The allure of “Off Market” aircraft is undeniable. That perfect airplane, with the exact configuration and equipment- and only you know about it. It’s tempting to imagine a secret shadow market, a dark pool, only accessible to people “in the know,” where the real opportunities lie. The ones so special that normal marketing channels would somehow be passé.

We’ve all gotten the call, heard the phrase and seen the blast. Our client is looking for an “Off Market” Falcon. “Off Market” Gulfstream available for immediate sale – call for more details. Immediately available – “Off Market” Global. Citation wanted – “Off Market” only. Psst, hey pal, know of any “Off Market” opportunities?

Well, what does “Off Market” really mean? And how big is this “Off Market” market?

The term “Off Market” can loosely be defined as an aircraft for sale but not posted on the listing services AMSTAT and JETNET. However, this does not necessarily mean “unadvertised.” As referenced above, you see ads all the time for “Off Market” opportunities. The key difference: to go up on a listing service, the aircraft and serial number must be identified with the broker’s name. This raises some suspicion as to the true circumstances behind an “Off Market” opportunity. After all- why would a seller choose to forgo publicity?

Legitimately, a few undoubtedly feel there is some cache in playing hard to get. Arguably, there can be benefit in letting word of mouth develop before going public with a listing. But more than likely “Off Market” means one of three things: the seller feels the need to minimize public exposure for some strategic reason; the broker is “fishing” for opportunities or doesn’t have an exclusive right to market (or acquire) the aircraft; or, the seller is just trying to gauge demand or explore values (read: not really for sale). All of these scenarios should arouse some level of suspicion until the whole story is thoroughly understood.

Recently, we had reason to dig into this question a little further, specifically to find out how big the “Off Market” market really was. Unfortunately, there isn’t an alternative website one can search to find a list of aircraft which aren’t for sale but really are for sale. So, we decided to go about measuring the true size of this market in another way, with data we do have. We decided to count the number of “Off Market” aircraft that actually transact.

Using a quasi-scientific random sample of 206 large-cabin transactions from 2015, we found that 8.7% were aircraft that had not previously been listed on AMSTAT or JETNET. A little further digging revealed that the majority of these transactions were trade-in inventory to OEM’s which were likely pre-sold; either directly or through a wholesaler. The net takeaway is, that for all the noise surrounding “Off Market” transactions, they are rare occurrences. Most of these opportunities will lead to a dead end, and one would be well advised to remember this fact as they prep their bitcoin wallet for any deal.

It also means that we don’t really have a meaningful chunk of additional inventory contributing further pressure to an already saturated market. Yes, there are a few. But, consider that some portion of the aircraft listed for sale are probably not for sale anyway, and one can make a reasonable assumption that this all nets out in the end.

The statistics say that the best opportunities out there are probably right in front you, basking in the sunlight. Happy shopping.