17 July 2015
Article by Jonathan Baxter, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
I’m often asked for statistics about the housing market, usually house prices, so I’ve written this blog to signpost some of the main sources of data and analysis that you might find useful.
Houses, house prices in particular, have become a bit of a national obsession. Websites like Zoopla and Rightmove let us indulge our curiosity without leaving our own living room. These sites aren’t just useful to people buying or renting a home; they make a huge amount of data freely available for anyone interested in the housing market. Zoopla and Rightmove are particularly user friendly and accessible, possibly more so than ‘official’ sources of data like the Land Registry which may assume some knowledge of the methodology behind their analysis. Rather than presenting you with a vast spread sheet showing raw data these websites will give you colourful maps, charts and tables.
Here’s an example from Zoopla of the information it can provide about the housing market in Llandrindod Wells. Here’s another with data on the Tenby area from Rightmove. If, like me, you don’t know your SPARQL from your hedonic regression, these sites are a good place to start browsing for housing market data.
If you are looking for a bit more detail, and perhaps considering undertaking some of your own analysis, you might want to look at some of the House Prices Indices (HPI) that are published each month. An HPI is a series that tracks the changes in the price of property relative to the price it had at a particular point in time.
The most commonly used HPIs are published by the Land Registry, Office for National Statistics, Nationwide and Halifax. Unhelpfully, they will all give different figures that result in different average prices. In some cases, the difference is substantial. The different figures are a result of different data sets (for example, the lenders only use data based on their own mortgage approvals) and different methodologies.
Of the HPIs available, the Land Registry HPI claims to be the most complete. The Land Registry HPI measures average price changes in repeat sales on the same type of properties. This should make it more accurate although, interestingly, it does mean that new build properties are excluded from the index. There are some online tools that let you extract data from the Land Registry HPI. You can also download the raw data.
If you’re just looking for house prices during a particular year, or trying to find out how many properties were sold within a certain price bracket, you can find details of every residential sale in England and Wales here on the Land Registry site. These files are very large, so unless you’re confident working with spreadsheets, and your computer can handle very large files, they are probably best avoided. You may find the commercial websites I mentioned earlier more useful for extracting simple data on prices.
If you’re looking for data at a local level, you may be interested to know that the ONS has just updated data on the housing market in each parliamentary constituency and local authority. We can use this data to compare prices and to look at what types of property are being bought and sold across all England and Wales.
The data is broken down not just by area, but by the type of property sold. This lets us see that Cardiff South and Penarth saw the most flats being bought out of all constituencies in Wales, 701 of them in 2014. That’s more than double the number sold in Cardiff Central, which saw the second highest number of sales. Montgomeryshire, on the other hand, saw only 9 flats sold in a whole year. Monmouth saw the most sales of detached properties with 587 sold in 2014. Bottom of that list comes Rhondda where the 37 sales of detached homes were dwarfed by 637 sales of traditional terraces.
Last, but not least, as a useful source of information about the housing market, are the regular updates produced by the Council of Mortgage Lenders, many of which provide useful data relevant to Wales.