Last week, I sold this stunning Piedmont legacy home at 334 Sheridan in an "Off-Market" sale - meaning that this fantastic property never had a Sunday Open, we didn't place a "For Sale" sign in the lawn, and it didn't hit the MLS until after the sale was ratified and nearly closed.
Coincidentally, it was one of two I sold in such fashion this month.
Instead, I placed both properties on the Compass' "Coming Soon" board to begin to pre-market the home and to start the all-important "buzz" around town as $5 million-plus homes have a limited audience. (The second sale was at a much lower price point, but still strong.)
Moreover, the homeowners of this one-of-a-kind home had made a commitment to babysit their granddaughter through April 2019, which meant that the normal inconveniences that bringing a house to market inevitably entail, were going to be much tougher with a toddler and two rambunctious dogs in the house. Thus, the original plan was to gather bids now, line up the vendors, and begin work after they moved out, with the intention of bringing this property to market later this spring.
"Julie, would your Sellers be interested in selling off-market?" came a stealth text.
"I'll ask," came my cautious reply.
Let me preface this story by explaining that "Off-Market" sales CAN be an elegant solution for everyone involved, but they're NOT for the feint of heart, the second guessers, or the bargain shoppers. Don't expect a break in price just because the Sellers are saving money by eliminating the expense of painting and staging.
As I explained to another colleague on property number two (whose client sought to negotiate the difference), "If we're going to credit the Buyers $25,000, we might as well spend the money to bring the house to market where the owner might legitimately expect a higher selling price. (All true.) That ended the discussion then and there.
This is where I need to explain that "Off-Market" sales are no simple walk in the park; they tend to get a little shaky as they progress, thus a steady hand, a clear game plan and a set price are all required to make such opportunities fly . . .
AND because there are no other Buyers in line to validate the off-market purchase or to "market-test" the price, the natural inclination is to wonder:"Are we paying too much?" "Did we sell for too little?" ESPECIALLY when well-meaning friends or family weigh-in with their unsolicited opinions: "The house on my block got ten offers . . ." OR "How do you know you aren't paying too much?" (You don't. You are paying for the privilege of NOT competing in the open market, and there's going to be a premium for that.)
Additionally, because "Off-Market" Buyers are usually at the bargaining table alone (alone, Alone, ALONE!) and inspections may or may not have been conducted yet, there's a tendency to want to negotiate the findings as the peanut gallery weighs in, or as new discovery emerges. Unless the discovery is SIGNIFICANT, as George Bush use to say (or was it Dana Carvey portraying George Bush?) "Wouldn't be prudent."
BTW, Realtors prefer Sunday Opens, BIG fanfare, twilight tours, and a GIANT 'FOR SALE' sign out front. Therein lies our local presence and hopefully the gateway to the next fabulous listing down the block or around the corner. But let's remember, selling a house isn't about how it benefits my practice, but how it makes the most sense for you.
In both cases, the "Off-Market" solution eliminated a good deal of stress and anxiety, saved significant preparation costs, prevented hordes of lookie loos from walking through their homes, and gave the Sellers peace of mind and security. Both knew exactly how much they would net, and both set a firm price they could comfortably live with, (and this is important) WITHOUT second-guessing the result once the price had been agreed upon. Both sets of Sellers removed their emotions from the equation and neither wavered, nor became unreasonable, which is the crux of the entire process. If Sellers keep moving their line, good-faith goes out the window. Conversely, if Buyers try to move the goal posts, you can kiss the deal goodbye.
As a footnote, both sets of Buyers couldn't have been more pleasant or a better "fit" for these properties, and both understood the value of "first right of refusal," which (in no small part), is the reason these sales progressed with nary a bump. It also didn't hurt that I had long-term relationships with both Buyers' representatives and could confidently assure my Sellers that they would get the job done. (They did.)
While other properties will hit the market this spring and fight for market attention, both these Sellers will be moving on to the next great adventure in their lives, secure in their decisions AND with money in their pockets, and that's not a bad result; not by a long shot.
Is the "Off-Market" sale for you? It may or may not be, but is it worth a discussion? It just might be. Off-Market, fully exposed, or a hybrid of the two, there's definitely more than one option when it comes to selling your home and I'm available to explain them all.
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.