Are agents really selling only 50% of their listings in the property market?

Kate Faulkner examines the stats around fall-throughs and suggests there are better ways to improve your listings to sales ratio.

Recent data from TwentyCI and compiled by Chris Watkin, revealed that around the country, of the properties that left estate agents books in 2023, just under 53% of properties exchanged and completed. The remaining 47% withdrew of the agents books, unsold.

On a regional basis that varies from 38.7% in London to 78.3% in Scotland. What’s interesting about this is that the highest proportion of properties being sold are in Scotland which has a very different buying and selling system to the one in England and Wales.

Listings to sales ratio map of UK

What’s your listing to sales ratio and is the data the ‘norm’ for agents?

Data is great and I love it, but I also know, especially in property when you see data, you need to check the source and you then need to check if it reflects what actually happens on the ground.

We know the source is good, Twentyci are producing some excellent property insight information, but the question to ask is if they property isn’t sold with Agent A, does it then get sold by Agent B?

If this is the case, a much higher proportion of properties are being sold than potentially being recorded, even if it is taking two agents to do it.

Also, we know from the data that agents agreed sales on just under 7 out of 10 properties they listed, but a quarter of these are likely to actually fall through after offer stage. Not all of these will be due to anything the agent or legal company has done wrong.

Sometimes, life just gets in the way and a sale doesn’t proceed…”

Sometimes, life just gets in the way and a sale doesn’t proceed due to illness or a change in circumstances (job, relationships etc) while at other times it might be due to an adverse survey or, the seller only marketed the property to secure a specific new home and if that falls through, they decide not to move.

What can agents do to improve their listing to sales ratio?

I am lucky enough to get to talk to and learn from a lot of excellent agents that typically have low fall through rates and from speaking to them there is a range of things that successful agents do.

The first one is fairly obvious, but doesn’t always happen, price the property right. Interestingly in Scotland – which has the highest rate of sales versus listings – the Home Reports they produce have a valuation for the property which is ‘pre-approved’ from a lending perspective.

Being Chair of the Home Buying and Selling Group, engaging the legal company earlier in the process can make a massive difference too, especially with the need to supply Material Information upfront.

My own experience

I have over the last decade always instructed a legal company on day one of marketing, if not a bit before so that as soon as an offer is accepted the contracts can go out quickly, but not just that, any paperwork that I was missing or any issues with the sale have been ironed out prior to a valuation and viewings.

My last agent also made sure the information bespoke to the property I was selling, including:

1. You can’t keep chickens;
2. A small piece of land at the end of the garden was rented from the council (don’t ask!);
3. The converted loft room at the top of the property couldn’t be used as a bedroom.

These points were all given to the potential buyer before they viewed the property. We added in an electric and gas safety certificate and the buyer had pretty much everything they needed. In the previous property I sold, which was much bigger, I even had a survey that the buyers were able to view. However, this was given with the surveyor’s permission and on the buyers understanding they wouldn’t be able to rely on it for their own purposes.

All this information upfront helped to build trust… speeded up the process and helped to get the best price too.”

All this information upfront helped to build trust for me, when selling the property, speeded up the process and helped to get the best price too.

Other agents I speak to are using reservation agreements, working closely with their legal partners to list properties with legal packs and not only are they increasing their listing to sales ratios, but they are also selling properties faster too – which can massively impact on cashflow and profitability.

Trying new ways to buy and sell

It’s not easy to try new ways of buying and selling, nor is it easy to turn down listings or hold up advertising properties while securing information before you list. However, for those agents, legal companies and surveyors that are taking on the market challenges and constantly working out how to improve their sales processes, they are able to survive and thrive and deliver a better home moving process to consumers.

One Comment

  1. Excellent summation as always Kate, but sure why this is news to anyone in the industry? In the mid 1980’s my first manager day one of being an agent took me to a pub at lunchtime and said, ‘It is all about numbers Andy, you list 10, sell 7 sstc, 2 fall through, exchange on 5’. And I am sure all agents now this. Two of seven listed fall through so 30% fall through rate (it fluctuates depending on fast or slow market but bobbles around 28% to 32% as a UK industry norm). That is why agency is child’s play, if you want to invoice £300K of sales a year and your average fee is £3,000, and your M/A to instruct ratio is 30%, just do the math. £300K of invoicing is 100 completed sales, is 142 sstc sales, is 200 instructions is 600 M/A’s, or 12.5 M/A’s done a week on a 48 week year (Dec & Jan being short months). So to ensure success it all starts with booking those MA’s which is what the corporates live and breathe, add in your cross selling and referral fees, that could be £400K on top. What is more amazing is why only 1.2M properties complete each and every year despite population expanding, the amount of new homes to the supply etc, and yet only 800,000 estate agents sales a year complete … the bigger driver would not be getting speed or lower cancellation rate but getting 1.6M agency sales completed a year. The portals tell all they have multi-millions of visits each month, but no uptick in volume of homes sold, in fact 1988 2M completions, and Rightmove was not born for another 12 years … so are property portals actually holding back the ‘growth’ of home sales in the UK? Yes it replaced newspaper adverts, but it does not seem to have added extra amounts of people buying homes which would be a useful service for agents.

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