London luxury home sellers turn to WhatsApp as private sales rise

An increasing number of Londoners are choosing new ways to buy and sell their property, and WhatsApp is becoming the new home for luxury ads.

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LONDON – In challenging times for the UK property market, more Londoners are choosing new ways to buy and sell their property, and WhatsApp is becoming the new home of luxury listings.

In the last three months of 2022, off-market home sales in the British capital rose sharply in the last three months of 2022, representing more than one in five (22.3%) deals, the highest percentage on record, according to UK real estate agents Hamptons International.

The surge coincides with a period of turmoil in the UK property market, during which lenders closed hundreds of mortgage deals and inquiries from new home buyers plummeted following then-Prime Minister Liz Truss’s chaotic “mini budget”.

Hamptons senior analyst David Fell said this has prompted some suppliers to “test the water” discretely without leaving a “digital footprint” and potentially hurting future sales.

Sellers are increasingly looking to quietly test prices without leaving a digital footprint.

David Fell

Senior Analyst, Hamptons International

“Sellers are increasingly looking to quietly test pricing without leaving a digital footprint, especially if they decide to take their home off the market to try again in 6 or 12 months,” he said.

But the figure is also indicative of the continued rise in private property sales in recent years.

Private property sales in London have nearly tripled since 2018, when they accounted for just 8.8% of annual sales, compared with 21.2% in 2022, according to the agency. Private sales also rose during this period throughout the country, although to a lesser extent.

Private sales of luxury real estate lead the way

The London luxury real estate market, in particular, has spearheaded the off-market trend.

More than £1 million ($1.2 million) in private home sales accounted for almost a third (32%) of total luxury real estate deals in the capital in the last quarter of 2022 and 29% for the year, according to the Hamptons.

Estate agents Savills said the “anonymity” of such transactions is particularly valued by buyers and sellers of properties worth more than £20 million – both in London and in the surrounding counties.

“In the last quarter of 2022 in Home Counties, we really saw the vast majority of sales over £20m come from outside the market,” Crispin Holborough, regional director of The Private Office at Savills, told CNBC via email.

James Myers, director of London-based premium real estate agency Oliver James, told CNBC that an increasing number of high-end private transactions are also taking place via messaging tools such as WhatsApp.

The more people use WhatsApp, the easier it is for real estate agents to connect with clients, buyers, and more.

“Whatsapp has become a huge asset for real estate agents in recent years,” Myers said. “As more people use WhatsApp, it has become much easier for real estate agents to connect with clients, clients, etc.”

Specifically, Myers noted that the additional features available on the WhatsApp Business app have made it easier to share properties with multiple potential buyers while keeping the list discrete.

The “Catalogs” function of the application, for example, which was launched at the end of 2019, acts as a brochure for businesses to showcase pictures of various products. In the past, companies had to submit product photos one at a time and resubmit the information.

“With the additional benefits of the new tools… [has] allowed real estate agents to promote their properties through the brochure section, which as a result helped showcase the property to a wider audience and promote the sale of the property,” Myers said.

When CNBC contacted Whatsapp’s parent company, Meta, said “people want to do business the way they do with their friends and family.”

However, while the off-market trend will continue into 2024, Hamptons’ Fell said many sellers could also use private listings as a way to gauge buyer appetite before moving on to listing on the open market.

“We are also likely to see more sellers start life off the market before deciding to sell their home more broadly if the reaction of black book buyers is favorable but they still cannot secure a sale,” he said. he.

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