Cristal's Blog

Are “Pocket Listings” Effective When Selling Homes in Montecito?

May 29, 2019

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House keys in the jeans pocket to illustrate pocket listings

So-called “pocket listings” have been a longtime staple among New York City and other high-end real estate market sellers looking to quietly sell a high-priced luxury residential property. Today, this kind of listing, also known as a “private” or “whisper” listing, can be found all over the United States, including right here in Montecito. While off-market deals have always existed, especially in the uppermost echelon of the real estate market, the industry has seen a recent uptick in this private sales technique. But is this the best way to sell your Montecito home?

The Tempting Aura of Mystique

It’s true, whisper or pocket listings come with an aura of mystique. These exclusive off-market listings are not visible, however, to the high number of people who see comparable Montecito listings marketed the conventional way. That means they can take longer to sell. Still, many sellers opt for this sales method, and I’ve personally seen this work beautifully for super luxury properties that are truly unique. Home buyers like pocket listings. They make buyers feel like they are part of an exclusive club.

Pocket listings will not be found on or on real estate sites such as Zillow, and Trulia or on the multiple listing service database. While the MLS may look like one massive national database, it's actually a suite of approximately 700 regional databases. Each regional MLS has its own listings, and agents pay dues to access and post homes for sale on each one. 

When a seller chooses to use a pocket listing, home buyers won't find that listing anywhere online (except, perhaps, in a special section of their agent’s website), or see a "For Sale" sign in the front yard, either. Instead, the real estate agent keeps that info secret; sharing the details with only a smattering of trusted agents who represents the right clientele for the listing, as well as with a select group of prospective buyers.

Conventional listings

The vast majority of homeowners are best served by an MLS-listed property. That’s why most agents recommend sellers list the conventional way, thereby reaching the largest number of potential buyers as possible through aggressive advertising and marketing. Fewer people knowing a home is for sale most likely means a longer wait time for escrow to begin. That means sellers who opt for this method must remain patient -- even in this seller’s market we are still experiencing.

In general, the real estate industry doesn’t look so favorably on whisper listings, because the best way to get the highest and best price for your Montecito estate is to reach the widest amount of people possible. The right agent should be able to help you make a decision. If you’re not in a hurry to move, then you might want to consider this option. Ultimately, there’s nothing like going the traditional route, however, when selling your property, especially if you want things to move quickly, and if you don’t have a truly unique home. 

Whisper or Pocket Listings

Pocket listings constitute only a slim percentage of total listings. By most estimates, under 10% of the national total. For some people, this strategy is perfect.

If privacy is of utmost importance and you are selling a unique luxury property, then a whisper listing might be your best bet. They really are designed for high-profile homeowners who want to remain out of the spotlight and keep their sale under the radar. Still, MLS listings today have the ability to cover for these concerns. A homeowner can list their property with an agent on the MLS but restrict the listing information so as to totally preserve their privacy. Plus, a homeowner can always limit showings to an amount that makes them feel comfortable. 

Many celebrities and CEOs use this method. For some sellers, it’s a cultural norm to keep real estate transactions private. Others are interested in creating a sense of mystery. Some don't want to list their homes at all but would consider selling if they could fetch a certain price. If you need time to embrace the idea of selling your home, this could be an ideal way to sell.

Read: Celebrity Homes: Santa Barbara Sanctuaries of the Famous

Whatever your reason for keeping your home sale under the radar, pocket listings are most effective when the home is unique. This could mean there is a well-known architect or designer behind it, or it’s a rarity because of its size, location, or amenities. In the case of a home that is exceptional, and ultra-luxury, experienced agents will have specific buyers in mind, thereby eliminating the need for public listings.

The Right Agent

That’s why working with the right agent is essential. An agent like me has experience selling a pocket listing. Not only should your agent be experienced in high-end sales, but she or he must also have relationships with the kind of buyers who may be interested in your Montecito estate. So, you need to work with an agent who has built a reputation as someone who represents high-end exclusive listings. I even have a Private Listings section on my comprehensive website. (On my site menu, go to “Cristal’s Listings,” then click “Private.”)

Read: What You Really Need to Know to Find A Real Estate Agent

I’ve been a top real estate agent in Montecito for years now, receiving accolades and honors that I am very proud of. If you’re considering selling in the area, I can tell you whether a pocket listing is the best approach. I’ve built my reputation by being honest with my sellers -- and my buyers, too.

Considering a pocket listing for your Montecito or Santa Barbara home? Let’s discuss your options. Call me at 805.886.9378 or email me at I’ll help you weigh the pros and cons of a private vs. public listing before we get started. Then I’ll sell your home for the best possible price, with the least amount of stress for you and your family. Let me put my knowledge and contacts to work for you.


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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch