An Inconvenient Truth


No, despite my impeccable woke credentials, I am not going to lecture you on climate change. We’re going to talk about truth, albeit at times inconvenient, and lies.

Because even though I said that we’d do stats this month, and that I’d stop lying, this remains both true and false, because we are doing stats, but I lied again, because it’s no longer “this month” it’s now next month.

However, proper-next month, ie May, I shall stop lying and we’ll stop doing stats. Does that make sense?

Anyway, as promised we must begin with this quote “There’s lies, damned lies, and then there’s statistics” (and, then there’s Boris Johnson…). A phrase used to describe the utilisation of statistics in the bolstering of otherwise weak arguments. Widely publicised by Mark Twain (aren’t all quotes?), but actually attributed to Disraeli, who in 1872 coined the term during a heated parliamentary debate, in which he challenged Gladstone’s overblown account of his sexual conquests.

But that’s not important right now. Stats are.

So, we’ll do stats first, and they will lead us on to lies, nasty estate agent lies.

I’ve been delving into a lot of stats recently both nationally, Londonally, and locally, ie Wandsworth Borough (WB).

Long story short (this is a stupid phrase because a long story best described concisely would just be “short story”).

So, short story; after really quite abnormal times – think Brexit, think Covid, think Boris’ absurdist “Party” Politics, think Putin, think double-digit price rises, think the comedic slapstick of Beavis and Butthead, sorry, Truss and Kwarteng, think inflation and rate rises, think Winter of Discontent – we are now returning to (largely) normal times.

And doing so in many ways.

Post-Brexit the UK has just signed up to the CPTPP (which The Telegraph says is a wildly exciting New Dawn for UK trade, whilst the Guardian compares it to a fiscal wet fart). Covid and Humans seem to be muddling along together in a dysfunctional kinda way. Boris has finally f#cked off(ish). Prices have peaked. Beavis and Butthead are back in their cages, and Winter is ending (at least chronologically if not meteorologically). The only elephant in the room remains the psychopath in the Kremlin.

So, broad normality out there, but what about in here, in the world of UK property?

Well, here are some national property stats

  • Monthly transaction volumes are now at “normal” levels (where normal is defined as the pre-covid three-year average) ie around 95,000 pcm (ONS).
  • Ditto sales agreed.
  • Ditto property coming to the market.
  • Ditto buyers coming to the market.
  • Ditto sales falling through.
  • Ditto percentage of properties on the market that sell.
  • So far, so good.

Whisper it quietly, and away from journalists; Things Are Returning to Normal, we are NOT all going to hell in a handcart, well not quite yet, don’t forget the Elephant in the Kremlin…

But hang on what’s this?

  • Number of price drops up 45%(!)
  • The gap between asking price and selling price is up almost 100% (from 8% to 15%) (!!!)
  • The average UK asking price is at an all-time high –  up 10% from the peak just before B and B performed their routine(!!!!).
  • Yet the average selling price is down 3% YOY (Nationwide).

What! Why? How come?

Well, these last two points lead us, and rather cunningly I thought, from stats into lies, tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.

Some questions to ponder before we dive into the lies.

Did you know that around 75% of sellers instruct the estate agent quoting the highest asking price?

Why do most agents ask you to sign a 12-26-week contract?

Why are some agents rewarded for the number of properties they’re instructed upon, as opposed to the number that they sell?

Did you know that some agents (in the same outfits) are rewarded for the number of price-drops they get per month not just the amount they sell?

Why is all this relevant?

Well, did you know that there’s quite a bit of economic turmoil out there?

Did you also know that in December and January the overarching fear in the estate agency world was that there would be a profound shortage of stock this first quarter?

I don’t think that it takes an Einsteinian intellect to weave all the above into a coherent Business Model For Estate Agents. One that is conveniently woven without the inconvenient truth as part of its weft.

Such as – rush round valuing property at absurdly inflated asking prices, insist upon a four-month contract, force buyers to view them as there’s not much else, grab a bucketful of negative feedback regarding price (both real and invented), throw it at the vendor (“What!? But you set the price!” “Yup, but the market’s changed. Don’t you read the papers?”), drop the price to market level, sell the property, put the money in the bank.

I think I’ll copyright that.

Oh no! Silly me ——-s already have…

So, nationally, asking prices have gone up about 10%, values (selling prices) have gone down 3%, and the gap between the two is running at about 15% i.e. atm most agents are achieving 85% of asking price. This is because they’re not telling the inconvenient truth – that at best, prices are flat-lining.

They are not using local market knowledge, current in-house sales evidence (cos they’re rubbish so don’t sell anything), reputation, confidence and ability.

But guess who does? Yup we do.

This is what we’re seeing, and saying;

Transaction volumes are running at the three-year pre-covid average. Our asking prices have remained static(ish), we reckon prices have dropped between 2-7% depending upon what you’re selling, and we are currently achieving 100.02% of asking price.

Also, according to TwentyEA property stats, we get 89% of our listings sold (as opposed to the area average of 64%), and we do it 18 days (or 35%) more quickly than our competitors. So, you’re not only more likely to sell with RB, but you’ll do it more quickly (so less time for stuff to go wrong), and you’ll get a much higher percentage of asking price.

I should at this point highlight the fact that RB offer a two-week rolling contract, and that if at any point in that period you feel that we are not doing what we said we’d do, we will quietly and calmly give you the keys back. Why?

Because we tell you the truth, however inconvenient, and we believe in our abilities to execute this truth.

We’ll tell you some statistics, but no lies, damned or otherwise.

That sounds pretty good to me.