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Bump in demand for rentals as Countrywide reopens branches

The company had shut down on March 23 when the UK went into lockdown.

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Around 70% of branches have reopened (Countrywide/PA)

Around 70% of branches have reopened (Countrywide/PA)

Around 70% of branches have reopened (Countrywide/PA)

More people are looking to rent as the UK reopens its housing market than in the period before the lockdown, Countrywide said.

The company said the number of weekly applicants for rental properties has increased by 3% compared with the pre-lockdown average as pent-up demand comes back into the market.

However, the figure is still 12% lower than the demand the business saw in 2019.

It marks a return to something resembling normality for the property company, which had furloughed 78% of its workers.

Early trading indicators in England are encouraging and we expect a similar bounce back in Wales and ScotlandCountrywide

“We continue to monitor activity levels daily to ensure we are able to meet customer demand and optimise the group’s financial position and, following the reopening of the branches in England from May 18, have seen clear evidence of increased transactions in the market, and have seen more than 3,000 colleagues return to work,” bosses said in an update to shareholders on Friday.

A measure of earnings known as Ebitda, which strips out the effects of interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, dropped 26% to £7.4 million in the first five months of the year.

It came after a new ban on taking fees from tenants cost Countrywide £8.1 million.

Meanwhile, income was £142.5 million, down 29% from the year before.

By Thursday, the company had managed to assess and reopen 70% of its branches.

It is planning to reopen in Wales and Scotland soon, where restrictions have been slower to lift.

Meanwhile, the company said that instructions, or customer orders, were back to 94% of the levels seen in 2019 last week.

Countrywide said: “The decisive action taken to reduce costs and to preserve cash and manage liquidity has enabled the group to respond with agility through the Covid-19 pandemic to date.

“The housing market in England reopened on May 13 and is now reopening in Wales and Scotland.

“Early trading indicators in England are encouraging and we expect a similar bounce back in Wales and Scotland.

“However, it is still too early to assess the long-term impact on housing transactions, and as a result the group is unable to provide guidance for the full year ending December 31 2020.”

PA