Estate agency sign boards are always a good indication of what the housing market is doing. The number of them lining the streets (or not as the case may be) is indicative of the volume of properties being marketed overall. The amount of ‘for sale’ boards compared to sold signs is also a tell tale way of gleaning whether buyers are indeed buying and whether prices have properly adjusted in a given area to meet realistic buyer expectation. Or whether local agents are intent on blindly over valuing.

And so it is pretty handy that Emoov’s board contractor, Agency Express, reports its activity figures month to month for the whole of the UK. Because despite what the pundits and experts say and no matter what prices are said to be doing, there is no substitute for statistics that show what is actually happening at the very foundations of the housing market. At the estate agents.

In 2008 and 2009, property transactions took a substantial tumble. Volumes down around 50% on the heady times of 2007 and immediately prior. Such a scenario is no good for anyone and, whilst you are more likely to see MPs being hugged in the street than to hear sympathy for estate agents, it isn’t just the agents that suffer when the market shrinks. Everyone does, especially those hoping for a swift sale at a decent price.

The Agency Express numbers for February 2010 are now out and they show a remarkable upturn in volumes compared to January. In fact nationally, properties sold are up a whopping 136.6% with new instructions to the market up 91.5%. The North West shows the biggest surge in houses finding a buyer (up 152%) with East Anglia next (up 125%). Scotland leads the way on the greatest increase in new properties being listed for sale at 127% higher than January.

Now of course these figures are for just one month. One swallow doth not a summer make, and all that.

But at the same time there is no smoke without fire (end of cliches).

Bearing in mind that Agency Express are responsible for 4000 board changes each day nationally, the sample size here cannot be argued with as a proper reflection of activity. Without doubt is seems that the market is waking up and not just from its traditional winter hibernation. Because this February the number of new ‘for sale’ and sold boards are way up on February 2009, by 64% and 55% respectively.

Let us hope that the house market is getting back to some normality at last, albeit not likely to match the numbers of the earlier part of the decade. But the signs are beginning to look good…

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