Quiet, off-market deals are the lifeblood of some of L.A.’s most high-end boutique brokerages, but one Beverly Hills agent wants to crank up the volume.
Christopher Dyson of the Agency has partnered with the the firm’s CEO Mauricio Umansky and “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles” stars James Harris and David Parnes to launch a new online platform dubbed “The Pocket Listing Service,” or ThePLS.com, which will allow brokers to share and search nationally for off-market properties.
The site aims to cut down on the legwork required to market a whisper listing, which is typically shared between agents by word-of-mouth or through email blasts to a handful of brokers.
Dyson said more than 400 agents have registered for the service, which launched on Monday. Properties listed on the site so far range in price from $600,000 to $12.5 million. The site is not open to the public.
“[ThePLS.com] is really taking the pocket listing landscape and making it more efficient,” Dyson told The Real Deal. “I would receive 10 or 15 emails a day of pocket listings. If I didn’t have a client for it right then, it’d get lost in a wave of emails.”
Whisper listings play a big role in L.A.’s real estate market, as well as in other major cities. They’re particularly common when the client is a celebrity who wants to stay discrete or if a property is particularly expensive or in distress.
Companies such as Top Agent Network, offMLS and Zenlist have already tried to create similar marketplaces but so far, they’ve been unable to grow their businesses beyond a handful of markets.
“I don’t think anything has had a lot of traction,” said Judd Schoenholtz, co-founder and CEO of Open Listings. “There’s an oxymoron – a public platform for pocket listings.”
Dyson said the PLS has an edge over its competition because the site is only available to brokers. Agents must register with a valid license number. After creating a profile, the broker can upload details of their off-market listing and provide as much information as they like, from full listing details to simply an address.
A one-year membership is free for agents who join before September 30, though a membership charge will eventually be introduced.
Dyson said the site also offers an opportunity to test a property’s asking price without accruing “days on the market,” which he described as “every listing agent’s nightmare.”
“If we’re getting feedback from agents that think the price is too high, we can list it to the MLS as a conventional listing using that feedback,” he said.
Mike Shapiro, CEO of HÔM Sotheby’s International Realty, said he isn’t convinced that the listings will be easily vetted.
“There’s no way to know what is real or not,” Shapiro said. “Pockets are done in a close-knit kind of way that ensures others with absolute confidence that there’s someone legit on the other end. This is nothing but a shadow MLS.”