Agent with alternative business model says it’s a winning concept with no portal or office costs

A firm which sells only off-market properties says that it is taking more listings than other agents and attracting about twice the number of applicants.

Invisible Homes launched a year ago in Fulham, west London, with founder Mark Wells now planning expansion for his alternative business model which has none of the usual overheads of offices, staff and portal costs.

Wells, who has worked at both Hamptons International and Savills and spent five years as an estate agent in Fulham, said that the whole key to the concept is that the firm does not just sell high-end property, but ones in mainstream price brackets.

Wells also saves money by not having any high street premises and by not listing on any of the portals, allowing him to charge a far lower commission rate: according to his website, it is 0.5% plus VAT.

He said that in October he took on ten properties. Analysing through Rightmove Plus the number of properties taken on by other local agents, he said that in terms of instructions that month, Invisible Homes was fourth equal out of 63.

He said: “Invisible Homes is on a mission to bring off-market selling to everyone.

“Off-market is a better way to sell. It avoids properties sitting around on property portals, where they quickly go stale and look like the home nobody else wants to buy.

“The problem has been that it only made sense at the very top end of the market, where the number of buyers is small, and those buyers are generally known to agents.

“We’re starting to change that. It took a few months to build awareness of our new concept in Fulham, our launch area, but the reaction has been overwhelming.

“Since we launched a year ago, over 1,500 motivated buyers have registered directly on our platform. That’s about twice the number of local buyers than estate agents have.

“This means there’s no longer a need to list on the portals – Invisible Homes independently finds all the relevant buyers and links them to our exclusive properties.”

At Invisible Homes, properties are not listed on the likes of Rightmove and Zoopla. Instead, buyers register their searches and are sent matching properties individually.

Buyers and sellers might not be able to find Invisible Homes on a portal, but nevertheless find it online: 80% come from Facebook and Google advertising, 10% from word of mouth and 10% through leaflets.

There are no offices, and a recruitment process is under way for freelance agents who will work their own hours and be paid on a deal by deal basis.

Wells says that his sales rate is already in line with that of agents operating in Fulham’s open market: “We are expecting to overtake it significantly over the next few months.

“While buyers are attracted to the idea that properties are tailored to their needs, sellers seem to love being able to market their property with us first, without having to fully commit to an unforgiving ‘open’ market.

“We’ve also welcomed many sellers who were previously on the open market and failed to sell – they fare much better on our platform where their homes stay fresh.

“Things are gathering pace. In October alone we had 15 offers, including three competing bids. We took on more new properties than 93% of the other Fulham estate agents, and treble the number of Purplebricks.

“We’ve been pleased to see that 57% of our instructions have been under £1m – which is the ‘mainstream’ Fulham market. Indeed, we’ve had more properties between £500,000 and £750,000 than any other level.

“Our aim of ‘off-market selling for everyone’ is slowly being realised. So far, so good, and we expect to roll out the concept to other postcodes.”

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  1. nextchapter

    I love this concept.  In all honesty I only look at Rightmove and Zoopla as a buyer registration tool.  We’re not selling houses through those platforms.  We’re re registering buyers and then making a s**t load of phone calls to our database when a new property is due into the market and we’re often selling them off line, off market anyway.  I’d be interested to know how prospective buyers know about him in the first place to register their details? That’s the key to this working.

    1. Property Poke In The Eye

      At the low fee he charges, he can’t even share fees with other introducers/Agents 

  2. Property Poke In The Eye

    Mark you need to increase your fees in my opinion.

    We also do off market sales and a premium is always achieved so a premium in fees has to compliment.


    1. Ric

      Agreed, not putting it on the internet and still achieving the best price is worth more than your usual fee, and if you can’t get more you should at the very least get the same fee as you normally do. It is a no brainer.
      We have had a fair few this year sell away from all portals, asking prices on 2 and above the asking price on others. Each had no problems paying the full fee and one which netted US over £10k paid more!
      I love the concept – I think it is called “Proper Estate Agency”. #PEA

  3. AgencyInsider

    And so the wheel turns…

    Years ago it was not uncommon to have a bottom drawer file of ‘not on market’ properties that would be offered to specific applicants.

