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Selling a home off market is on the rise but is it wise?

Roughly one in 10 Britons sold their home off-market in the final three months of last year – the highest level recorded since 2015, according to Hamptons International.

Homes outside the capital are now accounting for 56 per cent off-market sales, up from 45 per cent in 2015.

Selling off-market typically means avoiding advertising property on the main property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla.

It also means no ‘for sale’ signs – either outside the home or inside the estate agent’s shop window.

London is the hotbed for off-market sales: Almost a quarter of London homes sold off-market in the final three months of 2022

London is the hotbed for off-market sales: Almost a quarter of London homes sold off-market in the final three months of 2022

The data also revealed that while homes outside the capital have been accounting for a greater share of off-market sales, London remains very much the hotbed for the discreet seller. 

A whopping 22.3 per cent of homes sold off-market in London during the final three months of 2022.

To put that in context, off-market sales accounted for 11 per cent during the same period in 2019 and only 8.4 per cent in 2018.

Off-market sales have traditionally been reserved for the most expensive properties, where privacy and discretion are important considerations.

In London, the share of homes costing more than £1million that are selling off-market increased to 29 per cent last year, up from 18 per cent three years earlier.

And the trend seems to be accelerating. In the final three months of last year, a staggering 32 per cent of London homes worth £1 million or more were sold off-market, according to Hamptons.

Matthew Thompson, head of sales at London estate agent, Chestertons, said: ‘Off-market sales have been particularly popular with high-end properties but we have recently seen more sellers of homes priced under £1 million who decide to secure a sale off-market.

‘Contrary to an on-market listing, sellers are solely dependent on the estate agent’s network and skills to find a relevant buyer.

‘It’s therefore important to choose an established estate agency that is well-connected.’

Growing phenomenon? The proportion of off-market homes being sold outside the capital also rose to 56% last year, the highest on record

Growing phenomenon? The proportion of off-market homes being sold outside the capital also rose to 56% last year, the highest on record

Nigel Bishop, founder of buying agency Recoco Property Search, adds: ‘The majority of properties we find for our clients are off-market.

‘Sellers favour this approach as off-market negotiations tend to only attract serious buyers who are ready to make an offer which often translates into faster sales transactions.

‘Some vendors might not see the same buyer interest that they witnessed over the past two years which makes an off-market sale more attractive.’

How do you sell a home off-market?

There are several ways to sell a house off-market, according to the House Buyer Bureau.

Sellers can try to find a buyer privately, but usually they employ an estate agent to sell their home without advertising on the open market.

Less common off-market selling styles include selling at auction, or selling to a cash house buying company. 

The most common method is to use an estate agent to discreetly market the property to buyers they already have on their books.

Catherine Merrett, sales manager at Richmond estate agency Antony Roberts, says: ‘We are definitely seeing an increase in sellers choosing a discreet marketing strategy for various reasons across our offices.

‘They understand that a good local agent will have a great database of potential buyers to speak to.

‘For example, one vendor was selling a four-bedroom family house last autumn. They did not have the house quite ready for marketing and were concerned about it sitting on the portals as the market was uncertain following the mini-Budget.

‘So we devised a plan whereby we would offer it discreetly during the autumn months and if we didn’t sell it, we would implement a full marketing campaign in the Spring.

‘Even without the aid of photographs or floor plans, we were able to find a great buyer, agreed a fantastic price for the house and exchanged contracts just before Christmas.

‘We are currently discreetly marketing another property – a beautiful, recently-refurbished conversion apartment that is not quite finished or photo-ready.

‘We are showing it to those applicants on our database who we know are in the market for such a property.’

What’s behind the off-market trend?

The uptick in off-market sales is likely to have been caused by the slower property market.

Sellers have been more likely to use off-market sales as a way of testing the market and their asking prices, without having to publicise any reductions or reveal how long the property has been for sale.

The housing market has come to somewhat of a standstill in recent months.

Sellers are being accused of setting unrealistic asking prices, while prospective buyers are said to be standing by and waiting for property prices to fall.

The number of prospective homebuyers registering with agents fell from 2.5 per available property in December 2021, to 1.4 per property in December 2022, according to Propertymark, an estate agent membership body, representing a 45 per cent fall in buyer demand year-on-year.

Falling demand: The number of prospective homebuyers registering with agents fell from 2.5 per available property in December 2021, to 1.4 per property in December 2022

Falling demand: The number of prospective homebuyers registering with agents fell from 2.5 per available property in December 2021, to 1.4 per property in December 2022

Perhaps an even clearer indication of collapsing demand is that mortgage lending fell by over a fifth in December, the fourth consecutive month that the number of individuals borrowing for a house purchase declined.

