Rightmove says demand for homes has climbed since coronavirus lockdown

FILE PHOTO: Placards hang on a property, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, Britain July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Carl Recine

(Reuters) - Demand for homes has grown in Britain since businesses reopened in mid-May, UK property website Rightmove said on Friday, as consumers reassessed housing needs and the government declared a holiday from the stamp duty that home buyers pay.

The number of sales agreed in England, which eased restrictions before other countries in the United Kingdom, jumped after finance minister Rishi Sunak’s stamp duty break.

“Between 1 June and 31 July, demand for sales properties has been 50% higher than the same period in 2019 with rental demand being over 20% higher”, according to Rightmove, an online portal where estate agents list properties.

“The recent lockdown has prompted a desire for people to move further away from the main population centres to areas which have less population density, but good broadband connectivity,” CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said.

Rightmove, however, said its first-half results were hit as it offered discounts to help agents ride out the impact of the coronavirus lockdown for the period from April to June. Britain’s property market came to a virtual standstill in late March and April as the lockdown prevented property visits.

Rightmove expects that further discounts in the second half will lower its revenue by 35 million pounds ($45.93 million) to 37 million pounds.

The company’s average revenue per advertiser fell 34% to 712 pounds per month for the six months ended June 30. Operating profit slid to 61.7 million pounds from 108.2 million pounds last year.

Rightmove shares jumped 7.8% to 623.4 pence and were the second-biggest gainers on the FTSE 100 index by 0834 GMT.

($1 = 0.7620 pounds)

Reporting by Samantha Machado in Bengaluru; editing by Rashmi Aich, Larry King