Housebuilder says Scottish scheme yet to make mark

Builder Taylor Wimpey has claimed UK government schemes to help homebuyers south of the Border are driving a pick up in activity, but Scotland is lagging behind.

The company said consumer sentiment had been better since the start of the year and it has already taken 300 reservations and registrations of interest in under a new, bolder measure to help the housing market announced by the Chancellor in his recent Budget.

Chief executive Pete Redfern claimed that even the UK government’s previous scheme had been more effective than the Scottish Government’s Mi New Home initiative.

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He told The Scotsman: “Mi New Home hasn’t really got off the ground yet.

“The backdrop in Scotland is still more positive than it was a year ago. Last year was one of the toughest we’ve had in Scotland, as it took longer for the downturn to impact.”

He said Mi New Home may still take off, especially if it can learn from the original FirstBuy scheme south of the Border, which came to an end on 31 March, by becoming simpler to administer.

Taylor Wimpey plans to expand its Scottish operation this year, adding an extra five sites to the 35 it is already working or selling from.

UK-wide, the builder is operating from 311 outlets, compared to 304 at this time last year.

It said sales performance so far in 2013 has been at the upper end of expectations. The average private net reservation rate of 0.67 sales per outlet, per week, was up from 0.62 during the same period in 2012, with the increase seen primarily in the last eight weeks.

The group said customer interest was already 15 per cent higher even before George Osborne gave the market a further boost when he announced his Help to Buy scheme in March.

In his statement to the company’s annual meeting, Redfern said: “We have seen strong interest from customers towards the Help to Buy scheme and our marketing efforts have focused on helping customers understand the scheme and the options available to them.

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“We have been able to capture this momentum and have supported our customers to reserve and register their interest in an additional 300 homes since the scheme was launched on 1 April.

“Whilst we are encouraged by the initial signs, the overall success of the scheme remains dependent on lenders providing competitively priced mortgage products.”

He said UK market conditions remain stable, with London and the south east of England outperforming other areas and becoming increasingly important to the firm. Lack of mortgage lending continues to be the principal constraining factor.

Redfern now expects house prices to edge up in line with inflation, a “healthy” situation which will help create more equity for the many buyers in the squeezed middle who are struggling to move up the property ladder.