MiamiRealEstateKing

Q&A: The Pros and Cons of Off-MLS, “Pocket Listings”: What Consumers and Real Estate Agents Should Know

In real estate on July 2, 2013 at 6:19 am

While not a new concept for veteran real estate agents, the terms “off-MLS” or “pocket” listings may be an unfamiliar phrase to many consumers and some newer agents. 

 

Property sellers and agents should nevertheless be aware that the practice can adversely affect their goal of getting the best price reasonably possible for their property.  As many as 10-15 percent of properties offered for sale today are “off-MLS” or “pocket” listings, according to one Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

 

If you’re considering selling your property, think about the advantages and disadvantages of pocket listings.

 

What is an “off-MLS” listing? 

Simply stated, an off-MLS or pocket listing is a property that is marketed without the benefit of being listed for sale on the MLS (i.e., “hidden” in an agent’s pocket). A property that is listed on the MLS has the advantage of being actively marketed to every real estate agent who belongs to that MLS and through those agents, to their vast network of potential buyers looking to make an offer to purchase the property. Active marketing on the MLS usually includes open houses, broker tours and inclusion of seller’s property in the MLS’s download to various real estate Internet sites commonly used to search for properties such as Realtor.com, Move.com and many, many others.

 

On the other hand, as the term implies, an off-MLS listing generally is marketed by a single agent to one or a select few potential buyers. The marketing pool can be so small that in some cases, other agents within the same brokerage or brokerage office may not even be aware that a fellow agent has an off-MLS listing.

 

Are off-MLS listings illegal?

It depends. They are not illegal if the listing agent fully discloses the pros and cons to the property seller and follows rules that are designed to protect consumers. Nevertheless, many real estate professionals believe that off-MLS listings may not be in the best interest of the property owner – particularly if a client does not know about the benefits of marketing his or her property through the MLS. To keep a listing off the MLS, a listing agent who is a participant of an MLS is required, under the rules of many MLSs, to obtain a signed certification from the seller that he or she does not wish to sell the property via the MLS.

 

Why would a property seller agree to an off-MLS listing?

Off-MLS listings sometimes are requested by celebrities, judges, prosecutors, or others who wish to maintain their privacy and/or limit viewing of their property to a select individual or individuals with the financial wherewithal to purchase.

 

Other reasons include owners who wish to limit the ability of tenants or competitors to find out that the property is for sale.

Are there reasons a property seller should avoid an off-MLS listing?

Yes. Most importantly, an off-MLS listing generally does not get the broad market exposure that a property listed on the MLS gains. That can significantly reduce the number of potential offers to purchase that a property seller may receive – an important consideration at a time when multiple offers above the asking price are commonplace in many areas. A recent survey of San Francisco Bay Area real estate agents conducted by MLS Listings, Inc. revealed that 74 percent of respondents believe an off-MLS listing decreases the chance a seller will obtain the highest and best price for his or her property.

 

Off-MLS listings also may impact real estate values on a larger scale. Property price evaluations completed on behalf of mortgage lenders – more commonly known as “appraisals” and a vital precursor to a property buyer obtaining a mortgage loan – may be affected in communities where there are a significant number of properties being offered as off-MLS listings. That’s because not all off-MLS listings are entered into the MLS database once a property is sold. Without this critical information, it is more difficult for real estate agents and their sellers to determine a listing price, for agents and their buyers to decide how much to offer for a property, and for appraisers to determine the current market value of a property.

 

It also limits the ability of these professionals to properly determine and justify value of an owner’s property for pricing and marketing purposes. With a high number of off-MLS listings, it becomes more difficult to also justify value to a potential buyer since finding qualified comparables may be limited.

 

What should I do if an agent approaches me with an offer to sell my property as an off-MLS listing?

Ask your agent about the pros and cons of selling your property off-MLS. One advantage is that your listing remains private if you wish to maintain privacy. However, there are other ways to give you the exposure you want while maintaining privacy when listing in the MLS. Just ask your agent.

 

Another and even bigger disadvantage is that your property may not be exposed to the full population of available buyers, which means there may be less competition among fewer buyers, resulting in a lower selling price.

 

If you decide to list your property off-MLS, your agent may ask you to sign an exclusion document.  Be sure you fully understand what you are signing and the adverse consequences outlined in the form of not listing your property on the MLS.

