Yes, there are dangers to pre-MLS listings. But a large chunk of houses are bought and sold that way anyway. When it comes to consumer internet opportunities, those that give consumers what they want — which in this case, is access to listings the general public can’t find — are generally the ones that win long term.

Here is a strategy that Zillow, Trulia, or Move could take, as the 1st step in shifting the balance of power away from the MLS (this more geared at Trulia and Zillow, given Move/ has less incentive to shift power away from MLS’).

All three portals have millions of consumers who have subscribed to email alerts for specific regions, and price ranges. I think it’s safe to assume those subscribers would be interested in hearing about pre-MLS (aka “pocket”) listings ahead of the general public. So, here is what any of the portals could do to leverage those subscribers in a new way….

Put all existing email subscription results into a Twitter-like stream, inside an app. Auto subscribe everyone in the app, so they download it, sign in with their user account, and instantly get value by being able to consume their existing email alerts via an app. That pool of buyer subscribers then becomes an early audience to test the market with pocket listings. Make it so buyers have to have the app, and be pre-qualified, to receive notifications of pocket listings. Only allow Zillow Premiere or Trulia Pro agents to use it as agents to push properties out, and charge consumers in order to post a “pocket” listing as a FSBO. For agents, maybe there is an option to make a listing only visible to other agents — this could be a way for them to test their pricing. Or let anyone post pre-MLS listings within the agent pool, and only Premiere / Pro agents have access to the consumer base subscribed to alerts.

Everyone trying the pocket listings strategy now, such as @Properties, is doing it between agents. I think a massive home run opportunity, is to build a marketplace for pocket listings with a consumer base rather than just agents. There are lots of details to sort out, of course. The end game, which is buyers checking app X first because of unique inventory — as opposed to any source driven from the MLS, is worth a lot of money to the portals.

Anyone else agree? Or disagree?