because the would-be listing agents aren’t sharing properties they have a signed listing agreement to sell yet, according to Dyson.
The NLS also has a feature, NLS Wants, that allows buyer agents to post information about their buyers and what they’re looking for. The site invites sellers who have not yet chosen a listing agent or decided whether to sell their home to be matched which agents who have a potential buyer for their home and to contact that agent directly if they choose.
“That’s first-to-market functionality and candidly has the potential to be a complete game-changer,” Dyson said. “Especially in today’s markets, where inventory is so tight. The ability to be able to let sellers search for agents who have the buyers and can contact them directly, and those agents being able to show sellers all their buyers — if there’s one reason to join the platform right now, that’s it.”
Asked why a seller would want to do that instead of going to the MLS, Dyson said, “Well, you might want to see which agents have the buyers and then interview them. That might be something that sellers can decide.”
He compared it to sellers choosing to sell their home to an iBuyer. “It’s simply offering sellers another option when deciding how they sell,” he said.
While the company had planned to launch an advertising campaign after its rebrand a year ago, Dyson said that the campaign, which will focus mainly on social media advertising, has been postponed until the second quarter of this year in order to give the company time to grow its agent count with its The NLS brand. The company has had more than 20,000 agents sign up since its inception, but Dyson did not respond when asked for its current membership count.
The NLS charges agents $199 annually or $40 monthly. The site is currently trying to gin up interest with a discount code, NLS99, that allows agents to sign up for a one-year subscription for $99. The site’s offerings are free for buyers and sellers.