Coming Soon Listings: Advanced Home Search Strategy


The concept of advertising a property for sale before it officially hits the market has been around for decades. Essentially, this “soft launch” allows a broker to generate buzz for their new listing, prior to it actually being available to see. When done properly, this strategy creates pent up demand, which results in a flurry of activity upon the listing going “live”. It has become a great way to increase a seller’s negotiating power, while reducing the amount of time it takes to put a home under contract… Typically a win-win for sellers.

When available housing inventory was plentiful, coming soon listings weren't a big deal. However, now that there’s an extremely short supply of available homes for sale, finding properties before they hit the market offers a huge advantage. With many homes going under contract in a matter of hours, often with multiple offers in place, buyers can’t afford to wait until a home hits the MLS.

In this article, I’ll explain how you can benefit from working with a broker who fully understands and utilizes coming soon listings to give their clients (buyers & sellers) a huge competitive edge.

About “Coming Soon” Listings

The process of preparing and listing a property for sale often takes weeks, sometimes months. During this time, the homeowner is usually cleaning, packing, decluttering, repairing and staging their home. If they’ve decided on a listing broker, their agent may get an early start on creating marketing and gathering the necessary listing documents. If everything comes together before the target listing date, they may decide to pre-market the home and take advantage of the coming soon status.

At this point, a listing agreement will be signed and the property will be entered into the MLS. Note: A broker/agent is not allowed to publicly market or advertise a property for sale without first entering into a listing agreement with the homeowner. This means no social media posts, no websites, no yard signs, and print advertising can be distributed without a signed brokerage agreement in place.

Once the listing agreement is signed, the broker may advertise the property under the “coming soon” status in the MLS for up to 21 days (FMLS & GAMLS policy as of June 2021). This is a specific status in the MLS that doesn’t fall under the active category, therefore, notifications/updates when new matches are found is disabled by the system. This means, agents must run a manual search to find these upcoming listings; there’s no automatic email/text alert that gets sent out… More on this later.

Generally speaking, buyers aren’t supposed to be able to tour the property during this time, but some agents will allow it. I mean, how else would we see so many homes go under contract within hours of being listed for sale?

Brokerages - Office Exclusives & Private Networks

In some cases, an agent may find a buyer for their upcoming listing before advertising it as coming soon. This often happens when an agent networks with coworkers using a company-wide intranet (private network), office sales meeting, and old-fashioned word of mouth. Since it doesn’t involve public advertisement of the property, this strategy is somewhat of a loophole to the public advertising restrictions.

To help facilitate this type of intra-company cooperation, some brokers have implemented back office tools designed to make these connections easier. The larger the brokerage, the more effective this strategy can be. For example, BHGRE Metro Brokers has 2,000+ agents throughout Metro Atlanta. Our “hot properties” tool sits at the top of our company intranet. This allows any of our agents to broadcast their upcoming listing to thousands of other agents who have active buyer clients… An extremely powerful resource!

An Absolute Must For Homebuyers

In our current low inventory market, coming soon listings are the first place serious buyers should be looking, so make sure to incorporate them into your home search strategy. With literally dozens, sometimes hundreds of equally qualified buyers vying for the same property, the odds aren’t great. After all, only one person gets the home. For everyone else, they go back to the drawing board.

For a really hot property, it almost always turns into a bidding war. And who wins? Usually it’s the buyer who is paying cash and is willing to offer the highest price.

So, how do you keep from losing out on your dream home if you’re unwilling to grossly overpay for it, and financing is the only option? How about simply getting there first!

I’m not talking about being the first of 25 showings the first day it hits the market. I mean seeing it weeks before anyone else. Wouldn’t that give you a HUGE advantage?

At the moment, the coming soon status seems to be ignored by many buyer’s agents. Therefore, the competition is relatively low during the pre-market period. Since consumers don’t have access to view coming soon listings on the MLS, this represents a massive opportunity for buyers who hire the right agent. With the right approach, you could potentially find, tour, submit an offer, and go under contract on the perfect home; well before any other buyer even knows it’s for sale!

How Coming Soon Benefits Sellers

Effective use of the coming soon status is pretty much a win-win for sellers. First of all, it enables the property to be exposed to potential buyers without accumulating days on market. This puts the home on people’s radar for an extended period of time, without concern that the listing will go stale. It’s like drawing out the day one excitement of a new listing over the course of a couple weeks; yet still getting that initial “bump” when it does go active and is released to the general public.

