Belfast Telegraph

Countrywide warns on profits amid slower housing market and stamp duty changes

Estate agency Countrywide has warned that profits will come in at the "lower end of market expectations" amid reduced activity following the EU referendum and changes to stamp duty.

The UK's biggest listed estate agency said transaction levels were running "significantly below" last year.

In a third-quarter trading statement, the Countrywide said: "A combination of changes in stamp duty and the EU referendum in June means transaction levels are currently running significantly below 2015.

"We now expect transaction volumes for 2016 to be 6% down on 2015 and, while too early to say definitively, it is likely that the level of market transactions in 2017 will be lower than 2016."

Sales in the period fell from £197 million to £189 million, with London bearing the brunt of the slowdown as volumes fell 29% year on year. Overall house exchanges fell 1%.

Shares in Countrywide and other estate agents fell sharply on Wednesday after Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a ban on letting agents' fees to tenants.

Chief executive Alison Platt said: "In light of the Chancellor's announcement yesterday regarding letting agents' fees, we look forward to working with the Government through this consultation process."

Shares plunged by 13.59% to 167.55p in early-morning trading.

Neil Wilson, markets analyst at ETX Capital, said: "The company says it's making good progress but today's trading statement confirms that estate agents are facing a troubled future.

"Yesterday's Autumn Statement bombshell banning letting agents from charging upfront fees to tenants couldn't have come at a worse time for the sector. The trading statement presumably doesn't take stock of this change so we could see a greater adverse effect as a result."