Pocket listings and “coming soon” marketing was hotly debated at a broker roundtable during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Boston.

Don’t get sued.

It may be easier said than done, but that was the main message at a broker roundtable during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Boston on Friday. Brokers from across the country highlighted top issues affecting their companies, including the growth of pocket listings and ethically handling multiple offers and “coming soon” listings.

Brokers said they’re troubled by the secretive nature of off-MLS listings, some of which are held privately within exclusive agent groups or brokerage networks, at a time when many markets are facing tight inventories. Real estate pros face several potential ethical and legal issues when conducting dealings in these private channels. Brokers highlighted several questions they should ask themselves before proceeding with a pocket listing, including:

  • Whose best interests are being served?
  • Could I be in violation of the Code of Ethics?
  • By limiting exposure, could there be an anti-trust or fair housing violation?

Brokers also warned that it’s only a matter of time before “coming soon” listings, which have come under increased scrutiny, become mired in litigation. Some firms are using this method to market to specified groups of brokers during the pre-listing period. But all brokers and buyers must have equal access to the listing.

“Litigation lags behind bad behavior,” said Margy Grant, COO & general counsel at Florida REALTORS®. So tread carefully and keep the Code of Ethics at the forefront of your mind, brokers said. Most local REALTOR® associations operate legal hotlines to field questions pertaining to such sticky situations.