Countrywide blames General Election uncertainty for first quarter slowdown

 
Kasmira Jefford
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Countrywide said the second half of the year should see a recovery in volumes
Britain's biggest estate agency Countrywide warned that market transactions would be “significantly below” last year’s levels, because of uncertainty over the outcome of the election causing prospective buyers to put their plans on hold.

The company, which owns estate agencies including Hamptons, Blundells and John D Wood, said total income dropped by two per cent in the first quarter of the year to £154.2m, with the number of house exchanges it advised on falling by 13 per cent to 12,976. House exchanges in the London and the premier market segment also fell significantly, down 14 per cent in the quarter to 1,201.

That was largely offset by growth in its residential lettings arm, with the number of properties under management increasing to 69,330. The value of mortgages exchanged across its financial services division rose by four per cent to £2.3bn.

Countrywide said: “2015 has started broadly as expected with year-to-date Bank of England volumes at the end of February 2015 16 per cent below the same period in 2014, continuing the trend seen in the fourth quarter of 2014.”

“It is widely anticipated by market commentators that the market will recover in the second half of the year following the General Election and this will be a key determining factor in the group delivering our expectations for the year,” it added.

Countrywide invested £14m on acquisitions in the quarter, which it said would help diversify the business, including Ikon Consultancy and John Curtis Estate Agents.

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