Estate agent giants Countrywide and LSL in merger talks
Countrywide and LSL Property Services have said they are in talks over a possible merger which could create the UK's largest estate agency.
The news comes after several years of losses at Countrywide and a difficult time for the sector.
Countrywide owns the Hamptons and Gascoigne-Pees brands while LSL owns Your Move and Reed Rains.
The firms said that talks were ongoing, but there could be no certainty that an offer would ultimately be made.
If the merger talks - which were first reported by Sky News - lead to a deal, it will create a combined group worth about £470m with 14,000 employees.
Countrywide reported losses of £218m for 2018, compared with a £207m loss a year earlier, and it said last year that the uncertainty surrounding Brexit had been hitting business.
Recent surveys have suggested that the UK's housing market is starting to pick up after a long period of sluggish activity.
Last month, a survey of property professionals reported an "uplift" in sentiment in the housing market following the general election.
Sales expectations had "risen sharply", the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said, with the number of house sales rising in December for the first time in seven months.
The most recent survey from the Halifax found the market continued "to show signs of improvement".
The lender said it had seen "a pick-up in transactions with more buyer and seller activity consistent with a reduction in uncertainty in the UK", although it added it was "too early to say if a corner has been turned".