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Back door bargaining: a rising number of high-end homes are being sold off market in north London

PUBLISHED: 09:00 21 June 2017

Selling off market allows savvy vendors to avoid the pitfalls of online marketing, and might help them make good on their asking prices

Selling off market allows savvy vendors to avoid the pitfalls of online marketing, and might help them make good on their asking prices

roland nagy

One in four homes with a £1 million plus price tag are being sold under the radar in London as sellers try to avoid looking desperate on the internet

Estate agents often keep properties on their books that they won't display in the window, reserved for exclusive buyers they know will be interestedEstate agents often keep properties on their books that they won't display in the window, reserved for exclusive buyers they know will be interested

A quarter of homes worth £1 million or more have been sold off market this year according to new figures from Hamptons International.

This figure is markedly up from the 14 per cent registered in 2014. Across the UK, one in five properties over £1 million are now sold off market.

27 per cent of sales worth over £2 million were made off market in London in the last year, compared with less than one per cent of those under £500,000.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show sluggish sales in Camden, with transactions in February down to 117, 49 fewer than in 2016.

Going off market allow sellers with high expectations to avoid the laborious and often detrimental process of listing their property in an estate agent’s window or online to go straight through in-the-know agents to targeted buyers who are looking for something specific, and usually with a high price tag.

Savvy sellers hope that by avoiding the open market, they are more likely to achieve their asking price since buyers won’t know how long the property has been on the market, and as such how desperate the seller is to accept a lower offer.

Buying agent Henry Pryor buys around 40 per cent of his properties off market, and knows the pitfalls of selling your home in an internet age.

“These days anything that is listed on the internet is instantly indexed for eternity so that your friends, your kids and potential buyers can see your property, your marketing mistakes and can judge accordingly,” he says.

“If, as happens to at least 30 per cent of homes that are formally marketed, you have to adjust your asking price then the internet knows,” he warns.

“If you change selling agent, if you have photographs taken at an identifiable time of year then all this is out there for all to see. As a buying agent I look at a property’s history because it may give me clues as to the motivation or indeed desperation that the seller is feeling.”

A number of properties on the open market have sliced thousands off their asking prices in a bid to attract viewings as limp sales figures plagued the market in the first quarter of this year.
With a
glut of £5 to £10 million homes on the market, it’s no wonder that sellers are uneasy about going up against the mass of competition, and as a result choose to veil their efforts.

“Off-market allows the seller to give the impression that they are relaxed, that they need to be coerced to sell,” says Mr Pryor. This works both ways, with buyers keen to pay premiums to force out competition that might drive the price higher.

Pryor is confident that the trend will continue as sellers reject the digitalisation of selling. It’s high street agents, he argues, that have the upper hand in the off market field.

“Online estate agents don’t have the same client base to provide off-market properties but traditional high street agents are well worth registering with as they have the knowledge and the ability to put deals together,” says Pryor.

Pryor is also convinced that his position as a buying agent gives him the edge when it comes to building sturdy relationships with agents.

“Agents will make calls for me because they are confident that my clients will have been prepared, will be credible and that they are more likely to follow through if terms could be agreed,” he says.

“I’ve spent 28 years establishing relationships and the trust of the agents who between them run the market in Highgate and Hampstead.”

With average house prices in Camden well above the national average at £814,188, it’s safe to assume that there are plenty of homes selling off market in the borough.

“In the past year I have bought as many properties off-market in north London as I have homes that were advertised in estate agent’s windows,” says Mr Pryor.

For those looking to buy and sell at the top end of the market, going incognito seems to be the latest way to assure a fulfilled asking price.

“Confidentiality, especially at the top end of the market, has a value and it’s something that many are prepared to pay for.”

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