Access to whisper listings has long been tightly controlled by blue-chip agents and their clients.
But a new portal wants to democratize some of the deal flow by charging brokers a monthly fee for entrée to properties that are quietly for sale.
RealAgentz.com is the brainchild of Parish Pradhan, a former agent at Keller Williams NYC, and his business partner, Daniella Rinaldo, who bootstrapped the idea to create a marketplace for off-market listings. “There are a few high-profile people who are selling $70 million or $80 million mansions. But there are also other sellers, in lower price points, who don’t want to be on the market,” Pradhan said.
On the RealAgentz site, which launched Monday, whisper listings are categorized as “future listings,” Pradhan explained, a nod to owners who may intend to sell in several months. RealAgentz also has 2,100 active or “present” rental listings, as well as 1,800 active sales listings. The portal gets active listings from the Real Estate Board of New York‘s syndicated feed.
Before the website’s official launch this week, Pradhan said he did a beta test of RealAgentz with agents from several New York firms. The site currently lists 13 “future” listings — including a townhouse at 24 West 71st Street that’s asking $17 million.
The townhouse had been on the market earlier this year, asking $15 million before a price chop to $13.495 million and then to $11.995 million, according to StreetEasy. In June, the seller told the agent to stop marketing it publicly.
“He didn’t want it to be a stale listing,” Pradhan said.
Ultimately, RealAgentz will charge members around $100 per month with a one-year commitment, but the website is offering free access through September.
Come October, agents will need to be members to post and see off-market listings. It will remain free to post active listings. The website is also free for renters, buyers and investors, although they do need to register.
According to Pradhan, the advantage of buyer registration is that RealAgentz members will be notified about potential buyers.
While RealAgentz may be the first of its kind in New York, Zillow for years has allowed agents to post “Coming Soon” listings that are expected to hit the market within 30 days. Redfin allows “Coming Soon” posts for homes that will be listed within 21 days. And last year in Los Angeles, where whisper listings are a routine part of selling celebrity real estate, a group of agents launched a portal for whisper listings last year. Agent Christopher Dyson of the Agency and the firm’s CEO Mauricio Umansky rolled out “The Pocket Listing Service,” which allows brokers to share and search nationally for off-market deals.
But things are different in New York, a growing number of off-market deals prompted the Real Estate Board of New York to consider rules further governing how whisper listings ought to be handled.
This spring, REBNY’s residential board of directors proposed a rule to prevent agents from taking on whisper listings, but the board ultimately dropped the idea when the city’s biggest firms pointed out there are several reasons why some sellers shun public listings.
“There are legitimate ones,” said Hall Willkie, co-president of Brown Harris Stevens, citing celebrities or those with security concerns. Willkie suggested that agents should be able to take on pocket listings, but they should not be allowed to actively promote them. According to Willkie, the residential board has shelved the issue until the September meeting.
Pradhan stressed that he’s not trying to cause problems with REBNY, but he is trying to fill a void for agents whose sellers are not quite ready to list, or who would consider selling if the agent found a buyer. “I’m trying to help buyers find their dream home instead of getting into bidding wars and overpaying for properties,” he said.
Because only the listing agent is featured on RealAgentz, listing brokers can do deals without interference from StreetEasy’s Premier Agent program, which allows buyers’ agents to advertise and buy leads.
“If a seller agrees to sell it for $1.5 million and a buyer that’s registered on RealAgentz makes an offer for $1.4 million or $1.5 million, the buyer is happy,” he said. No one should be mad that the seller didn’t bring the property to the open market if both sides are satisfied, Pradhan said. “Listing agents must co-broke. That’s a given.”