Off the record!

In this current market, when demand is high and supply is still a little low, and when speculation starts to creep in around house prices possibly falling as a result of changing economics, many sellers consider selling their home off market. In fact one agent has quoted that off market sales account for nearly 10% of all property sales now.

So what is an off-market sale? It is the method whereby the property doesn’t actually get advertised on the property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla. Rather agents market the property internally, introducing buyers on their database, based on their specific requirement. Sometimes this can mean that there are no marketing photos or floorplan/360 scans taken. Agents discuss the property attributes with potential buyers who then decide whether to view or not. In some areas of the country a buyer may engage the services of a ‘Property Finder’ who will seek out up and coming properties from their contacts within various estate agencies. They charge the buyer a fee for doing so.

What are the advantages of off-market selling? Many home owners find the principle of off-market selling appealing. They don’t need to arrange to get the house photographed and stage the home, they can avoid their home being shown on the internet and they can also benefit from a reduced number of viewings due to the scope of buyers being aware of the home being lower. Some estate agents may also agree to reduce their fee accordingly to take into account the time that would normally have been taken to prepare the property for marketing.

And the disadvantages? Well less prospective buyers means less opportunity to maximise the selling price. It is great for the buyer if they are introduced a property off market and are able to agree a purchase price without any competition, however the seller may be left wondering how they can ever satisfy themselves that they achieved the best price possible for their home, which is most seller’s biggest asset. Does saving a few hundred pounds on the agency fee make up for the potential many thousands more they may achieve by placing the property to the open market? It could also be viewed that any hiccups and further negotiation which are encountered following surveys and searches may also leave the seller disadvantaged as once again the viewing feedback they have is limited. An alternative buyer can sometimes be found incredibly quickly if the original buyer decides not to proceed as there may be a list of buyers who missed out first time around.

Although there will always be a time and a place for off-market sales, looking at our local market now, we feel that the best way to determine that we are achieving the best price for our client is to place the property on the open market. Without doing this we would feel that we may be doing our client a disservice. It is a sellers market currently and any estate agent should have a number of buyers waiting for the variety of different properties, however this doesn’t mean that an all important step can be missed from the property marketing process. We would caution any seller who was considering an off market agreement with an estate agent. What is their motive for doing this? What is yours? Are you 100% confident that they will get you the best price possible if they keep you ‘off the record’?

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Taking care of lettings – why we’re different from the competition

This week, I’ve returned to work after maternity leave and jumped back in with both feet to property management. Having recently helped some friends acquire a rental property in an extremely competitive rental market I had reason to feel quietly proud that at Roberts & Co we run a tight ship on both sales and lettings. It reminded me that there are still lots of agents who see potential tenants as someone they would rather not be dealing with; a time drain, an interruption to their day. Vanishingly few agents were qualifying potential tenants or had any curiosity about who they were, what they did and what was prompting their move. Many enquiries were simply not responded to and requests for viewings went ignored. To me, finding out more about tenants is an absolute bare minimum requirement – there is no point arranging a viewing for a tenant with a pet if the landlord will not accept them and both landlord and tenant will feel short changed if a short term tenant is put into a long-term property.

It’s no wonder many tenants feel hard done by, and it didn’t surprise me to read that in a survey earlier this year two-thirds of landlords and tenants felt unhappy with their letting agent. Many tenants cited issues with repairs as the number one source of frustration, with landlords complaining money was not paid on time and they were confused by much of the jargon used by their letting agents. Tenants and landlords both felt they were also not kept up to date with legislative changes throughout the course of the tenancy.

It’s easy to look at that survey and say, “we’re different, we’re not like that” but I genuinely believe at Roberts & Co we are offering a service which far surpasses expectations. We’re not a call centre -we have a small property management team who handle absolutely everything, from move-ins to repairs to evictions, and everything else in between. We keep everyone fully updated, whether that’s by calls, texts or emails, so both landlord and tenant know exactly what is happening with repairs and what the next steps are.

One of the main differences we have with many of our competitors is that we have a dedicated in-house compliance lead (me!) and I constantly review legislative changes which might affect our clients. This allows us to respond quickly to any changes needed, amending processes as we go, to ensure our clients remain compliant for the duration of their relationship with us. Our property management team is also very experienced, with both lettings managers having over 15 years each in the industry.

There is absolutely a place in the market for agents or platforms to offer a very basic tenancy set-up service for the experienced landlord whose sole job is to look after their portfolio. However, if you’re time-poor, unsure about requirements and legislation, or just generally feeling like it may be more than you can personally handle then you shouldn’t feel that all lettings agents are the same. If you have arrived at this blog post because you’ve received a poor service from your agent – we’re not all the same and at Roberts & Co we’re confident we offer a 5 star service for both landlords and tenants; all we ask is the opportunity to show you what we can do.

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