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 – Residential market slowdown accelerates as new Covid restrictions loom
Enquiries remain above levels seen last year, but trend is downwards
22 SEPTEMBER 2020. Estate agents saw a continued slowdown in new enquiry levels in the past week as concerns around new coronavirus restrictions grew and the deadline to benefit from the stamp duty holiday was looking increasingly tight. But levels overall remained well above average, the Yomdel Property Sentiment Tracker (YPST) showed.
The market has seriously overheated since May as initial lockdown restrictions were eased and the government announced stamp duty would be removed on the first £500,000 spent on a home provided the transactions completed by 31 March 2021. Estate agents have scrambled to meet demand new enquiries have soared to the highest levels ever seen, and prices have risen.
Traffic to own-branded estate agent websites remained strong, dropping slightly on the week but remaining 27% above the pre-covid-19 lockdown 62-week average and 26% above the same week last year. Lead volumes overall were 55% higher year-on-year and the proportion of people choosing to engage via live chat was 46% higher than the same week last year.
Yomdel provides 24/7 managed live chat services to 3,800 estate agent offices in the UK, handling more than a 1.5m chats per year. It has analysed the data and leads captured in live chat going back to January 2019, up until week ending 20 September 2020. The website visitor data is a sample across major estate agency groups in the UK and covers in excess of 39 million unique website visits back to January 2019.
Landlords were the biggest fallers on the week ending midnight on 20 September dropping 12%. New sales enquiries from vendors fell 6.6% to end 57% above the 62-week pre-covid-19 average to indicate continued strong demand, but importantly this was 15% lower than the peak hit in the week ending 19 July. Buyers fell almost 5% on the week.
“What goes up must come down, and what we’re seeing now is the inevitable slowdown, albeit from record levels and the market remains exceptionally buoyant. It’s clear the clock is ticking and agents and homeowners alike need to accelerate their activities while they still can,” said Andy Soloman, Yomdel Founder & CEO.
“The government has announced new coronavirus restrictions which they say will be around for at least six months. The sensible money would say things are likely to get worse before they can get better, so it is critical sales are booked and progressed as fast as humanly possible. It’s not just coronavirus but also seasonal downturns and a gloomy economic outlook,” 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 lockdown, 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 lost 6.55%, or 10.99 points, to end the week on 156.69, which left them 57% above the pre-covid-19 62-week average.
Buyers fell 4.79%, or 7.14 points, to close at 141.96, some 42% above pre-covid-19 average, a new low since lockdown was initially eased in May.
Landlords plunged 12.23%, or 15.16 points, to finish at 108.83, around 8% above the average, but their lowest level since May.
Demand ended at their lowest level since April, falling 11.93%, or 15.97 points, to close at 117.85, some 18% above the pre-covid-19 average.
The big news has been the rebound in consumer sentiment which began very quickly, and seen through Live Chat usage on property websites indicates a huge change in customer online behaviour.
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 is now rebounding in website visits too, but the increase in Live Chat usage by customers is extraordinary, and a sign that new online behaviours are emerging as COVID-19 creates restrictions for consumers and businesses alike.