Lies, damned lies, and statistics (and property!)

(or “Statistics, and how much credence to place on them“.)

Statistics image

Many of our blogs have reported statistics concerning the Oban and the wider Argyll & Bute property market, and here I am telling you to be very careful when reading statistics. Allow me to explain…

I first learned about percentages in St John`s Primary School (now a nursery) in Croft Road, Oban, and I remember being taught that if a child got 49 questions right out of 50 they would have a score of 98%, whereas a child that got 2 out 2 they would have scored 100%. It seemed terribly unfair to the young me that the child who got 49 questions correct got a worse ‘score’ than the child who got 2 correct, and this was an early lesson to be careful when reading statistics.

Of course as education continued, through High School with Standard Grade Maths, Higher Maths, CSYS Maths, and then Maths at University, my appreciation and understanding of statistics continued (confession:- I’m a bit of a numbers geek!), and that one of the fundamental underlying principles of statistics is that of sample size.

As a fun aside, and to illustrate the point, the next time a beauty product manufacturer boasts that ‘89% of customers agree that their shampoo/make up/moisturising cream improves things, have a look at the small print stating the sample size. Often it’s less than 100 people that they had try the product. Given the small sample sizes, it would be perfectly possible for the manufacturer to sample, say, 100 people and if only 22% agree it was a good product, then it wouldn’t be a difficult for them to find another 100 people hoping for a different result…and then repeat until the ‘right’ result was obtained.

So what has this got to do with property?

Well the Argyll & Bute property market is comparatively small – only 429 properties were sold in Argyll and Bute in the last quarter, which is a very small proportion of the 26,982 properties sold in Scotland as a whole over the same period, and indeed a very, very small proportion of the 300,000+ properties sold in the UK. As such, small changes to the value or number of properties sold will have a significant effect on the percentages.

As I stated in our recent blog it is important not to take UK-wide property market headlines (good or bad!) and assume they are applicable in our wee corner of the globe!”. As if to exactly illustrate my point, there was a column in the Property Section of the local paper recently with a headline that read “UK asking prices continue to rise post Brexit
…the average price in Argyll & Bute actually fell by 4.6%*.

So, in summary, never take statistics on face value and always look at the detail surrounding them – you may be surprised with what you discover!

(* compared with the same period last year; Registers of Scotland Quarterly figures published 25th October 2016, https://www.ros.gov.uk/)