Estate agents warn of slowdown in UK property market

Estate agents Knight Frank today posted a huge rise in profits but warned a slower and more uncertain period lay ahead for the UK property market.

The multinational group, which deals with residential and commercial properties, said profits soared 168% to £58.4m (€68.5m) in the year to March 31, on the back of a 13% rise in turnover to £288m (€337.8m).

The group, which operates from 209 offices, in 43 countries, said the strong results were driven by its UK residential business, which it claimed outperformed the market, as well as its expansion into Asia.

But Nick Thomlinson, senior partner and chairman of the Knight Frank Group, said the group would retain some of its profits to strengthen it against challenges ahead.

He said: “The improved performance of the group has continued in the first half of the current financial year. Nonetheless, we remain cautious about the outlook for the full year given prevailing economic uncertainties around the world.”

The stellar performance will net staff bonuses and commissions of £35.5m (€41.6m), up from £14.6m (€17.1m) in 2009.

The debt-free group said its UK commercial property business was performing well, but forecast a difficult year in 2011.

It said the strong results in the UK residential market were driven by a resurgence in the prime London market, which took advantage of the weak pound and drew in international demand.

Knight Frank said its new global residential online search facility, which is also available as an app on the iPhone, had also boosted business.

But looking ahead, Mr Thomlinson was more cautious. He said: “As we move through the second half of 2010, evidence from our office network confirms that the bounce in global residential property markets, which has been partially driven by Government stimulus measures, appears to be slowing.

“While trading has slowed since Q2 this year, in the UK and in Europe, there is still a healthy level of demand for the best properties in the prime areas.”

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