Property is more popular than the beautiful game.

In the 2009-10 Premier League season up until the 19th January most of the teams have played 10 matches at home and so far 7.161 million supporters went to watch.  Thanks to, I can tell that Manchester United top the table with 832,786 visitors to their 11 games which is over 99% of their capacity. At the other end, Wigan Athletic have pulled in 166,173 in their 9 games. Still, it is the national game.

Add in the Coca-Cola League Championship, division 1 and 2 and you find that more than 16m fans have been to see their clubs play. Put another way, that’s about 1.6m people a month. 

So it might come as a surprise to learn that more than 2.2 million people looked for a new home in December in just one place, on the biggest property portal or web site 

Surveys by industry groups like the National Association of Estate Agents and the RiCS suggest that there are 6 buyers for every home which suggests that a typical agent might have 350-400 people registered on their books. Some will of course be registered with more than agent but even so, I suspect that there might be 2m people registered across the 10,000 estate agent offices in the UK.

Yet it looks like there will have been fewer than 800,000 properties sold in the whole year and yet according to Nielsen, the company who measure web traffic or the number of ‘unique users’ to individual web sites then Primelocation had 809,000 visitors and it’s sister FindaProperty had 747,000. Some people will (I pray!) have been to more than one site but looks like there will have been more than 2m people looking online alone. 

Last year only 68,000 homes sold each month. When we get the December figures there won’t have been many more so it begs the question what were the other 2.1 million visitors to Rightmove looking for and what effect do these tyre kickers have on the market?

The blunt answer is that the vast majority must have been casual browsers. Some of course will have been nosey neighbours and a number will have been looking at other homes to get an idea of what their own might be worth. Many will never go and actually look at a house but many will download the details or take the virtual tour that these web sites now offer.

Looking after all those ‘tourists’ used to be a very expensive job for estate agents, printing and mailing brochures to millions of applicants most of whom couldn’t afford to buy let alone wish to, calling one or twice a week to see if they could be tempted to go and see something and this chore has been greatly reduced by the advent of the internet. 

To the surprise of many, house prices rose last year and are now about 4% higher than they were at the start of 2009 according to the Halifax. One reason for this must be the apparent demand for property from all these people logging on. Estate agents think that there are 6 times more buyers than there are sellers so of course they are confident in their predictions both for house prices and their ‘saleability’. What none of us know is just how many of these might be serious viewers and how many are just voyeurs.

A Rightmove spokesman said in February last year that estate agents “often need to register 100 applicants for every successful sale.” To paraphrase an old saying, when it comes to finding a buyer for your house you certainly seem to need to kiss a lot of frogs.