Buyer pipelines have been shrinking, agents told Inman in the latest Intel Index poll. A new metric unveiled today by Intel sheds light on the trend and aims to answer when it might turn around.

This report is available exclusively to subscribers of Inman Intel, the data and research arm of Inman offering deep insights and market intelligence on the business of residential real estate and proptech. Subscribe today.

Buyer and seller pipelines continued to erode throughout the U.S. in the closing days of May, an unwelcome development for a real estate industry that is also bracing for big changes to commission practices later this year.

These insights represent the dimmest combination of present and future revenue opportunities that agents have reported in over half a year, according to a new metric powered by the Inman Intel Index survey.

Intel’s Client Pipeline Tracker, introduced today for the first time, offers Intel subscribers a clear, digestible way to follow evolving business conditions over time using one of the earliest indicators of future revenue — the pool of potential clients available to each agent.

Here’s how to read the results.

  • A rating of 0 represents a neutral baseline in which client pipelines are neither improving nor worsening.
  • A positive value reflects a market in which client pipelines have been improving, or are widely expected to improve in the next 12 months. The higher the rating, the more confident agents are in that conditions are moving in a positive direction.

But that type of rosy scenario is not where the industry finds itself today.

Client Pipeline Tracker level in May: -9

  • Previous level: -7 in late April
  • Recent peak: +7 in late January

Chart by Daniel Houston

By this measure, pipelines have been worsening for four consecutive months, now settling in noticeably negative territory, according to this month’s preliminary results from the Inman Intel Index.

The rating is a compilation of how agents feel about their buyer and seller pipelines both over the past year and — more importantly — in the near future.

Here’s what goes into the score.

How it works

The Client Pipeline Tracker has four components, all taken from the Intel Index survey.

  1. How buyer pipelines have changed over the past 12 months
  2. How buyer pipelines are expected to change over the next 12 months
  3. How seller pipelines have changed over the past 12 months
  4. How seller pipelines are expected to change over the next 12 months

Within each question, agents are given the response options of “substantially” heavier or lighter, moderately heavier or lighter, or about the same. These results are then given a value and averaged together to produce a simple score for each component.

The highest possible score is +100, which would describe a hypothetical world where every real estate practitioner agreed that things have gotten substantially better, and are likely to continue getting better in the future. On the other extreme end of the spectrum, the strongest possible unanimous negativity would produce a score of -100.

In reality, such unanimity doesn’t happen, and extreme results will tend to swing between -50 and +50.

The final metric is designed to be forward-looking, and for that reason, the two “future” components are given double weight in the final score.

Here are the component scores for this month, and how they changed from the previous month.

CPT component scores
April → May

  • Present buyer pipelines: -30 → -35
  • Future buyer pipelines: -1 → -4
  • Present seller pipelines: -18 → -20
  • Future seller pipelines: +4 → +4

We can see that this month’s dip in the overall metric rating is driven primarily by buyer-side pipeline erosion — both actual and expected. 

Agents also reported some worsening in present seller pipeline conditions, although future expectations on the seller side remained roughly steady.

What it says about this market

These last four months of decline in reported pipeline conditions coincided with constrained inventory and deteriorating chances of Federal Reserve rate cuts that could meaningfully drive down mortgage rates. 

But the biggest downward shift in buyer-side expectations came in late March, after news had dropped that NAR had reached a settlement in its commission lawsuits that would have broad implications for the real estate industry.

Since then, declines in pipeline optimism have continued, but have been more moderate. Intel will continue to track these trends and others each month as part of the Inman Intel Index.

Methodology notes: This month’s Inman Intel Index survey was conducted May 20-31, 2024, and had received more than 950 responses as of Friday morning. The numbers used for this article are preliminary and subject to revision. The entire Inman reader community was invited to participate, and a rotating, randomized selection of community members was prompted to participate by email. Users responded to a series of questions related to their self-identified corner of the real estate industry — including real estate agents, brokerage leaders, lenders and proptech entrepreneurs. Results reflect the opinions of the engaged Inman community, which may not always match those of the broader real estate industry. This survey is conducted monthly.

Email Daniel Houston

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