Private sector leads 7-year registration high but that there are still major barriers for smaller housebuilders

NHBC statistics have confirmed that UK new home registrations have hit a seven-year high with the private sector continuing to lead growth.

The total number of registrations for Q3 2014 – 36,343 – was an eight per cent increase on Q3 2013, up from the three per cent annual rise seen in Q2. These figures represented the strongest third quarter since 2007, and the highest number of registrations seen this year.

Private sector registrations rose 14 per cent to 28,468, while public sector registrations continued their downward trend, dropping eight per cent to 7,875 against the same period a year ago.

The NHBC’s CEO, Mike Quinton, explained that the previous quarter’s level of registrations had suggested that growth was slowing. But now it could be starting to accelerate. He said:

“Following the dramatic growth in 2013, we saw a period of consolidation in the first half of this year, but our latest data would suggest that the pace of growth is picking up again.

“Our figures show that the sharp housing upturn we have seen over the last couple of years is a genuine broad based recovery across the whole of the country, with pockets of strong growth in the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside and West Midlands.”

However, smaller housebuilders remain challenged by finance, planning and land availability.

In its report Improving the prospects for small housebuilders and developers the NHBC Foundation canvassed the views of almost 500 small housebuilders and developers, and found that they still had not benefitted from the current housing recovery.

Almost a quarter of firms asked said that securing finance for projects was a “major challenge” and one third said that the planning application process and conditions attached to planning was a significant barrier. An unsurprising 14 per cent said available land at a suitable price is a major challenge.

The report suggests that the government’s Builders Finance Fund should be promoted for smaller builders and to ease planning for smaller companies. The foundation also suggests speeding up the planning decision process and the process of clearing conditions. Information on land availability should also be easier to access, with the government offering small parcels of land on larger sites.

The NHBC’s Head of Research and Innovation, Neil Smith, explained:

“Small housebuilders and developers have made a significant contribution to the UK’s housing output over the years. We must make it a priority to address these barriers if small housebuilders and developers are to prosper and make a greater contribution to the housing market recovery.”

The research also showed that the number of smaller housebuilders halved between 2007 and 2013, with just 2,710 estimated to have been active last year.