There were two big boosts in the numbers released today for house builders.

First, the latest Government data on homes built in England are by far the best for more than a year with a massive leap in the quarter to June.

Second, gross mortgage lending in July was up 26% on June, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

These figures suggest a continued and reasonably strong improvement in both the housing market and in house building.

Starts and completions June 2009.GIF

But, as I am sure will be in the minds of most house builders, we are a long way from out of the woods.

And the figures, particularly those for house building, should be treated with great caution. Here's why...

The June quarter figures for homes completed in England show a massive upswing, as do the figures for homes started. On the face of it the graph suggests a rapid bounce back in workload in house building.

If you just take the completions figures you could be forgiven for thinking activity was back to the levels seen in the boom years of the mid noughties.

Certainly if the number of completions is at the same level in the second half of the year as in the first then the forecasters will have been unduly pessimistic.

Once you add in Scotland and Wales we would be looking at completions in the range of 160,000 plus. That is about 20% more than the Construction Products Association is looking at.

But before we get too carried away, house building is the bit that happens between the starts and the completions. And here is where things start to get a bit more complicated.

The figure for completions in the second quarter, set on its own, looks rather odd. How come when starts had been so low do we have completions so high? Why had we not noticed a surge in workload in the house building sector?

The likely explanation is that mothballed schemes, many of them nearly finished flats, were completed in the quarter, having stood pretty much idle for some months. This would require relatively little work for each completion.

However, the pipeline is now running rather dry. Work in progress will have been run down quite markedly as house builders destocked. And starts are just beginning to rise.

This rather points to a reduction in the numbers of completions in the third quarter, and perhaps a pretty flat set of final quarter figures.

It is hard to know exactly where they will end up but 160,000 may still be rather optimistic. Who knows?

It is definitely not time to "party on", though it may be time to enjoy the breathing space granted.

And perhaps it is also worth reflecting on the how much worse it might have been in the house building world had piles of cash not been thrown at the problem.

But for all that there is need for caution, I stick by the view I have held since the spring that if it is growth you want it is worth taking another look at house building.