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Pocket Listing thriller flick highlights ongoing industry topic

In a new action-packed Rob Lowe/ Burt Reynolds thriller, real estate is glamorized as shady and far more dramatic than real life pocket listings, a topic which remains controversial in the industry.



pocket listings

A new movie has debuted in hopes of giving an obscure real estate term a great deal more appeal and much more attention that it deserves. If this movie succeeds, many more will forever associate real estate it with deceit, drugs and “plenty of illegal activity,” as the movie’s blurb promises.

“Rise, Ruin, Revenge, Real Estate. You’re either a hot property, under foreclosure or one deal away,” promises Pocket Listing. It’s a hip new Hollywood offering with an edgy story line about money, greed, power, sex, revenge, redemption, and real estate. In that order.

Rob Lowe, Burt Reynolds star in this “dark comedy”

Set in Malibu and featuring such well-worn talent as Rob Lowe and Burt Reynolds, the flick is a racy shoot ‘em up about an extraordinary villa with a pool that seems to flow off the edge a cliff into a Malibu arroyo. It’s labeled a “satiric thriller” and “dark comedy,” which must mean that the producers don’t really think that aging real estate brokers like the one played by Reynolds walks around saying things like, “I give you permission to screw everybody, everybody but me.”

A mysterious power player played by James Jurdi, who also wrote the script, reels off one of my favorite lines, “It’s not real, friend, it’s real estate,” and his sultry wife British model Jennifer Clarke, hire Reynolds, a disgraced Los Angeles property broker to discreetly market and sell their Malibu villa. It’s all downhill from there, with more slinky real estate, vapid characters, guns, drugs, and sexy girls.

How did Hollywood catch wind of this practice?

How did pocket listings soar so quickly from the seedy backroom deals, the greedy brokers who want to keep both sides of the commission for themselves and ethics be damned to Hollywood?

A few years ago brokers representing stars found it was easy to get their listings on national celebrity shows like Entertainment Tonight and magazines like Us and People. The publicity helped them sell and soon, the big real estate listing sites realized they would often get the on-air credit, even though the listing came from an MLS and belongs to a broker.

When celebrity listings started pushing online traffic to new heights, a war broke out, which continues to this day. An entire industry has grown up around the practice of violating the privacy of rich and famous people when they want to sell their houses. Listings, offers, price changes, sales—they fill the pages of web site after web site.

There’s a problem with this traffic play

There’s a problem with this picture. Higher volume is great for web sites because it means advertisers—who are largely brokers who advertise to sell their own listings– pay more. The glam lookie-loos who surf in to look at Rob Lowe’s toilet aren’t buyers. They’re not going to bop over to check the latest offerings from the hard working brokers who are paying the freight.

On the other end of the process, celebrities have grown sick and tired of having their private spaces and their private real estate transactions blasted all over the media whenever they sell a house. The solution: pocket listings. An old but viable option to keep everything legal and hidden until a real live prospect arrives.

Pocket listings are coming under scrutiny

In the past few years, pocket listings have mushroomed. Southern California, the Bay area, Texas, Long Island—markets in these regions report the highest numbers though very few hard numbers exist.

In California, Illinois, Ohio, and some other states, MLSs are raising concern about the fast rise of pocket listings. Last year, the leading MLS service in Northern California reported that in Monterey, San Benito, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz, off-MLS listings increased from 12 percent in 2011 to 15 percent in 2012 to 26 percent of the market in the first quarter of 2013.

Midwest Real Estate Data LLC, which oversees the Chicago-area MLS issued 140 fines in 2013 for violations of its rules on off-market deals. Another 500 violations were reported, but were determined to be unfounded after seller consent was verified. In the Dallas luxury market last year, one Sotheby’s brokerage reported 30 percent of its office’s business was outside the MLS, which is interesting since Texas law prevents the disclosure of sales data in public records.

The movie is glamorous, but in real life, the MLS still reigns

In the movie, the pocket listing first seems like an easy deal to close but turns out to be much more intricate than expected. Jack, the Realtor, soon discovers that the owner, is a power player oil tycoon named Hunter, who is involved in shady operations which could jeopardize not only the house’s sale, but Jack’s life as well. With time running out and predators lurking at every corner, Jack is forced to resort to desperate measures to survive in a world where nobody is who they seem and closing a deal can literally be a matter of life and death.

