This paper draws from a wider research programme in the UK undertaken for the Investment Property Forum examining liquidity in commercial property. One aspect of liquidity is the process by which transactions occur including both how properties are selected for sale and the time taken to transact. The paper analyses data from three organisations; a property company, a major financial institution and an asset management company, formally a major public sector pension fund. The data covers three market states and includes sales completed in 1995, 2000 and 2002 in the UK. The research interviewed key individuals within the three organisations to identify any common patterns of activity within the sale process and also identified the timing of 187 actual transactions from inception of the sale to completion.
The research developed a taxonomy of the transaction process. Interviews with vendors indicated that decisions to sell were a product of a combination of portfolio, specific property and market based issues. Properties were generally not kept in a “readiness for sale” state. The average time from first decision to sell the actual property to completion had a mean time of 298 days and a median of 190 days. It is concluded that this study may underestimate the true length of the time to transact for two reasons. Firstly, the pre-marketing period is rarely recorded in transaction files. Secondly, and more fundamentally, studies of sold properties may contain selection bias. The research indicated that vendors tended to sell properties which it was perceived could be sold at a ‘fair’ price in a reasonable period of time.