Market looks set for tentative 2011 despite ’whiff of hope’ at end of last year

The number of new homes started rose by a third in 2010, bouncing back from record industry lows in 2009, according to the latest NHBC figures.

However, the number of homes on which construction was completed fell by just over 10% in the year, as housebuilders reacted to a tentative market.

Provisional figures from the NHBC, which provides warranties for the majority of new homes built in the UK, reveal that just over 115,000 homes were started in 2010, compared with 88,100 in 2009. The draft figures for December, if confirmed, appear to corroborate evidence of a stronger end to the year since the uncertainty around the Comprehensive Spending Review was resolved.

Richard Tamayo, commercial director at the NHBC, said 7,500 homes look set to have been registered in December, up on the 7,100 recorded in the same month last year. Completions are likely to run at about 9,100, down on last December, making the year end figure for completions about 104,000. This compares with completions of 116,300 homes in 2009.

Tamayo said: “The registration figures look very strong compared to 2009, but then 2009 was a disaster, the industry had to bounce back a little. Unfortunately the promise of the spring was never fulfilled as uncertainty after the election and the continuing lack of mortgage availability took its toll.

“We’ve had a whiff of hope in the final quarter and things are now delicately poised.”

Tamayo said he expected starts to remain level or fall slightly in 2011, with completions likely to rise slightly.

The NHBC’s confirmed figures for November are published for the first time below. They come amid forecasts of further small falls in house prices in 2011.

Housing minister Grant Shapps this week intervened to attempt to stave off further swingeing regulation of the mortgage lending market by the Financial Services Authority. He met FSA chief executive Hector Sants to try to water down proposals that could further halve the availability of mortgages.