My sister's daughters, Anna and Jessie, share nearly everything about their lives with their mother, via Instagram, Snapchat, FaceTime, texting, or an old- fashioned phone call home. My boys, Tristan and Case, on the other hand, remain resolutely silent . . . (maybe it's a chromosome thing).
A typical conversation with either one of them usually sounds like this:
"Hi Honey, how's it going?"
"School is good?"
"Anything new to report?"
"I gotta go."
(Sigh. What's a mother to do?)
In the world of Real Estate, this stark contrast in communication plays out in the "on-market" vs. the "off-market" sale.
While most houses will come to market with tons of fanfare (the Internet, youtube videos, email flyers, newspaper ads, postcard campaigns, open houses.. .yadayadayada), a surprisingly fair number of properties will trade privately, without most Buyers ever hearing about them until they pop up as a sales statistic in the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) - after the fact. It's the equivalent of a phone call with my sons - short and to the point.
With most homes trading high and with multiple offers, "Why would anyone sell their home "off-market?" you ask. (Good question.)
Sellers do so for a variety of reasons:
A) They value their privacy more than the end result.
B) Their "off-market" result can be as profitable as a fully-marketed sale.
C) The Sellers want a clear understanding of their net profit so they can begin their search for a replacement property without questioning what they can afford.
D) The Sellers are in contract on another property and need to perform quickly.
E) The Sellers don't want to go through the production, or the expense that bringing a home to market invariably requires.
F) Moving out - lock, stock, and barrel - while we professionally paint and stage their home is not a viable option.
On the surface, those are all incredibly valid reasons for homeowners to choose to sell "off-market," and while I've had my share of such successes, underneath the quick result, lies the unanswered question (and the most tenuous part of this type of transaction): "Would someone have paid more for my house?"
For the Buyers, the question is: "Could we have paid less?"
With respect to both Buyer and Seller, when a home isn't fully "market-tested," the world will never know.
Thus, the "off-market" transaction requires a steady hand on both sides of the aisle.
Sellers must be comfortable with the results, regardless of the know-it-all neighbor who pops in to share their unsolicited opinion ("I can't believe you did that. The Smiths received seven offers on their house down the street!").
While Buyers must be clear that they may be paying a premium to "scoop" the marketplace and freeze out their competition. ("I have to tell you, we were all shocked . . ." brags your new neighbor, "When we bought 10 years ago, we only paid . . .") With all due respect to the neighbors: "Shut up already!" (It's truly none of their business and their "knowledge" generally lacks any proper context.)
In practice, if both Buyers and Sellers can play their roles comfortably (and granted that's a BIG 'IF'), the "off-market" transaction can prove to be an elegant solution for both parties.
On the other hand, if the unknown will haunt you forever, then an"off-market" sale is definitely NOT the road for you. Better to go through the pain and effort of bringing your home to market in order to put any doubts to rest. (Better yet, let us do that for you. We're here to offload the stress!)
Keep in mind, that when I speak to "off-market" sales, I am not talking about FSBOs (for sale by owner) transactions, or the crazy "name my price!" function on Zillow, but a home that's listed, inspected, and quietly marketed behind the scenes. Because regardless of the mechanics, selling a home is too complicated and litigious a journey to take it on without a professional to guide the way, especially when there may be lingering doubts.
And even though "off-market" sales will bypass the more traditional routes of advertisement and exposure . . . if they are to achieve the Sellers' goals, they will still need to be heavily marketed "in-house," AND that requires some very nuanced leveraging.
Finally, while the vast majority of sales will come to the marketplace fully realized, you'll never hear about the "off-market" listing if you don't work with a local Realtor who is primed and properly placed to be fed these unique opportunities. In other words, an online Agent isn't your solution if an"off-market"sale or purchase is what you hope to achieve.
Hey, gotta run, it's time to send a text that will in all likelihood, be completely ignored by my sons ("Buehler, Buehler, Buehler . . ."). Those damn kids; can't they at least humor their mother?
How can I help you?
Check out my Instagram at: piedmontrealtorgirl
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.