Quarter of £1m-plus homes being sold in secret

Quarter of £1m-plus homes being sold in secret

Date: 30.06.2017

One in four wealthy homeowners in London is selling their property away from the public glare, as they fret over the uncertainty of a contracting market.

A sharp rise in the proportion of so-called “off-market” sales has been registered by estate agents, which found they accounted for 25 per cent of £1m-plus sales in London so far this year, up from 14 per cent in 2014.

Instead of being advertised in estate agents’ windows or via online property portals, luxury properties — and their price tags — are being revealed discreetly behind closed doors.

By going off-market you’re only really making it accessible to those who can afford it and are serious

As transaction levels and house prices in expensive parts of the capital have dropped, sellers have lost their bearings on pricing and demand. Instead of risking a public launch that attracts no offers and forces them to drop the price, they are asking agents to approach potential buyers privately.

“If you make your home available to buy quietly you can see if you can achieve the price you’d like without having a public record of it on the portals. Part of this is about sellers wanting to keep their options open.”

The off-market share in £1m-plus sales across the UK also rose, from 14 per cent in 2014 to 20 per cent this year.

But the figures also show private sales are overwhelmingly focused on the top end of the market: only 0.9 per cent of London sales under £500,000 were conducted off-market in the past 12 months, compared with 27 per cent of those worth £2m or more.

The factors that drive wealthy owners to transact “under the radar” include the opportunity to test the predicted value of their property and traditional concerns among the super-rich about security and privacy. If a home has failed to sell publicly, owners may take it off the market for a period before trying again with selected buyers at a lower price, without an online record of the previous price.

For homes above £10m, there are also instances where the only people likely to buy are already known to estate agents, making a public promotion less worthwhile. Agents will typically have a list of those who have either a general interest in what is on sale in an area or a specific longstanding requirement for a particular type of home.

“By going off-market you’re only really making it accessible to those who can afford it and are serious”