Estate agency group Countrywide said the outlook for 2005 remained uncertain as it posted a drop in full year profits.
The Essex group, which has almost 900 UK offices, including the Dixons, Bairstow Eves and Mann & Co chains, saw pretax profits slump to £42.7 million from £74.2 million a year earlier.
The total dividend was reduced from 13.8p to 9p.
Chairman Christopher Sporborg said that since the group's interims last August volumes of residential housing transactions had reduced significantly compared to previous years.
Although the numbers of houses exchanged rose from 84,765 to 85,134, there was a 26 per cent drop in the number of life policies arranged.
The number of mortgages arranged fell by eight per cent to 48,769, while valuations, survey instructions and completed conveyances also fell.
Mr Sporborg added: "The outlook for 2005 remains uncertain. The pipeline of sales in the original business brought forward from last year was £15.9 million lower than the previous year.
"But sales, and activities in our other divisions have, during January and February, shown signs of increased activity.
"Accordingly, assuming an ongoing benign interest rate environment and no extraordinary external factors, we view the short term future with cautious optimism and the longer term, following the 2007 introduction of housing information packs with considerable enthusiasm."
The group said it was also placing up to 8.45 million new shares, representing five per cent of the company, with institutional investors to raise funds for the recent acquisition of businesses from Bradford & Bingley Group.
Bradford & Bingley's estate agency business has 2,600 staff, at 300 outlets in the UK.
Group managing director Harry Hill said the decision by the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England to hold interest rates at 4.75 per cent would help the housing market and Countrywide.
He said: "It is just what the doctor ordered.
"House price inflation in the West Midlands never quite reached the levels of the South-east, and we are now heading for a period of stability."