The property market never sleeps. There is no kind way to say, ‘If you snooze, you lose,’ in the property game. If you’re planning to spend your Saturdays ‘open home hopping,’ you might want to think again. The market in south east Queensland is outperforming the rest of Australia with positive growth in the Brisbane, Gold Coast and Northern NSW regions. What you are seeing posted on real estate portals is only a fraction of the properties that sell each week. There is a whole other list of potential dream homes you won’t even hear about if you’re focused on what real estate agents are dishing up online. Off-market sales are where savvy home buyers and investors avoid some of the ‘Buying 101’ pitfalls such as buying at auction. Auctions are like a theatre, emotions run high and the quoted price can be unrealistic. Without experience, you will be dead in the water and deflated like an air-mattress on a camping trip!! As Director of Savvy Fox Property Buyers Agent, I see auctions rife with ‘bad behaviour’ such as over quoting and I’m sad to say, ‘dummy bidding’. Yes, it still happens. It’s the first thing I sniff out when I attend an auction on behalf of my client. There is no way I will put my clients in the position where they are bidding against themselves. An even playing field is the first thing I scope out at auction. To avoid being caught out by the underquoting that’s rife among agents, auctions are to be avoided where possible. It’s not always in the best interest of my client to bid at auction but I do judge every situation on its circumstances. Truth is, it’s not always possible as sometimes the home you want is listed for auction. Relax, I have a very successful history of holding the keys at the end. Further truth, I love auctions!!  I enjoy the transparency of eye balling the competition and being able to control an auction with tactics I’ve developed over the years. To debunk a myth, Saturday inspections are not the time for deals to be done. Its chaos, it’s everything the agent wants. They’re herding people into their properties to enhance excitement and anxiety.  By exchanging contracts off-market, it takes you away from that and puts you and the seller in a different headspace. But how do you find these hidden gems and why are sellers opting to shift their properties that way? There are several reasons why a desirable property would be sold in an off-market transaction. Privacy and minimising stress are the single biggest reasons sellers dream of selling without a fancy marketing campaign. People really don’t want to or can’t handle the stress and the fuss that comes along with a prominent marketing campaign. Following from that, it may not always be possible to have a marketing campaign and open homes. Long tenancies make it difficult for landlords to jazz up properties (in the way that agents like too) with plush rented furniture, professional photographers and hefty marketing fees. From a vendor’s perspective, selling to an off-market buyer means avoiding selling agent fees that can add on $30,000 to a property worth $850,000. Unearthing these properties takes a bit of digging, I believe it is worth the effort. I have been a ‘Real Estate Institute of Australia Award Winning’ selling agent (for over a decade) so I know how to approach finding off market sellers. In fact, it’s how I personally bought my very first property in Sydney’s competitive Lower North Shore suburb of Cremorne when I was 23. I found a place in the specific area I wanted and approached the owners. It was tenanted at the time, but I didn’t let that perturb me and I ended up buying it within weeks. It’s not only doorknocking and letterbox drops in targeted neighbourhoods, there is an in-depth process involved. As a Certified Registered Property Valuer, I study property databases, analysing sales records to hunt down would-be sellers who’ve perhaps had a rough trot in previous property market slumps. I approach people who have had a history of trying to sell and had bad luck then, and once time has passed, I go to them direct. I know they want to sell but they’ve had a glass half-empty experience of selling, not a glass half-full. I usually look for a two-year window. They might have missed out on $1 million back then and been unhappy, but now we can get them $1.1 million and no agent fee because the market’s improved, so it’s still upside for them. While off-market sales are gaining popularity, I warn not to expect a long list of options. There are not thousands out there, it’s only because I pay attention to the off-market properties that I know it delivers better results on average. It’s very laborious, there’s a lot of phone calls, it’s a numbers game! There are some common challenges that crop up for off-market buyers. The biggest hurdle is dealing with an unmotivated seller, or when multiple selling agents competing for the listing attempt to influence the vendor. Vendors naturally want to get a great price for their property however some just want to test the market and will only sell if they are offered way above fair market value. That’s when being a Registered Valuer comes in handy. I am not relying on the other buyers at auction to show me what the value is, effectively where they bid/offer up too. I can recommend what price point my clients should play their hand and what price they should walk away. Problems can start when a vendor receives a terrific genuine offer and they call up selling agents and say, “I am about to sell at X, do you have a buyer that would pay more?” When this happens, selling agents would likely advise the vendor to hold out for another week or so in the hopes they can muster up a buyer with a higher offer. After all, that’s $30K or so they are leaving on the table if they advise, “Take it, that’s a great offer.” This will often cost the vendor a sale as the genuine buyer will move on if they feel their offer is being ‘shopped around.’ Experienced real estate professionals know that often the best offers come in early. So often, ‘A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.’ Another danger is when the vendor had not purchased and the motivation to sell is low which often leads to over-the-top expectations and asking prices. If you want to buy at fair market value, then having a vendor who is motivated is critical. “Why the move?” is one of the first questions I ask when I enquire about a property on behalf of my clients. The best time to buy off-market is when the vendor has purchased, and they want to sell promptly at a fair price as they don’t have the time or the desire for a full marketing campaign. When you’re out there inspecting you’ll come across selling agents all the time at open homes. Some will get to know what you’re looking for and if they deem you ‘a serious buyer’ they will tell you about any off-market properties they have which might meet your needs. If an agent lists a property that fits your wish list, they may let you know about it before they advertise it online. The reason not all agents do this is that they love to have open homes, marketing campaigns and auctions. That’s how they meet their next sellers!! To avoid being caught out by the underquoting that’s rife among agents, auctions are to be avoided where possible. It’s not always in the best interest of my client to bid at auction but I do judge every situation on its circumstances. Truth is, it’s not always possible as sometimes the home you want is listed for auction. Relax, I have a very successful history of holding the keys at the end. Further truth, I love auctions!!  I enjoy the transparency of seeing the competition and being able to control an auction with tactics I’ve developed over the years. The real wisdom in engaging me to look after the negotiation for you is that I am a Registered Property Valuer as well as a Buyers Agent and Auctioneer. That’s a rare combo. When making decisions worth hundreds or millions of dollars, it’s incredibly important you are not paying overs. It’s critical for setting you up to make further property purchases that you don’t overspend when you finally do sign that contract of sale. Relax Buyers, You’re Represented. Jacqueline Director Savvy Fox Property Buyers Agent