Pacific Union launches web portal for pocket listings amid surge in off-market trading

Private View will allow sellers to gauge interest for a home before it hits the MLS

Los Angeles, Pacific Union CEO Mark McLaughlin and president Nick Segal (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Pacific Union)
Los Angeles, Pacific Union CEO Mark McLaughlin and president Nick Segal (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Pacific Union)

Pacific Union International launched a new listing web portal Wednesday that will allow buyers and sellers to see exclusively signed listings before they become available to the public.

The platform, called Private View, will take advantage of the critical window between when a so-called pocket listing is signed by an agent and when it hits the Multiple Listing Service. That can take anywhere from 10 days to three weeks depending on the size of the property and marketing effort, said Nick Segal, president of Pacific Union.

The service has already launched in Los Angeles with 21 properties online. It is expected to launch in San Francisco, Pacific Union’s base, later this summer.

The company’s latest endeavor reflects technology’s growing influence in real estate, as brokerages look for ways to stay competitive in a marketplace flooded with off-market trading. The move by Pacific Union follows the recent launch of other online marketplaces for pockets listings, including the Agency’s Pocket Listing Service.

“I think there’s a growing opportunity for brokerages to become more and more relevant,” Segal said. “We’re trying to take advantage of the marketplace and expose it to everybody.”

Pending seller approval, Private View will showcase Pacific Union listings from the day the agent gets the listing. It will only include basic details of a home, such as a thumbnail photo, price and city, inputted by the listing broker. The public platform will be open to anyone who registers.

By displaying properties before they accrue “days on market” on the MLS, sellers will be able to gauge interest for their property. “It’s an opportunity to get a sense,” Segal said.

But to obtain more specific information, such as the address or listing agent, potential buyers will have to put in a request and wait until they are contacted. A listing broker should return requests within the day, Pacific Union said.

Private View comes at a time when off-market trading has taken off in L.A. In the inventory-strapped market, the practice has gained traction among competitive buyers, who are looking to sign their ideal house before others spot the listing on the MLS and make a more attractive offer. It also has a cache among Hollywood elites, who turn to pocket listings to make deals out of the public eye.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Pacific Union estimates that 20 percent of its home sales in the Bay Area and 30 percent in L.A. last year closed without appearing on the MLS, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Online competition

Pacific Union’s portal is not the first online platform for off-market listings.

Last year, the Agency’s Mauricio Umansky, along with Christopher Dyson, James Harris and David Parnes, launched the Pocket Listing Service, which allows brokers to privately share off-market home listings with each other. Agents must register with a valid license number. After creating a profile, they can upload details of their off-market listing and provide as much information as they like, from full details to simply an address.

Segal insists the two are different, since Private View offers “authenticated listings” with exclusive listing agreements and is available to the public, rather than just brokers.

The Pocket Listing Service founders declined to comment.

Other companies that have created similar, local marketplaces include Top Agent Network, offMLS and Zenlist.

Even beyond so-called whisper listings, real estate brokerages are facing pressure to maintain a strong online presence given the recent growth of online listing platforms.

Zillow, which recently started charging brokers for listings, said it will be dipping its toes in the home-flipping business. RedFin, another online brokerage, went public in July as a means to gain more funding for its platform.