Off-Market Transactions Hurt Sellers By Shutting Out Buyers Who Might Pay More

The sale of homes without listing them on the MLS frustrates would-be buyers who are waiting for just such a home. Those frustrated buyers might have paid more than the actual buyer, in which case it’s fair to say that both buyers and sellers have been harmed.

This is an update of a column with the same headline published exactly a year ago. On March 22, 2018, I wrote that in January and February of that year 4.4% of the sold listings were only entered on the MLS after closing. It’s even worse this January and February, when the percentage of Denver sales showing zero days on market rose to 6.3%. Another 2% sold in one day, which is still not enough time to expose a listing to all potential buyers.

I have determined that with proper exposure, 4 days is the “sweet spot” for listing a home and getting the highest possible price for it. That is office policy at Golden Real Estate, violated only when the seller insists on selling sooner for one reason or another, such as to a friend.

Analyzing the 101 Denver sales in January and February, the median sale was for full price, which makes sense. However, half the 86 Denver homes which sold after 4 days on the market garnered from 1% to as much as 10% above their listing price. That can amount to a lot of money “left on the table” by sellers who chose (or were convinced by their agent) to sell without exposing the home to more buyers via the MLS..  

It’s reasonable to ask how listing agents may have profited (at their seller’s expense) from keeping listings off the MLS. An analysis of the Denver listings that were entered as sold with zero days on market this January and February reveals that 20.8% of them were double-ended, meaning that the listing agent kept the entire commission instead of sharing it with a buyer’s agent. Not one of the homes that sold after 4 days on the MLS was double-ended. It seems obvious to me that many listing agents are convincing their clients to sell without putting their home on the MLS so they can increase the chance of doubling their commission. Putting their self-interest ahead of their clients’ is a serious violation of both ethics and law.

This is not to say that zero days on the market is never in the best interests of the seller. For example, the seller and buyer might know one another, or otherwise found each other, and simply asked an agent to handle the transaction without seeking other buyers.  Or perhaps it was a for-sale-by-owner property where an agent brought the buyer and entered the sale on the MLS after closing as a courtesy to other agents and to appraisers. Or a seller might ask to keep the home off the MLS because he/she does not like the idea of opening their home to lots of strangers.

One would hope, however (and sellers should expect), that when a broker double-ends a transaction, he or she would at least give the seller a break on the commission, rather than keeping the portion (typically 2.8%) that would have been paid to a buyer’s agent. This practice is referred to as a “variable commission” and is office policy at Golden Real Estate. Unfortunately, however, only two of the 21 listings that was double-ended and sold without being put on the MLS offered their sellers this discount. The other 19 enjoyed the windfall of keeping the full commission to themselves, without sharing that windfall with their sellers.

Some agents put listings on Zillow as “coming soon” while holding them off the MLS as a technique for attracting a buyer before other agents know about the listing. The Real Estate Commission addressed this practice in a 2014 position statement, stating that “if the property is being marketed as ‘coming soon’ in an effort for the listing broker to acquire a buyer and ‘double end’ the transaction, this would be a violation of the license law because the broker is not exercising reasonable skill and care.”  Further, the commission stated, “a broker who places the importance of his commission above his duties, responsibilities or obligations to the consumer who has engaged him is practicing business in a manner that endangers the interest of the public.” 

Sadly, that is still happening.

Electric Vehicle Event on April 20th at Golden Real Estate

Golden Real Estate is celebrating Earth Day by holding an electric vehicle round-up on Saturday, April 20th, from 10 am to 3 pm in our South Golden Road parking lot.

It’s a national event, called “Drive Electric Earth Day,” organized by Drive Electric Week, which is held every September. As with that event, we’re inviting owners of electric cars, trucks and motorcycles to show their vehicles and maybe offer rides. You can register online at www.DriveElectricWeek.info as either an EV owner or attendee

As an extra added attraction, I have invited Best Electric Bikes USA (who sold me my electric bicycle a few years ago) to set up shop and bring some electric bikes for test rides. Research has shown that owners of electric bikes ride more often and therefore get more exercise than owners of non-electric bikes. It’s true for me!

Affordable 2-BR Lakewood Condo Just Listed by Andrew Lesko

Check out this sunny garden level condo at 381 S. Ames Street, Unit B-105, just one mile east of the Belmar shopping district with easy access to downtown Denver. It was just listed this week for only $198,000. This recently updated condo comes with stacked washer/dryer, newer cabinets, granite countertops, and top of the line berber carpeting & ceramic tile floors. It’s affordable Lakewood living for the first-time or downsizing home buyer. This end unit comes with 2 reserved parking spaces and low HOA dues ($157/month) which include heat & hot water, a clubhouse and swimming pool! At this time, this is the only 2-BR, 2-bath condo under $200,000 in Lakewood. Find interior photos at www.LakewoodCondo.info. Andrew will hold it open Saturday, 11am – 3pm. Click on the narrated video tour below.

How Do You Know the Real Estate Agent You’re Interviewing Is Telling You the Truth?

This is a difficult topic, but it’s one that deserves discussion. As I’ve pointed out before, there are so many licensed real estate agents that fewer than half of them earn a living solely from brokering real estate transactions. (FYI, all ten Golden Real Estate agents are full-time, earning enough from their real estate careers not to require a second job.)

