So what is an “exclusive listing”?

Exclusive concept with hand pressing a button

As I’ve been talking to more and more people who are considering a sale in the coming months, one topic keeps getting brought up by the more eagle-eyed among them: just what exactly is an “exclusive” listing? You’ve probably seen the signs with this rider on them and wondered yourself.

An exclusive listing means that the home is listed exclusively by that agent, without going on the MLS (multiple listing service; aka As such, there are a few different rules in play; because the listing is signed with that agent’s brokerage, they will promote the listing within their office, but the list price doesn’t have to be disclosed to any agents outside their office, nor does commission have to be paid to any buyer’s agent outside that office (unless otherwise agreed to by the seller in writing). There also may or may not be a sign posted in front of the house, often depending on whether or not commission is being offered to a buyer’s agent.

So this begs the question, why would anyone sell their house this way? Wouldn’t it make more sense to post it online to attract the largest buyer pool possible? Well, yes, often that’s the case, but there are instances when a seller may want to keep their sale under the radar. Say you’re the CEO of a company and you’re looking to quietly step down and move out of the area. Word could get around your workplace pretty quickly if your home is posted for sale. Same goes for cases of divorce, financial struggles, or illness where the seller may not want the public to know their situation.

Most often, though, the exclusive listing is used for a far more mundane reason: as a low-key launching pad while the home is still being prepared for the market. Anyone who’s ever sold a house knows that the painting, decluttering, small repairs, etc. can often take a few weeks, so if there’s an interested party who’s willing to offer the right price and may alleviate some of those headaches for the sellers, why not take it?

In general, though, if you don’t aren’t in a situation that requires discretion, and don’t mind having to live in what is essentially a model home for the time period that you’re on the market, it often pays to expose your property to as many potential buyers as possible on the MLS system.