If showings and offers are restricted during the coming soon status (they’re supposed to be), pent up buyer demand will be created, resulting in a flurry of activity once the listing does go active. This can make for a busy open house the first weekend the home is on the market! In my experience, the “look but don’t touch” scenario seems to further increase people’s interest. This is a great way to get the showing calendar booked solid, at least for the first couple days. There’s also a better likelihood that multiple offers will be received, right out of the gate.

However, if the house is ready for visitors, and the homeowner/agent decides to allow showings during this period, a contract could be finalized before the coming soon period is over. There’s a twofold benefit to going under contract pre-market. First of all, typically only the most serious buyers will express interest at this time, so they’re less likely to back out of the deal. Secondly, any time the property spends under contract will not be reflected in the listing history… Which could negate the negative perception of a failed contract; if the deal happens to fall through.

Ultimately, choosing to go the coming soon route offers a seller tons of upside, with very minimal downside, so the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Since the clock technically hasn’t started ticking yet, there’s no real urgency to accept anything less than the perfect offer, so the ball is in the seller’s court.

NAR Establishes Nationwide Policy

To deter limited exposure listings and encourage fair cooperation between brokers (to benefit consumers), the National Association of REALTORS® drafted a universal policy in 2019 to address the way pre-market listings are handled. The new set of rules, commonly known as the MLS Clear Cooperation Policy, was designed to prevent potential legal and ethical concerns when properties get withheld from the open market. Essentially, these MLS coming soon rules require all listings to be entered into the MLS database within one business day of marketing a property to the public.

Multiple Listing Services nationwide were given until May 1st, 2020 to adopt the new language into their MLS rules and regulations. Now that the rule has been implemented, both MLS providers here in Atlanta have created a specific status for these pre-market listings. This allows brokers to search and view the upcoming homes for sale listed by other brokers using the coming soon status in the MLS. It also helps with the accuracy of market data and the availability of comparable sales.

How To Search & Find Coming Soon Listings

Now for the challenging part… Locating these hidden gems! You don’t have to be an agent to find pre-market homes for sale, but it will require a lot more time and effort. Even if you know where to look, you still won’t have full access to all the upcoming properties for sale that a REALTOR® will. Working hand in hand with a knowledgeable agent will help speed up the process and increase your results. Keep in mind, your agent will still have to spend time manually searching databases and reaching out to their network to uncover potential opportunities, so patience is key.

Zillow Coming Soon Properties

The first place you’ll want to look is Zillow.com. If you’re already familiar with the company’s home value estimates and search tools, this should be a breeze. When running your search, I suggest limiting your criteria to display coming soon listings only. This can be done by de-selecting all the other default filters (by agent, by owner, new construction, auction, foreclosures, foreclosed, pre-foreclosures, etc.). Doing so will keep your results from getting cluttered with properties that are already on the market, under contract, or otherwise unavailable.

Zillow currently allows homes to be in the coming soon status for up to 30 days before they are officially listed for sale, so they could show up here before anywhere else. However, now that Zillow has become a licensed broker (in Georgia) and is a member of the MLS, their ability to publicly advertise coming soon listings is restricted. In addition, only agents who pay for Zillow’s premium services have the ability to post, so this further limits the number of properties you’ll find.

Depending on where you’re located and your local MLS rules, you may only see coming soon properties offered by non-MLS brokerages, investors, and “by owner” sellers. Therefore, the results can be hit or miss. Regardless, this is still a place you’ll want to look, especially when you’ve already sifted through and checked out all the other listings that are currently on the market.

Broker Websites

We’ve started to see some brokerages create pages on their website dedicated to promoting all their in-house agents’ coming soon listings. This enables them to exclusively advertise their company’s upcoming listings; giving website visitors access to properties that can’t be found anywhere else. In order to find these opportunities, you’d need to visit each brokerage's website individually. Once you find the coming soon section of the broker’s website, you may want to bookmark the page for easy access in the future.

The one problem you may run into is outdated information. Often times, these pre-market listings have to be manually posted to the website by the agent or marketing team. Once the listing goes live, it’s easy to forget about updating the status, so don’t be surprised if you find one that has already gone active, under contract, or possibly even sold. It might feel like searching for a needle in a haystack, but it’s worth a shot, especially when the effort pays off.

Coming Soon On The Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

The multiple listing service is the best tool for accessing coming soon listings offered by all area brokers, in one place. Here in Atlanta, both of our MLS’s (FMLS & GAMLS) allow agents to post upcoming listings using the coming soon status. This gives cooperating brokers who are members of the MLS the ability to manually search and view upcoming listings.