 

And you may want to tell your agent that even if your property is not on the MLS, you want your agent to show and present all offers from both inside and outside his or her network.

 

Below is an article published by the Florida Association of Realtors’ legal department on the subject:

 

Fla. ‘pocket listings’ legal, but avoid problems

ORLANDO, Fla. – July 1, 2013 – Non-MLS listings are legal in Florida; but if not handled correctly, they can create legal and fair housing problems for a listing broker.

“Pocket listing” is not a legal term. It generally refers to any listing held back from the local MLS and sold independently.

Since an MLS exposes a home to areas far and wide, it creates competition and can maximize profit for the seller. However, some sellers don’t want that kind of exposure, and they see a bigger advantage in keeping their home out of the MLS. Celebrities may be the best example. They don’t want any army of fans touring their home – fans that can’t afford the home in the first place. Non-famous sellers may opt for a pocket listing because they fear vandals or they want to keep the details confidential.

“There are legitimate reasons to withhold a listing from the MLS,” says Florida Realtors’ Vice President and General Counsel Margy Grant. “But while the sale is legal in Florida, it can sometimes indicate a bigger problem. For that reason, it’s important for sellers to fully understand the ramifications of a non-MLS listing, authorize it and – most importantly – for a Realtor or broker to have some kind of documentation showing that the seller made an informed choice.”

Legal

Non-MLS listings can sometimes lead to disgruntled sellers who decide, after the fact, that they could have received more money for their property. A broker could face allegations that their failure to put the property in the MLS deprived the seller the ability to attract the highest and best price for their property.
 
“We can’t predict the future,” says Grant. “Florida brokers should make sure the seller chose to withhold their property from the MLS. Sellers should be told the pros and cons upfront. But even proving that the seller willingly chose to withhold the property from the MLS may not be enough. A broker should also show that the seller understood the marketing advantages of an MLS before he made a decision.”

Disparate impact – fair housing

“In some cases, a non-MLS listing could lead to allegations of discrimination,” says Grant. “Realtors would turn down a seller who wants to withhold a listing from MLS in order to keep a specific race or other protected class out of his neighborhood. However, the fair housing laws go a step further, and these listings could break the law even if discrimination isn’t intended.”

“Disparate impact” under the Fair Housing Act considers it discrimination if a practice “actually or predictably results in a disparate impact on a group of persons or creates, increases, reinforces or perpetuates segregated housing patterns because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.”

Since a non-MLS listing is marketed to a private and usually small group, the makeup of that group becomes important. If the makeup of the listing group tends to mirror the makeup of the neighborhood, it could appear to perpetuate discrimination without meaning to do so. Multiple pocket listings in a single neighborhood could be seen as a way to discriminate without being obvious.

“The disparate impact appearance can be challenging,” says Grant. “If there’s any concern about a fair housing impact, a broker should be able to justify the reason it was withheld from the MLS and illustrate that the property was marketed in a fair and equitable manner.

© 2013 Florida Realtors®

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Wenceslao Fernandez Jr is a REALTOR® with Fausto Commercial Realty Consultants

1101 Brickell Avenue, South Tower, 8th Floor, Miami, Fl  33131 | WF@FaustoCommercial.com | Google: 786-693-2269

Six Ways Investing in Real Estate Can Save You Money

In Buyers, Commercial Real Estate, florida, Investing, Investor, IRS, miami, miami beach, Miami-Dade County, Multi-Family Real Estate, real estate, Roth-IRA, Self-Directed IRA, Sellers, tax deductions, Tax Matters on May 10, 2013 at 1:28 pm

There are many investment vehicles. Stocks, bonds, art, coins, postage stamps, toys, commodities and real estate, among others.

Some economists even suggest that as long as you are disciplined and can comfortably pay for it, you should buy any investment you can. If you can finance the purchase, even better.

However, real estate is probably the only one against which you can borrow and have the asset pay itself off through rental income, EVEN as it pays YOU.

In fact, I have spoken to property owners who have managed to leverage a property two, even three times in their lifetime, by borrowing against the property they now own free and clear, to buy another.

What’s more, the income from the new property (let’s call it property B), paid with borrowed funds from say, property A, plus the income they still generate from that newly leveraged property A, can over time, pay back the loan on A from rent collections on A and B, while proving the owner with a boost in passive income. In other words, party money.