In total 35,600 mortgages were approved in December, according to data from the Bank of England, the lowest level since May 2020.

If you ignore May 2020 – when the UK property market was effectively in shutdown during the first lockdown – it’s actually the worst figure recorded since January 2009. 

In what has clearly become a difficult market for sellers, there is a danger when advertising on Rightmove and Zoopla that a home that’s failing to sell can actually start to put potential buyers off.

Whatever the reason, it is usually the case that the longer a property remains listed online, the less interest it seems to attract.

Buyers deem the months of marketing as a clear sign there must be something wrong, and interest in the property can tail off.

Mark Wells, founder and chief executive of off-market property platform, Invisible Homes, says: ‘The reason that off-market selling works is because there’s uncertainty at the moment about where house prices are heading.

‘There are fewer buyers in the marketplace, which means that there’s less chance of selling and an increased chance of clocking up time on Rightmove and Zoopla.

‘The problem with the typical open market is that it puts a date stamp on your property and gives evidence of any price falls. This can begin to work against the seller.

‘Evidence suggests that buyers are put off by property that isn’t selling. Even after a month they will begin thinking – if nobody else is interested, why would I want this?

‘Going on the open market is a risk at the moment because if you don’t sell on the open market, you’re essentially devaluing your property by not selling. 

‘Selling off-market means you can approach buyers who are serious and are in the market and want to buy without that time stamp gathering around a property. 

‘This hides any indicators that a seller may be desperate or that nobody is interested in buying a property.’

Hidden away: Selling properties off market allows you to discreetly market them

Hidden away: Selling properties off market allows you to discreetly market them

Wells says his off-market platform, Invisible Homes, which is currently available to sellers and buyers in central London locations, is seeing a surge in activity thanks to the current market conditions.

Invisible Homes signed up 70 new agents in its first year of launching the platform. This year, in January alone it says it added 30 new estate agents.

‘This is a clear indication of how people are now viewing off-market selling,’ says Wells.

‘As long as your estate agent is doing a good job, they have access to your home when they need and they have enough buyers on their books, then selling off market should work well.

‘If selling off-market fails, you can always launch it on the open market later without having damaged your chances of selling.’

What to do if you need a mortgage 

Borrowers who need to find a mortgage because their current fixed rate deal is coming to an end, or because they have agreed a house purchase, should explore their options as soon as possible.

This is Money’s best mortgage rates calculator powered by L&C can show you deals that match your mortgage and property value

What if I need to remortgage? 

Borrowers should compare rates and speak to a mortgage broker and be prepared to act to secure a rate. 

Anyone with a fixed rate deal ending within the next six to nine months, should look into how much it would cost them to remortgage now – and consider locking into a new deal. 

Most mortgage deals allow fees to be added the loan and they are then only charged when it is taken out. By doing this, borrowers can secure a rate without paying expensive arrangement fees.

What if I am buying a home? 

Those with home purchases agreed should also aim to secure rates as soon as possible, so they know exactly what their monthly payments will be. 

Home buyers should beware overstretching themselves and be prepared for the possibility that house prices may fall from their current high levels, due to  higher mortgage rates limiting people’s borrowing ability.

How to compare mortgage costs 

The best way to compare mortgage costs and find the right deal for you is to speak to a good broker.

You can use our best mortgage rates calculator to show deals matching your home value, mortgage size, term and fixed rate needs.

Be aware that rates can change quickly, however, and so the advice is that if you need a mortgage to compare rates and then speak to a broker as soon as possible, so they can help you find the right mortgage for you.

> Check the best fixed rate mortgages you could apply for 

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Folkestone dubbed the new Whitstable after undergoing a dramatic transformation

Every year around this time we hear of plans to regenerate run-down seaside towns and dreary resorts, from Margate to Morecambe. 

Yet none could match the dramatic transformation of Folkestone on Kent’s south coast.

Just ten years ago, Folkestone was on the slide. ‘I moved here in 2015 from Gran Canaria to work in a hotel and parts of the town, notably the harbour area, were scary — so I moved on to Canterbury,’ says Alex Rodriguez, 31, now a freelancer working in corporate communications.

Turning the tide: The Kent seaside town’s once off-limits harbour is now an enticing location

Turning the tide: The Kent seaside town’s once off-limits harbour is now an enticing location

‘Then I heard about the changes going on, so in 2020 I moved back here with my husband and picked up a three-bedroom Victorian end-terrace house for £240,000. 

