Since before COVID-lockdown began, we've tracked consumer sentiment, based upon leads generated via Live Chat on property websites. We're only tracking enquiries with a transactional 'intent', ie. to sell, buy, let or rent - a clear indicator of customer desire to get on with business even under COVID-19 restrictions.
We took the average level of leads generated over the 62 weeks prior to lockdown on 23 March 2020, right back to 1 January 2019. That included a fairly dampened market, suffering from Brexit uncertainty, pre-election paralysis and then the Boris Bounce, so a good yardstick for difficult market conditions.
Our graph below, which is updated on a weekly basis, shows the pre-COVID-19 average at 100%, and clearly illustrates the market swings of the previous 15 months, followed by a Coronavirus crash.
Yomdel Property Sentiment Tracker – Estate agent website visitor volumes hit new all-time high to feed fresh surge in vendor and buyer enquiries.
Landlords retreat from recent gains and tenants pile back in as lockdown easing finally comes into view
Optimism over possible easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions from next month sparked fresh activity in the residential property market with estate agents seeing a new all-time record number of people on their websites, while new vendor and buyer enquiries hit their highest levels since early autumn.
Landlords retreated from recent gains falling 16% on the week while tenants saw things differently and piled in to rise 18%. For sales, huge uncertainly remains over how robust current deals are in the face of a hard stop to the stamp duty holiday on 31 March, but all indications are this is having little or no impact on the thinking of fresh market entrants.
With optimism high that the government would start easing coronavirus restrictions from 8 March, new enquiries from vendors rose 12% and buyers by 11% suggesting that while there may still be a surfeit of buyers in the market, there are still plenty of vendors waiting in the wings. Vendors and buyers now sit significantly higher than the same peak season week last year, up 13% and 22%, respectively, YPST data for the week ending midnight 21 February showed.
The switch to digital shows no sign of slowing, with estate agent websites busier than ever before, some 56% above the pre-Covid-19 average, 40% above the same week last year and 51% higher than the corresponding week 2019. This is in turn generating record volumes of new enquiries for agents.
Yomdel provides 24/7 managed live chat services to 3,800 estate agent offices in the UK, handling more than a 1.9m chats per year. It has analysed the data and leads captured in live chat going back to January 2019, up until week ending 21 February 2021. The website visitor data is a sample across major estate agency groups in the UK and covers in excess of 50 million unique website visits back to January 2019.
“Lettings has wobbled a bit in the past week, but demand for sales shows no sign slowing. Yes there is uncertainty over transactions potentially collapsing with the stamp duty holiday ending, but agent pipelines have been stuffed full for many months now. Our view is there is still plenty more demand in the market, especially to those agents focussing on their digital presence,“ said Andy Soloman, Yomdel Founder & CEO.
“The government has now announced plans for a gradual opening of society and the economy starting from 8 March and continuing for several months. With the brighter spring days also upon us and hope that summer may be saved to a degree, there is cause for optimism. Let’s face it people are really crying out for some good news and this will be reflected in market activity,” he added.
The YPST methodology establishes a base line average shown as 100% or 100, calculated according to average engagement values over the 62 weeks prior to the first national lockdown on 23 March 2020, and plots movements from there according to the volumes of people engaging in live chat, their stated needs, questions asked, and new business leads generated. Data is measured over full 24-hour periods.
New vendors were down up 12.23%, or 15.90 points, to end the week on 145.93, some 46% above the average, and 13% higher than the same week last year.
After staying flat last week, buyers rose 11.12%, or 15.31 points, to close at 152.98, some 53% above the pre-covid-19 average and 22% above the same week 2020.
Landlords lost the previous week’s gains to slump 16.21%, or 19.49 points, to 100.71, just 1% above the average and 18% lower than the same week last year.
Tenants surged 18.47%, or 19.29 points, to close at 123.69, some 24% above the pre-covid-19 average and 27% above the same week last year.
The following graph looks at the relationship between website visitor volumes, live chat volumes and the volume of leads generated. The data samples more than 50 million visitors to estate agent websites from Jan 2019 – 21 February 2021 and shows how web traffic (blue line) is 40% higher than the same week last year. The volume of people using live chat (red line) and the numbers of new business leads captured (purple line) are 22% and 19%, respectively, above the same week 2020.
The big news of 2020 was the rapid rebound in consumer sentiment after the initial Coronavirus crisis and lockdown, seen through Live Chat usage on property websites, which indicated a huge change in customer online behaviour as a direct result of enforced lifestyle changes.
To support this evidence, we tracked a sample of 25 Yomdel property clients, and matched their Live Chat activity against their overall website visitors in the same periods, taken from Google Analytics. SEE THE FULL ANALYSIS HERE.
Consumer demand rebounded in website visits too, but the increase in Live Chat usage by customers was extraordinary, and a sign that new online behaviours are emerging as COVID-19 creates restrictions for consumers and businesses alike.