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Gloucestershire Business News

Profits fall at UK’s largest estate agent

Shares in Britain's largest estate agent group have fallen more than 20 per cent, after it warned of tough times in the housing market.

Countrywide, whose brands include Bairstow Eves and RA Bennett, which has branches across Gloucestershire, reported an after-tax loss and said about 150 head office jobs would go, as reported by the BBC.

The company made a loss of £208.1m in 2017, compared to a modest profit of £17.5m in 2016.

The firm has been hit by a slowdown in the market, as well as the growth of online agents such as Purplebricks. Now the company is set to invest in digital operation to compete with online rivals.

Countrywide said on Thursday that it was shedding about 150 of its 450 head office team, as part of a cost-cutting drive. The firm employs about 8,000 people nationwide.

The company said it will not be paying a dividend to shareholders. It is working to resolve poor performance in sales and lettings, but admitted it would take time.

And it appears that the problems aren't just restricted to Countrywide, with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) reporting last week that average property stock levels per branch on estate agents' books fell to a new record low of just under 42, as enquiries from new buyers, new instructions from sellers and newly-agreed sales continued to drift lower in February.

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