Coming Soon real estate signs - who do they benefit?

Coming Soon real estate signs - who do they benefit?
real estate coming soon sign

When a coming soon sign is in front of a home, the property isn't listed in an MLS® system for the public or other Realtors to see. In most cases, the sign is a typical Real Estate Salesperson's for sale sign, with their contact information on the sign, along with the name of their brokerage. If a prospective buyer is interested in getting information about the property, they have no choice but to contact the person on the sign.

According to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, the rules for adding an MLS listing are as follows:

MLS® Rule R-365 states that you must enter the Listing into the MLS® System within two (2) TRREB business days following the commencement date. (A TRREB business day is Monday to Friday and does not include statutory days.)

Note that homes listed for sale on the MLS in Durham Region are included in the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board's MLS system. Durham does not have its own system and is subject to the same MLS rules.

Benefit for the seller?

Why would a home seller want to advertise their home as coming soon, rather than wait until it is ready to sell? There are several reasons that a seller may want to promote the property in advance of it being ready to hit the MLS system.

A home seller can benefit from having some advance publicity of their home coming to market. In a seller’s market, where there is a relative scarcity of property listings, it can be beneficial to have people aware that the property will soon be available. In particular, the coming soon lawn sign can alert potential buyers that another listing that they might consider is coming to market, and they may elect to wait for it rather than placing an offer on another listing.

The owners may be doing some minor repairs, and want to drum up interest in the property as they get them finished, before showing the property. They may also do it as a way to motivate themselves to speed up the process of getting things ready.

It is also quite common that the property is in the process of being prepared for listing on the MLS system. There are a lot of activities that happen in advance of the listing going live. Some of these include home staging setup, professional photography and video shooting (and editing afterward), signpost and sign installation (from a business that does this on behalf of the listing agent), printing of feature sheets and other materials and preparing the listing agreement and other documents by the listing brokerage.

It's also possible that the seller and their agent agree to a reduced commission if the home is sold during the time the home is in "coming soon" status. This is also called an exclusive listing agreement. This would only typically apply if the buyer were unrepresented by a buyer agent/brokerage. This is a potentially legitimate way for both parties to benefit, although the seller should realize that without having the listing on the MLS system, there is a much smaller audience that the property would be exposed to.

Benefit for the Agent?

In many cases, however, this arrangement can work against the home seller. The whole purpose of the MLS system is to make the property visible to the widest possible market of potential buyers and Realtors looking on behalf of their clients. If the property is shown during this period, any prospective offers would only reflect the limited group of potential buyers that had actually toured the home.

There is potential for ethical issues here, as well. While the overwhelming majority of Realtors are honest, there is the possibility of abuse here in more than one way.

The salesperson/brokerage who put up the sign would be in a potential position to not have to share any commission on the sale with a cooperating brokerage that typically represents the buyer. If they could negotiate a sale before the listing hits the MLS system, the property may not sell at a price truly reflecting its market value, but if they didn’t have to share that commission, they would certainly benefit. 

Of course, if they had arranged a reduced commission during the exclusive time frame, the seller would have less overall commission to pay. That's assuming that the home sells for its maximum potential, and there's really no way to know if that is the case if it never had the exposure that being on the MLS system would provide.

It is possible that the listing agent could also control who sees the property. If they are selective in who they allow to view the property, they could potentially allow someone they know to place an early offer and purchase the property for less than it could have sold for with more visibility on the market.

The Realtor® Cooperation Policy

As of January 3, 2024, a new national policy under the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) came into effect, called a “Duty of Cooperation” in Article 30 of the Realtor Code.

It requires placing a listing on an MLS system within 3 days of any type of public marketing. Some of the methods considered to be public marketing are:

  • Placing a sign on the property

  • Posting to social media, even in private groups

  • Advertising the listing in any way

  • Posting to a public website

  • Sending an email to multiple recipients that are not agents in the same brokerage as the listing agent

There are exemptions to the policy, including commercial listings and new builds.

Requiring that new listings hit the market within 3 days of public marketing is a very good idea for consumers and agents. It prevents agents from doing things that aren’t in their seller clients’ best interest and allows buyer agents and their clients to see all the listings on the market in a reasonable amount of time, without having to watch out for signs that sit out for weeks before a listing hits the market.

In Summary

Clearly, there are legitimate reasons for a seller to consider the coming soon strategy. If they do, it is very important for them to understand the potential downsides, and for their Realtor to clearly explain how and why they would want to take this approach.

In any case, it is almost always in the seller's interest to get the property onto the MLS® system and ensure that they have the widest possible audience to market their home to.

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peter barbati on Apr 25, 2016 8:43 AM posted:
True points. I have resisted using these tactics as I do believe they generally benefit the salesperson (hence their broker) rather than the seller but this rule is just one of many ambiguous "tactics" that are thinning our the image the public has of us in general. They should not be allowed. "sold in 2 days" riders should not be allowed unless they also state "co-operative MLS sale" or some such notification to sow that the transaction was to a co-operating broker-salesperson and not a double end. It will never changeI fear.

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