I have never regretted it — Folkestone nowadays has a really cool vibe and beautiful scenery.’

It is difficult to imagine the Folkestone that Alex found back in 2015. Much of the harbour and seafront was occupied by railway sidings, a squalid fairground and a flea market. The Old Town area was, to put it bluntly, a slum.

It took the ambition of Sir Roger De Haan to create the Folkestone of today. He bought the town’s harbour in 2004 with a view to regenerating it.

‘My parents started [travel company] Saga and when I sold the company in 2004 [for £1.35 billion] I was still only in my late 50s and I needed to carry on working,’ Sir Roger told me. ‘I decided on four strands of regeneration: education, buildings, the arts and sport.’

These areas were in desperate need of attention. Folkestone had one of the five least academically successful secondary schools in England. 

With an investment of £34 million, Sir Roger had architect Norman Foster design a replacement and it is now judged ‘good’ by Ofsted. 

Sir Roger also helped set up performance venues and ploughed money into a variety of sports facilities.

But the flagship of the new-look Folkestone is a development of 84 apartments on the sea-front. Set on shingle at the top of the beach, it is built of glistening white, glazed bricks. 

Broad balconies give the exterior a Gaudi-esque look, while inside the curvature of the tall windows means rooms are bathed in light. Materials of wood and pebble echo the seaside theme.

Prices range from £430,000 for a one-bedroom flat to £2.2 million for a penthouse. Six more blocks are planned, totalling 1,000 units (

Nearby is the restored Harbour Arm, with its champagne bar, food stalls. Stroll south along the seafront and you pass brightly painted beach huts and a landscaped coastal path.

The revamped Old High Street is now bursting with independent shops and studios — not unlike popular and chi-chi Whitstable on the north Kent coast.

‘It has a really cosmopolitan atmosphere,’ says Alex. ‘There are lots of freelancers and we meet in a coffee shop twice a week, which gives a real sense of community.’

There’s a lot to attract newcomers, with London’s St Pancras just an hour away. So, with so many seaside towns looking to re-invent themselves, what’s the secret of a successful regeneration?

‘In areas where the economy is broken, it is not enough to just fix the buildings,’ said Sir Roger. ‘You have to give the town a whole new economic purpose … there must be one over-arching grand ambition.’

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Majority of Businesses (82%) Set to Boost R&D Funding in the Next Three Years

Businesses And R&D Funding

More than 78% of R&D professionals believe that an enhanced 50% R&D tax credit will incentivise green tech development

A recent report by the Industry Research and Development Group (IRDG) and KPMG sheds light on the state of Research and Development (R&D), highlighting the urgent need for increased funding to keep pace with other leading innovation-driven nations. Titled ‘Ireland’s Innovation Index,’ the report presents insights gathered from a survey of 394 respondents representing various sectors, including engineering, technology, medical, and software.

Growing Ambitions for R&D Investment

The findings of the report reveal that a significant majority (80%) of respondents plan to boost their R&D expenditure in the next three years, while 67% have already increased their R&D budgets over the past three years. Encouragingly, only a mere 4% anticipate a decrease in future R&D spending. This heightened commitment to R&D investment underscores its critical role in driving economic growth and competitiveness.

R&D Landscape

Ireland has demonstrated commendable performance in the realm of R&D, with a substantial proportion (69%) of multinational companies considering Irish R&D grants and tax supports on par with or even superior to those offered by other countries. Only 31% expressed a less favorable opinion. Moreover, 64% of the survey respondents have taken advantage of the Research and Development Tax Credit (RDTC), while 53% have availed themselves of semi-state grant supports. These figures indicate the value that companies place on government incentives to support their innovation endeavors.

The Need for Increased Funding

Despite the positive strides made, the report highlights the pressing need for Ireland to bolster its R&D funding to match the levels seen in leading innovation-driven nations. According to the IRDG, an additional €2 billion in funding is required to bridge this gap effectively.

Embracing Sustainability and Digitalization

The report also emphasizes the potential of enhanced R&D funding in promoting green tech development. An overwhelming 78% of R&D professionals believe that an improved 50% R&D tax credit would serve as a powerful incentive to drive innovation in sustainable technologies. This highlights the need to align R&D investment with the challenges of sustainability and digitalization, ensuring continued economic prosperity and positioning Ireland as a global leader in these areas.

The Importance of Support for SMEs and FDI

Dermot Casey, CEO at IRDG, underscores the significance of increased investment in innovation, particularly in supporting innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to create the next generation of Irish success stories, akin to industry leaders like Kingspan and Fexco. Additionally, such investment is crucial to bolster the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) sector. Businesses are poised to invest, but they require robust support to overcome challenges related to accessing skills, talent, and administrative burdens.

