Why I Don't Report Sentiment Indices

We’re awash with house price indices.

Without having to think too hard I know my inbox receives impressively-thorough pieces of statistical research on house prices from the Office of National Statistics, the Land Registry, the Nationwide, Halifax Bank of Scotland, Rightmove, Knight Frank, Savills, Jones Lang LaSalle, Chesterton Humberts, Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, LSL, Henry Pryor, Douglas & Gordon, CEBR, Zoopla, the NAEA, The Economist, the Council for Mortgage Lenders, the British Bankers’ Association, London Residential Research and several regional agencies such as Bidwells and John Francis. Then there are sector price statistics that come from the likes of Retirement Homesearch and Alpine Homes.

You get the point - journalists, and therefore you dear reader, are AWASH with price information which has some level of methodological thoroughness, even if it is merely a snapshot of a particular market at a particular moment in time.

So why do we need ‘attitude’ or ‘sentiment’ surveys as well?

Many agents now issue them, suspiciously timed to be ‘between’ indices so revealing that they are, at best, examples of media self-indulgence designed to do nothing else than promote the brand of the companies commissioning them.

There’s nothing wrong with that promotion of course, but in terms of value in any debate about house prices, sentiment surveys are looked upon as low-rent.

They often echo merely the ‘chatter’ in the wider media about whether the economy and therefore house prices are rising, falling or waiting for a future recovery.

Some statisticians, perhaps, may come out with a good reason for why they exist. Such arguments would surely carry more conviction if the sentiment and attitude surveys were therefore kept under wraps for the agents, developers, lenders and researches to mull over, rather than given the PR fanfare they usually receive.

In other words, we’ve probably got enough statistics about house prices right now, thanks.

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