Volume house builders Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey have reported a buoyant spring selling season and start to the year.
Both firms said orders were up by over a third as Help to Buy continued to boost sales, and visitor rates climbed 10% in the first 15 weeks of the year.
Persimmon has reported forward sales up by 35% over the previous year to £1.38bn. The house builder said it had 7,200 new homes sold forward into the private sale market for this year, which is 38% ahead of the same point last year, with an average selling price of £200,400, up 3%.
Jeff Fairburn, group chief executive, said: “We have 395 active sites across the UK and have successfully opened 75 of the 90 new outlets targeted for the first half of 2014 to refresh this network.
“Our build activity continues to support the improved rates of sale and we remain confident of delivering further growth in the number of new homes legally completed for 2014.”
Taylor Wimpey reported a similarly rosey picture in a first quarter trading statement this morning.
Pete Redfern, Taylor Wimpey chief executive, said: “We have experienced a more traditional seasonal pattern, with a strong spring selling season.”
“We have made a particularly strong start to the year, working successfully with local communities and authorities to convert 4,800 plots from our strategic pipeline.”
The firm increased the total order book value by a third to £1.6bn against the same period last year.
Average selling prices of homes in the total private order book jumped by 22% from the same point last year to £248,900.
Redfern added: “Inevitably the better market has resulted in ongoing pressure on build costs and labour, particularly in some geographic areas, however this continues to be held at a manageable level.”
He said Taylor Wimpey was on course to raise its operating margins by an extra 200-300 basis percentage points this year.
The Government has unveiled plans to back up to three garden cities, each with more than 15,000 homes, to help tackle the chronic housing shortage in the south east.Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has publish a long-awaited prospectus, which he described as a call to arms for a new generation of garden cities.
But the Government made clear that funding would have to be taken from the existing pot of development investment.
This will include £1bn of funding over the next six years, from the Large Sites Fund, which was first announced in the Autumn Statement and formally launched with the Garden Cities Prospectus.
This fund is being targeted at housing schemes over 1,500 that require that have slowed down or stalled completely and need investment in local infrastructure to boost their viability.
The Government hopes it will unlock up to 250,000 new homes between 2015 and 2020, and provide a springboard for successful bidders who also want to deliver locally-led garden cities.
Expressions of interest in the fund must be submitted to the Homes and Communities Agency by the end of May.
Regions putting forward Garden City proposals have no fixed deadline.
Some further investment will be available through the local infrastructure fund, which is already accelerating development of 69,000 homes in areas such as Cranbrook in Devon, and Wokingham in Berkshire.
The prospectus fails to define what is meant by a garden city and stipulates that bidders must set out how the developments will be financed, particularly how private finance will be leveraged and how the scheme will make the best use of land and assets.
“Garden cities are communities where future generations will live, work, have children, grow up and grow old,” said Clegg.
“I’m publishing a new prospectus, which calls for local areas to submit their plans for garden cities that will provide affordable homes, good schools, and jobs for the next generation, while at the same time preserving the countryside.
“This is a call to arms for visionaries in local areas in need of housing to put forward radical and ambitious proposals to develop their own garden cities.”
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