For the rest of us, fortunately, closing a deal is only a matter of money and the money is almost always better when you go the MLS route. It makes perfect sense that the more potential buyers you reach, the offers will be better—or at least as good as they will be.

The experiences of Jennifer Anniston who immediately sold her $43 million Beverly Hills house on the MLS after it had languished for months as a pocket listing and Candy Spelling, widow of the late TV producer Aaron Spelling and mother of actress Tori, who sold hers fast on the MLS after marketing it for months as a pocket listing, suggest even the very wealthiest properties do better with the largest potential market.

Is the privacy and security worth forgoing the best possible price?

Obviously, that’s a decision for the seller. It’s a decision, however, that might become more difficult should the luxury market remain flat and lining up prospects through the back-alley channels become more difficult.

Going the pocket listing route could cost celebrity sellers–even those in the move were willing to let their $20 million Malibu villa go for $12 million. At the end of the day, however, a movie is just a movie.

“I didn’t want to get too heavy or too realistic. I’m sure a broker would see this film and say it’s completely unlike anything that would ever happen in that world – but in a way that’s kind of good, because we wanted it to be very dramatized,” said actor/writer James Jurdi in an interview last week.

Steve Cook is editor and co-publisher of Real Estate Economy Watch, which has been recognized as one of the two best real estate news sites in the nation by the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Before he co-founded REEW in 2007, Cook was vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors.


To do list methods that maximize productivity, lower stress

(EDITORIAL) Even if you have a to-do list, the weight of your tasks might be overwhelming. Here’s advice on how to fix the overwhelm.



To-do list in a journal with gold rings.

If you ask me, there’s no better way to unwind and ease everyday stress by making a to-do list. Like they said in the movie, Clueless, “It gives [you] a sense of control in a world full of chaos.”

While that quote was specific to a makeover, it certainly applies here. When you have too many things on your plate, making a to-do list is a quick way to get yourself in order. Typically, this does the trick for organizing your upcoming tasks.

It’s important to determine what method of listmaking works for you. I personally like to use sticky notes around my computer monitor to keep me in check for what’s needed to be done work-wise or by use of my computer. Other personal task items will either be kept in a list on my phone, or in my paper planner.

For work, I have a roster of clients I work with everyday. They each have their own list containing tasks I have to complete for them. I also use Google Calendar to keep these tasks in order if they have a specific deadline.

For personal use, I create a to-do list at the start of each week to determine what needs to be accomplished over the next seven days. I also have a monthly overview for big-picture items that need to be tackled (like an oil change).

This form of organization can be a lot and it can still be overwhelming, even if I have my ducks in a row. And, every once in a while, those tasks can really pile up on those lists and a whole new kind of overwhelm develops.

Fear not, as there are still ways to break it down from here. Let me explain.

First, what I’d recommend is going through all of your tasks and categorizing them (i.e. a work list, a personal list, a family list, etc.) From there, go through each subsequent list and determine priority.

You can do this by setting a deadline for each task, and then put every task in order based on what deadline is coming up first. From there, pieces start to fall into place and tasks begin to be eliminated. I do recognize that this is what works for my brain, and may not be what works for yours.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has some interesting insight on the topic and examines the importance of how you relate to your tasks. The concept is, instead of letting the tasks be some sort of scary stress, find ways to make them more relatable. Here are some examples that Babauta shares:

  • I’m fully committed to this task because it’s incredibly important to me, so I’m going to create a sacred space of 30 minutes today to be fully present with it.
  • This task is an opportunity for me to serve someone I care deeply about, with love.
  • These tasks are training ground for me to practice presence, devotion, getting comfortable with uncertainty.
  • These tasks are an adventure! An exploration of new ground, a learning space, a way to grow and discover and create and be curious.
  • This task list is a huge playground, full of ways for me to play today!

Finding the best method of creating your to-do list or your task list and the best method for accomplishing those tasks is all about how you relate and work best. It can be trial and error, but there is certainly a method for everyone. What are your methods?