Competition in the Global Landscape

Ken Hardy, head of KPMG’s R&D incentives practice, draws attention to the intense competition among European jurisdictions, including neighboring countries like the UK, which are actively vying to attract R&D activities. In light of this landscape, Ireland must fortify its support systems and allocate a more substantial budget to maintain its competitiveness. Hardy commends the positive sentiment among over two-thirds of Irish RD&I professionals who view Ireland’s support systems as comparable to those of other countries.

Charting the Path Forward

The report underscores the urgent need for Ireland to bolster its investment in R&D, both to stimulate innovation and to address the challenges presented by sustainability and digitalization.

By increasing funding and providing comprehensive support to innovative companies, Ireland can seize opportunities for economic growth and maintain its position as a global hub for research and development. The collective efforts of industry, government, and academia will be instrumental in driving Ireland’s innovation agenda and securing a prosperous future.

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Ways Small & Medium-Sized Businesses Can Hire Big Tech Talent

In response to mounting financial concerns, tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) have recently implemented significant staff cuts. This has prompted industry leaders to reevaluate their hiring practices, recognizing the limitations of Big Tech’s ability to weather challenging economic times.

While the tech industry’s overall stability is assured, the combination of a declining economy and a previous surge in hiring has resulted in substantial job losses. However, this situation also presents an opportunity for small businesses and start-ups to tap into a pool of available tech experts.

To capitalize on this unique scenario, small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners must act swiftly to gain a competitive advantage over larger companies and attract highly skilled candidates.

In this article, John Elf, Technology Contributor at ‘Voice of EU’ and Head of Marketing at Vibertron Technologies, provides insights into some simple but effective strategies for attracting talent in a candidate-heavy market.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can leverage consulting services to attract the best talent, just like big tech companies do. Here’s how SMBs can make use of consulting services to enhance their talent acquisition efforts:

1. Talent Acquisition Strategy Development: SMBs can engage consulting firms specializing in talent acquisition and HR strategies to help them develop a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy. These consultants can assess the organization’s needs, identify talent gaps, and devise effective recruitment and sourcing strategies tailored to the SMB’s specific industry and requirements. This strategic approach ensures that the SMB is targeting the right candidates and maximizing its resources.

2. Employer Branding and Positioning: Consulting firms experienced in employer branding can assist SMBs in developing a strong employer brand that resonates with their target talent pool. They can help SMBs articulate their unique value proposition, culture, and growth opportunities, ensuring that the organization stands out as an attractive employer. These consultants can also provide guidance on how to effectively communicate the employer brand across various channels to attract the best talent.

3. Recruitment Process Optimization: Recruitment service provider can help SMBs, same as LCEs, optimize their recruitment processes, making them more efficient and effective. Consultants can review and streamline the entire hiring process, from job postings and candidate screening to interview techniques and selection methodologies. By improving the candidate experience and ensuring a smooth and timely process, SMBs can enhance their reputation as an employer of choice.

4. Candidate Sourcing and Evaluation: Consulting firms specializing in talent acquisition can assist SMBs in sourcing and evaluating candidates. They can leverage their networks and resources to identify top talent and conduct thorough assessments, including skill evaluations, cultural fit analysis, and background checks. By leveraging external expertise, SMBs can access a broader candidate pool and make well-informed hiring decisions.

5. Compensation and Benefits Consulting: Attracting and retaining top talent often requires competitive compensation and benefits packages. SMBs can engage consulting firms that specialize in compensation and benefits to ensure their offerings align with industry standards and meet the expectations of high-caliber candidates. These consultants can provide insights into market trends, salary benchmarks, and innovative benefit options, enabling SMBs to remain competitive in talent acquisition.

6. Training and Development Programs: SMBs can leverage consulting services to design and implement training and development programs. These programs not only help attract talent but also contribute to employee retention and growth.

Consultants can identify skill gaps, design customized training modules, and provide guidance on employee development initiatives, ensuring that SMBs create a culture of continuous learning and professional advancement.

By utilizing consulting services in talent acquisition, SMBs can access specialized expertise, best practices, and industry insights that are typically associated with larger companies. This approach enables SMBs to compete for top talent on a more level playing field, enhancing their ability to attract and retain the best candidates.

By John Elf

John Elf is Head of Marketing at Vibertron Technologies, and an Honorary Contributor at ‘Voice of EU’. A version of this article has already been published.

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