Sales surge as Barratt raises hopes for UK housing market


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The boss of one of the UK's biggest housebuilders came within a whisker of calling a housing market recovery yesterday, as Barratt Developments enjoyed booming sales since January and moved back into the black.

The revival in the first seven weeks of 2012 saw sales up 21.8 per cent over last year as more buyers flocked in and Barratt sold homes from a larger number of sites to meet demand.

Its chief executive, Mark Clare, pictured, put the improvement down to a thawing mortgage market, while the Government's new £250m FirstBuy scheme for first-time buyers with deposits was helping pent-up demand. Falling inflation is also lifting confidence by easing the squeeze on would-be buyers, he added. "People feel better about the economy, their jobs and the housing market in general," he said. "Housing tends to be the first into recession and the first out, and we are very cautious because we have been here before, but it does feel a bit different this time."

The shares – up 40 per cent since the beginning of January – added another 10.1p to reach 139.8p. Barratt also has growing exposure to a buoyant London market. Panmure Gordon analyst Rachael Waring said: "Barratt has enjoyed a fantastic share price performance already. We believe that there is further to go for as risks recede and confidence improves."

Pre-tax profits were £21.6m for the second half of last year, better than expected and a big improvement on the previous year's £4.6m loss. The firm is carrying lower-than-expected debts of £350m, but not paying a dividend.