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Rightmove sounds upbeat note on UK housing market

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·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A rainbow forms over terraced housing during a rain storm in south London
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(Reuters) - Rightmove, which runs Britain's largest online real estate portal, said the UK housing market had almost shaken off pandemic-driven challenges and a current shortage of new listings should correct once the lockdown is lifted.

Britain's housing market rebounded midway through last year after an initial coronavirus shock, as buyers took advantage of low interest rates and a temporary tax break, while appetite for bigger homes suitable for remote working also drove demand.

"In the absence of further economic shocks, we think it is likely that the current shortage of new listings will correct once the immediate lockdown is lifted and will have no lasting impact on estate agency branch numbers," it said.

Rightmove's shares were down 0.9% in early trade in a broader market which was about 1% lower.

Rightmove, which had offered a 75% discount to agency and new home customers during the April-July period, said that the annual average revenue per advertiser (ARPA) had fallen to 28% to 778 pounds per month.

"Currently, we expect ARPA to increase from the December 2020 level at a rate of growth towards that seen in 2019," the company said.

Britain is set to extend the stamp duty holiday by three months to June 30, local media have reported, a move that could further bolster the housing sector after Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week unveiled a phased exit plan from coronavirus lockdowns.

British builders and property companies have remained optimistic even after industry surveys suggested the boom in the market cooled sharply in January as the country went back into lockdown to tackle a new wave of infections.

The London-listed company reinstated its dividend at 4.5 pence per share, while annual operating profit fell 37% to 135.1 million pounds ($188.26 million).

($1 = 0.7176 pounds)

(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Jane Merriman)