Pocket listings flourish in South Florida as agents eye new platforms

Brokerages are hunting for buyers to help shed lingering listings

PLS is a new platform hoping to make whisper listings all the rage in South Florida
PLS is a new platform hoping to make whisper listings all the rage in South Florida

As the number of days on market ticks upward for a number of Miami homes, local agents — and their clients — are looking for new ways to market and move properties.

One option is to first list their condos, townhouses and other abodes on the Pocket Listing Service, which in January expanded into the South Florida market.

ThePLS.com, a website for agents to share their off-market listings, officially welcomed the region into its network after introducing its services in Boca Raton and then hosting several events in the Miami market. The website was founded two years ago in Southern California by James Harris and David Parnes of “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles,” Mauricio Umansky, co-founder and CEO of The Agency, and his colleague, Christopher Dyson.

Since it started in 2017, PLS has enlisted more than 13,500 members and listed more than $12 billion in inventory, including more than $1 billion in its South Florida pipeline. About $100 million of that Sunshine State sum has hit the platform within the last month.

Pocket listings, also known as whisper or off-market listings, are not new. Agents have been using them for decades, with some sharing listings with one another via email blasts. But in Florida, few such services, if any, had entered the market prior to PLS.

“The whole way of marketing these properties is so inefficient,” Dyson said. “Every single seller thinks their property is worth more than it is.”

Strong debut

Since launching in the South Florida earlier this year, 154 properties have been listed on PLS, priced from $175,000 to $22 million. Only agents and brokers can access the database, which gives sellers, and perhaps more importantly, their agents, the opportunity to test an asking price without accruing days on market.

Dyson, Umansky and Harris rolled out PLS to a group of Miami agents at three events in late May that took place at the Biscayne Beach waterfront tower in Edgewater, Merrick Manor development in Coral Gables and The Agency’s office in Boca Raton.

The Agency, Umansky and Dyson’s Los Angeles-based brokerage, took over sales of Merrick Manor in March, when the project was 65 percent sold. Astor Companies, led by Henry Torres, completed the 10-story, 227-unit development at 301 Altara Avenue earlier this year.

Dyson and others believe that websites like PLS give some control back to the agent.

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“If you go back 20 years, because of the Realtor.com relationship with the industry, the old control of the inventory by the broker is gone. It’s now a commodity,” said Mike Pappas, president and CEO of the Keyes Company.

“The portals now for money sell leads to the highest bidder, not what’s best for the consumer,” added Pappas, referring to websites like Zillow.

He acknowledged that pocket listings services like PLS can be effective, depending on the price and property. The concept is similar to taking a luxury listing to an auction house, which creates a sense of urgency in a market often flooded with high-end inventory.

“In a perfect world the affluent market wants to believe there’s an advantage, there’s some mystique to that,” Pappas said.

Expanding operations

In May, Keyes announced it was partnering with Switzerland-based ListGlobally, an international real estate marketing firm, to promote more than 12,000 of Keyes’ listings. The move is another example of brokerages trying new methods to sell properties that may otherwise sit on the market for months or even years.

ListGlobally will push the listings out to more than 100 listings websites in 12 countries, including the U.K., Sweden, Germany, Qatar and China. About 20 percent of Keyes’ sales in Miami-Dade County come from foreign buyers, said the brokerage’s director of marketing, Paula Renaldo. (Keyes declined to disclose how much the service is costing the brokerage.)

“We needed a different way to try to attract those buyers that are coming in. It’s going to give us that extra exposure we wanted,” said Renaldo, noting that Keyes is paying for the service. “We want to be able to give [clients] the most exposure and get them the most leads.”

After just six months In Florida, PLS has signed up about 2,000 agents. Dyson and his partners are marketing their service through Facebook, Instagram and other digital media, as well as old-fashioned word-of-mouth. The company next plans to introduce a subscription service with multiple tiers.

Agents will be able to view listings, but to go beyond that will require the payment of an annual or monthly fee for access to a full slate of PLS privileges. If agents join now while the platform is still free, they will be offered a founding membership that costs $99 per year. After that period ends, the two tiers will be priced at $19 and $39 per month, respectively. The more expensive membership will offer agents daily access to the website, as well as training and webinars from Harris, Parnes and Umansky.

“We want this to work, that’s the key,” Dyson said. “This can’t be free forever.”

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