ith stock in historically short supply, many buyers are finding the only way to secure a property is to find one that hasn’t yet been listed publicly for sale.
According to data from Hamptons, 20 per cent of London sales in 2021 were sold off-market, a figure that increased to 25 per cent for homes priced £1 million or more. Previously, this hush-hush method of property purchasing was only used by the very wealthy, but now buyers looking in the sub-£1 million bracket are finding ways of bagging their dream home before it hits the open market.
Using a buying agent has traditionally been the easiest way of getting access to off-market homes. Unlike traditional estate agents, who act for the vendor, a buying agent represents the buyer, who pays them an initial registration fee and then a percentage of the asking price on exchange.
Buying agent Dan Edington said: “There has been an increase in the below-£1 million bracket; 30 per cent of our clients are spending under this now.”
Louise Matthias used Edington to help her buy a one-bedroom flat in Belsize Park for £525,000 after finding the market too competitive.
“This property came on Rightmove and Dan spoke to the owner of the estate agents to arrange a viewing before the open day. He negotiated an offer, which was accepted, and the property was taken off the market that day,” she said.
With one in five London properties being sold outside of the traditional channels, former buying agent Mark Wells spotted a gap in the market. He created Invisible Homes, an online portal that gives buyers access to off-market homes, and estate agents a pool of potential, motivated buyers. He said: “I wanted to democratise the off-market housing market.”
Invisible Homes is free for buyers to subscribe to, and estate agents pay a monthly subscription of £375 (after a three-month free trial). While it attracts buyers, it’s still the agents who do the viewings. “Our current focus is a relatively small area in south-west London. However, the ongoing plan is to expand throughout London later this year and into 2023 and to cover the rest of the UK in 2024.”
Michael Foley bought a £720,000 two-bedroom property in Fulham through the site. “I tried all the major agencies, but I felt they tried to sell me the properties which they had and didn’t try to help me find a property that met my requirements,” he said.
“Invisible Homes took my specific requirements and immediately matched me to a single property that was perfect. I subsequently put in a purchase offer within 72 hours.”
Other ways to buy off-market
If you can’t afford to instruct a buying agent and don’t live in the area covered by Invisible Homes, there are other ways to buy outside of the traditional property portals.
1. If you have a particular street in mind, drop leaflets through letterboxes asking if anyone would be interested in selling.
2. Build up a good rapport with estate agents and ring them regularly to find out what properties they have coming up.
3. Ask friends, family and neighbours to keep an ear out.
4. If you are renting and want to purchase your home, consider approaching your landlord.