4th October 2022

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Buying Off Market

A serious housing shortage has been one of the hallmarks of London’s property market since the start of the pandemic. As buyers rushed to pick up family homes with gardens they found, to their horror and frustration, that their choices were surprisingly limited. And as buyers return to the city centre after the worst ravages of Covid-19 subsided, they are finding that smart flats in good locations are as rare as hen’s teeth.

Part of the reason for the tremendous disparity between housing supply and demand is that many homes never make their way onto the property portals or estate agents’ websites. They are sold ‘off market’ to buyers in the know. According to research by estate agent Hamptons International, a record 23 per cent of deals struck in London in the first five months of this year involved off market property. Back in 2007 just four per cent of all property sales happened ‘under the counter’.

Why do some owners choose to sell off market?

For some, it’s a matter of privacy. They don’t want friends, colleagues, and neighbours to know that they are selling up, and they certainly don’t want them to know how much their property is worth.

Others, particularly high profile individuals, want to avoid pictures of their homes being available to look at online and possibly finding their way into the newspapers. They may also have security concerns about people being able to study the layout of their homes.

Yet more go off market because it can be an excellent way of testing the market – putting out discreet feelers to gauge how much interest there is in a property, without committing publicly to an asking price. They might get a great offer and sell up privately, and if they put the property on the market, they have a good feel for the level of interest it’s going to attract and what its price point should be.

How do I find off market properties?

A tricky question, because there is no one stop shop; finding a house off market can seem like finding a needle in a haystack.

Broadly speaking, vendors work through trusted estate agents, and those estate agents quietly spread the word amongst trusted former clients, current registered buyers they feel would suit the property, and of course amongst buying agents they have a long term relationship with, professional to professional.

Buying off market with Black Brick

Last year, 42 per cent of the properties Black Brick sourced were off market, and we have a reputation for finding unique properties to which our clients would not otherwise have access.

For instance, in March 2022 we helped our US-based clients find a London pied-a-terre. With only a week to spare they needed help lining up suitable viewings, and Black Brick found them a lovely lateral apartment on Old Church Street, Chelsea, which seemed perfect. Although it was being sold off market, the owner agreed to allow them to see the apartment, and their competitive offer – £158,000 less than the original £3.495m asking price – was accepted.

The year before, we helped clients to upsize in Dulwich, a desirable family suburb known for its fiercely competitive housing market. After an extensive but unfruitful search via local estate agents, we changed our approach and wrote directly to owners in the area. We quickly received a reply from the owner of a perfect five bedroom property, with a carriage driveway and 100 ft garden. With no competition, we were able to close the sale at a sensible price of £4 million, giving our clients a property to call home for the next 20-30 years.

Searching off market also lets us find properties within very strict criteria. For instance, our Hong Kong clients were looking for an apartment within just six specific streets in South Hampstead. Before their return to the UK, the Black Brick team found an off market apartment on Goldhurst Terrace, were the first in to see it, and had agreed terms within a week – avoiding a bidding war with other prospective buyers and negotiating £50,000 off the £2m asking price.

Our track record speaks for itself; buying off market can be a fantastic way to find unique properties, beat out the competition, and negotiate significant discounts.

What are the advantages of buying off market?

When there is a shortage of houses for sale, being able to access a secret supply of potential homes is clearly important. Even in normal trading conditions if you are after something very specific you can’t afford to leave any stone unturned.

Getting in to see a property first, or being amongst only a very select group of potential buyers, may help you avoid getting carried away in a competitive bidding situation.

We’re ready when you are


We’re ready when you are

We would be delighted to hear from you to discuss your own property requirements. For a non-obligatory consultation, please contact us.

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