Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Residential property information
Residential property information
Scarlett PalmerThe Department of Land Management and Development, The University of Reading, RG6 6AW, UK,E-mail: email@example.com
Keywords House Price Indices, Residential market, Residential investment
In this issue, a number of main papers concentrate upon the residential investment market. To tie in with this theme I have decided to focus on the availability, over the Internet, of data and research level information on the residential market.
House prices indices
The two major publishers of house price data in hard copy are the Halifax and the Nationwide. Both of these also make their indices available over the Web. The Halifax has three sites: www.halifax.co.uk which gives you access to most of their products and services, www.halifax-online.co.uk, which offers online the banking and share dealing services, and www.halifaxplc.com which is primarily a company information site. It is this last site that gives access to the Halifax House Price Index.
Despite this unnecessarily complicated arrangement, the actual site is clear and uncluttered. The index, which has been running since 1984, claims to be "based on the largest sample of housing data and provides the longest unbroken series of any similar UK index". Users are offered a choice of the Latest Month Comment (March 2000 at the time of writing); National Quarterly Comment; Regional Quarterly Comment; House Price Movements and House Price Index Methodology.
The Latest Month Comment, in addition to providing up-to-date data and commentary, offers links to the latest 13 months' data for Seasonally Adjusted – All Houses (All Buyers), New Houses (All Buyers) and Existing (All Houses) Indices and to the latest 13 months' data for First-Time Buyers and Former Owner Occupiers.
The Nationwide site (www.nationwide.co.uk) offers an overcrowded homepage ("very nineties, darling"), but the link to the House Price Index is pretty obvious. This page is, again, rather overcrowded and offers links to the Monthly Index, the Quarterly Index and to Special Features (articles on aspects of the housing market). A useful feature from this top level page is that moving the mouse to a link (but not clicking) gives you a single paragraph summary of the Index chosen.
Within the Monthly Index, there is a choice of Headlines or Historical Data, and within the Quarterly Index there are additional links to the UK Housing Market, Maps and Regional Data, Economic Factors, Regional Data and Housing Forecasts.
Although the Nationwide appears to offer more on the surface, I actually found the Halifax Index more informative. This is partly a product of the much longer run and partly the cleaner design. I also felt the Halifax was generally more "grown up". For instance, the Methodology section gave full details of the formulae used whereas the Nationwide states, rather vaguely, that "we use a statistical method". However the Nationwide site does have one useful feature that is lacking on the Halifax and that is the facility to download complete sets of all their data directly into Excel spreadsheets.
For research level reports on the residential market, the FPDSavills site is worth a visit. From the home page, www.fpdsavills.co.uk, choose Research. From here you must fill in a short form; at present the system seems to require you to fill in the form each time you enter but I imagine they will soon become wise to the idea of registration. Under Residential Reports, the company states:
FPDSavills has, to our knowledge, the only dedicated residential research team amongst the chartered surveying companies. With unique databases and information sources dating back to 1970, the team has an in-depth knowledge of residential property markets and can provide consultancy and advice on a wide range of projects.
The site offers the user full text availability of the Quarterly Residential Research Bulletin back to Summer 1997. In addition there are full text research reports on, for example, The Emerging Residential Investment Sector and the results of the Central London Residential Development Survey and the Survey of Major Residential Investors. All of these reports can be downloaded in PDF format. As discussed in previous articles, in order to read documents in this format you must already have an acrobat reader installed on your computer. This can be downloaded, at no charge, from the Adobe Acrobat site, details below.
Another of the major agents that offers full text research reports on the residential market is Knight Frank. Their UK Web site is at www.knightfrank.com/uk The Research Reports button takes you to an alphabetical list of the reports published. There is a range of reports on the residential market, including the Bi-Annual Country Residential Review, which is available from Spring 1997 onwards. The London Residential Review, which now is also produced bi-annually, is available from Winter 1996/1997 onwards. This report includes an overview of the lettings, development and investment markets, the Knight Frank Prime Property Index and details of current market indicators. Each issue also includes a special feature, such as "How much is a property index really worth?", "Residential investment" and "Journey to work times".
Knight Frank have recently expanded their stable of residential publications to include the Regional Residential Development Review which examines "the thriving UK residential development market". The first edition, available over the Web, focuses upon "the considerable residential transformation taking place in many major UK cities". The other new residential publication is the Residential Lettings Review; the first edition of this bi-annual report, which examines the UK's private rented sector, is now also available over the Web. The review comes after five years of monitoring the performance of prime UK residential rents. The results of this research are given in two indices; one for Greater London and one for England excluding Greater London.
All the Knight Frank reports mentioned above are available in full text PDF format (see above). They download into attractive full colour reports which can be viewed or printed out complete with text, data, graphs, photos and charts.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation Web site is a useful source of information on housing and related social issues. The Foundation, which is the largest social policy research and development charity in the UK, spends about £6 million a year on a:
…research and development programme that seeks to better understand the causes of social difficulties and explore ways of better overcoming them.
The Foundation states that it "places great emphasis on disseminating the findings of its work" and this is partly achieved through its Web site – www.jrf.org.uk
The site is well designed and easy to use. From the front page there are direct links to recent press releases and to new publications and new findings. There is also a link to the Knowledgebase that allows you to search the entire site, including Research Summaries, Current Research in Progress and Responses to Government Consultation. A quick look at the Research Summaries area revealed papers on "Financial institutions and private rented housing" and "The prospects for large-scale investment in residential property". Research in Progress includes reports on European funding mechanisims for social housing and work on the re-development of vacant, derelict urban land. Recent Responses to Government Consultation include discussion documents on both the Urban White Paper and the Rural England White Paper.
As might be expected from such an august body, all the reports that I accessed on the site were well written, research level pieces of work. This site is a useful first port of call for anyone wanting background reading in the area of housing or social policy. The site also offers a useful page of related links under the categories of Economic and Social Policy, Government, Health and Social Care, Housing and Area Regeneration, Research and the Voluntary Sector.
The final site that I shall mention is the somewhat idiosyncratic site Bob's Open Door (www.cix.co.uk/~franklin) which is a pointer to UK Web sites with a social housing connection. More realistic than most, the site states that "Open Door is committed to bringing you subjective, unreliable, and probably out of date comments on social housing Web sites". The site gives a short "opinion" and direct link to sites concerned with social housing issues. Links include The Chartered Institute for Housing and the Housing Net, as well as a number of housing associations … and the Advisory Service for Squatters (well, you never know).
The housing market has often been considered the poor relation in the real estate game and, as a consequence, hard data and research level reports have not always been easy to come by. There has been recent renewed interest in residential property as an investment vehicle and the increase in the reports available in this area imply that is more than a passing fancy. There is an improved range of reports from the agents with a residential interest and an increase in funded research on the residential sector in general. The availability of such information over the Web means that it is now relatively easy to carry out background reading and research in the area.
Sites reviewed in this article
To download an Adobe Acrobat Reader: http://www.adobe.com/prodindex/acrobat/readstep.html
Advisory Service for Squatters: http://www.squat.freeserve.co.uk
Bob's Open Door: http://www.cix.co.uk/~franklin
The Chartered Institute for Housing: http://www.cih.org
The Halifax House Price Index: http://www.halifaxplc.com
The Housing Net: http://www.housingnet.co.uk
Joseph Rowntree Foundation: http://www.jrf.org.uk
Knight Frank: http://www.knightfrank.com/uk
The Nationwide House Price: Index: http://www.nationwide.co.uk