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Want to move past your burnout? Stop using multiple lists

(EDITORIAL) How my evolving understanding of “burnout” helped me learn an important distinction between being busy and being productive.



too busy to burnout

When I used to hear the word “burnout” I would picture the freaks from the gone-much-too-soon series, Freaks and Geeks, as they would bum around outside, smoking in between classes. Now when I hear the word “burnout,” I think of myself a few years ago as my brain was being fried by life.

I wasn’t smoking between classes, rather running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out how to manage all of my tasks at hand. I’d make a to-do list, see everything I had to do, and drown in overwhelm.

I’d spend my days fretting over how busy I was, and nights catching up with friends via phone, talking about how busy I was and how there just wasn’t enough time in the day.

Notice that nowhere in here was I actually doing anything productive. I fell into a vicious hole of being so consumed with how much I had to do, I wasn’t taking the time to do anything but stress.

At first, it made me feel interesting and somewhat important that I had so much going on. I quickly realized that no one cares and it’s not that interesting (I also quickly remembered how much I love to just relax and not have something planned every day of the week).

This is where I learned the of the most important lessons to date – being busy does not equal being productive.

It got to a point where I was running on fumes and eventually had this epiphany that how I was operating was doing nothing to help me. This was in part brought on by seeing someone close to me behave the same way, and I was able to actually look at how defeating it was.

From there, I made it a point to change my tune. Instead of wasting time writing and re-writing to do lists, I challenged myself to make one master to do list and accomplish at least one item upon completion of writing the list. This helped shake off the cobwebs and I was able to feel a bit of weight off of my shoulders.

The ideas surrounding the hustle mentality had me so consumed and all I was doing was hustling my way to nowhere. After feeling the burnout, seeing someone else operate that same way, and seeing that hustle mentality mocked, I was finally able to break free and get stuff done.

And, guess what? I have even more to do now, but feel more calm and collected than ever. I just have to repeat the mantra: Being busy does not equal being productive. Being productive – especially in silence – is so much better and much more rewarding.

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How any real estate pro can become more assertive

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Being assertive is not the same as being bossy and while most people tell women to be more assertive, lack of assertiveness isn’t gender exclusive. Here are a few tips how to make your presence known.



assertive broker meeting negotiation team

Merriam-Webster defines assertive as “disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior.” I believe assertive behavior is the balance between being passive or aggressive.

You aren’t demanding, but you’re not dismissing your needs either.

Women are often told that they need to be more assertive, rather than passive, and men need to be less aggressive. I’m more of the opinion that assertiveness isn’t gender-specific. I believe every person needs some assertiveness training.

While I may not be an expert in assertiveness, as a freelancer, I have learned to be more assertive. Here are a few of my observations:

  • To be assertive, I had to stop feeling as if my work was unimportant. Call it confidence or self-esteem, but it was a definite turning point for me. I stopped using the word, “just.” I didn’t apologize for bothering people. I simply began stating what I needed to get the job done.
  • I defined what assertive meant to me. For me, it was the ability to stand up for my opinions and needs. This didn’t happen overnight, but it took practice. One of the key things I did was to try and be more assertive in other places, like when I volunteered. That gave me the confidence to stand up for myself in my work.
  • I use “I” statements. “I need to take next Monday off.” “I need more information about this project.” “I cannot do that this week.”
  • I’ve found that part of being assertive is taking the other person at their word and not holding a grudge. Don’t read more into their emotions than what is being discussed. Just because my co-worker hated the last idea I had shouldn’t stop me from exploring new ideas with the team.
  • It is very difficult to change old behaviors. I have mentors and coaches that I talk to about my successes and failures. This has helped me figure out what I’d do differently if I had the chance. Trust me, it isn’t easy to be introspective about the time you blew it, but it’s been very beneficial in all the areas of my life.
  • I’ve apologized when it was appropriate, but I don’t beat myself up, either. The other day, I missed one part of an assignment. In the past, I would have not taken any more assignments as punishment. Instead, I apologized that I missed it and fixed the assignment. Then, I took another block of work and moved on. It was freeing.

Being assertive isn’t easy. But it is very rewarding.

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