AINsight: What Exactly Is an ‘Off Market’ Aircraft?

by Jay Mesinger - February 2, 2018, 9:35 AM

I see ads all the time from brokers that claim they have an off-market aircraft or are looking only for an “off market” aircraft. Is this different from a “pocket listing”? Not many years ago, a seller would send a broker out with a pocket listing in advance of publicly listing an aircraft for sale. To me that was like a trial balloon—let it go and see how high it rises.

The thinking was: once we have an idea of the market acceptance, then we can set a price and get it out to the general audience. If the balloon falls flat compared to expectations, the seller might not proceed with the process of selling.

But this is different than the off-market phenomenon we have today. After all, there is no such thing as an aircraft that is off-market, yet put out to all the world to see via print and electronic marketing. In most cases the registration number is removed from the marketing pictures.

My sense is this off-market declaration is as much about deception and lack of transparency as it is about the lack of an aircraft listing. In this last example, perhaps an owner has let multiple brokers know that if they could sell the airplane for X amount, then maybe they would.

In this case, the seller really has no one working for him and could find himself in a multi-broker back-to-back with unknown hands in the mix. Additionally, the absolute need of brokers to present only off-market aircraft to buyers says they also do not really have a transparent relationship with the buyers, and again the result could be an undisclosed payment in the middle.

After all, if an airplane is being advertised, even casually, how can it be off the market? It is either for sale or or it isn’t.

The off-market designation does not come with an asking price, and that is exactly what a certain segment of buying brokers wants. That way their buyer cannot go online and source the offering and challenge the broker’s price suggestions with facts. It all becomes very murky.

There are also other issues with off-market aircraft. Typically, no broker has really invested in visiting the aircraft or audited the specifications or even read the records. All of this could be a recipe for disaster somewhere along the line of the transaction.

My company often gets involved with an aircraft that a friendly broker tells us about in advance of the marketing package being put together or current pictures and specifications being completed. This can also set up a few challenges as both brokers, buyer’s and seller’s, get up to speed on the aircraft in real time, but there is no malicious intent. We’re just lucky we found it first.

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