Even if you can purchase property in cash, many recommend you consider financing after the fact. Leveraging allows you to possibly, acquire two or more properties, update or fix them up and let themselves carry the burden of paying down the loans with rental income.

Over time, you would have the ability to acquire even more properties and eventually, when you are at the right stage in your life, own them all free and clear while enjoying all that income in retirement. The ultimate 401K or IRA.

Of course, you must buy right and be disciplined throughout. With every payment received in rents, you must set aside a portion every month to pay for licenses, taxes, insurance maintenance and miscellaneous repairs, improvements, etc. In short, you must budget as you would with any business.

Below, we examine some of the advantages for owning investment property and in particular, multi-family property.

1. Economies of Scale

When you buy a single family house or condo unit, small investors often feel they’re easy to manage. That may be true to some extend. On the other hand, consider that with a multi-family building, you only deal with one roof and/or one yard to mow, you are the board that approves tenants or how many times a year you rent your property and in one single trip, you can fumigate, inspect and have a punch list ready for your handyman, plumber and/or electrician to take care of, minimizing headaches.

2. Lower Taxes

There are several tax incentives for real estate investors. If you are employed, deductions from real estate investments may be used to offset wage income. In addition, there are a number of tax breaks for real estate investment which often allow property owners to turn a loss into a profit. Deductions can include any actual costs involved in financing, managing and operating the property, to include maintenance, repairs, property management fees, travel, advertising, and utilities. In addition, the IRS allows a depreciation deduction that accounts for a portion of the building (not the land portion of the property) over time, usually some 27 years.

3. Cash Flow

A property can generate negative or positive cash flow. Cash flow simply refers to the amount of money that flows in and out in pursuit of maintaining a property. Rents are an example of cash flowing in while taxes and insurance must be paid out, typically from a portion of the rents received. When the amount of income received exceeds the payments, it is said you have a positive cash flow. There are times when the amount of payments exceed your income and in these cases, you are said to have a negative cash flow. Regardless, when it comes to real estate investment, there are two more important concepts involved: pre-tax and after-tax. A pre-tax positive cash flow for instance, may also be said to occur when income received is greater than expenses before taxes are paid. However, even if your are experiencing a negative cash flow, you may end up with an after-tax positive income when your expenses are more than your collected income, but the tax breaks bring you back in the black. Depreciation can often help turn a negative into a positive.

4. Use Leverage

An old rule of thumb in real estate is to never spend a dime on your real estate investment unless you have to and/or unless it will save you money. Leverage is an important aspect of saving money through real estate investment because a real estate investor uses leverage to increase their assets without spending their own money. By taking advantage of your equity, you also improve your return on equity and it provides you with tax-free funds to help fund your next deal or improve the value of your existing property by making updates, upgrades or repairs that entice tenants (to come in or stay) and should allow you to raise rents and improve your bottom line.

5. Equity Growth

The best way to save money and earn money, is to build up equity from real estate investments. That way, with high equity you are able to save on your mortgage while earning a nice chunk of profit. However, idle equity is like idle funds in the bank. Ideally, you are always utilizing your equity to improve the value of the property and/or pursuing and acquiring new opportunities. Often, selling is a great way to take advantage of existing equity, which would allow you to reposition yourself in a potentially better property with better opportunities. For instance, you may own a building sitting on prime land which may allow you to build a much larger structure for more potential. However, you are not a builder and you’re not in the mood to start. Even if that property is making money, selling it may bring enough to allow you to purchase a more suitable property or properties.

6. The Benefits of Inflation

Generally speaking, inflation can help you save money on your real estate investment because as rent increases, your mortgage costs will remain static (assuming it is a fix-rate loan), which means you will improve your position with the increased cash flow from the rent and equity growth. Although inflation is quite low these days, there is a typical amount of appreciation properties experience as a result of even low inflation, which adds to your equity without a single penny out of pocket.

Of course, it is not all rosey with real estate investing. There are a LOT of factors that deter people from getting involved. It is scary, you could lose a lot if you engage from an emotional standpoint and there are headaches and horror stories borne from bad tenant situations to fill a few books.

Regardless, I reiterate that if you buy properly, budget properly and stay involved, you may never have to worry about money when it counts – throughout the live of the property and during your retirement. What could be more beautiful than that?

Most real estate professionals can help a buyer or seller make the right buy or sell decisions. Obviously, as you would listen to a quality attorney, doctor or accountant, listening to a quality real estate professional’s valuable information will go a long way in helping you achieve your buying or selling goal. Budgeting however, is a function of habit and here again, you must proactively seek qualified, quality, professional advise.

