Estate agents ARE the canaries of the wider Economy, so what do they think.

Friday, June 04, 2010 by Ed Mead

Whilst standing in a bank queue this morning I overheard a guy at the back saying “…and the dreaded gazumping is back”.

That’s not the way it feels to me at the moment and it’s a perhaps timely reminder that estate agents are the canaries of the wider economy.

Galling though that may be for highly overqualified strategists and economists the people we deal with are wrestling with the issue of paying debt on their biggest asset. These people are acutely aware of what they have, and what they’re going to have. They’ll also have a gut feel for their job and earning prospects and if they feel nervous or worried they’ll draw their horns in on this biggest investment long before, usually about three months before, they start to spend less elsewhere. So we get whiff of change way before the general economy does, and it is changing.

By definition evidence from individual estate agents is anecdotal, but when you get several stringing the same stories together someone has to take note.

We had a managers meeting about two weeks ago and there was no doubt, at all, that market feel IS changing, and that the word fall through is back on everyone’s lips, not gazumping. Indeed I can’t help wondering if the garrulous fellow in the bank muddled his gazumping with his gazundering, or was talking about something else.

It means we’re entering an irritating time when agents desperate for business over quote on sales prices, and because sellers tend to believe the press and not us they believe the valuations they’re given. The result most often is stagnation and frustration when the properties don’t sell. Stock levels certainly aren’t skyrocketing though yet buyers are pulling back despite some mouth watering mortgage offers emerging. Given that these periods of change tend to last three months it could just be that summer isn’t going to be as busy as we’d hoped.