Home buyers have fewer options to choose from, so use these methods to expand their choices and show added value that will inspire client loyalty.

The days of real estate professionals as gatekeepers of listing information are gone, but you can still surprise clients with housing options they can’t find for themselves online. If you’re working your connections right, you can get a heads-up on unlisted inventory—from pocket listings to FSBOs and expireds—before it hits the market. And that’s added value that will inspire client loyalty.

“Unlisted inventory allows us to go back to the days of competing at a level where we are aware of things that consumers aren’t,” Pamela Ermen, CRS, GRI, of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Virginia Beach, Va., said at a session Friday during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Boston. “It can be a unique selling proposition for you.”

Buyers and sellers are driven more by fear of missing out—or FOMO—than the prospect of gain, noted Ermen, who has been in the real estate business for 40 years. She gave several examples of how practitioners can find unlisted inventory.

  1. Pocket listings. Though not without controversy, pocket listings can offer a strong value proposition to sellers, especially those in high price points. “Some sellers don’t want it to be known that they’re on the market, and if you have the ability to know who these people are and how to serve them, it can be a boon for you,” Ermen said. Detail for these sellers how you will use the time it would normally take to list and market their property to the public differently. If you can win a pocket listing, you’ll have the inside scoop on the unlisted home for your buyer clients. But there’s a caveat: “We have to be very careful that we’re not crossing the line and putting our interest ahead of the client’s interest,” Ermen said.
  2. Direct calls to targeted markets. Though some agents deride open house attendees as nosey neighbors, many potential clients attend them. Host an open house for one of your current listings, and use the event as an opportunity to learn about homeowners who are planning to sell soon. “Start talking to your network as soon as you learn a house is coming on the market,” Ermen said. Additionally, ask your buyers for a list of the top four or five neighborhoods they want to live in. Then find phone numbers for owners in those neighborhoods and tell them you have an interested buyer looking in their area. You’ll likely learn that at least one or two have been thinking of selling.
  3. Distressed properties. Follow RealtyTrac’s foreclosure trends to learn of properties that may be deals for your buyers. Ermen said she also has had success contacting real estate attorneys in her market to find out which properties they are currently working on.
  4. Buyer tours. Take your buyers on a drive through the neighborhoods they are most interested in, and ask them to write down five addresses for homes that catch their eye. Take that list and call the owners or knock on their doors. Ermen suggested using a script such as this one: “I was driving through the neighborhood with my buyer, and they pointed at your house and said, ‘If that home ever comes on the market, I want to know about it.’” The potential sellers will be flattered, and “you’ll make a friend at that point,” Ermen said.
  5. “Absentee owners.” These are usually FSBOs or owners of expired listings who likely want to avoid an exhaustive attempt to sell. Offer them a “quiet sale” in which you can match them with a buyer you’re already working with, avoiding the stress of listing the property, Ermen said. Check the last three years of expired listings. “I guarantee you they still think it’s the right thing for them to move,” Ermen said.