15 Ways to Prep Your Multi-Family Building Exterior for the Spring Market

In international buyers, Investing, Investor, miami, Miami-Dade County, Multi-Family Real Estate, real estate, Sellers on April 6, 2013 at 8:46 am

Spring is the season for rain, sun, flowers and humidity buildup. It is also the season buyers and sellers traditionally come out of hibernation. It is a time when folks turn to spring cleaning, regardless of whether they are selling their property or not.

However, if you are in fact, looking to sell, you will definitely want to pay close attention and properly prepare. This article will hopefully, help you get started and get you to a fast closing that nets you the most money in your pocket, ready to enjoy, retire other debt or reinvest.

As I flip channels and sometimes watch a particular product they may be selling, particularly jewelry, I notice that ‘shine’ is critical. I also notice the effect I feel when I walk up to a car dealership that keeps its cars sparkling clean versus when I walk up to a car that seems poorly maintained.

Similarly, I notice what I feel when I approach a property. As I walk through it, I notice the big and little things that say WOW. The question is, what follows that “wow”? Is it, wow this is great or is it, wow this needs a lot of work!

As rents climb or stabilize, buyers are watching for opportunities. Your job as a seller is now to convey the message to the buyer that your property has been well taken care of and that it will provide a handsome return and that it is therefore, worth their investment.

The tips below will cost little money and could go a long way to convey the right perception that attracts buyers to make an offer. Even if you are a distressed seller, the more appealing your property looks, the higher the perceived value and the more money you could net.

With this in mind, here’s how to get the exterior of your building shipshape so it tell buyers, “yes, this is a good investment”:

1. Clean the glass covers of all light fixtures and make sure to remove all bugs. Also, replace any broken or missing glass covers. Make sure they all match. If not, replace them all to match and improve the look of the fixtures.

2. Replace missing or burnt bulbs. Consider replacing every bulb with bright white energy efficient bulbs. They brighten up the common areas making it more appealing and saves energy while helping deter crime.

3. Clean or replace mailboxes. Busted mailboxes often convey a sense of neglect.

4. Clean or paint all doors and frames and replace or polish their hardware so they all match throughout.

5. Make sure the building address number and each unit number are clearly visible and neat.  You may also want to consider replacing them for a clean look.

6. Make sure all stairs, hallways and stair guardrails are clean and/or painted as needed.

7. Wash all windows and seal them right to avoid water leaks while improving energy efficiency. See that tenants cooperate by keeping old tape used during a prior hurricane watch or warning and even odd window coverings, off windows.

8. Make sure to pressure clean parking areas and that they are swept clean. If necessary, cover driveway and parking areas with a fresh coat of tar. Check that all parking stoppers are painted and if appropriate, labeled.

9. Rake the lawn and ensure all green areas are trimmed.  Use fresh mulch or stones accordingly to cover patches, driveways and other areas. Plant fresh flowers or plants if possible. These are often inexpensive and greatly ‘green-up’ common areas.

10. Clean all debris from gutters and drain spouts and repair or replace them as needed.

11. If there is a community barbeque, be sure to clean it thoroughly and wash down the lid if there is one.  Replace a worn cover if needed.

12. If there is a community swimming pool, make sure it sparkles. Treat or repair any surrounding pool ground area that isn’t perfect.

13. If there is patio or pool-area furniture, make sure it is clean. Remove or replace any broken pieces.

14. Check your roof and make sure to repair or replace any missing or damaged shingles or tiles. Make sure to apply a sealant to flat roofs. Even if it does not seem necessary, this is a small expense compared to what a poor roof inspection result may represent.

15. Paint. Although this could be the costlier of the cosmetic preparations, I can’t say enough about this, especially if the building has not been painted for 3+ years. When it comes to selling, remember, ‘sparkle’ is key and nothing sparkles more than a fresh coat of neutral color paint. Make sure it is properly done and that cosmetic cracks are patched prior to application.

Now, go ahead and comment on any of the above or add your own to the list.

As a buyer, what items do you look for when you walk through the exterior of a building you are considering?

Also, as a buyer, HOW is your offer price affected by either a positive or negative impression you experience while walking the exterior of a property? How much more or less would you offer be as a result of your experience?

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