More often than not when you are being shown around a friend’s fabulous new London pad, they will gleefully tell you that the reason they ‘got lucky’ was that they were ‘in’ with the local estate agent, so were shown the property first and made their offer before the house went on the open market.
Unfortunately for those upping sticks and moving to the country, it doesn’t get any easier. The practice of selling homes ‘off market’ or ‘privately’ – so that they never even reach the estate agents windows – is common place, particularly in the most sought after villages.
Of course, houses in these desirable villages do appear on the open market from time to time, so to the casual eye nothing is amiss, but in reality some villages are almost impenetrable unless you have connections to someone in the know.
House swapping is particularly popular for those wishing to stay in a village where they already have strong ties, be it downsizers swapping larger homes on the outskirts of the village for the cute cottages in the centre or families wanting to upsize, who get wind of elderly neighbours wishing to offload their home of 40 years.
However, the quiet market isn’t always about locals not wanting to move away. Some sellers simply prefer the discretion of selling their homes without alerting the world to their business, whilst others know that they have a house that will ‘sell’ and want to cut out the middle man, instead putting feelers out to potential buyers themselves.
Dinner parties, the gym, school gates, the vets, the postman, cricket clubs and most importantly, the village pub, are often the best way to discover who is considering selling up. Word of mouth can soon result in the seller being approached by friends of friends requesting first dibs on their property when they are ready to move.
Harriet and Rich Adkins, bought their home off market in 2009 in a sort after village near Bath, when they were invited to a dinner party one Saturday night. The hosts knew that they were keen to move to the village so invited fellow guests who wanted to sell privately to bring along photos and floorplans. As a result they were introduced to a lady who was in the process of developing a house in the village that she had acquired through probate. They not only went on to purchase the house, but were able to influence some of the projected designs to suit their own requirements.
Harriet said, “We knew the village was desirable but until that night we had no idea how lucky we were to get access to houses that we’d never had a chance to see if it hadn’t been for a surveyor friend, who lived in the area and knew the propensity for private sales.”
If you’re not fortunate enough to be privy to this kind of information, marketing houses ‘discretely’ is also a practice used by estate agents, particularly those in over the £2million mark. They may, for example, have been instructed by the vendor only to approach the most serious buyers on their books who are proceedable and have their finances in order. These lucky few will get the opportunity to see draft details and even early viewings on the property, leaving other buyers out in the cold. It’s therefore worth positioning yourself to the estate agents as a serious buyer, ensuring they know that you are ‘ready to go’ should a suitable property come up.
Another ‘in’ to the private market is through a property search agent, whose job it is to have their ear to the ground on your behalf and to unearth the properties being marketed discretely or being sold off market. Equally, property search agent’s often get approached by private sellers to see if they have any suitable buyers in order to bypass estate agents fees. Most people don’t realize that buying agents are not exclusively for the ‘super rich’ and a good agent will get you access to houses that are not on the market and should be able to negotiate the cost of their fees off the price of the property.