The growth in off-market property sales | 14 June 2022

Many of us can’t get enough of glossy Netflix series showcasing million-dollar mansions and the people who sell them. But how many vendors would be happy with their own home portrayed in that way, with potentially millions of unknown viewers lapping up every detail?

By David Johnson, managing director of INHOUS

The trouble is it’s not just strangers who would know your intimate business, the layout of your home and what you want to sell it for; it’s also family, friends, next-door neighbours, and parents from your children’s school. How will this approach be received in Ireland?

Estate agency is evolving and not necessarily in a good way. These glossy series are glamorising the property industry, which can be misleading for the younger generation. I am increasingly meeting individuals who want to get a job in property on the back of watching these programmes. Increasingly, we are seeing more and more agents following this route in a mission to self-promote themselves. They are using the vendor’s property as their platform to boost their profile/followers, rather than looking after their client’s best interests.

Historically, a property would appear in a modest newspaper advert and interested vendors would ring the agent to book a viewing. Now, social media and property portals are used by agents as tools to build their own personal profiles on the back of clients’ properties. It begs the question: are they looking after their own interests or the true interests of their clients?

Over-exposure is not an effective way to sell property. We know of one house which was massively over-exposed with 10,000 views on social media channels but only got four physical viewings and not one offer after 12 months. Who wins in this scenario? It’s highly unlikely to be the vendor. To be fair, the situation seems far worse in London than in Dublin where people are not self-promoting on Instagram to the same extent. But we must learn from the pitfalls; once a video tour hits the portals, you can’t take it back. It’s there for ever.

Over-exposure is not only undesirable, it’s simply not necessary. Ireland is small enough that most buyers know which streets they would be happy to live on. Agents should know their buyers well enough to be able to pick up the phone when they have a property for sale that ticks their boxes. They shouldn’t need to plaster the property all over social media in the hope that they might find a buyer.

Each high-end property that hits a portal should do so based on a tailored plan and only after all off-market opportunities have been exhausted. We don’t use the generic approach; we look at each property, vendor and situation, opting for fully off market or a blend of off- and on market, depending on individual circumstances.

Our approach is to use our network of connections and trusted partners to find out which ‘hot’ buyers are in town and match a property accordingly, inviting them to a physical viewing to effectively test drive it. This enables us to gauge opinion long before we would even think about going online; that should be the last port of call, not the first. Eighty per cent of our sales are off market; it is not the easiest way to sell but the most desirable for top-end vendors who value privacy and discretion and wish to avoid the nosy neighbour effect. But it’s not just sellers who want discretion; buyers do too. Buyers with a budget of more than €10m are few and far between; there might only be one buyer for a €12m property in a particular area, for example. We already know about these target buyers through our connections; it is highly unlikely they will search online, nor be tempted by over-marketed properties which anyone and everyone can see.

We only go down the online route after exhausting off market and only when the property is properly presented. We have seen too many examples where the rush to go online means it is not done properly. There is no creativity or targeting a desired market – it’s about getting as many views as possible which rarely translates into the vendor’s desired outcome; to sell for the right price. Meanwhile, the agent benefits from the exposure.

There is no need for a video with the agent’s head in every shot. Two or three photos giving a flavour of the property are enough; less is more. This encourages buyers to call for further details whereas if you post 30 photos and an extensive video, you risk losing good buyers who don’t want that exposure from a publicity or security point-of-view. This approach almost certainly generates very few enquiries, although it might result in more followers for the agent’s Instagram account. Everyone would be looking at your property and maybe talking about it but this isn’t necessarily going to translate into a sale. To make matters worse, we hear of vendors charged all sorts of sums for marketing when a fancy brochure or advert isn’t required and simply promotes the agent.

Agents who use vendors’ properties to promote their own businesses should question this approach. Getting carried away on Instagram and trying to generate as many ‘likes’ as possible is not suitable for every property. Vendors must also question whether the agent’s approach is right for them and their property before signing on the dotted line; only then will industry practices begin to improve.

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