A growing number of Londoners are opting for new ways to buy and sell their properties, with WhatsApp emerging as a new home for luxury listings.
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LONDON – In these tough times for the UK property market, an increasing number of Londoners are opting for new ways to buy and sell their properties, with WhatsApp emerging as a new home for luxury listings.
Off-market home sales surged in the UK capital in the last three months of 2022, according to UK estate agents Hamptons International, accounting for more than one in five transactions (22.3%) – its highest percentage ever checked in.
The rise coincides with a turbulent period for the UK property market, during which lenders struck hundreds of residential mortgage deals and new buyer inquiries plunged following the chaotic ‘mini budget’ of the Prime Minister Liz Truss.
Hamptons senior analyst David Fell said this has led to some suppliers quietly “testing the waters” without leaving a “digital footprint” and potentially hurting future sales prospects.
Sellers are increasingly looking to discreetly test prices without leaving a digital footprint.
Senior Analyst, Hamptons International
“Sellers are increasingly looking to quietly test prices without leaving a digital footprint, particularly if they choose to take their home off the market with a view to trying again in 6 or 12 months,” he said.
But this figure also marks a continued increase in private property sales in recent years.
Private property sales have almost tripled in London since 2018, when they accounted for just 8.8% of annual transactions compared to 21.2% in 2022, according to the agency. Private sales also increased nationally over the period, although to a lesser extent.
Prime Private Estate Sales Lead the Charge
London’s luxury property market, in particular, led the off-market trend.
Private sales of homes over £1m ($1.2m) accounted for nearly a third (32%) of the capital’s total prime property deals in the final quarter of 2022, and 29% on the year, according to Hamptons data. released last month.
Savills estate agents noted that the “anonymity” of these transactions is particularly appreciated by buyers and sellers of properties over £20million – both in London and surrounding counties.
“In the last quarter of 2022, in home counties, we saw the overwhelming majority of off-market sales of over £20m,” said Crispin Holborow, country manager of The Private Office at Savills. , to CNBC via email.
James Myers, director of leading London-based estate agency Oliver James, told CNBC that an increasing number of high-end private transactions are also being done through messaging tools like WhatsApp.
With more people using WhatsApp, it has proven to be a much easier method for estate agents to contact clients, customers, etc.
“WhatsApp has been a huge boon to real estate agents over the past few years,” Myers said. “With more people using WhatsApp, it’s proven to be a much easier method for estate agents to contact clients, customers, etc.”
In particular, Myers noted that the additional features available in the WhatsApp Business app made it easier to share properties with multiple potential buyers while keeping the listing discreet.
The app’s “Catalogs” feature, for example, which launched in late 2019, acts as a brochure for businesses to showcase photographs of various products. Previously, companies had to send product photos one by one and provide information repeatedly.
“With the added benefit of new tools…it [has] enabled estate agents to promote their properties through the brochure section, which in turn helped introduce the property to a wider audience and made it easier to sell the property,” said Myers.
Contacted by CNBC, Whatsapp’s parent company Meta said “people want to do business the same way they chat with friends and family.”
However, while the off-market trend is expected to continue into 2024, Hamptons’ Fell said many sellers may also use private listings as a way to gauge buyer appetite before listing on the open market.
“We’ll also likely see more sellers start their lives off the market before deciding to market their homes more widely if the reaction from ‘black book’ buyers was favorable but they still weren’t quite able to get a sale,” he said.
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