Housing demand rebounds after lockdown but Rightmove profit falls 43%

Rightmove has said that demand to both rent and buy homes increased in June and July compared with the same months last year, as the property market opened up from the depths of lockdown.

The property website, whose profit almost halved in the first six months of the year, said pent-up demand was being released as people who were planning to move before the pandemic started house-hunting again.

And many others started looking for a new place to live after being stuck in their homes for months during lockdown, despite not previously having any plans to move, Rightmove said.

Across the two months, demand to buy a property has been 50% higher, with rental demand up 20%, compared with the same period in 2019.

From May 13, when Rightmove’s estate agents started re-listing properties on the site, the company has beaten its previous traffic record, from February 19 this year, a total of 65 times.

The increase is likely to have been helped by a stamp duty holiday announced by the Government to help the housing market rebound from the depths of the pandemic.

But bosses warned that it is “too early to assess whether the strength of this positive momentum in the housing market will be maintained against the threat of further lockdowns and wider economic slowdown”.

Profit before tax dropped by 43% to £61.6 million in the first half on profit of £94.8 million, down by more than a third.

Chief executive Peter Brooks-Johnson said: “In recent months Covid-19 has disrupted the lives of everyone across the UK. Our customers have shown incredible resilience and ingenuity to continue to trade through this exceptional period.

“I am grateful for both their continued support and also their proactive engagement to ensure that home-hunters have been well-informed and protected.

“I’m also immensely proud of the Rightmove team for the unerring dedication which has seen Rightmove operate seamlessly throughout this challenging period and offer unprecedented support to the industry through discounts and accelerated innovation.”

Rightmove came under criticism early in the crisis for continuing to charge estate agents their monthly fees and only offering a six-month delay on payments, despite the firms doing no business for months.

After being petitioned by hundreds of estate agents over its “tone-deaf” proposal, Rightmove allayed some criticism by slashing invoices by three-quarters for four months from April.

Rightmove said it was this reduction which pushed its half-year revenue down by around £49 million.