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UK housing market not set to improve in 2018, leading estate agent warns

Ben Chapman
Countrywide warned that its profits would be £20m lower in the first half of the year compared with the same period last year

The housing market will continue to be subdued this year according to the country’s biggest listed estate agent.

Countrywide warned that its profits would be £20m lower in the first half of the year compared with the same period last year and said that it did not expect this shortfall to be recovered in the second half as the market is forecast to remain flat.

Sales are taking longer and Countrywide started 2018 with a “significantly” fewer properties on its books, the company said, although numbers have now recovered to 2017 levels.

Shares in the company plummeted 25 per cent on Monday morning after the update.

Countrywide, which owns brands including Hamptons and Bridgfords, announced in March that it would cut around a third of its 450 head office staff as part of a cost-cutting plan.

The company said on Monday: "The market in the first half has continued to be subdued and we have experienced longer transaction cycles.

"Our focus remains on building back the sales pipeline and we expect to substantially close the pipeline gap by the end of the year."

It comes after research from Halifax revealed that prices in UK seaside towns have tumbled in the last year, partly as a result of stamp duty increases on second homes introduced in 2016.

The average price of a property sold in Sandbanks - the UK’s most expensive coastal town - slumped by £37,500 to £626,553 over the past year, analysis of Land Registry data showed.

Across the UK as a whole, house prices dipped 0.2 per cent between April and May, according to Nationwide’s index, with supply remaining low and surveyors reporting subdued levels of new buyer enquiries.