Off market: mum’s the word when it comes to marketing

Graham Norwood explains what selling off market is and what the advantages and disadvantages are

Off market: in parts of central London it’s the new buzzword for sellers. But what does it mean and what are its advantages – and disadvantages?

Selling off market means an estate agent uses ‘below the radar’ marketing strategies. Instead of advertising a home on Rightmove and Zoopla, with online and printed brochures to distribute to prospective purchasers, a more selective – almost ‘secret’ – strategy is adopted, comprising three main elements.

Firstly an estate agent lists only bare-bone details on a website, with no photographs or details to reveal exact location or ownership. Something like “Kensington, W8, £6,750,000, four bedrooms, 3,300sq ft, a typical Victorian house requiring no work” is a typical description – the minimum to entice potential interest.

Secondly, the agent then personally contacts their own list of potential buyers. These are individuals who have registered with the agent and specified a property type, size, location and budget that roughly coincides with the home that has come on sale ‘off market’.
Thirdly the estate agent will contact buying agencies. These are professionals instructed by clients to find an ideal home and negotiate a price on behalf of those clients.

If someone bites in response to any of these approaches, they view the property in person and decide whether to buy: there will still be no advertising, no photographs, no brochures.

So is this a better strategy than traditional, high-profile marketing?

The answer is: it depends.

For example, if you are considering selling your home in winter, it may be best to try an off-market approach: if you cannot find a buyer, you can then market the property the more usual higher-profile way when the traditional sales market begins in early spring.
Similarly, if your sale is discretionary – in other words, you will only go through with it if your home attracts the full asking price you want – an off-market strategy tests the water.

There is one further reason: a few sellers think the apparent exclusivity of having a ‘secret’ sale might justify asking a significantly higher price than comparable homes. In reality, this rarely succeeds in a market which is as price-sensitive as London’s in 2017.

Even so, if you do try to sell this way you are in good company and the omens are good.

The Buying Solution, the buying agency arm of Knight Frank, says that in some years over 30 percent of its property purchases for high-value clients are conducted off market – and for homes above, say, £5,000,000 that proportion increases considerably.

As ever, it’s key to ask a range of agents how they operate off-market sales and choose the one that suits your thinking. Good luck – but remember, mum’s the word…

“Selling off market means an estate agent uses ‘below the radar’ marketing strategies”