London’s luxurious property sellers flip to WhatsApp as non-public gross sales soar
A growing number of Londoners are opting for novel ways to buy and sell their properties, with WhatsApp emerging as the new home for luxury offerings.
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LONDON – In tough times for the UK property market, more Londoners are opting for novel ways to buy and sell their property, with WhatsApp emerging as the new home for luxury offerings.
According to British estate agent Hamptons International, over the last three months of 2022, OTC home sales in the British capital surged, accounting for more than one in five transactions (22.3%) – the highest percentage on record.
The uptick coincides with a period of turbulence in the UK housing market, with lenders closing hundreds of residential mortgage deals and new homebuyer inquiries for then-Prime Minister Liz Truss’ messy “mini-budget” slumping.
David Fell, a senior analyst at Hamptons, said this has prompted some vendors to discreetly “test the waters” without leaving a “digital footprint” and potentially hurting future sales prospects.
Sellers are increasingly trying to quietly test pricing without leaving a digital footprint.
Senior Analyst, Hamptons International
“Sellers have increasingly sought to quietly test pricing without leaving a digital footprint, particularly when they have decided to take their home off the market to try again in 6 or 12 months,” he said.
However, the number also marks a continuous increase in private real estate sales in recent years.
According to the agency, private property sales in London have nearly tripled since 2018, when they accounted for just 8.8% of annual transactions, up from 21.2% in 2022. Private sales also increased nationwide during the period, albeit to a lesser extent.
Private prime property sales lead the charge
London’s luxury real estate market in particular has been leading the off-market trend.
According to Hamptons data, private home sales valued at over £1m ($1.2m) accounted for almost a third (32%) of the capital’s total prime property transactions in the last quarter of 2022 and 29% for the year to date month published.
Savills estate agents noted that the “anonymity” of such transactions is particularly valued by buyers and sellers of properties worth over £20m – both in London and in the surrounding counties.
“In the last quarter of 2022 we have seen in home counties that the overwhelming majority of sales over £20m were made off-market,” Crispin Holborow, country director of The Private Office at Savills, told CNBC via email .
James Myers, director of London-based top real estate agency Oliver James, told CNBC that an increasing number of high-end private transactions are also being conducted through messaging tools like WhatsApp.
With more and more people using WhatsApp, it has emerged as a much easier method for real estate agents to contact clients, customers, etc.
“WhatsApp has been a tremendous asset for real estate agents over the last few years,” Myers said. “As more and more people use WhatsApp, it has emerged as a much easier way for real estate agents to contact clients, customers, etc.”
In particular, Myers noted that additional features available in the WhatsApp Business app have made it easier to share properties with multiple potential buyers while still maintaining the privacy of the listing.
For example, the app’s Catalogs feature, launched in late 2019, acts as a brochure for businesses to showcase photos of different products. Previously, companies had to send product photos one at a time and provide information repeatedly.
“With the added benefit of the new tools…es [has] allowed real estate agents to advertise their properties through the brochure section, which helped introduce properties to a wider audience and aided property sales,” Myers said.
When contacted by CNBC, Whatsapp’s parent company, Meta, said, “People want to do business the same way they want to chat with their friends and family.”
However, while the off-market trend will continue into 2024, Hamptons’ Fell said many sellers may also use private listings to gauge buyers’ appetites before listing them on the open market.
“We’ll also likely see more sellers starting their lives off-market before deciding to market their home more broadly when the reaction from ‘Black Book’ buyers has been positive but they’ve still not been quite able to to secure a sale,” he said.