When is a property really off-market? There may be many answers to that question but it’s likely that few would consider a property off-market if it has a For Sale board erected.
However, that’s the unusual policy of a London agency - Invisible Homes.
The issue came to a head when one of the country’s leading property professionals - author Charlie Ellingworth, who founded respected buying firm Property Vision some 30 years ago - spotted a For Sale board outside a property suggesting that it was in fact “off market.”
The board had the usual large For Sale words with the Invisible Homes logo, and the words “Off-market for everyone.”
Ellingworth snapped a picture of the board and posted it on Twitter with the simple but effective text: “You couldn’t make this up.”
However Invisible Homes - which operates in Fulham - defends the apparently-contradictory policy, with figures to suggest that its approach works.
The agency founder Mark Wells has told Estate Agent Today: “Invisible Homes is an off-market agency, and for us that means that our listings are not visible on the property portals (Rightmove and Zoopla). We do this so that our sellers are protected from having to give away the amount of time there home has been on the market and evidence of price drops – both of which paint a negative picture to buyers, when in fact they are often simply part of the normal sale process”
“For Sale boards do not give these away to the public, but are a useful additional sales tool, so we are happy to use then if the seller is open to them” he adds.
“Sellers were attracted to off-market selling because they wanted to avoid a negative public footprint, but it wasn’t mainstream and available to everyone simply because there wasn’t a wide enough buyer pool to make it feasible. By creating an independent platform we have achieved both things – we have helped sellers avoid the negative aspects of the open market, and have given buyers access to off-market homes for free.”
Wells says that his firm has registered over 5,000 Fulham buyers directly on its site in the last 18 months “which is between 10 and 20 times more buyers than local estate agents have registered in that time.”
And he says: “Within a year of launch we had become the third largest estate agent in Fulham for new property instructions, and have archived some record prices in very short times, even during a tough market. We employ sophisticated, highly experienced local sales agents, but charge only 0.75 per cent commission.”
Here’s a picture of the tweet that started the debate below.