Do you go ‘property ghosting’?

Nearly everyone tours houses never meaning to buy

  • In a survey a staggering 96% of Brits admit to browsing properties despite having no intention of moving or buying.
  • Unsurprisingly, ALL participants stated they house-hunt online. While, more than 160 participants admitted to attending open houses just to have a snoop around (10%).
  • Three-quarters stated that their main intention behind property browsing was simply to ‘be nosey/have a look around’.
  • Interestingly, nearly half confessed to looking at properties at least once a month (48%) and searching for properties out of their price range and with high-spec features.

Are you a bit of a “Georgy Girl” of the property world? Always window shopping, but never stopping to buy? as the song’s lyrics go.

If “yes” you are far from alone. It appears that having a snoop around properties you have no intention of snapping up is something of a national pastime among Brits.

It seems we are all slightly obsessed with real estate, whether it be lusting after properties way out of our price range such as those shown on TV’s Escape to the Country, pining over elegantly decorated rooms in magazines, or dreaming about big beautiful gardens.

But, how serious are you about actually moving and buying a new home?How many of us are culpable of ‘property ghosting’?

Often associated with the world of dating, ‘ghosting’ has been coined as the term used to describe the act of cutting all communication with someone, with zero warning or explanation. ‘Property ghosters’ are defined as people who show an interest in a property/properties and then unexpectedly ‘ghost’ the estate agent, vendor or seller.

Determined to discover people’s (non) buying habits, commercial estate agents conducted a survey, asking 1,614 property-savvy Brits about their house browsing habits.

Savoy Stewart also spoke to 32 industry experts from leading estate agents to gain further insight into the notion of ‘property ghosting’.

It was found that a staggering 96% of Brits admitted to looking at properties despite having no intention of moving or buying.

Unsurprisingly, online house hunting was revealed to be the most popular with ALL participants stating this was their first port of call (100%). Additionally, 10% also confessed to attending open houses and a further 8% going to in-person viewings for properties they have no intention of buying.

When asked what was the main motivation behind property viewing, 76% candidly confessed to simply ‘being nosey/having a look around’. With a further 36% stating they browse property listings to ‘look for interior inspiration’.

Other notable motivations included the following:

‘Considering purchasing a property nearby’ (20%), ‘window-shopping’ (17%), ‘making sure you are buying the right property’ (16%) and finally ‘a hobby/something to do’ at 12%.

Interestingly, nearly half of Brits confessed to actively looking at homes that were ‘out of price range with high spec and desirable features’ (48%). We would imagine that this is especially true in London. The most popular features they search include: a swimming pool, home gym or a home previously owned by a celebrity.

With 48% of Brits openly professing to looking at properties at least once a month, despite having no desire to move to a new house, it, therefore, comes as no surprise that estate agents are becoming increasingly aware/wary of window-shopping enthusiasts.

Savoy Stewart revealed some of the biggest ‘red flags’ or indicators that someone is ‘property ghosting’ include the following:

1) They don’t want to give out multiple points of contact, e.g. mobile, home, office number or email address.

2) They don’t really know what they’re looking for when asked qualifying questions, e.g. budget, likes/dislikes, building preference, must-have features.

3) They get offended when asked personal questions, e.g. are you a working professional or a student.

Savoy Stewart spoke exclusively to a representative from Winkworth* who shared an insight into the best way agents can handle potential ‘property ghosting’ clients.

The representative said: “I’ve been working in the industry for close to five years and previously being a negotiator myself, I find that the best thing to do is to treat each applicant and enquiry exactly the same. As long as you follow the protocol and ensure you’ve asked the qualifying questions, it tends to make it clear who is serious about looking and who is purely window-shopping.

“After being ‘ghosted’, the best thing I’ve found is trying to touch base once a week directly after the date of their enquiry or viewing. Then we’ll send them a courtesy email or call at the six-month mark. After that they’ll be archived.”

* The views and opinions expressed are not those of Winkworth as a whole, but represent wider findings from estate agents in England who identify property ghosting as an issue for them.

Confession time: I was a property ghosting regular

Years back, I was something of a property ghoster. When lacking inspiration for something to do over the weekend I would load up the car with the family and go for a drive.

Often the drive would include a visit to a new housing development. I would spot a small sign attached to a post and go visit. It used to drive my wife mad. My “are we there yet? kids” weren’t too chuffed, either.

In truth, such visits were with no intention to buy. That was until one day when I happened across a development in a place called Kings Hill in Kent. It lies between Maidstone and Tonbridge and is a former World War II airfield. It still has the old look-out tower though it’s now converted into a coffee shop. Pilot Guy Gibson of Dambusters fame was stationed there at one time.

Anyhow, this Kings Hill place was the nuts. It was so big it required a by-pass around West Malling to be built otherwise the traffic it generated would have swamped the village. It had its own 18-hole golf course and would go on to have two primary schools, two supermarkets, its own Spitfire pub and many low-rise business units. You didn’t need to leave the development to keep yourself amused or in money.

I was smitten and, although we went there never intending to buy, we took the plunge. The ghoster had found his own haunt.

Little did I realise that my ghosting days were preparing me for a future role. Years later I would end up living in a place called Pattaya in Thailand (long story). There I took over the running of a property magazine. As a ghosting specialist, I felt very qualified.

During my time there I enjoyed the company of numerous real estate brokers. Many complained about the “property tyre-kickers” they encountered. Guys out to try to impress their newest paramour were a nuisance as were those who thought that declaring an interest in buying property would provide them with a free guided tour of the city as the agent ferried them from one property to another.

My advice to property agents is as follows: Remember that the person who looks like they haven’t got two ha’pennies to rub together could turn out to be an eccentric millionaire; and the ghoster can become a real buyer if the offering is right – as my Kings Hill experience shows.  

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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