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The secret deals that frustrated home buyers are resorting to

Once limited to the top end of town, secret property deals are becoming more common across Melbourne’s property market.
Nanjing Night Net

A growing number of keen first-timers and budget buyers are also quietly whisking properties off market before they are advertised, to get ahead of the game.

A shortage of stock in several popular pockets of Melbourne means that in a market favouring sellers, savvy buyers are proactively approaching agents who may have a vendor hoping for a swift sale.

Off-market deals aren’t avenues to bag a bargain, but an opportunity to buy at market value without the competition at auctions, experts say.

George Alexander of Jas Stephens said there had been a big rise in off-market sales over the past two to three years, and estimates about 20 per cent of his Yarraville office’s sales were off market, compared with about 5 per cent five years ago.

“Back then it wasn’t as common in the market place to buy off market, but also the market was quite different – it wasn’t a sellers’ market five years ago, it was more of an even market,” he said.

“If a buyer is keen to get involved, it’s good to build a relationship with an agent … let them know they are genuine and unconditional buyers and they are interested in purchasing off market fairly quickly.”

While top-end sellers may have opted for an off-market sale for privacy’s sake in the past, Mr Alexander said there was now as much, if not more, demand from first-home buyers. “It’s not price-sensitive anymore,” he said.

This two-bedroom home at 7 Toohey Street in Footscray sold for $715,000 before it was advertised. Photo: Supplied

Joanne Royston of RT Edgar Williamstown said there had been a rise in off-market sales in all price brackets, including townhouses between $550,000 and $700,000 in Altona North.

“The volume of buyers is there, and because there’s that shortage of stock, I reckon we’ve done more off-market sales than we have ever done before, in the last couple of months,” she said.

“We’ve done more in those affordable areas than we have in the top end, just due to those volume of buyers in those price brackets – especially townhouses in Altona North and Newport.”

Ms Royston recommended buyers be proactive about contacting agents and asking to be kept informed.

“Sometimes we show multiple buyers the one property off market to try to maximise the price for the vendor,” she said. “But in saying that, that’s not always the case and they certainly would be under less competition than they would for an advertised property.”

A single-fronted house at 34 River Street in Newport sold off market for $860,000. Photo: Supplied

Barry Plant Keysborough’s Chee-Ky Dunlop said 20 per cent of his office’s July sales were off market.

“Where we’re getting large amounts of groups coming through our open homes, we’ve got a lot of buyers left over who we can quite easily swing onto other properties without marketing them,” he said.

In a rising market, buyers’ advocate Cate Bakos said, many vendors preferred to buy before they sold because they did not want to be outpaced by the growth of the market.

An ideal auction campaign required 120 days, and vendors who needed to sell before they can settle had to sell via a fast private sale or an off-market deal, she said.

Ms Bakos advised buyers interested in the off-market avenue to attend auctions and read auction results.

“That way buyers can then have a dialogue with agents about other sales results, and the agent also know the buyers know what they’re talking about,” she said. “They will then get themselves on the hot list for that agent to sought new listings and off markets for them.”

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