NHBC reveals that fewer homes were completed last month than at any point since 1981

The number of homes built dropped to its lowest level since 1981 last month as severe winter weather compounded the effects of the deep recession.

According to the latest National House Building Council figures, completions dropped to just 5,546, down 24% on last January, and the lowest figure for 29 years.

If annualised, the completions figure would see just 65,000 homes finished this year.

Richard Tamayo, commercial director at the NHBC, said: “Housebuilders were looking to maintain the momentum from pre-Christmas, but it seems like January was a bit of a lost month. It’s down to a combination of the weather and the fact many builders year ends are in December.”

Tamayo: ‘January was a lost month’
Tamayo: ‘January was a lost month’

However, Tamayo said the early indications were that the number of completions looked set to return to pre-Christmas levels in February.

Chris Crook, regional managing director of Countryside Properties, said the bad weather had massively hampered work on site. He said: “Typically sites have lost a month of production depending on what stage they’re at. It’s held up handovers.”

Yolande Barnes, director of Savills Research, said: “This represents construction at a quarter of the government target, and even with growth we won’t hit anything like it. Capacity at housebuilders is massively reduced – the so-called volume builders are now much more like regional players.”

Data company Glenigan said this week that the total value of construction projects starting on site was 8% lower than in January 2009, largely because of the snowy conditions.

However, the fall in housing completions allowed the number of homes started to rise above the number finished for the first time since the start of the recession. Starts rose to 7,400 in January, despite the bad weather, 55% above the same month last year.

John Stewart, director of economic affairs at the Home Builders Federation, said: “The fact that registrations have increased is clearly positive … but the reduction in completions is clearly concerning.”