Off-market property sales account for one in five in London: Is it for you?
Despite ferocious headwinds, the London property market is fizzing, with estate agents from Wimbledon to Walthamstow seeing homes listed and sold within days. This fierce competition has led to a boom in off-market sales, which hit a new record high this year, according to Hamptons.
In the first quarter of 2022 they shot up 23 per cent year-on-year, accounting for around a tenth of sales across the UK, and as many as a fifth in London.
Properties sold off-market have tended to be high value and located in prime central London, although the rise of ‘American style’ brokerage has seen the trend spread to desirable areas including Battersea and Islington, according to Ashley Wilsdon, head of London buying at Middleton Advisors.
Off market selling has long been a tool used by selling agents to place prime stock with deep-pocketed customers, and provides a chance for sellers to gauge the appetite for a property without setting the clock ticking on an official listing.
“Once a property goes on the market it has a time-stamp that will be scrutinised, potentially compromising the achievable sale price,” says Wilsdon. Going off-market means “if they aren’t offered a price they are happy with, there is no time-pressure to accept.”
For buyers, going off-market can provide a more curated experience than the big online platforms. “A good agent will have learnt the nuances of the buyer – whether they are cash or mortgage, if the have something to sell, how prepared they are for the purchase – so when an appropriate property comes up, they know exactly who to speak to first,” says Mark Wells, founder and CEO at Invisible Homes, a company aiming to open up the off-market space.
Wells says Invisible Homes combines traditional agent know-how with algorithms more associated with Rightmove and Zoopla, allowing buyers to describe their ideal home and be notified when off-market properties come up.
He says the average off-market price has dropped from £1m to £800,000, and that properties on his books have varied from one-bedroom council flats to £20m mansions.
So is going off-market for you? Wells says it is especially useful for “people with interesting, niche properties that might not appeal to everyone, but are hugely desirable to some” as well as those requiring a sale that’s less likely to fall through.
“I purchased my flat off-market back in 2010,” he says. “I paid the asking price because it was perfect for me and I didn’t want to lose out. If I had waited a few weeks and let it be marketed openly, and no other buyers had come forward, I could have negotiated a lower price. Or I could have been in a bidding war and paid more. Who knows? But I’ve never looked back.”