For buyers they provide an opportunity to get ‘first dibs’ on a property, for vendors they’re a means of testing the waters. Welcome to the world of off-market home sales.

If you are one of many buyers wondering where all the good properties have gone, the answer may be they are being listed and sold away from the spotlight, without you ever knowing.

National Property Buyers (Adelaide) Director Katherine Skinner says COVID-19 has exacerbated an Adelaide-wide trend towards off-market sales, as nervous vendors test the waters before opting for full-blown advertising campaigns.

Instead of listing properties for all to see on the internet and in other media, selling agents are instead offering chosen properties exclusively to their own private databases of buyers and buyers’ agents, looking for feedback and early offers.

“Off-market selling was already a growing trend in Adelaide and now, especially, vendors are hesitant to place their property on the market because they’re unsure of what the result will be,” Mrs Skinner says.’

“COVID-19 has created quite a bit of uncertainty in the market and it’s given this method of selling an extra push.

“I’m personally seeing it happen in Adelaide but my colleagues in Sydney and Melbourne are also talking of a real shift towards off-market or pre-listing sales during these times.

“Basically, it means that there are a lot of properties that are essentially for sale that you’re not going to see online.

“The interesting thing is that, despite lots of sellers feeling nervous right now, quality properties are actually achieving great results because there’s a general lack of stock about, so not much competition. It’s definitely a sellers’ market.”

As a buyer’s agent who finds properties and negotiates deals to suit individual buyers, Mrs Skinner says developing professional relationships with agents and securing access to off-market properties is essential to her role.

“In the last month I had about 50 off-market offerings come through,” she says. “They’re from all over Adelaide but most of them come from higher price brackets- over $600,000.”

What do the Real Estate Agents say?

Ouwens Casserly Sales Consultant Michael Stentiford who sells in some of Adelaide’s most prestigious inner suburbs, agrees off-market sales are especially popular at the top end of the market.

He estimates about 20 per cent of Ouwens Casserly listings get sold this way, to buyers and contacts registered within an exclusive company database.

Mr Stentiford says there are many reasons people choose to sell without a wider-reaching advertising campaign and the decision is generally lifestyle rather than economically driven.

While he stresses “you can’t sell a secret”, Mr Stentiford says off-market sales are generally more discreet than those with full advertising campaigns.

“There could be a situation where the sale is health-related or due to financial distress or divorce, or it could be an elderly vendor who finds the prospect of opening their home up terrifying. Some of them like to know exactly who is coming through and when they will come through.”

He stresses that off-market listings are generally only recommended as part of a wider marketing strategy- so the vendor starts off with a soft off-market offering before moving to a more traditional campaign down the track if needed.

“Just about every marketing campaign we do will have an off-market component,” he says.

“Especially when you’re selling unique properties, that off-market aspect gives you a great deal of market feedback.

“For properties that are highly in demand, it gives you a group of targeted buyers you know are willing to pay a premium.

“There are benefits to the buyer and the seller.”

So how can buyers access off-market listings?

Mrs Skinner says the trick is to develop professional relationships with people in the know.

“If you have suburbs that you are particularly interested in, you need to be reaching out to local selling agents and letting them know. This can feel counter-intuitive to buyers as they often feel the need to keep their cards close to their chest.”

For those who are short of time, reputable buyer’s agents can do the work for you.

“I am obviously biased, but engaging a buyer’s agent is one way to cast that net as wide as possible due to the numerous relationships we have with real estate agents,” she says.

by Eleanor Miller

Real Estate Journalist

Eleanor is an Adelaide-based journalist with particular experience in property writing. 

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