Buyers in all segments of the market will often ask their agents if they know about a property that is "off market". They want to know about homes coming on the market soon or that are available but not on the MLS. The reason they want to know that is it sometimes gives the buyer an advantage because fewer people know about the property thus reducing competition and the price. However, there are varying degrees of "off market". First, let's look at the term itself.
The term "off market" has many other names including off MLS, pocket listing, private listing, exclusive listing, and others. They all mean the same thing, the property isn't on the MLS and there is little if any advertising. There are degrees of off market and I've got my own terms for what they mean.
Deep Off Market - This is a listing that has a written or unwritten listing agreement with an agent but that agent does absolutely no active promotion. There are no print ads, nothing on the internet, no signs, no flyers, no mailings, nothing. The agent with this listing will only talk about it with agents who are specifically looking for a similar property. Then the listing agent will talk about it in more detail. Off market listings like these are rare and almost impossible to sell.
Off Market - The normal off market listing has a standard listing agreement and the agent is able to have it on their website (perhaps with the street number omitted), have a virtual tour, brochure, send marketing to other agents, maybe hold an open house for agents/brokers, and sometimes a print ad in a prestigious magazine. It isn't on the MLS, it's always "by appointment only", and to learn about it you'll have to be within the sphere of the agent listing it. To find out about these homes requires an agent who is well connected with other local agents and who knows who to ask for certain kinds of property.
Soft Off Market - This is a property is marketed in every channel but the MLS. It has a virtual tour, gets a broker tour, might be held open, is regularly marketed to other agents, and even gets an ad or two. It is still "by appointment only" but it's much easier to find for buyers. When you're looking in an area, you'll often find these listings on sites without the address (to protect the seller's privacy). The advantage for the seller using this approach is they'll get fewer "tire kickers" and narrow down to interested buyers and agents.
Depending on the need for privacy, one of these may be a good way to list your home. An effective agent can conduct a strong marketing campaign to local and regional agents to get buyers into an off market home. If you're considering selling and you feel your home would best be sold off market, give me a call.