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In the U.K., a Surge of Potential Buyers Started the New Year Seeking New Homes

The U.K.’s property market started 2021 on an upswing as the number of searches for new homes skyrocketed in the first few days of the year amid new coronavirus lockdown measures, according to a report Friday from Rightmove.

The online property portal recorded its busiest start of any year to date, with visits to the site between Jan. 2-6 up 30% from 2020, the report said.

Jan. 4 marked the start of a new coronavirus lockdown in England, with the real estate industry permitted to continue operating.

Potential buyers contacting estate agents about a home was 11% higher than at the start of 2020, and potential renters inquiring about a property was up 22%.

”January is usually one of our busiest months of the year as people start to make new year plans to move,” Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s director of property data, said in the report.

That was the case at the start of 2020, “when we also had the post-election bounce that gave hope of an active spring market, before that all changed with the temporary closure from March until May,” he said, referring to the country’s first lockdown in the spring and the resulting real estate industry closure that accompanied it.

Since the market began reopening, starting with England in May, the property industry has thrived, with December marking six consecutive months of home price increases, according to bank and mortgage provider Halifax.

Bolstering demand in the first few days of the year were the same things that have been underpinning the market since May: the government’s stamp-duty holiday and a mass of people re-evaluating where and how they live, the report said.

“We didn’t know how this year would start with so much change and uncertainty around restrictions, but it’s been reassuring for those people hoping or needing to move that the demand we’ve seen so far is the highest we’ve ever had in January,” Mr. Bannister said.

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