Whisper listing: An off-market real-estate deal marketed through word of mouth alone.
Whisper listings are becoming more common in New York, according to a September 22, 2013, article in the New York Times (“For Your Ears Only”):
Off-market deals, known as whisper listings, have long been the purview of the ultra-high-end market. Certain properties, often with price tags of $20 million or more, are shopped with a shroud of mystery among a small circle of well-connected agents instead of being put on the market for the world to see.
Now this hush-hush approach has spread to many price points, including apartments below $1 million, as sellers realize the advantage they have, thanks to the lack of apartments available for sale in Manhattan.
“Sellers feel cocky. Sellers feel like they have the ball,” said Brian K. Lewis, an associate broker at Halstead Property who in the last six months has taken on seven whisper listings from clients who do not want to list their apartments, but are willing to entertain offers. These range from a two-bedroom for $1.295 million on the Upper West Side to a downtown loft for $12 million. “In an improving economy with no inventory, they have the asset people want.”
In some cases it’s hard to tell a whisper listing from a conventional one. Here’s a blog post from a real estate broker in Tucson:
Brand new whisper listing: Across from the U of A stadium, this 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath condo is ideally situated ( Sam Hughes) for easy access to the U of A. With a roomy and coveted 2 car garage, this property will list for $475,000. Call for additional information, tenant occupied until 12/31/2013. This property will list for $475,000. Easily shown by appointment [phone number]
The earliest mention I found of “whisper listing” is in a November 2009 post on The Real Deal, a New York real estate site:
“Whisper listings” — properties that are for sale, but not officially on the market — are becoming more common, as sellers seek to avoid the perception that they are unloading properties because of financial distress. Also known as “quiet listings,” they are often among the most expensive properties in the city.
“Whisper” comes from an Old English word, hwisprian, that was probably onomatopoetic. “Whisper” shows up in a few other compound nouns, if Urban Dictionary is to be credited: “whisper yell” (to argue without raising one’s voice), “whisper alley” (a street populated by promiscuous women), “whispersation” (a conversation conducted in low tones).
See also my post on Whisper.sh, a social-media app that encourages users to share secrets anonymously.