June 2019

Off-market deals deliver value and speed, data shows

Properties sold off market by Black Brick were sold more quickly, and for nearer the asking price, than those sold on the open market, according to data from our Managed Sales service.

Analysis of the last 18 months of data, from January 2018, shows that the average time it took to find a buyer when a property was sold off market was just 10 weeks, compared with an average of 37 weeks when marketed publicly.

A recent report from homebuying service PropertySolvers found that it takes an average of 16 weeks to sell a home in England and Wales, while Rightmove, the UK’s largest property portal, said that a quarter of its listings in 2018 had been for sale for longer than six months.

In addition, Black Brick achieved on average 96% of the asking price with off-market sales, compared with 92% of the asking price when properties were sold on the open market.

“There is certainly a case to be made for sellers opting to go down a discreet sales route, particularly for special, rare and unique properties,” says Camilla Dell, Managing Partner at Black Brick. “Putting a property onto a web portal is not always the right choice for these types of prime and super-prime properties as finding the right buyer often is due to having the correct contacts and expertise. At Black Brick, we have been very successful at this as we have the right network, contacts and understanding of the market.”

“Online selling can be detrimental in the current climate as the property runs the risk of becoming overexposed and would-be buyers can get the wrong impression if it sits on the market for a long time, believing there could be something wrong with the property,” says Dell. “By keeping a property off-market, it retains its value, exclusivity and desirability. The off-market approach won’t work for every property – but when you have something rare, special and unique, or particularly high value in a prime location, or owned by someone high profile, it can be very effective.”

Off-market sales have come into their own during the current slowdown – which has been much more prolonged than earlier downturns, although it has seen a shallower fall in average prices from peak to trough, according to data from Knight Frank.

While Black Brick’s primary service is to act for retained buyers, it also offers a Managed Sales service to support existing clients, and in certain circumstances new clients.

Dell adds that high net worth buyers are often represented by buying agents who are able to tap into London’s off-market residential property network.

For example, in a recent Black Brick transaction for an unusual warehouse conversion in east London, two offers were received through buying agents, before the property was sold. Once the sale was agreed, contracts were exchanged within one week, with the whole process taking less than a month and the full asking price of £5 million was achieved.

For many buyers, the current market can be very frustrating, with the market characterised by low transaction volumes and little stock. Being able to tap into the off-market world, can unlock supply. Black Brick recently reviewed five prime residential streets in St Johns Wood NW8 and Belgravia SWI where it is currently sourcing properties for clients: of a total 55 properties for sale, almost three-quarters were off market (see table).  

“Many of London’s most prestigious roads have more houses for sale off-market than ever before,” says Dell. “The table demonstrates that many prestigious addresses have more off-market houses which would not otherwise be available to prospective buyers only looking online – further enhancing the benefit of buying agent representation.”

Tory leadership campaign raises prospect of Brexit resolution

Prime Minister Theresa May has bowed to the inevitable, given her failure to win support for her plan to withdraw Britain from the EU, and set a date for her resignation as leader of the Conservative Party. She will step down on June 7th, triggering a leadership contest that party bosses hope will be see a new prime minister installed before the end of July.

In a crowded field – more than a dozen MPs have either declared or are considering bids – former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is favourite, with strong backing from party members, who will get to vote on two candidates put forward by the parliamentary party.

“Theresa May’s resignation does not come as much of a surprise as it has been expected for some time. It will be interesting to see who takes over as prime minister to lead the UK out of the EU,” says Dell.

“Should Boris Johnson be appointed, there is a higher chance of us leaving with a no deal Brexit, although any new leader still faces the same challenges of getting multi-party consensus to vote through a managed exit,” she adds.

Dells says that there is likely to be little immediate change to the outlook for the London property market, given continuing uncertainty. “If anything, a new leader might improve buyer sentiment if they can gather Conservative Party support,” she concludes.

The Americans are coming

President Donald Trump is unlikely to have much time to survey London’s property market during his state visit early this month (although he’s certain to have an opinion on it). However, a growing number of his compatriots are eyeing purchases on this side of the pond.

At Black Brick, we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of US clients purchasing property in Prime Central London: they accounted for nearly one third of our clients in the year to June 2019 – up from zero in the previous 12 months.

“In the last year we have seen a big jump in our US client base,” says Caspar Harvard Walls, Partner at Black Brick. “While most have either been travelling to London extensively for business reasons, or are looking for a second home, the exchange rate has been a significant motivating factor.”

