The business of real estate is a very big business. Prior to the last decade and a half, the big business players in the world of real estate were actually in real estate. They were Coldwell Banker, Century 21, ReMax and others. The biggest players in the real estate industry were the patrons of the industry, the behemoths that grew large and venerable because they earned it on the ground, in the trenches, at the closing tables and open houses. The big business of real estate today has very little to do with those old titans, and everything to do with start ups. Sure, Wells Fargo is still a big deal, but Avant is so much sexier. In the same way, Coldwell Banker is still the number one brokerage in Chicago (no matter what @&^&$ company would have you believe), but they are already what they are. Zillow is now the king maker in the industry, and Zillow looks at what it might acquire in terms of software and hardware, and the small start ups that make the next big thing are the new leaders of the real estate industry.
Both Zillow and the National Association of Realtors, through their various entities that they control, have business models that must continue growing, and at all costs. Zillow must behave this way because they have shareholders to answer to, and NAR must behave this way because they’re terrified that Zillow will make them obsolete (they will). They are looking for what’s next, thinking that some thing that some guys from MIT dreamt up might be worth the $30MM they’ll sell it for. Real estate is the largest asset class in these United States, so anything that can gain traction as part of the process has the potential to be big. Like huge. As the players scan the start up scene for some possible disruptors, they find companies like Opendoor.com. They are the purveyors of an interesting (lame) concept that allows homeowners to sell their homes the moment you’re ready! The company promises that you can sell your house and avoid the hassle of the traditional sales model, and all you’ll need to do is fill out a couple of online forms and they’ll buy your house from you. The company then re-sells your house. This is the online version of those bright yellow signs you see along the highway with ransom note style lettering spelling out I BUY HOUSES. It’s a gimmick that works in an appreciating market, and dies a horrible, VC funded death once the market inevitably pauses or declines. Still, they might sell enough cookie-cutter Arizona ranches to convince some large player to buy them at a trillion times earnings (there probably aren’t any).
As the market continues its nice pace forward, more and more agents are entering the business. This is to be expected. As more and more leave their jobs as baristas, car salesmen, and hair dressers to transform their lives by the promise of immediate, unfathomable real estate wealth, the agents who are already established in the business do what they can to hold on to their market share. One way to do this is by controlling listings, because (s)he who has the listing has the power. Control the inventory and control a market, this is the way real estate is done. This is why new companies will list anything and everything. $35k caboose condo? Yes. $2MM lakefront house? Yes. Vinyl ranches as far as the eye can see? Yes. Rentals? Yes. They’ll take it all, because listings represent power. And why do listings represent power? Well, obviously because they ensure revenue by listing side commissions, but mostly because this forever evolving, technological business of real estate still relies on metal signs, pushed into the front lawn.
In an attempt to control listings, and to shield listings from the open market during periods of time when it isn’t in the seller’s best interest to present fresh to market, agents are increasingly turning to pocket listings. Before the MLS, every listing was essentially a pocket listing. Now, with the internet ruling our lives and this business, pocket listings have returned as a unique way to quietly market marquee, or otherwise rare, offerings. Getting back to our initial thoughts about Zillow, and their need to have their zestimatey hands in everything, they have a new feature that allows for agents to market pocket listings. They do this with the promise that it benefits consumers, but of course we know that it benefits Zillow by having control over more of the inventory, whether it’s public inventory or not. Agents, as they fight to maintain some marketing relevancy, will hold their pocket listings back from these national portals, because if a pocket listing is listed online, it’s obviously no longer a pocket listing.
Lake Geneva has quite a few pocket listings at the moment. They may be true pocket listings, like one I just listed last week on the North Shore in the $4s, or they may be pocket listings of a different nature- unsecured properties that certain agents know are possibly for sale, while the majority of the internet searching world assumes they have the market canvassed. The cloudy, distracted message for today is simple. Want to know about pocket listings at Lake Geneva? Ask me. Want to know about pocket listings in Chicago? Ask a connected agent in Chicago. Want to sell your real estate start up that does something no one asked to have done? Call Zillow. Want to sell your super boring Arizona ranch? Opendoor has a few forms for you to fill out.