As a buyer, you’ll first need to hire an agent if you want access to coming soon listings on the MLS. Your agent can then run searches for you to find any properties that are a match. Currently, our MLSs restrict the ability to set up auto-notifications for properties in the coming soon listing status, so there’s not an easy way to get notified of a new match. Your agent will need to be diligent about running a manual search every so often to determine if any new opportunities are available. Unless you’re a client, most agents aren’t willing to put in this extra effort.

Also, it can be a challenge to find photos of the property before it hits the market. Usually, the listing agent will post a single exterior photo until the professional photos have been taken. However, there may be older photos available if the home was previously listed for sale (or rent). These historical photos can give you a better idea of what the home looks like, even if they’re a little outdated.

Social Media & Agent Outreach

Once an agent is able to market their upcoming listing (have a signed listing agreement), they usually turn to social media to get the word out. In some cases, they may also run ads to create additional buzz around their new listing. If you run a search on the various social media platforms, you may get lucky and find a match.

We don’t follow every agent in Atlanta individually, but we are members of many different agents-only social networks and real estate groups. This enables us to develop healthy working relationships with other listing brokers in the area and be the first to see their newest properties. This means we can easily tap into a wide network of industry professionals who have new listings or have been in contact with homeowners who are looking to sell.

In addition, we use the MLS to access a list of local agents and brokers who are actively selling in our market. Our targeted email blasts & calls reach hundreds of real estate professionals in the area, resulting in at least a handful of potential opportunities for our buyer. By prospecting these agents with a specific list of buyer needs, we can get early access to upcoming listings, well before they officially go up for sale.

Yard Signs

As soon as a listing agreement is signed, many agents will immediately place a for sale sign in the yard. Since marketing and advertising materials take time to create, the sign is often the first indication that a new listing is on the way. Agents will usually include a “coming soon” sign rider attachment, but that’s not always the case. So remember, when you’re out looking at homes or exploring prospective neighborhoods, keep an eye out for new signs. If you can’t find any information about the property online, don’t get discouraged. You’ll just need to contact the listing broker to get all the details.

Direct Marketing

Most people plan out the sale of their home for many months before they actually get around to starting the selling process. Some people need time to do repairs and upgrades, while others put off listing their home for sale until they absolutely have to make a move. Either way, they have the intention of selling in the near future... Why not contact these homeowners during the “thinking about it” stage?

Entice them with a hassle-free opportunity to sell their home right way! Offer to put it under contract without the inconvenience associated with the traditional listing & selling process. A direct mail postcard or letter could be all it takes. If they've got a ready, able and willing buyer looking for a home exactly like theirs, people will often jump on the opportunity. However, for your outreach to be most effective, you’ll typically need to narrow your targeted geographic area to a fairly specific location; such as: a school district, zip code, or neighborhood(s).

Scheduling A Tour & Making An Offer

Once an opportunity has been identified, the next step is seeing it in person so that you can make a decision on it. This can be challenging, especially since agents aren’t supposed to allow showings until the listing is in active status on the MLS. However, I’ve found that many agents will still accommodate a showing request, especially if the property is ready to be toured, or if a very serious and qualified buyer wants to see it.

If the home isn’t “show ready”, the seller may not want any potential buyers to see the property; but it’s worth a shot. If they’re finishing up repairs, upgrades or staging, just let them know you’re extremely interested and willing to look past any imperfections that are currently present. If nothing else, see if the seller or agent will share additional photos, video, or a virtual tour. Anything that could help you determine if it’s a good fit and speed up your decision making process.

If you do get the opportunity to see the home and you decide to make an offer, be prepared to make it a strong one with minimal contingencies. In my experience, sellers are reluctant to put their home under contract before it officially hits the market… Unless it’s an offer they can’t refuse! If the home is a perfect fit and priced well, it probably makes sense to offer full price, or slightly overpay for it. After all, once the listing goes active and other buyers see it, a bidding war might take place. This could drive the price up even higher than what you would've paid in the first place, so keep that in mind.

Final Thoughts

Coming soon and pre-market listings have become a hot commodity in today’s extreme seller’s market. As mentioned throughout this article, the process of finding these opportunities, especially as a non-agent, is very challenging and time consuming. Even as agents with access to the right tools and resources, there’s still a ton of manual searching and outreach required.

Until there’s a way for consumers to fully access coming soon listings, it makes sense to have your agent do the legwork for you. If you’re interested in maximizing the effectiveness of your home search, we’re ready to help. Our agents will work hard and do whatever it takes to locate that perfect property for you. Our goal is to get you in the right home, regardless of how we find it!

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