If I could turn back time…

…cue the mental picture of me prancing about a battleship with big hair (yeah, right) wearing a fishnet body stocking and very little else (calm yourself please ladies). Incidentally, after the furore over Cher’s big hit and the infamous video (and outfit), the American Navy released a teeth-sucking, holier than thou statement stating that if they had had forewarning of Ms Sarkisian’s outfit-or lack of-prior to the video being shot aboard USS Missouri, they would not have allowed the filming to take place. Personally, I bet the American Navy’s recruiting figures went through the roof after the video was released. Back to the more mundane issue of a survey released last week by Which? magazine that seems at first reading to indicate that the internet is not as all-powerful as we once thought when it comes to the property market and house searching.  Really?

Which? surveyed 2000 people who had just completed a property purchase. A truly representative sample? Bear in mind that Building Society Association figures show that on average 35,000 people a month complete a property purchase. The survey report states that property hunters are shirking the gifts of the technological era and more than half of those surveyed still favoured traditional methods of finding a property. Of the 55% who chose to ignore an online portal, the routes chosen to find their dream home included:

  • 10% said that they saw a board
  • 6% saw a house in the paper
  • 9% were told about a property by a third party
  • a whopping 11% were approached directly by an agent
  • 4% were attributed to ‘other methods’. Does this include fiddling with the brake pads on Aunt Mabel’s car?

Mmmm. I am sure that these figures have the likes of purplebricks reaching for the smelling salts. On the surface it would appear that we are returning to the days of old, when I did have hair. On closer scrutiny, the survey reports on the results from a combined number of old methods, which may total 5% of a modest survey, but when broken down individually, mean very little. Trust me, I am an estate agent, (an oxy-moronic phrase if ever there was one) and people do not drive around looking for boards on the off chance that they find one outside a house that they just have to buy. It has been years since the office received a call that started with, “Hi mate (well, it is Cwmbran), I’ve just seen one of your boards”. No today’s ‘phone call begins with, “Aright butt, just seen this house on the internet”.

So has the property buying world done a volte face and ditched the wonders of the t’interweb? I don’t believe so. Some agents however are going to have to start to amend their working practices and their use and abuse of the property portals. From 1 October, TPO and Trading Standards are to outlaw the practice of portal juggling; whereby an agent lists old and already sold properties at 2am in the morning and then withdraws them at 8am, having in the intervening period  produced some blurb about the number of properties that they have recently sold and how these figures put them as numero uno in the area for successful house sales. Naughty naughty. This outlawing of the said practice is to be inserted into the TPO Code of Practice document. Next time you ask for a valuation, ask the agent if they have a copy of the said Code of Practice in their briefcase. Now that would produce an interesting survey.