To list or not to list? For mansions, it’s not clear
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Feb. 29, 2016 – Homebuyers browsing Zillow and Realtor.com won't find Palm Beach's most expensive listing, a 2.3-acre estate priced at $75 million. Nor will they see the Jupiter Island palaces of golf great Greg Norman, on the market for $55 million, or of pop star Celine Dion, listed at $45.5 million.
For months, the most expensive property in Florida – the Ziff estate in Manalapan, priced at $195 million – also was invisible, although the seller listed the mansion on Realtor.com in January.
In an era when multiple listing services – and their direct data dumps to Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com – are more important to the home buying and selling masses than ever, some owners of oceanfront mansions still opt out of the MLS.
However, there's no clear consensus on the wisdom of marketing through the MLS. Many mansions are in the listing system, including the Ziff estate and five Palm Beach properties priced at more than $50 million.
For a Realtor who's a member of an MLS, there's no additional cost to market a property in the system, and no obvious downside to an MLS listing. So why not put mansions in the MLS?
Realtors who market oceanfront estates say some sellers consider an MLS listing an invasion of privacy, and they note that upper-echelon buyers don't shop like the rest of us.
"It's certainly no slight on the MLS system," said Adrian Reed, of Fenton Lang Bruner & Associates, the brokerage that's marketing the Norman and Dion estates. "We use the MLS all the time. It's a useful and effective tool for helping people find properties. But I don't think anyone is having any trouble finding these two properties."
Agents who keep estates off the MLS instead mail glossy brochures to super-wealthy buyers. They also market the mansions on their own websites – which raises the obvious question: If the glamour shots already are online, why not just put the property in the MLS?
"It has to do with security," said John Pinson, president-elect of the Palm Beach Board of Realtors. "I've sold properties that were not on the MLS. The people were very private and very security-conscious."
Some sellers of mansions worry that an MLS listing raises the risk of opening their homes to unqualified buyers looking for the voyeuristic thrill of touring a celebrity's abode, Pinson said.
Another potential downside comes from the transparency offered by Zillow and Realtor.com. The sites show MLS data about days on market and price cuts. For instance, Realtor.com reports the price history of the mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach, which was listed at $84.5 million, then reduced to $79.5 million last year and to $74.5 million this month.
Because mansions can take years to sell, that sort of detail might make a property seem stale or reflect unrealistic price expectations.
One motivation that applies to modestly priced homes doesn't fit the mansion market. Off-MLS sales are known as "pocket listings," and listing agents use them to keep buyers' agents from horning in on the commission.
But the off-MLS mansions are marketed widely, making it unlikely that one agent will nab the full commission.
The list-in-the-MLS-or-not question underscores just how different mansions are from mass-market homes. For most sellers, an MLS listing is a no-brainer.
A survey last year by the National Association of Realtors found that 89 percent of buyers use the Internet to shop for homes, and many multiple listing services automatically feed their data to Zillow and Trulia, owned by Zillow Group and Realtor.com, which is owned by News Corp.
Trying to sell a three-bedroom suburban house without the marketing muscle of the MLS seems like an exercise in futility. But an international star like Greg Norman doesn't need the MLS to garner attention. News of his house's latest price showed up on the websites of London's Daily Mail, the Golf Channel and ABC News, not to mention dispatches in German and French.
"This thing generates its own publicity campaign," Reed said.
© 2016 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.), Jeff Ostrowski. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.