Quiet Please: The irresistible draw of the off-market instruction

The inherent fascination with London’s real estate is apparent in the extraordinary media attention it continues to receive, and by the amount people love to talk abo ut it. Indeed, in the British capital there are properties for every taste and for any task. However, as many of us know, the ones you hear about are only the tip of the iceberg. Along with widely advertised lots, there are the off — market properties, whose conductors are property finders — linking buyers and sellers of private property not mentioned in the brochures and catalogues of real estate agencies. Away from the prying eyes of the public, such residences are the real treasures of the market, to be desired, coveted and sought after.

The off — market world was not invented by professionals, however; it is rather a reaction to the consumer demand. Constantly looking for ever more exclusive products and services, wealthy customers have become increasingly interested in unique opportunities that are never advertised or made widely available. Now this trend has resulted in a separate product entirely, which, according to my rough estimates, accounts for about 10- 15% of all transactions throughout the capital’s prime real estate market.

Special customers need special homes. Why does someone require secrecy and isolation from the market?

It’s not just about the status of the parties involved in the transaction, but also the influence of the inevitable press interest. As soon as the sale is known to everybody, rumours will fly; alleging the seller is bankrupt, has lost money, is getting divorced etc.. Such rumours can injure reputation and off — market transactions offer a way to solve this problem, but all parties must be prepared before entering this kind of deal. Off — market transactions are primarily based on a very trusting relationship.

As a result, you are granted exclusive access to a unique product, which can be purchased only through persons explicitly authorised by the owners. One very recent prime example being a particular penthouse in London with Royal Palace and park views, located on a street which only 800 people call home; a community defending their street from high-street shops, banks and restaurants, where establishments and storefronts remain truly British and unique. The price in that case was about £ 8 million and it was not long before new owners were found, without it ever seeing the light of day.

When dealing with off — market properties, vendors often ask us to find foreign buyers — sometimes it is even stipulated in the contract. It is the foreign buyers who usually pay cash, which is particularly important in times of crisis. However, off — market properties do not always mean sky-high figures. Prices usually start at around one million (less expensive instructions are usually released onto the open market), though sometimes they reach stunning new heights; I recall a particular estate surrounded by a huge park, that sold for £ 50 million off — market, and an extraordinary palace that went for £ 100 million. But it would be wrong to suppose that off — market properties are represented only by palaces and mansions. Expensive apartments in elite compounds are often sold off — market, although buyers of units in such developments are driven the same motives — to find privacy and a closed society of like-minded individuals.

Be it an apartment or a palace, the same key criteria always apply — namely a strong location, plenty of space (in our case up to 600 m2), underground parking and a full range of available facilities. Although the off — market world by definition is characterised by rather murky pricing (in my experience, buyers, independently acting on the off — market, overpay up to 100% of the fair value), it is designed to guarantee exclusivity in all aspects — and this is one characteristic that high net worth individuals are willing to pay for.