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Jan. 18, 2021, 1:35 a.m. EST

Rightmove reports rising U.K. property activity

By Joe Hoppe

Rightmove PLC said Monday that activity among new buyers in the U.K. property market rose in early January as customers looked to squeeze in transactions ahead of the expiry of the stamp-duty holiday.

The number of prospective buyers contacting agents through the U.K. property portal between Jan. 2 and Jan. 12 rose 12% from the comparative period a year prior, while the number of sales agreed climbed 9%. Visitors to the portal were up 33% year-on-year, it added.

The average price of property coming to the market fell 0.9% to 317,058 pounds ($433,989), it said. Rightmove attributed the slip to some sellers hoping to tempt buyers and squeeze in sales before the March 31 expiry of the temporary lifting of the stamp-duty threshold by the U.K. government.

"Seller flexibility to re-negotiate will be key to preventing some sales from falling through for this group," Rightmove said.

New buyers, it warned, are unlikely to beat the deadline as the average time taken to complete a purchase is now around 126 days. Rightmove said that with a mammoth logjam of 613,000 properties sold, subject to contract and still awaiting legal completion, it estimates around 100,000 will face unexpected tax bills as they may miss the stamp duty holiday deadline.

"The challenge of processing so many transactions in less than three months is made even tougher by the new lockdown restrictions, Covid-19 sickness and homeschooling further reducing capacity in conveyancing, legal searches and mortgage lending," Rightmove's Director of Property Data Tim Bannister said.

Write to Joe Hoppe at joseph.hoppe@wsj.com

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