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Off market selling and buying in Melbourne during coronavirus covid-19 crisis

Off market sales in property in Melbourne refers to estate agents approaching a few potential buyers directly rather than using mass marketing techniques like advertising. It is becoming very common in the early stages of the current coronavirus crisis. In uncertain times, many vendors and their agents have decided they would like to conclude a transaction quickly and avoid the challenges of selling in a total shutdown.

In normal times, there are risks with off market sales, which we discuss here. But these are not normal times, alas.

First off, public open for inspections are now banned.  Private inspections are not, but given the obvious health and social distances issues, estate agents will only be able to arrange a small number of one-to-one inspections. If the property is tenanted, the occupants may refuse access altogether. Consequently, agents don't necessarily want to promote a property widely. They simply couldn't cope with the demands of buyers. Instead, it may be more effective to just focus on known buyers on their database.

In light of this, prospective buyers must make themself known to the major estate agents in their area if they want to be contacted about potential off market opportunities. Remain vigilant about not disclosing budget limits but do given guidance on location, type of property and amount of accommodation required.

Nevertheless, buyers need to be realistic. Estate agents have large databases already. And the best ones have very large databases.  To prioritise their time and increase the likelihood of success, many agents who are looking to do an off market transaction do tend to approach buyers agents or buyers advocates (such as Wakelin Property Advisory) who have a known pool of active buyers. We are getting calls daily from agents, though we are still applying our very strict filtering criteria and politely rejecting most advances.

Furthermore, buyers need to understand that the off market process is very much weighted in the vendor's favour. It is not transparent. The prospective buyer does not know which other parties are involved nor how genuine other offers are. Even though we are very much in a buyer's market, be careful not to overpay. Engage a negotiation expert if you recognise that negotiating with an experienced estate agent is a bit of a mismatch.