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.”