FNB Estate Agent Survey - The Results

The recently conducted  FNB Estate Agent Survey asks estate agents their opinion regarding the property market and in the 1st Quarter of 2014 they report further residential activity improvement despite the rate increase earlier this year.

The survey was completed in February and a selection of agents from South Africa’s major metro regions were asked to take part.

The first question that was asked from these agents pertains to their perception of the residential property market activity in their areas on a scale of 1 -10, with 10 being the strongest level of activity.

The Residential Activity Indicator rose in the 1st Quarter from the previous quarter’s 6.27 to 6.76. This rise in the rating suggests that the gradual strengthening trend in the market through 2012 and 2013 is still intact early in 2014. This 1st Quarter activity rating is the highest since the 1st Quarter of 2005.

Agents also reported that along with the rising activity trends, they also an improvement in the balance between demand and supply in the 1st Quarter of 2104. 

John Loos, FNB’s Property Economist, writes that “This comes through in responses regarding stock constraints, average time of properties on the market, and those related to sellers having to drop their asking prices.”

There was a further rise in the percentage of agents citing stock constrains as a factor, which influences their near term expectations. This figure rose to 18,5% from the prior quarter’s 16%. This rise comes after an already considerable rise in 2012’s stock constraint percentage over that of 2011.

One indicator of where the market is in terms of seller pricing realism, or otherwise put the balance between demand and supply at prevailing price levels, is the estimated average time that properties remain on the market prior to sale. From a 4th quarter 2013 estimate of 15 weeks and 1 day, the estimated average time on the market in the 1st quarter 2014 survey declined to 13 weeks and 6 days. This is the lowest estimated average time on the market since the 1st quarter of 2010, and continues a gradual broad declining trend in the average time on the market ever since a 19 weeks and 1 day high at the beginning of 2011.

Along with agents pointing to a decline in the average time on the market in the 1st quarter survey, which is often seen as a good indicator of seller pricing realism in the market, they also estimated a further decline in sellers being required to drop their asking price to make a sale, another important indicator of pricing realism. They reported a slight decline in this percentage from 85% in the 4th quarter to 81%, although it must be said that this percentage remains far above the level of around 30% back in early-2004.

When asking agents for the factors influencing their near term expectations, “interest rates” were by far the most common factor as one would expect with the 1st quarter survey having been completed just after the January “surprise” interest rate hike, the 1st of the expected rate hiking phase of the interest rate cycle.  Interest rates were generally perceived as a negative factor. This was followed by 26% of agents citing stock issues as a factor, with the majority (18%) citing stock shortages (vs too much stock). The 3rd key factor on the list was “Economic Stress/General Pessimism”, which at 15% is now higher than the 11% citing “Consumer Positive Sentiment”.

Therefore, while agents have been experiencing good times, according to the survey, they seem to be no more than “cautiously optimistic” at best when providing their near term future expectations, and some negative factors have been creeping into their thinking of late.

Download the full report or download the data sheet

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