East Anglia: Housebuilders Bennett and Bellway report strong sales

EAST Anglia-based housebuilder Bennett Homes has reported a flying start to 2012, with sales, visitor numbers and enquiries levels in January all well ahead of levels a year ago.

And Edward Parker, managing director of the company, which is based at Nowton, near Bury St Edmunds, says he is optimistic for the rest of the year, pointing in particular to new opportunities in the market for first-time buyers.

“There is no doubt that 2012 has got off to a much better start than 2011 in terms of buyer interest,” said Mr Parker.

“We are seeing more opportunities for first time buyers with recent price reductions and historically low interest rates. These, coupled with the emergence of Government initiatives to ease access to the mortgage market, will help young people take their first step onto the property ladder.”

He added: “At the other end of the market, we are seeing a return of the active retiree and an increase in the demand for bungalows in good locations.”

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Among the number of new developments on which Bennett is planning to start work shortly is its first age-restricted scheme, Maltsters’ Yard in Eye, centred around a Victorian courtyard garden, is an over-55s development with each property having a private garden as well as shared space.

Mr Parker said Bennett had many years’ experience in the retiree market and recent research had indicated strong demand for quality independent but secure living within such a scheme. “We hope this will be the first of many,” he said.

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Bennett currently has sites at Mundford, Downham Market, Wereham and Attleborough in Norfolk and is about to launch the start of the final phase at Kenninghall.

Meanwhile, National housebuilder Bellway said today that completed sales during the six months to January 31 has increased by 5%, from 2,332 to 2,455, driven by a 15% increase in private sales.

The increased proportion of private sales, combined within other changes in the mix of properties being built, had resulted in its average selling price rising by 8.7%, from �168,428 to around �183,000, Bellway added.

“The board expects that the average selling price will grow further, albeit at a slower rate, during the remainder of the financial year,” the group added in a trading update ahead of its first-half results.

The operating margin continued to improve and was set to reach double digits for the six months to January 31, against 6.9% a year ago, although the rate of increase was also now slowing, it added.

“The spring selling season is about to commence and last year provides a challenging comparison in terms of reservations. Nevertheless, with visitor levels up by around 20% since the beginning of January and with the Government’s new Mortgage Indemnity Guarantee scheme about to be launched, early indications are that the housing market remains resilient,” Bellway added.

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