English house sales rebound to near pre-lockdown levels, Zoopla says

FILE PHOTO: A construction site is seen in London, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain May 11, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

LONDON (Reuters) - House sales in England have rebounded since the government allowed estate agents to reopen last month, and in much of the country they are back to where they were in the first week of March, property website Zoopla said on Wednesday.

Across Britain as a whole, newly agreed sales in the first week of June were 12% below where they were in the first week of March, reflecting the ongoing closure of the property market in Scotland and Wales due to coronavirus restrictions.

In central and northern England, sales have returned to pre-coronavirus levels, Zoopla said.

Sales in London have lagged behind as some buyers look at moving outside the British capital, where a reliance on public transport has made it harder for life to return to normal.

Bank of England data showed mortgage approvals for house purchases slumped in April to their lowest since records began in 1997, at just a fifth of their level in February, as prospective buyers were unable to visit properties for sale.

Mortgage lender Nationwide reported a 1.7% monthly fall in prices in May, the biggest drop since the financial crisis in 2009.

Zoopla said pricing in June was stronger, with asking prices 6% higher than a year earlier. But it warned weakness was likely later in the year.

“We still believe that this spike in demand will be short-lived as the economic impacts of COVID start to feed through into market sentiment and levels of market activity in 2020 H2,” said Zoopla’s research director, Richard Donnell.

Reporting by David Milliken; editing by Stephen Addison