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 – Enquiries slowdown continues as market rebalances with the stamp duty holiday deadline looming.
Estate agent website traffic holding strong at elevated levels, with overall new lead volumes remaining unseasonably high.
TRENDS MOSTLY HIGH, BUT DROPPING
New Vendor enquiries: DOWN 7% (last week FLAT) (18% ABOVE AVERAGE, 28% BELOW 2020)
New buyer enquiries: DOWN 2% (last week DOWN 6%) (27% ABOVE AVERAGE, 25% BELOW 2020)
New landlord enquiries: UP 5% (last week UP 8%) (3% BELOW AVERAGE, 30% BELOW 2020)
New tenant enquiries: DOWN 5% (last week UP 8%) (29% ABOVE AVERAGE, 17% BELOW 2020)
A steady slowdown in overall new enquiries to UK estate agents continued in the past week as the market, while remaining at elevated levels, continued its rebalancing as the first deadline for the stamp duty holiday neared, the latest data from the Yomdel Property Sentiment Tracker (YPST) showed.
Landlords bucked the trend to rise 5% to offset recent losses, but vendors fell 7% and buyers dropped 2% as home movers grappled with rapidly rising house prices, a shortage of available properties and the distractions coming from the Euro 2020 football tournament combined with the easing of coronavirus restrictions .
However, traffic to own-branded estate agent websites remained some 33% above average and the volumes of new leads generated via live chat overall was 38% above the pre-Covid 62-week average, data showed.
Yomdel provides 24/7 managed live chat services to 3,800 estate agent offices in the UK, handling more than a two million chats per year. It has analysed the data and leads captured in live chat going back to January 2019, up until week ending 20 June 2021. The website visitor data is a sample across major estate agency groups in the UK and covers in excess of 55 million unique website visits back to January 2019.
“It really is crunch time. People lucky enough to have lined up a move are getting stuck with conveyancing delays and a huge shortage of removals firms with availability to physically move their belongings. It is extraordinary, and hanging over all the frustrations is the winding in of the stamp duty tax breaks from the end of June,” said Andy Soloman, Yomdel Founder.
“Home moving is always stressful and while the UK summer has had a false start the gloomy weather is also casting a pall over deals being completed in time, which in turn piles more pressure on the chains and transactions already stretched to the limit,” 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 dropped 6.51%, or 8.19 points, to end the week on 117.63, some 18% above the average, 28% below the same week last year during the initial lockdown, and 22% above the equivalent week 2019.
Buyers fell 2.36%, or 3.06 points, to close at 126.75, some 27% above the pre-covid-19 average, 25% below the same week 2020 and 25% higher than the equivalent week 2019 before coronavirus hit.
Landlords rose for the second consecutive week to grow by 5.26%, or 4.87 points, to 97.46, some 3% below the average, 30% lower than the same week last year, and 9% below the same week 2019.
Tenants dipped 4.88%, or 6.62 points, to close at 128.95 some 29% above the pre-covid-19 average, 17% lower than the same week last year, but 10% above the same week 2019.
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.
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.