How do you buy a home before it hits the open market?

Eric Stewart August 23, 2018

I recently took a listing in Alexandria, VA, and the seller requested that I create and share a “coming soon” listing with other local agents, even though it won’t be on the open market for six months. She prefers to sell it quietly, and I offered a discount on my commission if we’re able to do it without the extensive (and expensive) marketing that we use for homes on the open market.

Appraisal_www.imagesplitter.netMany of today’s buyers don’t realize it’s an option to purchase a home before it hits the market, but in fact, a wide range of properties are selling in the “quiet listing” stage through agents who share them with their networks. It’s a great opportunity for buyers because there’s little-to-no competition to contend with at this stage, and we are here to help you get the inside scoop on these opportunities.

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Some of the reasons a seller may want to sell “quietly” are to test the market and gauge interest, to get some exposure without wasting days on the MLS (the longer a house is on the market, the more people begin to wonder why it isn’t selling), or to avoid advertising to their neighbors that they’re selling.

Here are the venues I recommend checking for information on properties that are coming soon:

  • Your local MLS – Ours in the DC area now has a function called Coming Soon, which lists a home for 21 days before it becomes active. The drawback of this venue is that you will not be able to see the property until it’s on the market, other than maybe a photo of the front. It’s simply a means of building awareness for when the property goes live and can be accessed for showings.
  • Social media – Agents (whom you can find and “follow”) and sellers (your personal network) may announce homes coming on the market on their pages.
  • Zillow – Search by neighborhood and find homes expected to be on the market within 30-60 days; then call listing agents for showings.
  • “Coming soon” pages on real estate agents’ websites – Agents in your area will promote their listings to other agents and their buyers, even before they come on the market.
  • Word of mouth – Agents like to generate excitement and interest in their listings and will often talk with their networks about properties in their pipelines.

For buyers looking for information, I also recommend you contact agents who are prominent in the market where you want to live. Give them your contact information and invite them to stay in touch with you by email or phone to inform you of listings that will be coming to the market.

Don’t forget that it’s the seller who pays the commission for selling their property, and their agent is representing them. As a buyer, you won’t owe your agent money for helping find the right home for you, but you’ll have to decide whether you need representation for the purchase or not.

According to NAR (National Association of Realtors), all agents must treat you fairly, honestly, and ethically, even if they’re not representing you. But be wary about sharing too much personal information with a real estate agent who’s not representing you, as he/she is not obligated to keep your information confidential and may share it with the seller.

Whether you go it alone or use a broker, finding a home before it comes to the open market is a little bit more work, but can produce a great reward. Without other buyers bidding against you in a heated market, you may just save yourself some money.

For more information, download our Buyer Savvy Guide below.

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