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U.S. Markets

British home sales hit record after lockdown, Rightmove says

LONDON (Reuters) - Britons bought and sold a record number of homes between mid July and early August as pent-up demand from the coronavirus lockdown and a desire to leave London bucked the usual summer slowdown, industry data showed on Monday.

Property website Rightmove, which says it is used by 90% of British estate agents, reported the highest number of home sales agreed since it began tracking the data more than 10 years ago, with transactions more than 20% higher than the previous record.

The most recent figures from the Bank of England - which cover June, before July’s announcement of a tax break on moving home - showed a sharp rebound in demand for mortgages, but fewer loans were approved than before the pandemic.

“Rather than just a release of existing pent-up demand due to the suspension of the housing market during lockdown, there’s an added layer of additional demand due to people’s changed housing priorities after the experience of lockdown,” Rightmove director Miles Shipside said.

Average asking prices for August - based on data collected from July 12 to Aug. 8 - were 4.6% higher than a year earlier as the normal summer softening in demand failed to materialise.

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Only in London was there the typical 2% monthly fall in asking prices, with prices up almost everywhere else in Britain other than London’s commuter belt.

“The out-of-city exodus has helped push prices to record levels in Devon and Cornwall, for example, where working from home means a different lifestyle much closer to your new doorstep,” Shipside said.

Hamptons International, a chain of estate agents, said private-sector rents in inner London were 8% lower in July than a year ago as a collapse in foreign tourism and corporate relocation meant property that had previously been rented out short-term became available to long-term tenants.

Estate agents also told Rightmove that buyers had been given extra impetus to move by the temporary exemption from property purchase taxes for homes costing up to 500,000 pounds ($654,650) announced in July by finance minister Rishi Sunak.

However, demand was up across the board, not just for homes that benefited directly from the tax break.

Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Alexander Smith

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