Taylor Wimpey reports 'incremental' improvement in housing market

Housebuilder expects to beat City profit forecasts this year as mortgage lending constraints ease

Taylor Wimpey was upbeat about the housing market on Thursday, citing a gradual improvement in the availability of mortgage finance.

The housebuilder reported stronger margins and said that it expected to beat City profit forecasts this year as the market continues to stabilise.

There are signs that confidence is gradually returning, although mortgage approvals remain weak. Nationwide reported that house prices were flat across the country in June, standing at an average of £168,205. The London-focused builder Berkeley Group said last week it would return £1.7bn to shareholders over the next decade after annual profits rose by almost a quarter.

Pete Redfern, Taylor Wimpey's chief executive, said that he saw signs of "incremental" improvement in mortgage lending.

He explained: "The word 'incremental' is important. Valuations are little bit easier and we're seeing a little more competition from specialist lenders. For most of the banking sector, balance sheets are slowly improving. There's no big sea change but the mortgage market is slightly freer than it was six months ago."

Taylor Wimpey expects to complete 4,550 homes in the first half of the year against 4,804 homes a year ago, as it chases margins over volumes. The average selling price nudged up to £170,000 from £168,000 a year ago. The company has sold its North American division to focus on the UK and slash debt from £800m to below £200m.

Steve McGuckin, UK managing director at the project and construction consultant Turner & Townsend, said: "Although developers are increasingly committing to new schemes, with the exception of the capital there are still real concerns about the direction of the market. With the odd exception, the residential property market outside London is continuing to decline, which will naturally disincentivise developers to develop and banks to lend. There continues to be an appetite among the banks for new prime developments in the capital, but outside the opposite is the case."

However, Redfern thought talk of an increasingly polarised country was overdone. He admitted Taylor Wimpey's housebuilding was weighted 60-40 in favour of the south-east, but pointed to schemes in Scotland, northern England, the Midlands and Wales.

"I don't think the gap is growing quite as widely as people believe. There is a gap, but there has always been a gap."

The group has recruited Mike Hussey, a former Land Securities executive, whose vehicle Almacantar recently bought the Centre Point and Marble Arch towers in London, to its board as an independent director, following the appointment of Kate Barker, the housing expert and former Bank of England rate setter, in April.


Julia Kollewe

The GuardianTramp

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