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Propertymark rejects claim its housing market data is inaccurate

Propertymark’s chief executive has rejected claims that his organisation’s housing market data inaccurately states the numbers of prospective buyers for each home on sale.

Just before the Christmas break, in its last housing market snapshot for 2021, Propertymark data from the end of November showed the average number of house hunters registered per estate agent branch at 571; meanwhile the properties available per member branch stood at just 20 in November. 

Propertymark stated that this meant an average of 29 buyers for every available property on the market.

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However a blog by the organisation Full Fact - which describes itself as “a team of independent fact checkers and campaigners who find, expose and counter [bad information]” - says: “The [Propertymark] analysis likely overstates the ratio of house buyers to properties.”

Full Fact doubted the accuracy for two main reasons. 

Firstly, it said Propertymark simply divided the average number of home buyers registered at estate agent branches by the average number of homes on sale per branch - although this may involve counting the same prospective buyer more than once if they registered with more than one agency branch.

Secondly, Full Fact suggested that some of the registered buyers may no longer be looking for a home - so would be counted by the Propertymark analysis, even though they had chosen not to buy. Full Fact accepted the reverse could happen and may thus under-estimate the number of prospective buyers, because all those actively looking for a home are not necessarily registered with a Propertymark member agent.

The Full Fact analyst, Abbas Panjwani, says in his blog: “While Propertymark’s figures are likely to overstate the ratio of buyers to houses at an absolute level, they may more usefully indicate the trend of property availability.”

Estate Agent Today put the criticism by Full Fact to Propertymark over the Christmas break. 

Chief executive Nathan Emerson told us: “The main observation raised by the Full Facts article is that our figures are not ‘absolute’. We always want to be transparent, and we are more than happy to clarify that the figures in our report consider a singular member’s branch average and are not accumulative.

“During a fact find discussion, the Full Facts journalist explained to our spokesperson that whilst our report represented his personal experiences, he felt there were some unknowns that he wanted to highlight. 

“He acknowledged that the ratio is a fair metric for indicating competition which is further supported by the articles reference itself to the Office of National Statistics UK monthly property transaction data, complementing the high demand our report shows.

“We calculate the ratio we use by dividing the average number of buyers registered per branch by the average number of properties for sale. This method is straightforward and has been used consistently. It considers member branches in isolation; therefore, it is not affected by duplication which we believe has been misinterpreted. In future reports we will make sure that where the figures are per branch, that it is stated clearly.

“With regards to the other observations raised, it is unfortunately not possible for agents to quantify how many potential buyers are not registered with them and at what stage of motivation each of those individual applicants registered are at. To reflect this going forward, we are happy to change our reference to ‘potential buyers’.

“Whilst the number of applicants registered is not too dissimilar compared with November 2020, the amount of stock being reported is 50 per cent lower and it is actually this lack of stock which is causing the ratio to be so disproportionately high against the long-term trends. Something we are not anticipating will change in the very near future.”

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    An argument over an entirely meaningless statistic.

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    And a meaningless organisation

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