    We called it ‘good agency’ back then.

    1. Ric

      yup indeed… Pencil Pipelines, sticking photos on A4 sheets, waiting for said photos to come back from the chap who sent you a strip of negatives to squint at (then you get the wrong one back) price reductions were crossed out prices on your detail sheets, (until you developed and would stick cut out address labels over them…)
      An office junior would be responsible for photocopying property brochures, a board count to measure your success (1 for us, ooh.. forget theirs, another one for us….)
      When I were a lad. Now you think Estate Agency is “Stick it on the web and the rest will look after itself”
      driven by the desire to be measured by “do you have more property on Rightmove than the next agent” argh.

  4. smile please

    Does not advertise on portals yet use Rightmove Plus ….. okay!

    1. Ric

      Hate to say I get the RM+ bit smile please. The number one benefit of RM is RM+, although LandRegistry, Nethouse prices and Street View could replace this in an instant, it is currently a great tool as we know to see marketed from dates etc etc and knowing if your next valuatin has been on the market in the past 18 months.

      1. smile please

        Yep get that Ric, it’s a large contributed to the dominance over other portals 
        What I don’t get is the story says he saves money by not being on portals yet he uses RM plus. Last time I checked RM plus is not free?

        1. Ric

          I, yes I see. However I think…. there is a saving for the backside of the system. I am sure there is as we know other industries use is… surveyors, developers who are no way paying a PB fee for RM or local agency fee.
          Also, lets be fair, “can I borrow your log in” smile please, I am not in your area, will not hurt you, I will send you a bottle now and again so I can use my local data! shorted!

  5. Chatty Cathy

    Interesting but can’t see this working outside some of the bubbles in London, good to see the reaction of a seller in Hull…

  6. Harree Is Back

    Whilst the concept is good I think Invisible Homes is a wrong choice of name – sellers want their house seen no matter how it is marketed and I would guess the name alone would put some off.

    However, on the plus side this agent shows again the power of Facebook and especially Google Ads in building motivated buyer lists.

    I used Google Ads extensively in my agency and you would be staggered at how many highly specific searches are made by buyers who bypass going to RM or Z.

    At least 80% of buyers taking the time to type in very specific property requirement are ‘hot to trot’ – whilst the opposite is true of those visiting RM and Z where at least 80% of the millions of searches are likely to be from voyeurs, hence the low quality of most enquiries.

    As this agent has proved, you can sell properties from a Google Ads generated buyers list far more cost effectively than paying the whacking fees to RM and Z – a couple of days ago another agent on PIE said they were doing exactly that.

    And, of course, motivated buyers are also motivated sellers so you pick up instructions as well.

    In your own patch Google Ads and Facebook can be the real big disruptor to get ahead of your high street and online competition.


  7. Woodentop

    saves money by not having any high street premises and by not listing on any of the portals.


    Lesson one of estate agency, convince your vendor!

  8. htsnom79

    And tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999, happy days, make them come to us to see what we’ve got, you know, have a dialogue with buyers before they’ve seen something, I’m up for that, global login for rightmove plus nothing more.

  9. Richard Rawlings

    Brilliant concept and I disagree with Haree; not all vendors want maximum exposure – that’s “agent’s speak”. A good agent should easily be able to use the many ways of convincing a seller that they should go down the “off market” route. Here are four for starters:

    1: Buyers like to know they are being offered something exclusive.
    2: The property can initially be offered to that small handful of buyers who might just pay a premium
    3: No price/price reduction/time on market embarrassment
    4: More likely to get the asking price

    The only flaw in Mark’s plan in IMHO is WHY ON EARTH ARE HIS FEES SO LOW, especially in an area where people appreciate quality? You either go down the cheap and nasty route or the reassuringly expensive personally-managed boutique route -and if ever there was an example of the latter!!! I’m thinking 2% easy. This guy does not have to compete on fees to those people who appreciate and prefer his style of service. Perfect for Fulham (where I ran an agency for many years) or frankly anywhere else. Well done and have a great day.

  10. BestInTheRoad28

    Just in 

  11. ringi

    How does the vendor know they are getting the best price if the property is not on Rightmove?


    1. PeeBee

      How do they know they are getting the best price if it is?


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