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How Accurate are House Price Statistics?

Today’s house market seems to be a barrage of never-ending statistics. So many agencies are busy supplying us with monthly, quarterly and yearly figures – but which ones should we pay attention to and which ones can we happily ignore? Here is a summary of the ones to watch:

The Rightmove website has a monthly survey which is made up of its estate agent clients’ asking prices, so if you intend to sell a property their data is a good benchmark for eyeing up how the opposition are approaching the market.  Rightmove recently reported a rise in the average house prices of 1.2% in February.

Hometrack use data from a list of 3,500 estate agencies and surveying firms to produce an average price for each category of home.  Because they rely on the agents to categorize the properties this introduces a certain amount of subjectivity.  Hometrack have recently reported an upturn in house sales, but at 88.6% of the asking price with the average selling time being 12 weeks.

The ones you hear the most about are Halifax and Nationwide.  The country’s biggest mortgage lenders’ figures are based on mortgage valuations for properties being purchased by borrowers looking for a loan from them.  The discrepancy creeps in when a buyer goes elsewhere but this ‘sale’ is still included in the data.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) asks its members for a report on the state of the local property market every month.  They also analyse the number of sales completed by each firm and the number of enquiries.

The Department for Communities and Local Government monthly price index can seem somewhat historical.  This is because its numbers are compiled from a selection of completed sales from 60 lenders, making it a useful guide to see how much properties are actually changing hands.  However, the source has a South of England bias, explaining a somewhat high average house price figure of £195,317.

The Land Registry’s house price data is regarded by many as being the most accurate in the business.  It simply takes an average from completed sales within its data sample.  What makes it so reliable, is the size of the sample taken by this National agency.  The survey includes cash sales (40% of the current market) but does not include sales of new homes and those that come under the hammer.
One you don’t hear much about is the HM Revenue & Customs who publish details of property transactions every month.  Only sales of properties below £40,000 are excluded from the data.

The Bank of England and the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) concentrate on mortgage lending figures.  The former compiles figures from mortgages approved and the latter on gross mortgage lending.  The data coming from the Building Societies Association and the British Banker’s Association show that lending is at a near historic low.

The Chesterton Poll of Polls combines what it considers to be the significant indices into one set of figures.  This poll is showing the current average house price as £165,727.