RICS out of touch with housing market

The market is very, very tough at present but we need to be accurate about precisely how tough. For many, the housing market is like God – with so little evidence you just have to believe it still exists.

It took the RICS far too long to acknowledge that there was anything wrong with the housing market in the first place but today’s comments on the weakness of the market once again exposes just how out of touch the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors really is.

In their latest survey released today they claim that the average number of transactions per surveyor between August and October is at a 30 year low at just 10.9 per agency. However we know that there were around 59,000 sales in the UK in September for example, a figure that is confirmed both by my own work with the Land Registry data and by HM Revenue & Customs and with around 11,500 offices either RICS members are less successful than other agents at selling houses or they can’t add up!

Every month the RICS figures are widely quoted despite two fundamental problems:-

1. The figures quoted are always a percentage of Chartered Surveyors reporting rises or falls but never the actual number of these rises or falls. What kind of metric is this? It’s like asking undertakers if they feel happier or not.

2. I estimate that only around 1% of Chartered Surveyors are actually involved in residential sales. Most are employed in valuation work for lenders (and so presumably are rather bored at present!) or in counting bricks for developers or are letting warehouses outside Reading.

These are professional property people but they aren’t on the front line of residential estate agency. Their views are interesting but it would be wrong for the press or the public to feel that they represented the broader market or that they were somehow scientific. I have tried for years to get the RICS to explain either how many residential members they have or how their survey is conducted but without success. It seems that just having ‘Royal’ in your title has given the impression that one actually knows what one is talking about.