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The problem with banning pocket listings

HW+ agent putting sign in the yard

This is Part 1 of HousingWire’s two-part series examining the National Association of Realtors’ clear cooperation policy, better known as a ban on pocket listings, or homes not marketed on Multiple Listings Service. Part 1 looks at the history of NAR’s mandate and the labyrinthine network of MLSs that ostensibly sought the pocket listings ban and are now supposed to enforce it.

Jim Quinn just won his appeal on his pocket listings punishment.

“An agent of mine put a ‘for sale’ sign out in the yard,” said Quinn, the operating principal at Keller Williams Peace River Partners in Punta Gorda, Florida. “Another agent saw the sign and instead of the courtesy of calling us, he called the local MLS board and they slapped us with a $500 fine.”

In the eyes of the Florida Gulf Coast Multiple Listing Service, the Punta Gorda Keller Williams franchisee had defied the National Association of Realtors’ clear cooperation policy, more commonly known as the pocket listings ban.  

Quinn was fined, he said, with no warning or due process. But after challenging the fine, the local MLS later dropped the penalty.

The pocket listings ban has ignited stark differences in both opinion and practice among real estate agents, with opponents contending it may be the trade group’s fatal overreach. These naysayers point to the Biden administration – already pursuing a “broad investigation” of NAR activities – intervening in a lawsuit challenging the ban.

But if the pocket listings guidelines indicate NAR’s heavy hand, the policy also demonstrates that NAR power is channeled through a glass mosaic of countless MLSs, each with their own bylaws, level of resources, and coterie of nosy agents.

“We pay to support these organizations,” Quinn said. “They wouldn’t exist without us, so they should give us the benefit of the doubt.”

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