As interest in the Illawarra property market grows amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many buyers are looking to avoid busy open homes or auctions.
As a result, some are exploring "off-market" opportunities.
An off-market property is for sale, but is not marketed or advertised via the traditional channels.
Instead, agents contact potential buyers directly, sourcing them from their database or other people who have got in touch about buying in the area.
Catherine Renshaw, 37, and husband Nick bought a four-bedroom house in Thirroul via off-market means.
We learnt quite quickly that there was the stuff that was being published on the property websites, and then there were a whole lot of off-market opportunities ...
They relocated to the Illawarra from Sydney a little more than a year ago, initially renting in Thirroul with a view to eventually buying.
Mrs Renshaw said the couple, who have two young children, began "looking in earnest" in early 2020.
"We had never bought in Australia before, but we found it different from our experience buying properties in the UK," she said.
"We learnt quite quickly that there was the stuff that was being published on the property websites, and then there were a whole lot of off-market opportunities that you'd only really know about if you were on the list and speaking to the estate agents quite regularly.
"They knew what our circumstances were, that we were committed to buying, and had our finances in order. So those off-market opportunities, they'd only bring a few people through ... after making sure they were real buyers.
"They got people through to see if they could get an offer before actually going out and properly marketing the property, and having things like open houses."
Their offer on a property was accepted in June.
"We had put offers on two properties before the one we had accepted," she said.
Mrs Renshaw said it was key for prospective buyers to build relationships with agents to potentially access off-market opportunities.
"If something came up, or they get a call from someone maybe looking to sell, then they'd be straight on the phone to us," she said. "You have to be at the forefront of their minds."
Trever Molenaar of Bulli-based Molenaar + McNeice agency said the off-market method was currently popular with many sellers.
However, he said this approach wasn't suitable for all properties; some benefitted from exposure to a wider range of potential buyers.
Meanwhile, Mr Molenaar said there wasn't currently enough supply within the region to meet the growing demand for properties in the Illawarra from local buyers and those outside the region.
"But we are heading into spring, so traditionally a lot more homes come on to the market at this time," he said.
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