In 2016 we ran a UK wide survey that explored people’s perceptions of the property industry. Our most important finding was that selling a house was seen as the most stressful event in life. The headline really shocked the housing market and got picked up by media across the country (including bustle and homelight). Other worthy findings included that fast property buying companies were the fourth preferred method for selling a house and that having a friendly estate agent was the third most important factor for sellers.
Now, five years later, we’ve decided to ask the same questions and were surprised by how much house seller perceptions have changed. The pandemic may be a reason for this, acting as a catalyst and speeding up the impact of new technologies in the housing market. However, change and disruption must have benefitted the industry as selling a house is no longer the most stressful event in our lives.
One of the key things we wanted to know was if there had been any important changes in the way owners sell their homes. So we asked, once again, what was their preferred method of selling their properties.
The panorama has changed a lot in the last five years. While local estate agents continue to be the most popular way of selling a house, this service no longer dominates the industry as it used to. Their popularity has almost halved, going from 70% of votes to 42%. This space is now taken by online-driven services. Low fees online agents are still the second most popular option, but they now hold double the votes than in 2016. On the other hand, fast property buying companies have taken a great leap forward, becoming the third most popular method and leaving selling privately in last position.
However, these changes are happening unevenly throughout the country, and are yet to be seen in rural areas. Our results showed that rural participants still prefer using estate agents (40% of votes) and selling privately (21%) over the rest of services. It is still unsure if the modernisation of the property market will make its dent in areas where face to face relations and familiarity are still at the core of everyday life.
When we ran our first survey, fast property buyers were a fairly new and mysterious service. Therefore, we weren’t surprised to find that it was the least popular house-selling method, only favoured by 2% of respondents.
However, the fast property buying industry has made great progress over the last years. It has improved its reputation through a proven track of sales and has raised the overall standards of the industry through regulatory institutions such as the NAPB and the Property Ombudsman. This work did not go unrewarded.
Our 2021 results show property buying companies are now the third most popular option for house sellers with almost 20% of votes. But where the rise of property buyers becomes really apparent is amongst 45 to 56 year olds, who see them as their second preferred option with 22% of the votes, beating the 20% of online estate agents.
House sellers’ perceptions have also changed over the last few years and it is easy to see why estate agents are losing ground to other services.
When asked about the most important factors when selling a house, homeowners were really clear about their priority: getting the highest price. This hasn’t changed in the last five years and it’s not likely to change in the future. However, there are new trends in the way they value secondary elements that can explain why homeowners aren’t relying on estate agents as much as they used to.
Estate agencies have lost one of their greatest traditional assets, their people. While in 2016 a “friendly estate agent” was ranked as the third most important factor when selling a house with 12% of the votes, it is now in last place with only 5%. New business models such as the ones of online agencies or fast property buyers, have shown that having an intermediary estate agent is not necessary for a successful house sale. And if there were ever obstacles that only an agent could tackle, technology has now found a way of solving it.
Surprisingly, the younger generations, between 25 and 34 year olds, valued friendly estate agents slightly more than their elders (6% vs 5%). People at this age are normally looking at their first house purchase or sale and it makes sense that they’d be looking for someone with experience they can trust. Estate agents should pay attention to these first interactions and build strong relationships with house sellers if they want to continue to dominate the market.
Over the last couple of years, the pandemic has affected every part of our everyday lives, including the way we sell a house. Safety has become one of the main concerns of the population and become an integral part of any sort of professional service.
Our survey revealed that 42% of people don’t think selling a house during the pandemic is safe. This is an important perception that all house selling services should take into account as it is having a big impact on homeowners decisions.
Fast property buyers have been the service most benefited from this situation. One of their competitive advantages is that they are the actual buyers, which means there is no need to organise house viewings with strangers popping into a property and increasing the risk of transmitting Covid-19. Furthermore, their process is as simple and quick as a house sale can be, reducing any other unnecessary direct contact.
On the other hand, the importance of safety in the home selling process will probably recede in the next few years. As Covid-19 cases decrease, homeowners will pay less attention to safety measures. Plus, there is also a clear relation between age and feeling unsafe. While nearly half (48%) of over 45s said they felt unsafe, only 39% of the younger, low-risk generations felt this way. Safety should be particularly important for home selling services in the short and medium term.
Homeowner needs and the property market have changed a lot in the past five years. However, despite the uncertainty of change, the property industry must be doing something right, as selling a house no longer holds the questionable honour of being the most stressful event in life.
Having a baby is now considered the most nerve-racking event, having increased from 18% of the votes to almost 30%. This is a surprisingly large increase, especially considering that the expected lockdown baby boom never happened and that there are now more resources and tech to help parents than five years ago. Yet, we can’t underestimate the influence of the pandemic. Parents have less helping hands from family members and friends at their disposal, and a slower economy could be adding to the pressure.
Although it is no longer the most stressful live event, selling a house hasn’t become significantly less stressful. It has dropped to second position due to higher pressure around babies, rather than a decrease in the stress around house sales. In five years it has only dropped from 26% of votes to 25%. The trade off has come from other factors. Buying a house is now less scary than it used to be, but it still remains in the top3. Starting a job has seen the largest drop (from 15% to 6%), which could be a great nod to the lower pressure of working from home in comparison to being office bound.
Homeowners’ needs have evolved rapidly in the last few years. The pandemic has brought new elements into consideration at the same time as it has accelerated the integration of technology into the house sale process.
While estate agents still dominate the market, sellers are increasingly looking for quick, cheap and safe house sales, areas in which non-traditional house selling services are taking the lead. Fast property buyers are now the third most popular method when selling a house, and we can only expect its popularity to increase.
Although selling a house is no longer the most stressful life event, there’s a lot of room for improvement. The key to a friendlier house sale might be in new tech-driven services such as property buyers, online agents or even iBuyers who base their business on flexibility and speed. Welcoming the change might be just what the property industry needs.