Gareth Davies, Managing Director at Grosvenor
Richard Winter, owner of Richard Winter - Surrey Property Search
According to a piece in last week’s Sunday Times, one in 10 homes are sold in secret. Given the volume of properties sold in the UK on a daily basis, a tenth is a significant proportion. Have we entered a new age of discretion? And if so, why?
“Discreet marketing has always been a skill in our armoury”, says Gareth Davies, Grosvenor Managing Director. “One of the primary reasons for its current boom stems from simple economics and the fundamental nature of supply and demand. At present, demand is incredibly high yet the number of available properties is unusually low. In this kind of market, it’s not uncommon for us to receive 20-plus enquiries for each property within moments of its launch.”
Isn’t generating as much interest in a property and creating a competitive environment the main driver for any estate agent? Surely clients would welcome this approach. Not always, it seems.
“It depends on who you are and what drives you”, continues Gareth. “Many people are thrilled to attract so much interest. For some, this level of interest is overwhelming. Let’s consider the amount of time and effort that goes into selling a property. If you have a family of five with three young children, keeping your home viewing-ready can be hard work. So too can making sure that you’re out of the property during a viewing. Multiply this by 10 times and there’s a significant time commitment involved. Quite often, a seller would rather make a handful of interested parties aware prior to a wider launch in order to keep things simple.”
Gareth argues that discreet marketing is only effective if the estate agent is continually working with buyers to establish their specific needs, the result of which means that they can quickly and efficiently be matched with sellers.
Richard Winter, owner at Richard Winter - Surrey Property Search, has worked across the Surrey property market for over three decades, originally working as a selling agent before moving into the world of buying off-market properties. Working with Surrey estate agents that have been briefed by their clients to keep the sale of their property discreet, he believes that people are increasingly seeing the value attributable to discreet marketing.
“The prospect of having to compete with multiple bids or enter a situation where sealed bids are involved can be really off-putting”, says Richard. “Equally, if you’re a seller that’s going through a difficult period such as a divorce, or you’re selling your property to finance a business and wish to keep your decision confidential, you might not want 15 people turning up for viewings. Up to 80 per cent of what I buy these days is off-market for the simple reason that many people would prefer not to make their intentions public.”
Are Surrey homeowners really prepared to sacrifice the opportunity to gain as much value from their property as possible by not marketing it via the traditional, mainstream channels now synonymous with estate agency? Or are there other factors at play?
“Security is also a big issue”, continues Richard. “Surrey is home to many people who are in the public eye, be they actors, musicians or sportspeople. If you fall within that demographic as a buyer, you’re likely to want to avoid any media speculation that you’re buying a property. And, if you’re a high-profile seller, do you really want sensitive information such as floorplans and multiple images of your property publicly available on the internet?”
Richard is also quick to point out that it’s not only wealthy and high-profile people who use his services. Elderly people who have lived in a property for 60 years and who find the prospect of multiple viewings overwhelming would sooner forego letting the market dictate the property’s value – and potentially selling for a higher price – in order to remove the hassle factor.
So, what lies ahead for off-market property marketing? Is secret selling here to stay?
“As long as properties are in short supply and demand remains high, I think the market is likely to grow”, concludes Gareth. “Only last week, merely days after taking possession of our client’s keys, we were offered the full asking price of £1.1m in a central Cobham location property that was managed off-market. And let’s not forget that any properties that fail to attract interest off-market also have another opportunity on the wider market. Discreet marketing offers sellers the benefit of having two bites at the cherry – however, in the current climate, sellers rarely need more than one.”