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There is no doubt that the pandemic has been a boon for the residential property sector. First you had all the city-dwellers desperately searching further afield for space when lockdown living got too much for them. And then you had the Chancellor give all property buyers a golden ticket when he scrapped stamp duty and made it feel like a ‘now or never’ opportunity to get on, move up or move further out.

As a result, up went sales and so did prices, but it seems few noticed or cared. Mid-pandemic and in the absence of anything else to do, with scant opportunities to plan ahead and a total absence of day-to-day certainty, homebuyers’ ‘property porn’ addictions soared. And were largely sated, according to the latest sales figures.

According to HMRC’s non-seasonally-adjusted data there were 103,100 residential housing transactions in May. Estimated transactions in the first three months of 2021 - which came to a total of 392,860 - made it the highest quarterly total since 2007 when the figure reached 442,930.

Behind much of the surge in sales has to be the tax break introduced last July by Rishi Sunak, which exempted residential property buyers in England and Northern Ireland from paying stamp duty on the first £500,000 of the price if the transaction was completed by 30 June. Currently the tax-free threshold is back to £250,000 and it will return to its normal level of £125,000 on 1 October.

However, it has not been plain-sailing for all buyers and sellers. An estimated 120,000 property buyers may have missed the end of June deadline and one in five of these purchases may collapse.

Many have also questioned whether the stamp duty savings were really the gift they at first appeared to be. With the latest Nationwide House Price Index showing that sellers hiked their prices as demand soared, those ‘savings’ could well have been swallowed up. Prices in June were almost 5% higher than in March, which meant that annual house price growth accelerated to 13.4% in June, the highest it has been since November 2004.

Not that any of this is going to worry Purplebricks Group (PURP) for the time being though. The online estate agent has been 'comfortably' beating its adjusted earnings forecasts time and again over the past year and Tuesday’s full-year results should show us just how profitable the pandemic-inspired property boom has been for Purplebricks.

The company, which only reports instructions and not sales, says total instructions leapt by 12% to 60,238 in the first four months of the year, up from 53,680 last year.

Ahead of its full-year results the company said it was on course to deliver its full-year adjusted pre-tax turnover as expected and in line with current market expectations. This will reflect the increase in instructions in the second half and operating cost control which will more than offset the additional £1 million of furlough funds it has since repaid.

Purplebricks says its balance sheet remains strong with cash in the bank as at 30 April of £74 million, down slightly from £75.8 million at the end of October 2020.

Chief executive Vic Darvey said its pricing strategy review had still gone ahead despite the pandemic and that more details would be forthcoming on that and “new initiatives” on Tuesday.

Overall, he said, he was “confident” that Purplebricks would continue to trade well as it went into its new financial year.

Purplebricks is due to post its full year results for the year to 30 April 2021 on Tuesday.

More on Purplebricks Group

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