That means that the agent you are interviewing may feel lucky to have two or more transactions per year, and capturing you as a seller or buyer could be super important to him. This could cause him (or her) to exaggerate their level of success as well as their experience and market knowledge.

I can safely recommend every Golden Real Estate broker associate, not only because they are full-time and successful, but because they adhere to the Realtor Code of Ethics. I have let go previous associates when I observed or learned about ethical lapses. Unfortunately, all of us can recount times when we have observed ethical lapses by agents on the other side of a transaction.

The Pareto principle applies to real estate agents as it does to other occupations, with 20% of us doing 80% of the transactions.  And since the average real estate agent has only four closings per year, the median number of closings is probably closer to two. In other words, half of the licensed agents have two or fewer closings per year. That does not translate into a living wage.

In researching this topic, I googled the phrase “what does the average Realtor make,” and I urge you to do it, too — especially if you are considering real estate as a career.  It’s very discouraging.

A posting on www.TheStreet.com, for example, includes the following: “If you think you can just devote a few hours a week and make a nice income as a real estate agent, you are badly deluded. A national survey of agents and brokers who belong to the National Association of Realtors finds that agents who put in 60 hours or more a week have median earnings of $100,000 a year. By contrast, for those who put in less than 20 hours a week, the median is $8,930 a year.

    At Golden Real Estate we had about 100 transactions in both 2017 and 2018, or an average of 10 transactions per agent. We don’t need to mislead a buyer or seller regarding our level of experience and success. Also, we have weekly office meetings where we discuss all aspects of the business, often with guest speakers. We take the annual commission update class and the biennial Realtor Ethics class together in our office, so we’re all on the same page.

REcolorado.com, the Denver MLS, makes it easy to verify the level of experience of its members, and I have made it even easier by creating a shortcut URL, www.FindDenverRealtors.com, enabling you to search for an agent by name and not only see active and under contract listings but also their sold listings going back several years. Then you could click on a listing to see the quality and thoroughness of it.  That’s the best indicator of how well they’ll serve you.

One common mistruth told by agents is, “I have a buyer for your house.” All too often it’s a ruse to get your listing, after which they tell you that the buyer found another house, “but we’ll find you another buyer after it’s on the MLS.”

Another lie is “Our listing fee is 1%.” If you pause the end of that commercial (as I did), you’ll read that it doesn’t include the commission owed to a buyer’s agent (2.8% in our market), and if a buyer has no agent, the 1% fee is increased to 2%. Below is that freeze frame. The “fine print” is so small that I have transcribed it below the picture:

“Minimum commissions apply. 1% listing fee not available in all locations. Commission is subject to change. Buyer’s agent commission not included. For example, if the buyer’s agent commission is 2.5%, seller will pay a total commission of 3.5%. Listing commission increased by 1% of sales price if buyer is unrepresented.”

Just Listed: Golden Home on Tucker Gulch Cul-de-Sac

This 4-BR, 3½-bath home at 412 Garden Glen Ct. lies at the end of a secluded cul-de-sac abutting the Tucker Gulch path, within easy walking distance of Parfet Park and Clear Creek in downtown Golden. Enjoy views of South Table Mountain, Mt. Galbraith and the famous “M” on Mt. Zion from this home’s many windows. The wooded private cul-de-sac with only eight homes is one of Golden’s hidden gems. You won’t find a neighborhood like this anywhere else in Golden. Along with its quiet location, the home offers wonderful privacy, particularly in the spring and summer, when nearby homes disappear behind a curtain of leaves. Features include a large front deck and updated kitchen and baths. Other updates completed within the last six years include exterior paint, roof, gutters, garage doors, furnace, central air and a stamped concrete patio. Don’t miss this lovely home in an unmatched setting. Agent/owner Norm Kowitz will hold it open Saturday, March 16th, from 11 a.m. to 2 pm. More still photos and a narrated video tour can be found at www.NorthGoldenHome.com.

Price Reduced on Mesa Meadows Home with Mountain Views

Originally listed last week at $850,000, the sellers of 1230 Wyoming Street agreed today to reduce the listing price to $795,000. There’s more info and lots of pictures at www.MesaMeadowsHome.com. Click on the YouTube thumbnail below for a narrated walk-through plus aerial drone footage, then call your agent or Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 for a private showing!

3-Bedroom Arvada Tri-Level Just Listed by Andrew Lesko

Come check out this 3-bed/2-bath home at 7755 W. 62nd Place, just listed for $375,000. It’s located on a quiet street just north of Old Town Arvada. This 1,421-sq.-ft. home sits on a large corner lot and features a generous main level living area and large kitchen space that opens to a newly fenced, private backyard. The upper level features the master bedroom and second bedroom plus a full bath. There is hardwood flooring under the carpet on the main and upper levels as well as on the stairs. Downstairs is a cozy family room with fireplace and a third bedroom and full bath. The carport was converted to an extra living space but could be converted back to a carport (or garage) by the new owner. Find more pictures and a narrated video tour at www.ArvadaHome.info then come to the open house on Saturday, March 9th, from 11 to 3 pm. Call your agent or Andrew Lesko at 720-710-1000 to set a showing.