July 19, 2020 / 11:08 PM / 20 days ago

UK housing mini-boom is gathering pace, property firm Rightmove says

FILE PHOTO: Real estate agents boards are seen outside a row of terraced houses following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manchester, Britain, July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - British property website Rightmove said a mini housing market boom was gathering pace after a tax cut by finance minister Rishi Sunak.

The number of sales agreed in England — which eased coronavirus restrictions on the market before other countries in the United Kingdom — jumped by an annual 35% in the five days after Sunak’s announcement on July 8, Rightmove said.

A recovery had already been under way with agreed sales in England up by 15% in June, it said on Monday.

Hoping to give a boost to the economy, Sunak raised the threshold for paying tax on property purchases to 500,000 pounds, four times its previous level, with immediate effect until March 31.

Rightmove said prices sought by home sellers between June 7 and July 11 rose by an annual 3.7% to hit a record high average of 312,625 pounds. Prices were 2.4% higher than before the coronavirus lockdown began in March.

“These figures are the earliest indicator of house price trends,” Rightmove Director Miles Shipside said. “They show on average prices gently rising not falling, and this will be reflected in the coming months in other house price reports.”

Mortgage lenders Nationwide and Halifax have reported falls in house prices and mortgage approvals slumped to the lowest on record in May, according to Bank of England data.

Rightmove said buyer enquiries across Britain as a whole since the start of July jumped by an annual 75%.

On Friday, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said there were signs of activity returning “quite strongly” in the housing market.

Reporting by William Schomberg, editing by Andy Bruce

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