It’s no secret that we in Ireland are obsessed with property and the number of Google searches per month on property-related terms bear this out. But can Google tell us which way the market is going?
If one had a crystal ball to help us predict the future trends of the property market, one would be richer than the rich fella who owns the internet!
However, there is a tool called Google Trends which could provide an interesting handle on property market sentiment and perhaps an indication of potential buyers coming back into the game.
The trick is to separate the ‘signal to noise ratio’ by isolating those search terms which are more likely to represent someone who is really looking to buy (a signifier of sentiment) rather than those who are, well… just looking (the sentimentalists!).
For example in this exercise below, we looked at the volume of search queries per month for two terms that have reasonably obvious buyer intent; “mortgage calculator” and “property for sale”.
Each phrase gets approximately 22,200 and 40,500 searches respectively per month from Ireland according to the Google keyword tool.
The above graph covers the last 90 days and notwithstanding that the Christmas period would always be quiet, the search trends seem to be on the up.
Note that October 2012 was also a heady month (relatively) and this was borne out anecdotally by some solicitors who reported a spike in conveyancing enquiries. (In a tight market prospective buyers are obviously checking the entire cost of a house purchase in advance so a “conveyancing” Google search is no longer the lagging indicator it might once have been).
So what if buyers want to buy? Will lenders want to lend?
Could last week’s announcement from PermanentTSB that they plan to increase their lending to €450 million in 2013 represent the start of a lending revival?
Although the increase does look minuscule compared to the billions that they were lending only a few years ago, it is a fivefold increase on what they did in 2012.
In a statement, the bank said it had €350m available for new mortgages, €100m for car and other personal loans and €5m for new credit card finance.
With the mortgage market severely restricted at the moment, any new competitor or returning competitor has to be good for consumers. Over the last two or three years the only banks lending were Bank of Ireland and AIB and to a lesser extent KBC.
Maybe now banks have realised that the only way they are going to return to profit is by lending again. Or is that being a bit sentimental?