RiCS monthly survey out

The latest RiCS survey out this morning is once again a “percentage -of-surveyors-who-are-more-optimistic-than-those-who-are-not” kind of prognostication. Their December survey (when they ask the very few estate agents who are Chartered Surveyors what kind of month they have had) suggests that 30% more surveyors saw prices rise than fall but as always with the RiCS survey this doesn’t necessarily mean that the majority of their members saw prices rise!

If there were 100 surveyors in their survey of over 10,000 agents in the UK (they won’t tell us but I guess there might be 1,500) and say 26 saw prices rise, 20 saw prices fall then it follows that 30% more surveyors saw prices rise than fall. However, the remaining 54 will have seen no change in prices.

The survey does go on to talk about how supply and demand has become much tighter and it may be that the dearth of properties being put up for sale is helping prop up prices.

It’s hard to know how ‘demand’ can be measured. RiCS seem to count the number of buyers registered with their estate agent members but would you register with just one estate agent if you were looking for a new home? Many people now use the internet to look for homes and the number of registered users on Rightmove and Primelocation seem to be ticking ever upwards.

The only numbers that can be measured and that might provide a helpful guide to supply and demand are the number of new homes coming onto the market every day and the number selling. Both are a fraction of their six year highs and make predictions about the wider market extremely difficult.

The average number of homes coming onto the market every day is 5,530 which peaked in May 2006 at 8,210. Last month there were less than 3,000 new instructions a day.

Similarly, on average 3,705 homes sell across the UK each day. The peak was February 2007 at 5,333. Once again, when we get the formal figures from HMRC in a couple of days I expect that we will see fewer than 3,000 sold every day last month.

One conclusion that is hard to avoid is that life for estate agents and mortgage brokers who are both paid on commission is extremely tough at the moment and looks like it will continue to be for at least the first half of the year.

There are many monthly guides to the health of the housing market and in my view most are more helpful than how a very select group of estate agents who are Chartered Surveyors happen to ‘feel’. Group hug anyone?