Is Britain Becoming A Nation Of Estate Agents? The Answer Is No..

Date Published 16 September 2013

The ‘fact` that there are now 562,000 estate agents spawned a mass of headlines and got itself on to the front page of papers including The Times.

The latest labour market statistics, from the ONS, even prompted speculation that Britain is becoming a national of estate agents rather than shopkeepers.

There is one small problem: it isn`t true.

EAT and our readers were quite right to be sceptical when we reported the claim on Friday.

EAT has now obtained a breakdown of what constitutes ‘real estate activities` – and we think this may come as a surprise.

There are, in fact, three activities in the category, each with sub-categories. The labels slightly defy normal English, but include public and private landlords, staff of housing associations and – wait for it – conference and exhibition workers.

The numbers would also appear to include council housing departments, the stately homes sector and their staff, and property managers of, for example, schools and hospitals. We also suspect that commercial agents are lumped in with residential.

Here are the categories exactly as given to us by the ONS:

68: Real estate activities

68.1 Buying and selling of own real estate
68.10 Buying and selling of own real estate

68.2 Renting and operating of own or leased real estate
68.20 Renting and operating of own or leased real estate
68.20/1 Renting and operating of Housing Association real estate
68.20/2 Letting and operating of conference and exhibition centres
68.20/9 Letting and operating of own or leased real estate (other than housing association real estate and conference and exhibition services)

68.3 Real estate activities on a fee or contract basis
68.31 Real estate agencies
68.32 Management of real estate on a fee or contract basis

We did ask for a further split to see what the numbers in each of the different categories are, but apparently this is not possible, although the ONS told us that for Great Britain, the latest figure for jobs in ‘buying and selling of own real estate` and ‘renting and operating of own or leased estate` totals 242,000 combined.

We were also told that there are 241,000 jobs in the ‘real estate activities on a fee or contract basis` category.

So, nothing is quite what it seems, although EAT doesn`t suppose that the likes of the Mail, Guardian or Times will be clarifying their figures – which do, after all, come from the Office for National Statistics and will therefore be treated as beyond doubt.

The thoroughly misleading figures about all those hundreds of thousands of estate agents will have made it into the digital filing cabinets of all the national media, to be trotted out time and time again in the future.

All of which reminds us: believe it or not, the ONS housing market survey comes out tomorrow.