Off-market sales are on the rise.
What was once just industry jargon is now becoming mainstream discussion among real estate buyers and sellers, partly because of the desire from vendors to reduce their advertising costs and keep their property hidden from the open market but also because real estate agents are becoming much better at database management and utilising their CRM, website, email and social channels to reach buyers and negotiate deals with zero portal spend.
As an industry, we are getting much smarter about the use of our own data.
In a sign that the major property portals are concerned about what this means for their bottom line, REA released a series of TV ads last year in a blatant attempt to discredit the off-market listings approach altogether. Take this ad, for example, showing actors poking fun at an agent’s advice to consider selling off-market.
REA’s advertising continues to suggest that there is only one way (their way) to sell real estate. But it’s simply not the case. As an industry, we do not need them as much as they (try to) make you think you do. And the growing number of deals being done with zero portal spend is evidence of this.
The tools you need for an effective off-market system
- Great database management and categorisation
- Website portal with search functionality and CRM integration
- Omni-channel promotion plan
First and foremost, how you manage your database contacts is critical. If you have contact records all over the place, an off-market system will be extremely difficult to manage at scale, let alone make it effective and efficient.
The first step to building an effective and efficient off-market (AKA off-portal, pre-portal, silent listing) system is good database management. Ensuring that all of your contact records are stored and categorised correctly in a central CRM is critical. If you’re currently using Outlook, address books, your phone contacts, Google Contacts and a mish-mash of other contact storage options, you will need to get your house in order.
Being able to show vendors exactly how many active buyers you have looking for homes exactly like theirs, in real-time, is much more believable than telling them “I have buyers lining up for your property Mr & Mrs Vendor.” Vendors are getting smarter about this stuff too and they are demanding this level of transparency from agents. Show them, don’t tell them. With a growing number of agencies taking database management to this level, it could be a major market share factor in the very near future.
Secondly, you’ll need a central hub for buyers and sellers to search for, and interact with, your off-market listings. The obvious place for this to happen is your own website. The more traffic you drive to this portal, the more convincing your off-market pitch becomes to potential clients. With a constant stream of in-market buyers hitting your website and signing up to your off-market listings, it is a compelling proposition to potential vendors beyond just the size of your database.
Harris Real Estate, based in Adelaide, has taken educating vendors on the benefits of off-market to another level. While many agencies tend to hide their processes for selling off-market, intentionally or not, Harris has an entire section of their website outlining the benefits of selling off-market, making it a major part of their service offering and providing a visible point of difference in the marketplace.
Off-market listing functionality on real estate websites and integration with CRM platforms is still lacking for most real estate websites. Harris’ off-market portal, however, offers full property search functionality to consumers and feed automation from their CRM – making it easy for single-data entry and management.
Off-market listings can be viewed among all other listings or filtered to show off-market properties only. The featured image of the property, suburb and pricing is shown by default but visitors are required to sign-in or sign-up to access the address of the property and all other information related to the listing including photos, videos, contract of sale, virtual tours etc – syncing new registrations with the agency’s CRM for lead capture and follow up.
Utilising an omnichannel marketing approach to promote its off-market listings portal, Harris is able to generate significant and consistent registrations to its off-market listings portal on a daily basis – increasing its buyer pool and building a more compelling case study for potential vendors on the benefits of selling off-market via their agency.
Without a plan to educate the market on off-market sales and a plan to consistently promote your listings – and your website – to the market, your results will be limited. “Build it and they will come” is not a strategy. You must promote, promote, promote – driving people back to your own website.
Off-market, pre-portal, silent listings or whatever you want to call it, certainly doesn’t replace traditional methods of selling.
But if I was to reflect on why it’s growing in popularity, I’d suggest it’s based on three factors:
- Real estate agents/agencies getting much better at database/CRM management and categorisation
- Vendors desire to sell ‘quietly’ and without the costs of a full-blown campaign
- The change from ‘industry jargon’ to mainstream consumer awareness about the off-market process
One thing is for certain, however, as buyers and vendors become more aware of the off-market process, more will be asking agents about it. So you best be prepared with the tools to facilitate what the market is asking for, in addition to the traditional forms of selling real estate.