In July 2014, the pound was worth $1.71: in the last two years, it has traded between $1.27 and $1.43. “With London capital values falling 15-20%, US buyers can find themselves paying 40% less for prime property than at the top of the market,” Harvard Walls says. 

Dell adds: “Our US clients are not put off by Brexit or the threat of a Corbyn government; instead, they view the market as a good buying opportunity. Our largest transaction for a US client – over £20 million – was because he had decided to relocate to London and run his technology business from here. After Silicon Valley, London is the next best place for IT entrepreneurs. We have the infrastructure and talent to be able to support companies like this.”

London remains the leading European destination for technology investment, and it has benefited from investments from the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Snapchat.

“Trump may, of course, be another factor,” says Dell. “While our clients don’t tend to share their political views with us, some of our US clients have wanted to diversify outside of the US, as well as have a bolthole in Europe.”

There are signs that overseas buyers may be facing growing competition: estate agency Knight Frank says that the number of offers made in PCL in the first three months of this year was the highest in more than 10 years, and the number of new buyers was the highest figure for the first quarter since 2014. Transaction levels were also up, by 6% between January and April against the same period year.

Black Brick scoops 4th consecutive WealthAdviser award

We are delighted to report that, for the fourth year running, Black Brick has won WealthAdviser’s Best Property Adviser award. The award is based on votes from the publication’s readership – including institutional and high net worth investors and wealth management service providers – with winning firms subject to a final review by WealthAdviser’s senior editorial team.

Acquisition of the month 1: Mount Street, W1 – £6,625,000

Our US client was looking for a two-bed apartment in Mayfair or Knightsbridge, initially to be let but which would be used by his family in future. He was open to either new-build schemes as well as more traditional mansion block properties and had a budget of £7 million. Before appointing Black Brick, our client had had a bad experience trying to acquire a property elsewhere in London and had decided to engage a professional buying agent to assist with his search. 

After we undertook an analysis of the significant number of new developments available, our client decided that he was not prepared to pay the premium for a new-build development, which in Mayfair can be as high as £5,000-£6,000 per sq. foot.

Through our network we were alerted to an off-market two-bed, two-bath apartment on the second floor of a period block on Mount Street, one of Mayfair’s most prestigious addresses, which boasted high ceilings and views over Mount Street and Berkeley Square. We were able to negotiate 4.6% or £325,000 from the asking price. We were first to view, with a prompt offer, meaning the property never came onto the open market.

Finally, our client intends on renting the property out for the first two years of ownership and has engaged our dedicated Property Management service to assist with this. 

Acquisition of the month 2: Queensberry Mews West, SW7, £3,400,000

Our British clients were looking for a London pied-à-terre with outside space, private off-street parking, and which was “future proofed” in terms of accessibility, meaning either a lateral apartment or a low-built house with not many stairs.

We found a stunning three-bed, three-bath, two-story freehold mews house, with both a private garage and terrace, in the heart of South Kensington. With a corner aspect, light floods in from two sides, avoiding a drawback with mews houses, which can tend to be dark.

Our relationship with the selling agent meant we discovered the vendor was about to reduce the asking price from £4 million to £3.75 million, but we were still able to negotiate a further £350,000 reduction from the asking price, equating to well under £1,750/sq. ft. in an area where these size houses have achieved in excess of £2,500/sq.ft. Our clients have also taken advantage of our Vacant Care Service to ensure the house is looked after and in perfect condition every time they return home. 

Our clients had this to say about their experience working with us:

“We appointed Black Brick to search for a property in London and gave them a fairly stringent requirement list. We were delighted with their pleasant and extremely professional approach which ensured we only saw properties that fully met our requirements. They provided return transport and escorted us to all viewings. They made one feel we were their only customers which, considering their workload, was a triumph on their part. Within a month they had found our ideal property and more than saved their fee by negotiating a significant reduction in the asking price. I have no hesitation in recommending them.”

On the market: Cadogan Place, SW1X – £3,950,000

Black Brick is delighted to have been appointed to act for the seller of this three-bed, three-bath period maisonette on one of Knightsbridge’s most prestigious garden squares, close to Sloane Square and the Kings Road. The property is arranged on the raised and lower ground floors, with a courtyard garden and its own front door. In addition, it has a caretaker and offers access to communal gardens.

To download the brochure, please click here.

For further information or to arrange a viewing, please contact Caspar Harvard Walls on chw@black-brick.com or call +44 (0)7827 277 741.


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