Sold Before Input: The Controversy of Pocket Listings and Internal Office Listings  (written by Riezl Baker, published by RIS Media national leader in real estate information and publisher of Real Estate Magazine)

Sold Before Input: The Controversy of Pocket Listings and Internal Office Listings (written by Riezl Baker, published by RIS Media national leader in real estate information and publisher of Real Estate Magazine)

  • Riezl Baker
  • 10/14/23
In the dynamic world of real estate, the increase of “secret listings” has raised eyebrows recently. Known by various names such as "pocket listings," “SBI” or "internal office listings," these practices have ignited a debate within the real estate industry, prompting questions about ethics, transparency, and fiduciary duty.
Pocket listings, or SBIs refer to properties that are for sale but not publicly advertised on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or other widely accessible platforms. Instead, these listings are kept within the real estate brokerage or shared among a select group of agents. Similarly, internal office listings are properties that are exclusively marketed within a particular brokerage, often hidden from the MLS and the general public.
The rationale behind these practices is by limiting exposure to a smaller, more exclusive group of potential buyers, agents and brokerages believe they can secure a faster sale. This may also be appealing to sellers who value privacy.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has established a comprehensive code of ethics that governs the conduct of real estate professionals. Article 1 of this code states that realtors should "promote and protect the interests of their clients above all else.” This article serves as the cornerstone of ethical behavior in the industry and raises critical questions about the practice of pocket listings and internal office listings.
The central dilemma surrounding pocket listings and internal office listings lies in the perceived conflict of interest. Proponents argue that these practices can benefit clients by preserving their privacy. By avoiding the MLS, they may eliminate a prolonged public listing or price reductions due to market conditions.
However, many argue that this practice simply benefits the agent or the brokerage and can be detrimental to clients. By not exposing the property to a broader audience through the MLS and other platforms, sellers miss out on competitive offers and potentially higher selling prices. In today’s digital age, exposing a listing to as many technology platforms as possible has become imperative. This leads to concerns about whether brokers are prioritizing their own interests over the best interests of their clients.
In response to the growing concern over pocket listings and internal office listings, the National Association of Realtors implemented the Clear Cooperation Policy in 2020. Within one business day of marketing a property to the public, the listing broker must submit the listing to MLS for cooperation with other MLS participants. The aim is to increase transparency and ensure that all properties have equal access to the market, ultimately protecting the interests of both buyers and sellers.
The debate surrounding pocket listings and internal office listings continues to be a hot topic in the real estate industry. It is crucial for real estate professionals to uphold their fiduciary duty to clients. The Realtor Code of Ethics, particularly Article 1, places the interests of clients at the forefront of any real estate transaction. When an agent recommends a pocket listing to a client, it is crucial that he or she thoroughly discusses with the seller the pros and cons of listing a property publicly through the MLS. The agent should go one step further and be sure the seller understands the benefits being waived by not including the property on the MLS. In general, the MLS offers sellers the greatest exposure of their property, allowing it to be actively marketed to every real estate agent belonging to MLS and the general public through the many online platforms such as Zillow, and Trullia
Striking the right balance between client privacy and market transparency remains a challenge, but adherence to the Clear Cooperation Policy will help maintain integrity in the industry.
Ultimately, the practice of SBIs’ or internal office listings raise important ethical questions; its implications on the broader real estate market and the interests of clients will continue to shape the discussions and regulations within the industry.
Riezl Baker

Riezl Baker

Realtor® | Founding Principal

About The Author

Riezl Baker is an award-winning real estate agent with 22 years of real estate experience at Lake Oconee, Georgia. A resident since 1997, she is well-known for her business accomplishments and extensive community involvement. In 2020, she and her husband Ted co-founded Luxury Lake Oconee Real Estate Group to combine their over 40 years of experience in the Lake Oconee market and with a mission to provide the highest level of service to clients.
In 2022, Riezl closed over $131 million in sales and was recognized as “Top Luxury Real Estate Leader'' by The Atlantan magazine and “Real Estate Newsmaker & Achiever'' by RIS Media. She was recognized as a 2021 Top Producer after closing over 70 transactions totaling $115 million and was awarded the Crystal Phoenix Award by the Lake Country Board of REALTORS®. 
She is passionate about her community and has been involved on a leadership level for many different organizations. She is the Past Chairman of the St. Mary's Good Samaritan Hospital Board and was part of the original founding Board that steered the opening of the hospital in 2013. She co-chaired the successful 2023 Heart & Soul Gala at The Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds Lake Oconee which raised over $450,000 for the local hospital. In 2010, she and her husband co-founded the Lake Oconee Food & Wine Festival to benefit local education, which has evolved into a three-day destination event at The Ritz-Carlton. An advocate for the arts, Riezl is a Board Director for the Oconee Performing Arts Society (OPAS). She was the President of the Lake Country Board of Realtors® in 2016. The Atlantan magazine awarded her "Expert in Second and Vacation Homes" for 2020 and 2021. She was recognized as a "2021 Top Luxury Real Estate Industry Leader" and was also nominated as "Best Bilingual" and "Best Community Impact" in Georgia.
Riezl holds a Bachelor's degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration and joined the Hyatt Hotels as a Corporate Management Trainee. She worked for the company for seven years in Operations Management and Hospitality Sales in Houston and Atlanta. She served as a Board Director for Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the largest meeting and event industry association, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Breakout, Georgia MPI's monthly publication that is distributed to thousands of members.
As the Director of Athens (Ga.) Convention and Visitors Bureau, Riezl developed strategic plans to attract conventions to the city. In 2000, she obtained her real estate license and worked for Reynolds Lake Oconee Properties where she was a top producer for 20 years. 
Riezl is a public speaker and has spoken at several national real estate conferences and webinars. She was an invited speaker at a National Empowerment Conference in Las Vegas in 2022 where she spoke about “Successful Entrepreneurship in America.” She was also featured in a 2022 episode of Fox Business Network’s prime-time real estate show Mansion Global. 
She and her husband have been married for 26 years and have two children, Stuart, who is a junior at Yale University, and Remi, who attends Interlochen Performing Arts Academy.

Community Footprints

  • Co-Founder, LEAD Lake Oconee
  • Board Member, Oconee Performing Arts Society.
  • Board Member, St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation Board.
  • Past Chairman, St. Mary Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation Board, 2017-2019.
  • Past President, Lake Country Board of REALTORS®, 2016.
  • Co-Founder, Lake Oconee Food and Wine Festival.
  • Three-Year Chair, Heart and Soul Gala Benefit, Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee.
  • Co-Chair, Heart and Soul Benefit Gala, 2022

Work With Riezl

A consistent top producer in the Lake Oconee area, Riezl has been recognized with numerous awards for her business accomplishments and community involvement. Contact Riezl today if you are thinking of selling or buying, or both.

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