What Does it Mean if a House Is Marked as ‘Withdrawn’ on an MLS Listing? Am I Too Late?

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After months of searching, you finally found your dream house! However, after contacting your real estate agent to ask about making an offer, you find out that the house has been withdrawn from the MLS.

But what does “withdrawn” mean on an MLS listing? Is it no longer for sale? Is there something wrong? Was it on the market too long? Whatever the case, you might be feeling confused and a little anxious that the house is gone.

Don’t give up hope just yet! Although the house is no longer listed on the MLS, you might not be entirely out of luck.

Maria J DePasquale, a top real estate agent in New Jersey who works with over 66% more single-family homes than the average Princeton agent, says that prospective buyers don’t have too much to worry about when it comes to withdrawn listings in the current market (spring 2021).

“We’re not really seeing it right now because listings are selling so quickly. Even the hard-to-sell properties are selling currently because we’re experiencing such high demand,” she says. “The markets are out of balance. There are more buyers than sellers.”

Hot market or not, what’s the deal with withdrawn listings? We’re here to break down the facts after receiving some expert insights on how the MLS works and what a withdrawn listing might mean for you as an interested buyer.

An image of a person searching online for what does withdrawn mean on an MLS listing.
Source: (Felix Braas / Unsplash)

How exactly does the MLS work?

Multiple listing services, or MLSs, are private databases created and maintained by real estate professionals to help clients buy and sell property. Millions of dollars have been poured into the development of the MLS and other technologies to improve the efficiency of the residential real estate transaction.

According to the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO), there are about 580 geographically divided MLSs where brokers share information about listed properties and cooperate with other brokers to close a sale. Sellers benefit from increased exposure to their property, while buyers can acquire information about all MLS-listed properties while working with a broker.

To list a home on the MLS, the seller must sign a listing contract with a listing agent. Once signed, the agent prepares the listing to post on the MLS. This listing includes pictures of the property and other details, such as square footage, lot size, bed and bath count, location, upgrades, building materials, and so on.

These listings are then fed into online portals, where consumers like you can find homes for sale on websites that are not the MLS — but keep in mind that the MLS is the original data source and has the most current information.

Can you get access to that MLS data directly? Working with a professional real estate agent is the best way to gain access to the most up-to-date listings on the MLS.

What does withdrawn mean on an MLS listing?

Sam DeBord, CEO of RESO, explains: “Withdrawn means the property listing has been removed from the available listings for agents and consumers to show/buy via the MLS.” It’s not listed for sale on the MLS anymore, and although it’s possible that the seller is regrouping for a little bit to assess strategy, the more likely scenario is that the seller has decided not to sell right now.

“While a listing contract with the seller still exists, the seller doesn’t want the listing offered for sale right now and will probably cancel the listing.”

There are also two statuses for withdrawn listings on the MLS: unconditionally withdrawn and conditionally withdrawn.

“Unconditionally withdrawn means that the listing is released from the brokerage, and the owner is not tied to that listing agreement any longer, and they can do what they see fit,” says DePasquale. That might include listing with another agent, or deciding they don’t want to sell right now after all.

“And a property that is conditionally withdrawn is withdrawn for a set period of time until the owner knows what they’d like to do next.”

If a property is marked as conditionally withdrawn on an MLS listing, it’s not available for showing, but you can still contact the listing agent because the seller still has a contract. The house might get relisted on the MLS — but it might not. When it’s marked as unconditionally withdrawn and released, the listing is no longer being marketed by the listing broker.

DePasquale also mentioned that if a listing is withdrawn, the seller could:

  1. Do nothing and sit with the listing and then decide to sell in a couple of years
  2. List with another agency
  3. Decide to sell on their own as an FSBO (for sale by owner)
An image of a house with trees to demonstrate what withdrawn means on an MLS listing.
Source: (Devon MacKay / Unsplash)

Why would a seller withdraw a listing?

Selling a house seems like a thing that you don’t change your mind about in the middle of the process. But there are a few good reasons why a seller might withdraw a listing.

The seller changed their mind about selling

A seller may decide to withdraw their home on an MLS listing due to financial or personal reasons. Something could have come up, and now is suddenly not the best time to sell their home.

Whatever the reason may be, the seller doesn’t want to go through with the sale (at the present time).

The seller wants a break from the listing process

The house-showing process can be taxing. Keeping your house clean and in good shape and then dealing with constant walkthroughs isn’t easy! Especially if you have kids and pets running around.

If it’s close to the holidays or if there’s a family event, the seller might decide to pause and withdraw the listing.

The seller wants a fresh start

Let’s say the house hasn’t sold, and it’s been on the market for several months with no bites — maybe because it was priced too high or the market isn’t what the seller expected.

The seller could decide to withdraw and try again later with a fresh listing.

A problem was found with the house

There may have been a problem with the property that initially went unnoticed or was larger than expected.

Maybe a storm passed by and damaged the roof or the home’s electrical system needs a serious upgrade. The seller might want to tackle the problem before relisting on the MLS.

The seller wants to make upgrades

Homes that are updated and freshly remodeled sell much more quickly than homes that are in dire need of repairs or updating. Instead of selling as-is, the seller may have realized that they could make more money on the sale of their home by doing a kitchen or bathroom remodel.

There’s a personal upheaval the seller needs to tackle

A death, divorce, job change, or any other number of possible personal emergencies may have forced the seller to shift their focus and withdraw their home listing on the MLS. The seller could plan to put it back on the market at a later date.

An image of a neighborhood with a sunrise to demonstrate what withdrawn means on an MLS listing.
Source: (Nikola Knezevic / Unsplash)

What else might happen to a listing besides selling?

Besides being listed as active, sold, or withdrawn, an MLS listing can also be labeled as expired or canceled.

“A canceled listing is when the seller and the agent agree to terminate their listing agreement and then there’s expired where it’s an expired listing and there are no more ties between the agency and the seller,” says DePasquale.

The duration of a listing contract can range from 30 days to a year. When the home doesn’t sell or isn’t under contract by the written expiration date, the seller can still decide to relist the house with the same or a different agent or keep it off the market. If the seller decides to relist, it will be an entirely new listing under a new contract.

To cancel a listing, the terms of cancellation are typically laid out in the contract. First, the grounds for cancellation must be established. This could be anything from poor communication to unethical behavior. If there is a mutual agreement, the contract is terminated and the seller is free to go with a different agent or keep their house off the market.

What should you do if your dream house was withdrawn?

Withdrawn doesn’t mean all bets are off. If you notice your dream house has been withdrawn from the MLS, DePasquale recommends contacting your agent and asking them to contact the last listing agent to get a sense for what’s going on.

“That’s the polite way to start first without stepping on anyone’s toes before trying to reach out to the owner,” she says.

Reaching out to the homeowner can be risky. “It’s a little bit of a delicate dance for a prospective buyer to be so bold as to reach out to the owner of a property,” says DePasquale.

However, it’s not uncommon for buyers to send letters out to desirable neighborhoods to try to find a house for sale. A prospective buyer could send a letter to the seller of a withdrawn listing to introduce themselves and start a dialogue with the homeowner.

You could also see if there’s anything that you can offer (in terms of both home price, contingencies, or both) that might convince the seller to take your offer instead of relisting the house later. The right deal might just be enough for the seller to accept.

Don’t give up looking! Even if the seller of a withdrawn MLS listing doesn’t relist or doesn’t accept your offer, it doesn’t mean you won’t find your dream home.

Header Image Source: (Naomi August / Unsplash)