Why are off-market listings seeing a ‘huge take-up’?

When vendors think about advertising their property for sale, their first thought is usually to turn to the major web portals. But ‘off-market’ listing platforms are becoming an increasingly popular – and innovative – alternative for several reasons, as hockingstuart’s Stephanie Holmes and BresicWhitney’s William Phillips explain.

To accommodate a rise in celebrity listings

While off-market listings were once thought to be for vendors looking to scrimp on advertising, Victoria’s hockingstuart says it is seeing increasing demand from a new type of seller.

“We have really seen an uptick in off-market listings,” says Stephanie Holmes, hockingstuart’s head of marketing and IT.

“It has really kicked in over the last year and a half. It does vary by location, but it seems that on average between 5 and 10 per cent of listings are off-market,” Ms Holmes tells REB.

“In Doncaster, it’s up to about 20 per cent. It is no longer the vendor who wants to scrimp on advertising, it is now the vendor who doesn’t want it obvious that their property is for sale.”

The influx of VIP listings has led hockingstuart to launch an ‘off-market’ part of its website – essentially a section for those properties that are not to be advertised publicly.

“This concept came from our Balwyn office where they wanted some way to show their out-of-area buyers these properties,” Ms Holmes says.

The new off-market section of the hockingstuart website is password-protected, which has the added benefit of allowing the real estate group to strengthen its database.

“If a buyer or potential vendor wants to visit that section they need to fill out a form, so we capture their details. The office will get in contact with them to understand what they’re looking for and get them into the CRM system as well,” Ms Holmes says.

“So they become part of our database before they are given a password to view all the off-market listings,” she says.

“They are high-value, luxury properties. Sometimes the vendor is a celebrity or a very private, high-net-worth individual,” she says, adding that the group has seen a surge in wealthy Asian vendors looking to sell their homes discreetly over the past 12 months.

For agents, the success of the sales process rests almost exclusively on the strength of their contacts.

“There are no open for inspections, there are only private views,” Ms Holmes says. “There are no boards or brochures. It is more about having a network of buyers.”

The agency has been actively encouraging all of its sales agents to use their database and build their networks, which Ms Holmes says has so far been successful.

“We have a fantastic agent in Balwyn, Helen Yan, who would have a higher number of off-market sales than normal sales,” Ms Holmes says.

“She has these connections where someone will be looking for a particular type of house and she will find them that house, whether it’s on the market or not.”

Addressing a customer need

Not all vendors want to go through the usual means of listing their property on major web portals. As William Phillips of BresicWhitney points out, depending on their circumstances, it might not be appropriate for vendors to do so.

“The timing might not be perfect for a full marketing campaign,” Mr Phillips says.

“[The vendors] may not be able to afford to run a full marketing campaign, they may be looking to buy and will sell now at the right price but they don’t want to do a marketing campaign in case that doesn’t happen.

“It may be tenanted and they don’t want to disturb the tenants for a four or five-week process,” he adds.

Mr Phillips explains that in the past, buyers would need to wait on a phone call from agents to find out about these off-market properties.

Once this recurring issue was identified, he tells REB, it was a matter of determining the best way to alert buyers about these off-market properties without needing to rely on agents.

“We considered a platform or a new marketplace where we could showcase these properties in an easy, efficient way for buyers to access,” Mr Phillips says.

According to Mr Phillips, there has since been “a huge take-up” of this off-market listing platform.

“We sell between 80 and 100 properties a month and we are selling roughly 20 per cent of our properties off-market,” he says.

Mr Phillips points out that before this platform was introduced, there would be properties on offer that qualified buyers would not know about.

“[The platform] gives us scale and lets the buyer decide when they search rather than waiting for agents to call them,” he says.

In introducing innovative ideas like this one, Mr Phillips emphasises that they are driven by a consideration of how to improve the customer experience and “do things better than they have been in the past”.

“A lot of businesses will look to innovate just to do something for the sake of it, but we are very customer-centric, and we have to innovate and think of ways to add value to a customer,” he says.

[Related: JOSH PHEGAN: Keep it simple]

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